Brief Honeymoon in the Finger Lakes

Trip Start Jul 30, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , New York
Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Finger Lakes  August 7th 2007
             For some reason I woke up early this morning.  About 5am.  I guess I was a little anxious.  After our ceremony on Saturday, spending time with friends and family all day Sunday and thinking of our trip out of town for a wedding the following weekend... I am ready to get away for a couple of days and forget about the stress and tention that came along with our wedding.
             The only question left is, "Where do we go?"  It is too late to book any flights.  Taking a traditional honeymoon to Niagara Falls is just too much driving (6 hours each way).  Maybe we could head out to the Hamptons (4 hours each way).  Lyn and I were discussing the matter when it became crystal clear.  The Finger Lakes are only a little more than two hours drive and Lyn had never been there. .. Perfect!
             We each grabbed a small pack and filled them with the essentials and it the road.  It was an easy ride from the Wilkes Barre/Scranton area.  Just hop onto I-81 North, then Route 79 and two hours later, you are in Ithaca NY at the base of Cayuga Lake.
             A friend of mine had moved to Ithaca years ago.  I have seen Rick only a few times in the past years.  Usually, when we were both in town for the holidays or randomly passing each other at the airport.  I looked him up on the internet before we left and now that we were in Ithaca, I figured I would stop by and say Hi. We turned off 76 and drove a few miles.  I slowed up to pass a truck that had pulled over to talk on the cell phone.  When I noticed the guy inside the cab.  It was Rick.  How easy was that.  As he got out of the truck we both laughed about running into each other semi-randomly.  Which was lucky for us since he no longer lived at the address I found on the internet.  We caught up on old times, Rick gave us a few points to add to our itinerary.  We agreed to meetup again later.  Soon Rick was on his way to work and we were back on 79 heading to Watkins Glen at the base of  the largest of the Finger Lakes; Seneca.  It was a nice ride through a country setting.  The wildflowers lining the roads were unbelievable. The black-eyed Susans, Queen Anns Lace and the Lavender were so abundant, it was like someone had landscaped the whole countryside.  We watched the long rolling hills for any sign of water.  But it wasn't until reaching the last knoll that gave us a  panoramic view of the lake.  It was a long descent into the valley passing a nice waterfront park at the bottom and a marina filled with boats.  Soon we saw the sign "Welcome to the Village of Watkins Glen".  We made a right onto Franklin Street (the main drag of the town).  We passed the visitors info center, an old factory which was now setup for wine tastings and a restaurant on the water, next to the platform where the boats depart for the lake cruises.   We followed Route 14 north for a mile or two checking out the views of the lake and a few small wineries.  We decided to return to the Glen to checkout the town, the info center and the Gorge.  It is a rather small town, maybe a mile long.  It is a strange mix of old and new.  The architecture looked at though it had not changed much over the past few decades.  The general store was still there but the merchandise lining the sidewalk in fornt was obviously brand new.  It was easy to pick out the old car dealership, filled today with the line of brand new cars.  We passed the old Diner that looked like it has been there forever.  The stores that seemed to fit the area best were the antiques stores.
             We continued south on 14 and grabbed a late breakfast at Curleys (I had the Western Omlette and Lyn had the pizza burger).  We looked through the brochures of the local attractions that we picked up at the visitors center and decided to start with hiking the gorge that can be found in the state park.  The parking lot seemed to be filling up quickly so we parked across the street from the entrance and walked in.  Turns out that the park has no entrance fee.  But there is a $7 parking fee.   
            Being August, the water was naturally a bit low.  I imagine this place would be amazing during the spring thaw, but the way the stream have carved its way through the thousands of layers of slate was quite impressive.  The trail (that is more like an old sidewalk) winding along the 2 miles of water, over a few bridges and tunnels and even a point where you can walk behind one of the waterfalls.  It is a fantastic view through the wall of water overlooking a huge, long stone ravine.  It was hot and muggy down in the ravine and we were happy to find the giant freezy pops at the little souvenir shop at the end of the hike.  On the return, we decided to take the 'Indian trail' that follows the same route except this time you are walking along the rim of the ravine.  There are several overlooks and the walk is much cooler.   You can even notice the difference in the vegetation that grows on the two trails. 
