I am a country mouse, not a town mouse, and the honest truth is that I was pleased to say goodbye to the noise and bustle of New York City. It was a wonderful visit, but exhausting, and the sight of the green countryside and blue water of Lake Ontario was refreshing.
We stayed in the most amazing BnB in Niagara Falls – Hillcrest Inn – decorated in French country style and probably the most welcoming place I’ve ever stayed. We set off to the Niagara State Park – the oldest state park in America, we were told – and really had such a fun afternoon! We did the Maid in the Mist boat cruise, looking smurf-like in our blue ponchos and enjoying the massive spray from the Horseshoe Falls. It would have been good to see them from the Canadian side, but without a Visa, I couldn’t get there, so we looked up at them from the boat and down at them from the lookout point on Goat Island, as well as admiring the American Falls. But the best fun ever was doing the Cave of the winds tour, which we almost didn’t do because we were feeling tired, but certainly felt invigorated afterwards. There, they give you long yellow ponchos and sandals, but even after rolling our jeans up and tying down our poncho hoods, we were very wet afterwards. The main thing is to do the Hurricane Deck, where you stand directly under the Bridal Veil falls. The buffeting you receive is unbelievable and I screamed my head off while standing there. It was Great! I had such a huge smile on my face for the rest of the afternoon.
In the evening we drove over to Grand Island to find The Riverstone Grill. As seen on the tv programme Man vs Food, we thought it would be something different, and it certainly was. We got the “small” steaks – weighing in at 18 ounces (over half a kilogramme). But the guy next to us, on a night out from Buffalo City, was a real man and got the legendary Bone in the Stone. This cut of beef is usually anywhere between 36 and 50 ounces, and comes with huge piles of potato fries and maple drenched sweet potato fries. He didn’t finish it, to be fair, but he made a solid dent in it (but then, it looked as if he’d had some practice eating large meals!)
We then headed out to the Finger Lakes, watching the leaves get more golden as we drove, and ended up at one of the most beautiful places you could ever imagine. On a flight from Greece to London a little while ago, I met a lovely couple from New York, and when we met up with them in the city, they invited us to pop in to her Dad’s place on Seneca Lake’s western shore. And so we arrived at a gorgeous double-storey wooden house overlooking the lake, with rolling lawns and views of the trellis railway bridge behind; all three were kind and welcoming. We saw around the house, had a drink on the porch, and a tour of the grounds before seeing around Glenora’s wooden jetties and homes backing onto glens and a waterfall. They then took us to Atwater Winery for a tasting. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more: the view of the lake from the tasting room balcony (we could see our friend’s house) or the delightful tasting, guided by knowledgable Patrick. I particularly liked the sparkling white, but the Cabernet Franc got thumbs up from O Husbandly One. Our new friends really made a super day even better – it was so special to be shown around by locals who knew lots about the area and were clearly very proud to be connected to the neighbourhood. I can totally see why their Dad retired out here and even though he’s in his nineties, doesn’t want to move. It’s a breathtaking part of the world.
We said a sad goodbye at Watkins Glen and we went off to hike up the 800+ steps through tunnels and over bridges past the 19 waterfalls. I think we must have taken over 100 pictures, trying to capture the tumbling water and autumnal tones of the trees, but really, nothing can capture what it’s like – all the photos seem dull in comparison to what we saw.
The Antlers in Ithaca was our dinner venue that night – clearly full of parents with Cornell Freshmen and we were lucky to get a table. Lobster bisque, rib steak and baby back pork ribs were just delicious, and I was certainly sad that I didn’t have space for dessert. Aside from the tender ribs, it was a relief to escape for a while from what could easily have been called Bates Motel Ithaca – the suspicious red stain on the carpet and clear “no soliciting” sign on the door was off-putting to say the least!
We did a mouth-open drive through Cornell on our way out of Ithaca – Ivy League money clearly in evidence – and spent the rest of the day in Taughannock Falls state park. Taughannock puts the gorgeous into gorge. Created by post-glacial erosion, a walk up along the river shows spectacular limestone weathered chemically to form cracks, pits, and layered cliff-faces stretching 400 feet up. With its 215 foot drop Taughannock Falls is 33 feet higher than a Niagara Falls and truly lovely, framed by golden and red maples.
We drove past Critter Run Road on our way out to Ithaca, and were finally rewarded with more than road kill: some real-life critters! A cute chipmunk chirruped and chattered in the forest, squirrels jumped and scrunched on acorns, and we were rewarded with the sight of a deer calmly munching on someone’s lawn as the sun set over Trumansburg. While I’m sure it must be tough to live out here in winter (beware of snowmobiles signs notwithstanding!), it has seemed idyllic in the couple of days we have been here. Whether living on Critter Run Road, Podunk Road or Swamp College Road, huge properties, rolling lawns and massive trees, currently decked out in their warm tones, make this part of the world a very attractive proposition.
Besides, it’s about time we moved house again!