Monday, August 25, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation

Ithaca, Day 1

After Buffalo, we still had a week of vacation left. Usually we spend our vacation time visiting friends and family, which is fun, but we felt it was high time we had a trip that was just for us. The difficulty was picking a location that was somewhere between Buffalo and Charlottesville and we eventually settled on Ithaca, NY, the city where Cornell is. I'd been there a few times in college, but just for regattas. We'd drive down in the afternoon, sleep in the dorms at Ithaca college, not go out at night due to having to get up early in the morning, row for most of the next day and drive home immediately. I never felt I'd gotten the true Ithaca experience.

It's a short and pretty drive from Buffalo to Ithaca. Actually, the NYS thruway between Buffalo and Rochester is pretty ugly, with its snowplow garages and non-descript fields. There is no attempt to beautify the highway here. It's like, “You're in New York. What more do you want?” Still, it was a pretty day and Meatloaf was playing on the radio and we were content.

We'd booked two rooms in the Comfort Inn, Ithaca and they have to be the worst hotel rooms I've ever seen. And my standards aren't all that high. But there we were, and it seemed there was nothing to do but make the best of it and head out to explore the town.

We headed for Cornell, and after getting lost and having to ask for directions, finally pulled into a parking space in front of the Herbert F. Johnson museum of art, which was, unfortunately, closed. From here we hiked down to Ithaca Falls and over a suspension bridge high above the water. After descending a long staircase on the far side of the creek, we rested on little ledges of shale alongside the rapids. I suddenly felt very afraid that one of us was going to slip off the edge and get sucked into the current. I generally don't mind small thrills, but in this case I felt almost wild to get away from the falls and nagged the kids ceaselessly about not going too close to the edge. When we finally turned to hike back up to the top of the gorge, I spotted a wooden cross partially hidden by a bush. It was a memorial to someone who had died on that spot.

Us on the bridge.

View from bridge.

Stairs down to the creek.

Jon by the falls.

Drama Queen and Miss G


We recrossed the suspension bridge and hiked a bit further downstream to a second waterfall. Close to the water's edge were two more memorials to people who had drowned in that spot, and I remembered that there was a bridge near the Cornell campus that students sometimes jumped from during exam week. Surely the bridge we were on was the one. Now it was raining lightly and once again I felt extremely anxious that one of us would fall into the water. I know I was being ridiculous, but I swear I felt a bad vibe in that place. I'm not a suspicious person, but I do believe that sometimes a place will be infused with energy left behind by previous people who have been there. An article I read later in the Ithaca Journal, talks about the dozens of drownings that have occurred in that spot. The top current is moving away from the falls, but underwater are different currents that will suck a swimmer under rock ledges and not let him up. Horrible to contemplate, even from the safety of my computer chair.

We left the falls and headed downtown for dinner. Ithaca has a downtown pedestrian mall similar to Charlottesville's, but C'ville's is more happening. Ithaca's mall was practically deserted. Granted, it was a Monday, and the students were gone, but when, in the summer would you ever see C'ville's downtown mall deserted at 6:00pm?

Ithaca's downtown mall, aka "Ithaca Commons." See? Just like C'ville.

Is going to Ithaca and eating at the Moosewood Restaurant an awfully touristy thing to do? Who cares, I was a vegetarian for ten years and the Moosewood is my mecca.

It turns out, Moosewood is pretty expensive, even by Charlottesville standards. I started with a chai martini, which was tasty, but came in a stingy-sized glass. We had to pay extra for bread for our table, and had to get a double order so that there'd be enough for the six of us.

Me and my martini.

We thought the salads were high quality.

Moosewood's menu changes daily, and between the six of us, I think we ordered one of every entree. All the food was very good, including the “Lentil Sambar” I ordered, although later I realized that I'd just paid $15 for a plate of lentils and rice. Their children's menu wasn't very appealing, so Mr. McP had to order an adult entree, adding considerably to the Moosewood's coffers. Overall, I would recommend the Moosewood as long as you are prepared to pay through the nose.

Drama Queen's Moosewood lasagna

Gratuitous shot of Mr. McP


  1. Currents ARE scary--I'm right with you when it comes to fast-moving water. Moosewood! How cool! I have their 1st cookbook. And my, you are very beautiful. I first thought that was your daughter sipping the cocktail!

  2. I'm trying to imagine getting my kids on that bridge and my imagination is coming up short.

  3. Mrs. Stormy is from western NY (Orleans County) and went to Cornell. I'm not sure if Charlottesville is Ithaca South, or if Ithaca is Charlottesville North. What I do know is that I am jealous of their WEGMAN'S!

  4. Stormy, we enjoyed the Ithaca Wegman's too. We even took a few photos there, which may appear in a future entry!