             We hopped back in the car and head north.  We were told the town was a bit busier than usual due to the upcoming Nascar race to be held this weekend.  We were about to head out of town when we saw the Mcdonald's car (#35) driving down the street.  The car pulled over at an intersection and started driving down the sidewalk stopping in front of the general store for some promo.  Lyn snapped a few pictures and we were on our way once again traveling north on the east side of Lake Seneca.  We opened a few of the different maps we found at the visitors info center and decided to stop wherever looked interesting.  We passed Hector Falls and several wineries.  We passed one winery that had the huge old wine barrels mixed in with the landscape.  We stopped into the 'Chateu Lafayette Reneau Winery' ( ) There is barn that has been completely renovated.  There were flowers all over and a nice view of the Lake just passed the acres of  grapevines.  Inside the wall was lined with ribbons and awards they had won over the years there was a mix of merchandise from wine to postcards to puzzles made from maps of the area.  Funny thing is we did not even try the wine!  We enjoyed the view for awhile, then hit the road.  Our next stop was at the Wagner winery.  The sign had caught my eye because this Wagner is also a microbrewery.  Lyn and I decided to skip the crowded tour and headed straight to the bar.  There were two lists of beers. For $1 Lyn sampled the 'Traditional' (Lager, Light, Stout, +) and I tried the 'Micros' (IPA, triplebok, etc).  From the look on her face, Lyn had a tough time with the stout.   It tasted like a burnt chocolate coffee.  After a few handfuls of popcorn to cleanse our palates, we looked around the large gift shop and hit the road once again.  Lyn found that one of the maps listed what was available at th wineries and a few had gourmet ice cream made with a hint a wine.  So we cut across Route 96A which links Seneca and Cayuga lakes.  We turned south onto 89.  We stopped at Americana Winery in search of the ice cream.  My will power was strong today and I walked right by the huge display of many many different flavors of home made fudge.  Lyn was already at the counter sampling the Glace de Vino.  The Raspberry Merlot Cheesecake was awesome.  But being the chocoholic I am, I talked Lyn into buying the Chocolate Cabernet Sauvingon, sight unseen.  The ice cream was extra creamy and very tasty, but the taste of wine was much less noticeable than in the Raspberry Merlot Cheesecake.  
       Continuing south on Route 89 we saw signs for Ricks #1 recommendation...     Taughannok Falls.  We turned and headed towards the lookout.  As soon as we got out of the car our jaws dropped.  Facing us was a huge rock face which was probably a mile away.  Down the center was the thin white veil of the falls.  Being that the water is low and the falls thinner than usual probably accentuated how high the falls really are.  In fact these are the tallest falls this side of the Mississippi.  20 feet taller than Niagara Falls.  We enjoy the view for a few minutes and watched a couple of ant sized people swimming in the pool below the falls.  My stomach sunk a bit when we noticed two people walking at the top of the falls.  They walked right to the edge and looked over.  I took a picture of this, but they are so far away you can barely see them.
