By Judy Garrison
Many of us rooted in Andes harbor the secret conviction that we’re at the crossroads of the universe, sparsely settled and remote though we are in the eyes of the world. But, we all need to get away sometimes, and Andes is perfectly situated as a hub for exploring New York State in all directions.
On our time off this March, John and I chose three spontaneous, unscheduled forays into some areas of the state, where the driving itself would be part of our relaxation and discovery. “You’re going north?” a few asked when they heard our plans, incredulity creasing their brows. North (and east) and nearby worked well for us, with brief touchdowns at home in between our mini-trips. That way we didn’t miss the library party, our mail didn’t pile up, and we didn’t run out of underwear.
Though what tickled our fancies may not tickle yours, I’m convinced that this travel style could work for almost everyone, especially those aggravated by airports these days.
TRIP # 1
Sparked by a New York Times article we headed to the Oneida Community Mansion House in Sherrill for a B& B stay of a few days. The in-house museum tour was fascinating, as we learned about their practice of “complex marriage”, the eugenically-tinged stirpiculture experiments and their silk thread, canning and trap making commercial ventures. The community thrived from 1848-1880, and as the website (www.oneidacommunity.org) summarizes so well: “For 33 years under the leadership of John Humphrey Noyes, the religiously-based Perfectionist Community challenged contemporary social views on property ownership, gender roles, child-rearing practices, monogamous marriage and work.” The rich library they left behind, emblematic of their ethos of life-long learning, serves both the residents of the apartments in this 93,000 square foot facility and the B&B guests. Being the only guests at the time of our visit we were nicely coddled and appreciated the on-site Sabroso restaurant. We took long walks around the generous grounds and did some in-depth reading about the community (which started Oneida Silver and built a company town that persists to this day). We also visited Fort Stanwyx in Rome, the famous Jacobsen’s Carpets in Syracuse, and spent an afternoon at the Carousel Mall. On the way home we stopped at a Madison-Bouckville antique shop and chatted with the proprietor.
It was March 17th when we headed for a stay at the Red Hook Inn, a B&B in the heart of town. We knew Red Hook from our buying trips and thought it a good spot from which to roam that historically rich region of the Hudson Valley. On our way we made a short detour to Hurley. After surveying the notable 17th century stone houses we enjoyed a lunch at the Hurley Hotel, engulfed at the time in St. Patty’s day festivities where crowds happily chowed down on corned beef and cabbage (20,000 lbs served typically during this week!) and colcannon. The NYC parade was showing on a dozen TVs , and who other than Andes’ own Ira McIntosh was belting out Celtic songs as part of a festively gotten-up duo. Soon a bagpiper and drummer at full volume marched through. We had inadvertently landed in upstate New York’s St. Paddy’s Day Central!
From the Red Hook Inn we drove over to view the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Performing Arts Center at Bard College and visited the restored Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s modest country house near the FDR mansion in Hyde Park. Beyond the interesting, guided house tour, it was inspiring to see films about her ground-breaking work for human rights. Of course we also enjoyed some good Hudson Valley restaurants, Red Hook’s Mercato and the Flatiron, in particular, and explored the shops in Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Tivoli. Our breakfasts, too, were super-not surprising as the Chef-owner at our B&B had cooked for Ari Onassis & Jackie.
We’d both been to Niagara Falls way back when, but we decided to see the Falls from the Canadian side and then spend a night in Niagara-on-the Lake. In March you almost have the Falls to yourself, and in the picture-perfect town of Niagara-on-the-Lake we were able, in this low-season, to stay at the posh Prince of Wales for the price of an everyday motel. The wineries (we sampled and bought their signature “icewine”) lining Lake Ontario were gorgeous, meticulously cared for estates, and the one-of-a-kind shops were outstanding. Crossing back to the New York side we witnessed endless miles of fruit orchards along Lake Ontario. We were told at the border crossing “Our computer has selected you today for special inspection” so sat in a booth while they dug into our belongings and studied our passports.
I’ve whined for ages about never having been to Rochester, so we booked in at the Strathellan Hotel on Eastern Avenue, set amidst architecturally gorgeous estates including the celebrated George Eastman House. There we spent a rainy afternoon being stimulated and entertained with tours, films and photographic exhibits.
The next morning we stopped in Palmyra, the launching pad of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, having no idea what remained. Entering the original printing house of The Book of Mormon we were warmly greeted and given a personalized tour of their recently refurbished museum. I demurred when offered the Book, stating I had been given one years ago by a favorite college professor, a Mormon himself. When I recalled his name, Elder Wright dipped into his office and re-appeared holding up a biography of Joseph Smith that he was in the midst of reading by the very same Prof. Bushman! It was one of those moments carrying an air of synchronicity that I hope compensated somewhat for our reluctance to receive testimony (we did visit the log cabin replica of Smith’s boyhood home and the Sacred Grove.)
Back on the road, we stopped in beautiful Canandaigua for some delicious chowder and seafood salad at Doc’s on the north side of the lake. In Auburn we soon found the thriving, historic downtown and enjoyed a marvelous tour of the William Seward House. (Our docent guide made it emphatically clear that Seward was so much more than the namesake of Seward’s Folly. He worked closely with Lincoln throughout the War.) including the basement rooms that offered a stop on the Underground Railroad. In Skaneateles we booked into a cute Adirondack-themed motel with outdoor seating from which to enjoy nature. Since it was affiliated with the Spa at Mirbeau we were entitled to a marvelous breakfast at their restaurant, Giverny, from which you viewed the replica of the bridge at Monet’s country home in Giverny, France. We had one of our evening meals at the heralded Rosalie’s Cucina, an Italian-American restaurant that tops them all for feasting and fiesta. On Saturday, we walked around the lively town, peeking into the shops, soaking in the atmosphere of this charming lakefront village, grabbing a casual lunch at Doug’s Fish Fry. We traveled home along Route 20 through pretty Cazenovia and then south on Route 80 as an alternate to Routes 8 and 12.
We look forward to spending more time visiting the Finger Lakes and the Erie Canal Region. So much still to see!~