Finger Lakes

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October 31st 2010
Published: October 31st 2010
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We started out our "road trip" on Saturday, 10/9, arriving from the Jersey Shore to Ithaca, NY for a week long venture to see waterfalls and Fall foliage. After a good six hour ride, having awoken at the crack of dawn, we arrived at our first destination around noon at Robert H. Treman State Park at the lower gorge section where we saw an impressive lower falls and began a journey up the gorge which was essentially a steep climb up a mountain. After approximately a half of a mile or more of primarily just woods, we decided to head back to the car and drive to the upper gorge entrance before one of us had a heart attack. (By the way, I had suggested we start at the Upper Gorge, but our Map Quest directions were a little off). We drove to the second entrance to the park about 2.5 miles down the road and ventured into the Upper Falls which were stunning views and well worth it. We did a fair amount of walking that day, some of it quite steep. It was a good work out, to say the least. After that, we headed to our hotel which was not far from Cornell University. The room was clean and the rate was cheap, but the accommodations were severely lacking. For one, there was no dresser in the room, which I thought odd considering there was a bureau mirror on the wall with a blowdrier. For one night just passing through town, however, it was perfect and there were no signs of bugs.

The following morning, we took a detour from our directions to drive around Cornell, which was lovely and we took a nice walk around the Beebe woodland trail, with a lake and waterfall before venturing out to Taughannock Falls, just a little north of Ithaca, just West of Cayuga Lake. That also had two entrances, one with a lower and one with an upper Falls. The walk along the riverbed from the lower falls to the bottom of the upper falls was lovely. After returning to our car, we drove up to view the upper falls from across the gorge from another entrance into the park.

From there, we headed westward toward Watkins Glen and Seneca Lake which took us along beautiful country farmlands and within an hour, we arrived at the Watkins Glen State Park which was oddly right in the heart of the town, something we had not expected. We grabbed a lunch at a family-style restaurant which was packed for business (it was Sunday, so it appeared we caught the late morning after Church crowd). Service was a tad slow or understaffed, but the food was good.

Watkins Glen State Park features 19 cascading waterfalls which was an incredible experience, including a walk behind several of the falls (without getting drenched). It was a near perfect 75 degree day, so there were lots of people there, making it difficult to get a perfect photograph (without strangers). Much like the upper Falls area at Treman, the glen again has a lot of stone and rock stairs and walkways, as well as stone bridges and footbridges over the falls. It was an amazing place, but the sun angles sometimes made it difficult to take good photographs of the numerous falls. In all honesty, even the best camera could never capture the awesome depths, dimensions, and beauty of Watkins Glen, in part because of the sun and darkness of the wet rocks.

After that, we headed to our hotel for check in. Although in a state of ongoing contruction repairs, the Glen Motor Inn was a surprise. Our room was exceptionally clean, albeit the furniture having seen better days and a dripping tub faucet, but the balconey view of Seneca Lake was fantastic and provided us with a nice sunrise the following morning. The Italian restaurant associated with the hotel was surprisingly very good as well and overlooked the lake. A continental breakfast the next day was a perfect way to start our venture northward to the next destination.

Along the way, however, starting at 10:30 a.m., we stopped at a few wineries for a tasting. First stop, "The Pompous Ass Winery." How could we resist? Upon walking in the door, I was delighted to hear The Beatles "Abbey Road" playing and was told they played Beatles all day, every day. "My kind of place!" I cheered with my wine glass. We purchased a few bottles of Bodacious Red and Kiss My Ass Blushes and went on to another winery with lovely views of Seneca Lake. We drove an hour through farmland, many of them run by the Amish and Menonites, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere before reaching Canandaigua. There, we visited Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion, which was very interesting. A home owned by the founders of Chase and Citicorp Banks during the gilded age, this was an exquisite way to spend the day. While many of the buildings on the vast property are used by the VA as a medical facility for vets, the main house is open for tours and there are nearly a dozen gardens to enjoy, including zen and rock gardens which were stunning even in Fall.

In a former groundskeepers home, visitors can enjoy a nice lunch of homemade soup and tasty sandwiches. I had a curry chicken soup and a grilled veggie wrap drizzled with a roasted red pepper sauce.

The sky began looking grey towards the South, which is where we were headed, so by almost 4:00, we were back on the road, heading for our next stop: Letchworth State Park.

We ran into a rain storm just outside the northern section of Letchworth (Mount Morris area) and drove the 17 mile stretch through the park toward the Southern town outside the park in Portageville. Having travelled with a stocked cooler, we enjoyed sandwiches for dinner with a bottle of wine in the comfort of our spacious room at the Colonial Inn Motel. The rates were extremely reasonable, the accommodations were great and the property itself was lovely, with an interesting maze of wildflowers. The owner's wife was extremely pregnant with two very small children.
We spent two nights there.

Letchworth Park was beautiful. Three main falls run along the Genesee River. We spent the following day of our arrival driving through the park and stopping at all the scenic overlooks and main attractions, even enjoying a hearty breakfast at the Glen Iris Inn at the Middle Falls section of the park. We spent a great deal of time at Inspiration Point with unbelieveably spectacular views, watching butterflies, some sort of blue birds, and Turkey falcons glide across the incredible landscape. Thankfully, the rain from the day before had come just through the night and as the day wore on, the sunnier it became. We were originally scheduled to spend a third night within the park itself at the Glen Iris Inn, but due to the weather forecast, we cancelled our third night, which meant our second sunny day in the area was not going to be spent enjoying any of the trails in Letchworth Park, but instead driving to our final destination at Niagara and enjoying the sites there. We were glad our hotel there could accommodate with an extra night's stay on such short notice.

