The Cincin­nati kid

It’s earthy Amer­ica... beer, bour­bon and bites. Ohio and Ken­tucky are the real deal

Irish Daily Mail - - Travel - BY PA­TRICK LAWLOR

EV­ERY­BODY remembers that first spe­cial encounter, and my own love af­fair with the US of A be­gan just two months ago. And no, it wasn’t New York, Bos­ton, Wash­ing­ton DC or Las Ve­gas.

I was left swoon­ing by an al­to­gether less cel­e­brated city – at least these days, al­though it was once known as the Paris of Amer­ica and the Queen City. I re­fer to Cincin­nati in Ohio in the Mid-West.

On what was the in­au­gu­ral Wow Air flight to Cincin­nati, I was struck by that tremu­lous mix of ner­vous­ness and ex­cite­ment, a bit like a first date.

Touch­ing down on the tar­mac of Ken­tucky CVG Air­port, with but­ter­flies in my tummy fol­low­ing a seven-hour WOW air flight from Reyk­javik, we were greeted with a wa­ter hose sa­lute from a ground staff ve­hi­cle.

And it wasn’t long be­fore I was chris­ten­ing my maiden State­side so­journ prop­erly with some of the finest lo­cal bour­bon and beer in both states. An ideal way to set­tle the first-time flut­ters for a new kid on the block.

Worth men­tion­ing from the off is the big bonus of this very much wow new WOW air flight: you get two cities for the price of one!

New­port in Ken­tucky, and Cincin­nati, Ohio, are only sep­a­rated by the ‘Singing Bridge’, over the Ohio River.In fact, you get three cities if you in­clude the stopover in Reyk­javik (more of that later). Ohio is not what I ex­pected

Amer­ica to be. Yes, there are brightly lit tall build­ings, but the streets are wide and the bridges are stun­ning. In fact, it has a Euro­pean feel and look to it.

While the mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture is ‘bigly’ Amer­i­can, as The Don­ald might say, the older ar­chi­tec­ture of Cincin­nati is very much what you might see on the Con­ti­nent.

The art-deco Mu­sic Hall down­town is par­tic­u­larly strik­ing.

Cincin­nati has an uber-Teu­tonic in­flu­ence, on ac­count of the Ger­mans who set­tled there in the mid-19th cen­tury, fol­lowed closely by the Ir­ish and English.

The Ger­mans brought their fa­mous beer with them, but alas out of the 30 brew­eries that once thrived here none have sur­vived, the last one clos­ing at the end of the last cen­tury.

Fear not, they have been re­placed by craft brew­ers.

TAFT’S Ale House, named af­ter the roly-poly lo­cal boy­turned-Pres­i­dent, William Howard Taft, is a con­verted 18th-cen­tury church. It stocks only lo­cal pro­duce and jeez, is it tasty! I’d es­pe­cially rec­om­mend try­ing the tater tots, a soft deep-fried type of grated potato, with chipo­tle sauce and wash it down with Growler beer.

The most fa­mous lo­cal dish, how­ever, is Sky­line Chilli... that’ll be Sky­line chilli sauce over spaghetti topped with cheese and an ar­ray of op­tional ex­tras. Tastier than its sounds.

An­other Cincin­nati sta­ple is goetta, a meaty Ger­man sausage blended with oats and spices. For dessert, Cincin­nati’s yummy Graeter’s ice cream, a 145year-old recipe, is a must.

You’ll be get­ting the pic­ture, Cincin­na­tians love their com­fort food.

If you’re still not sated, then head for the Rhi­negeist Brew­ery, a mi­cro-brew­ery with a cool rooftop bar, lo­cated in the old Ger­man brew­ing district, Over-the-Rhine.

Find­lay Mar­ket is where you’ll find the ar­ti­sans sell­ing their wares. There are lo­cal honey stalls, Cincin­nati’s Mav­er­ick’s choco­late shop, melt-in-the-mouth Taste Of Bel­gium waf­fles, home­made le­mon­ade, bur­ri­tos, Le­banese cui­sine… al­most ev­ery type of food imag­in­able (I even spot­ted ap­ple pie-flavoured ba­con!).

Plenty of arts and crafts stands are also dot­ted around this buzzing in­door thor­ough­fare which is like an Amer­i­can ver­sion of Cork’s English Mar­ket.