              We continued on 89 south passing another state park,  Ithaca Yacht Club, the public pool and even the Cornell Boat House.  Soon we reached Ithaca and gave Rick a call.  He suggested a restaurant on Aurora Street by the name of Mahogany.  It was a nice place on a busy street lined with restaurants.  Lyn started with a glass of Asti Spumante and I had a Blue Moon.  For dinner Lyn had the Filet Medallions Oscar (Filet topped with lobster and Bernaise sauce).  I opted for the Del Monico covered in onions carmelized in Balsamic.  It was a great dinner.  As we wrapped things up Rick walked in and we all moved to the bar for a drink.  I noticed they had the regional beer, 'Long Trail' and Lyn had a Stoli Blueberry with Cranberry.  It was nice catching up with Rick and his girlfriend Kelly, you could tell they were regulars here as they greeted just about everyone that walked through the door.  (Rick for Mayor)  Before you knew it, it was getting late.  Lyn and I hit the road and once again headed on 79 back towards Watkins Glen.  A strong stormed had passed earlier and the road was covered in frogs!!  We arrived at the Seneca Lodge to find a nice clean room with what looked like a newly redone bathroom and nice crispy clean sheets.  We slept in a bit the next morning and watched a few shows on the BBC.  We headed out, again traveling north on 14 passing through Watkins Glen and along the west side lake.  We passed a few fields of sunflowers, vineyards and many wineries, but it was still early.       We eventually stopped at Glenora Wine Cellars for a few photo ops.  The landscape was decorated with these huge 20k gallon wooden kegs. 
     Our next stop was Villa Belangelo.  This is an Italian themed winery owned by a family from the Philadelphia area.  They had everything from a Bocci Ball court to a Vespa parked out front.  It was a nice setting as was the whole ride along the lake.  There were many classic old homes.  Some were fixed up in there calssic style and looked great adding to the atmosphere of the area, but many more of these homes had more potential than prestige and are in need of some TLC.  It is a shame to see these properties in such a state of disrepair.
             As we passed a sign for Earle Estate Meadery my curiosity got the best of me and we  just had to stop in.  They had an interesting display of live bees inside and after looking around we decided to take a $2 tasting.  The Mead was interesting being made from honey and there were several fruit wines blended with the Mead.  We both liked the wine made from the Niagara grape.  It tasted like biting into a fresh bunch of grapes.  We bought a bottle and were soon on our way.  
     Approaching the town of Geneva we kept our eyes peeled for the castle by name of Belhurst.  It is a nice old mansion built in 1885.  It has been many things in the past and is now a winery, B&B, reception hall and restaurant.  Lyn told me there was a buffet lunch inside the castle for a mere $8.95.  We sat down and enjoyed the  Salmon and dill soup, chicken soup, ceasar and house salads, steamed vegetables, homefried potatoes with sausage, deli sandwiches and chicken marsala.  After all this Lyn was second guessing herself thinking they might had said  $18.95, which made more sense.  To our surprise, we got the bill and it was only $8.95!   While enjoying our lunch on the veranda we noticed some huge rustic looking buildings directly across the lake.  We drove through the historic district of Geneva and headed to the east side of the lake to Ventosa Winery. ( )  They had built huge rustic looking winery complete with terra cotta tiled rooves.  The inside is huge. Painted with faux marble and murals covering the walls.  
     We headed towards Seneca Falls next.  We were looking for an old church (Trinity Church) located on the Erie Canal  which turned out to be less than expected.  Up close, it needs alot of work.  But I think the photos came out OK.  We continued to the top of Cayuga to see the rest of the west side that we missed the day before.    We lazily drove south along Cayuga.  It was a nice scenic ride.  We passed Thee Amish market and a few Amish farms.  I noticed couple of beaches on the map.  I wanted to stop at Interlaken Beach since it looked like the biggest one.  But we accidently missed the turn.  Most of the othr 'beaches' were small private looking lakeside beaches you would expect to see. (no sand, just stones).  We did stop at Lucas Winery for a look around.  The place looked brand new inside and there was a bit of a crowd.  We headed out and stopped at Cayuga Lake Creamery to find something that might break the heat and humidity of the day.  I had the ultimate brownie ice cream topped with crfushed esspresso beans.  It really hit the spot.
     It was a great trip.  Very relaxing.  There were many plces we would have liked to stop to see, if we only had more time.  We only saw two of the eleven finger lakes.

Finger Lake info;
Seneca info;     
Seneca Wine Trail;,com_frontp age/Itemid,56/
Cayuga Wine Trail;

Belhurst Castle;

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