Thus, we awoke early after our second night at the Colonial Inn, enjoying in-room coffee and some pumpkin bakery delight we'd purchased in town before packing up and heading for Niagara about an hour Northwest of Portageville. We no sooner got into Niagara and found ourselves directed into a parking lot and ushered into a building and talked into a $140.00 ($70.00 p/p) bus tour within ten minutes of arriving. At first, we figured we'd just been scammed, but it actually turned out to be worth the price while we spent the next three hours being escorted onto the Maid of the Mist, then a walk up the Falls (where we were drenched despite the ponchos we were given), and taken to the Whirlpool Basin overlook, a small storefront museum, Three Sister Island and another Falls overlook, before jumping back into our car and heading over Rainbow Bridge into Canada.

Niagara in Ontario is beautifully manicured, but it's expensive and also a tourist trap. Our hotel was directly across from Horseshoe Falls and from our 15th floor Fallsview Room, we had a spectacular view. Like idiots, however, we took the tram ride down to Niagara Parkway/River Road to the promenade walkway along the waterfront and falls for $5.00, but I would encourage anyone to walk down to Murray Street to get there and instead take the tram for the return to your hotel. It's a pretty steep climb the other way if you want to save yourself money because everything you pay for has a 16% tax added to it. OUCH.

For dinner, we enjoyed a quick concession stand hotdog and drink, while watching the thunderous falls. We strolled along the promendade before heading back to our hotel room as it became clear to me that my husband was beginning to succumb to a full blown headcold.

Our room was spacious and luxurious, with a hottub, although sitting inside it, one could not actually see the Falls. The bathroom was quite large. I found the illuminated Falls to be a bit of a disappointment, however. Although I would have enjoyed drinks at the cocktail lounge, my husband was content laying in bed with a kleenex box, so I didn't push him.

The following morning, we awoke to an interesting sunrise over the falls, but the view was hindered quickly by the dark storm clouds to the East where the N'or Easter hugged the coast. It drizzled outside and the forecast, as we had known, was grim for the day. We were thankful we had bumped up our Niagara trip by a day, especially since he was sick. Having accomplished all the tours of the Falls the day before that interested us but for the "Journey Behind the Falls", (which he decided was not worth getting pneumonia for at that point), we decided to take it easy for the day. We headed out for breakfast at the All You Can Eat Buffet for $6.99 p/p. I'm not sure what happened from there because we each only filled our plates once, each had a cup of coffee and one glass of orange juice, but when we checked out our bill came to $23.00. Scratching our heads, however, we left the restaurant pleased that we'd stuffed a few hard boiled eggs into my purse for later, along with a few half and half containers for our in-room coffee in the morning.

We headed over to the Butterfly Conservatory on the Botannical Gardens venue. At first, my husband rolled his eyes a few times at the suggestion that we go, but once we got there, he was fascinated at the hundereds of butterflies that flew around us. In no time at all, camera in hand, he was off chasing a rather large blue species that never came to rest while I snapped away at more docile butterflies with our other camera. After nearly two hours there, including a stroll through the garden pathways under our umbrella, we headed back to our hotel. By then, my husband was running a fever.

He hit the bed immediately and awoke sometime later, debating what to do about dinner. He didn't want to order room service and pay the ridiculous prices for that, nor did he want to visit the hotel's overpriced restaurant. He simply wanted soup, preferably chicken noodle. Thus, we ventured out down the street. Appleby's was "out" of chicken noodle soup, TGI Friday's didn't have any, but the hostess directed us to Quiznos where we each had soup. He had a sandwich too and I had a large salad. While I would have much preferred eating at any number of the steakhouses near the hotel (there were two Brazillian within just one block), it was clear he didn't have the appetite for anything like that. We returned to the hotel and he was down for the count, only to awaken briefly to watch the short fireworks display over the Falls with me, before burying himself under the bed linens again. Around 2:00 a.m., his fever broke.

The following morning, we woke early again to watch the sunrise, enjoying our stolen hard-boiled eggs with some Nutrigrain bars I'd brought in, while sipping our in-room coffee (and stolen half n half). We showered and packed up our things, checking out of the hotel and bracing ourselves for the long drive home to New Jersey. Before leaving Canada, since the weather had cleared, we took a stroll through a nearby park and nature reserve on the back end of Horseshoe Falls.

Crossing over Rainbow Bridge, back into the United States, we were stopped for a random check by customs. While sitting inside the customs office, we realized my husband had stepped in dogshit in the park and stunk up the place before going into the bathroom and getting it off the bottom of his shoe while I laughed hysterically. Not feeling well as it is, he wasn't very amused by the inconvenience of the customs check, so having dogshit on his shoe was the straw that broke the camel's back and the first half of our ride back home was difficult because the more I laughed about it, the more annoyed he became. Several long hours passed in the car before he finally began to see the humor in it.

Once back at home, he took to the bed and in no time at all, it seemed as though we'd never left, especially once the headcold hit me on Sunday, two days after we returned. Thankfully, we had two cameras loaded with lots of pictures to remember it all.

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