Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation

Ithaca, Day 2

The “free breakfast” provided by our hotel was inedible. The coffee, undrinkable. But why would I expect better from the Discomfort Inn?

I needed an excuse to visit Wegmans anyway. We bought enough food to carry us through until dinner, and coffee besides. Wegmans is awesome. While standing at the deli, I controlled a desire to take a picture of the display of fine meats. Here's what the Wegmans deli does that is awesome: they preslice their cold cuts ahead of time. You go to order, say, a pound of turkey, and there is all the meat, nicely fluffed and ready for you. Unlike every freaking store in Charlottesville, where all the meat is displayed as scary solid pink lumps wrapped tightly in plastic, and if you order some, you have to wait twenty minutes for the deli person to unwrap it and heave it onto the slicer and then slice it too thick.

I didn't take a picture of the deli, but I couldn't resist asking Drama Queen to take a few discrete photos of Wegmans' fabulousness. In this photo, I am speaking to Drama Queen through my clenched teeth. I am saying, “Don't take my picture in Wegmans. Don't take my picture in Wegmans.” Because I couldn't imagine anything more hokey than posing oneself in a supermarket.

Here's a mile long display of yogurt. That's ALL yogurt, folks.

Our first event of the day was a hike to Taughannock Falls, the tallest free-falling waterfall in the eastern US. The guidebooks say it's disappointing in the summer because the creek sometimes dries up, but NY is having a rainy summer this year. It was an easy, level hike along the bottom of a gorge. As we progressed, the gorge walls rose higher and higher above us until we reached the falls.

Miss G, Drama Queen, Jon and Mad Scientist by Taughannock Falls.

Jon and me.

The water was low, so we hiked back in the creek bed and stopped to rest, enjoying a rare moment of family harmony. The kids discovered skipping stones. Mad Scientist was able to skip a stone five or six times, sometimes skipping a stone all the way across the creek, where it would shatter on the opposite bank. The rocks were shale and you could break them with your hands.

Miss G found a fossil.

Later, we went to Buttermilk Falls. You drive to the top of its gorge. The road up was incredibly steep and twisty. Living in Charlottesville, I'm used to hills, but this hill was scary. We hiked our way down the gorge along a series of waterfalls. It was a stunning hike and my pictures don't do it justice. It must be a sight to see in the spring.

As we descended, the water descended faster, and was ever farther below the trail, which was stone, and soaking wet. Sometimes there was a low rail to keep you from falling over the edge into the falls, and sometimes there wasn't. The wetness of the trail worried me. It hadn't been raining and I imagined the creek suddenly roaring to life and filling the entire gorge. Then I realized that water was dripping from between the layers of rock in the gorge walls as if squeezed from a sponge.

Buttermilk Creek. I love the erosion patterns.

Cool rock chimney.

I worried we would slip on the wet rocks and die. Water was dripping out between layers of rock all along the trail.

At the bottom of the long hike, the falls end in a natural pool where you can swim. The water was what my German grandfather would have called “refreshing,” i.e. ice cold. The pool was crowded with what I instantly recognized as New York City people. Long forgotten memories of my childhood in upstate New York came to the surface: You'd get home from a day in some attraction or other and say with irritation, “It was full of New York City people.” They are unmistakable. Eventually, they got on their tour bus and returned to NYC, while we rested and I tried not to think about the long hike back up to the car and the drive down the scary, twisty road.

Jon and Drama Queen.

Hiking back up to the car

We went to downtown Ithaca for dinner. Jon spotted a place called the Lost Dog Cafe. It looked like a dive to me, and the map of the world tablecloths on the patio said “vegetarian.” The girls and I wanted to try a place called “Mustard” which was painted a cheery yellow and advertised comfort food, which I felt I deserved, but Jon was not at all impressed with Mustard, so we settled the question by stocking up on New York State wine and asking the wine store guy what he thought and he recommended Lost Dog, and we were not disappointed. My martini came in a Charlottesville sized glass, there was a kid's menu that had options other than “pasta with butter” and “natural peanut butter on bread” and the food was excellent. It was cheaper than Moosewood too. We ordered dessert and still the total was a lot less than what we paid at Moosewood.

Getting ready for dinner.

And that was it. We drove back to C'ville the next day. It was a long drive; scarcely shorter than the drive from C'ville to Buffalo, even though Ithaca is significantly further south.

The kids found ways to amuse themselves.

Edited to wonder why this piece didn't show up on Charlottesville Blogs. Trying again. I had a terrible time with blogger today, getting my pictures to upload and then the whole piece refused to publish due to some sort of HTML error. Blogger sucks, btw. If you're shopping for a blog hosting site, choose something else.


  1. What a lovely vacation! That's a lot of yogurt, BTW. Such lovely scenery--reminds me of the Wisconsin Dells but w/o the waterfalls.

    I had Lost Dog at a nice restaurant a few weeks ago--Mr. D thought I'd ordered MAD DOG! Ha!

  2. The scenery is beautiful, but after difficulty finding my favorite variety of yogurt this very day (TWO different stores!), I must admit my green-eyed monster wakens to wish for a Wegman's!!!

  3. Back in The Old Days where there was only one Giant in town, they used to preslice the deli meat and cheese. I'm not sure if they do that any more since I'm slumming at Fud Leon these days. I have to admit that while I liked not waiting for my order, I didn't like how dried-out the cold cuts were.

    I love all the vacation photos and commentary.