I took a nice day trip today, something I don't often do when I come Upstate. I realized I'd never been to Ithaca, and lucky enough my friend Liz from college lives and works there, so it gave me a great excuse to go visit. I rented a Budget Rent-A-Car, and in typical form I tried to get a modest compact car, but instead they gave me an orange convertible Eclipse Spyder. Obnoxious. But fun to drive at a very natural 80 mph.
Ithaca is best-known for its natural wonders, something I learned from all the "Ithaca Is Gorges" t-shirts that I've seen on college kids throughout the years. As a kid we always used to visit caverns and gorges, which makes it curious that we never made it to Ithaca, even though it's only about an hour south of Syracuse.
It seems fitting that Liz lives in Ithaca, since a fond memory of her is driving to Chittenango Falls together one summer during college and getting right in the waterfall together, just in our bras. The water felt like fists pounding on our backs. We rode back to Colgate in the car still topless, just in our bras. It felt very natural and liberating.
So before I met Liz for lunch I stopped by Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, which has a great falls overlook and Gorge Road, which follows the whole gorge (and which also has many pedestrian hiking trails). I couldn't figure out a way to actually get down right by the falls but there's definitely a walkway there...
We had lunch at the Cafe Dewitt in the Dewitt "Mall"...Then a walk through the Ithaca Common (the outdoor mall), where I left my ATM card in the M&T Bank machine. I hate the ones that suck your card in. I always leave my card behind in them.
Ithaca is in the center of the Finger Lakes Wine Country, nestled on Cayuga Lake, but most of the wineries are north of the city. I visited the one that's actually in Ithaca, Six Mile Creek Vineyard which is situated on a pre-Civil War cemetary and former stagecoach stop. For just $1 I got to taste six different Upstate wines. Of course on a Monday afternoon I was the only person there, but I was happy to bring back a bottle of Vignoles white and Dolce Vita sweet red back to Mike and Maria to imbibe later.
Before leaving I wanted to make sure I got to see one more waterfall - there are many more - so I swung by Ithaca Falls which is basically right in the middle of the city, across from a school, just off a pretty well-trafficked road. I got so close to the falls that I could feel the mist coming off of them, and I was surrounded by fly-fishers and local students lounging as they studied for the end of the school year...I think the area must be in a drought because all the water levels looked really low and receded to me, especially considering how close I was able to actually get.
On the way out of town, I had to stop by Purity Ice Cream, the shoppe that claims to have invented the ice cream sundae. I got a junior hot fudge sundae with Gimme Mocha Fudge ice cream, named after the local favorite Gimme Coffee. It was OK but Carvel honestly was better. The hot fudge sauce rocked but the ice cream was a little too much ice and not enough cream.
I tried not to get a speeding ticket on my way back to Syracuse and dropped my car off at the airport. I never drove it with the top down (considering my distaste for wind) but I had a fine time cruising around in it today.
When I got back home, Maria made pasta with mushrooms and garlic for me, which we all ate with some of the wine from earlier today. We all talked about our days. It felt like a real family.