Across the Ohio River in Ken­tucky, there is also plenty for food lovers... and for those who fancy a tip­ple, it’s heaven.

Ken­tuck­ians, with their re­laxed per­haps bour­bon-tinged drawl, are very proud of their lo­cal tip­ple.

And it’s more than just Jack Daniel’s stomp­ing ground.

Smaller bour­bon dis­til­leries are also mak­ing a name for them­selves; the good folk of New Riff in Ken­tucky’s New­port city are pro­duc­ing some es­pe­cially de­li­cious sweet and tex­tured bour­bon and, to my sur­prise, gin, with some spe­cial lo­cal in­gre­di­ents.

For an au­then­tic olde-worlde ex­pe­ri­ence visit Main­strasse Vil­lage in Cov­ing­ton, Ken­tucky, for a taste of Amer­i­can sur­bu­bia, ‘bour­bon, beer and bites’ and Com­mon­wealth Bistro on Main Street.

In be­tween the swill­ing and the savour­ing, there are plenty of stun­ning sights to be­hold in Cincin­nati. Be­side the Singing Bridge (the Roe­bling Sus­pen­sion Bridge, to be pre­cise), which whis­tles

rather than sings, is Smale River- ront Park. This is per­fect for a sunny stroll by the banks of the Ohio River, and young fam­i­lies will be en­terained by the park’s ar­ray of in­ter­ac­tive fea­tures, in­clud­ing a foot pi­ano like the one fea­tured in the ilm Big and multi-per­son swings. And if you haven’t had enough of beer, there is an Un­der­ground Beer Tun­nel Tour, led by Amer­i­can Le­gacy Tours, which is a fas­ci­nat­ing trip back in time.

A jaunt to the top of Carew Tower, a 49-storey skyscraper in Cincin­nati that was a pro­to­type for the Em­pire State Build­ing, will give you an eagle-eyed view of the en­tire city and its sur­round­ings.

Sporty types will spot the Cincin­nati Reds’ base­ball sta­dium, The Great Amer­i­can Ball Park, and the Cincin­nati Ben­gals’ Amer­i­can foot­ball arena, while shop­pers will im­me­di­ately pick out Macy’s HQ, A dif­fer­ent world: Main­strasse Vil­lage in Cov­ing­ton, Ken­tucky. Clock­wise, hear about Rosa Parks at the Na­tional Un­der­ground Free­dom Cen­ter, Cincin­nati, and eat and drink well at Taft’s Ale House, and Find­lay Mar­ket

For the cul­ture vul­tures, there is plenty to ex­pe­ri­ence in the Queen City with The Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­ter, opened in 1939, and Cincin­nati Art Museum – where a plethora of paint­ings, from Pi­casso to Cha­gall, are on dis­play – par­tic­u­larly worth­while.

The stand-out ex­pe­ri­ence though is the Na­tional Un­der­ground Rail­road Free­dom Cen­ter. There you can learn all about the abo­li­tion­ist move­ment and the strug­gle of black slaves, many of whom risked their lives cross­ing the Ohio River to gain free­dom as they moved north.

STAND­ING in an orig­i­nal slave house, re-as­sem­bled in­side the museum, was a haunt­ing re­minder of just how low the hu­man race can go.

An­other mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence here is the Rosa Parks vir­tual head­set sec­tion.

This puts you right in the shoes of the free­dom fighter on that his­toric day she re­fused to move to the back of the bus.

Es­sen­tially, you are Rosa and are stared and shouted at by those on the bus with you. Chill­ing but un­for­get­table.

So whether you’re a cul­ture vul­ture, a beer hound or a foodie, Cincin­nati, which is small enough to see by foot or tram if you’re on a tight sched­ule, is a new des­ti­na­tion ac­ces­si­ble from Dublin that is def­i­nitely worth ex­plor­ing.

That great Amer­i­can writer Mark Twain is pur­ported to have quipped: ‘When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincin­nati be­cause it’s al­ways 20 years be­hind the times.’

Well now it’s a thriv­ing tourist des­ti­na­tion… and I wouldn’t mind rais­ing a glass there to the stun­ning Queen City if the end is any­time nigh.

Bridge of highs: The singing bridge in Cincin­nati

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