Category Archives: Ithaca

Trumanburg Farmers Market, Sundrees, Old Rongovian Embassy/Garrett’s Brewery, Hazelnut Kitchen – Trumansburg, NY

I first arrived in Trumansburg blindfolded, about 43 years ago. It was my 19th birthday and new friends in my freshman dorm at Cornell kidnapped me for a celebration. They blindfolded me in my dorm room, walked me into a car and we drove for about a half hour. The blindfold came off inside The Rongovian Embassy, an atmospheric bar in the small village of Trumansburg on Cayuga Lake’s western shore. The Rongo is gone but not forgotten. The name is etched into a stone plaque embedded in the pavement at the entrance to what is now Garrett’s Brewing, where we duly had a beer.

Before that we shopped, people-watched and listened to a folk band play inside a gazebo at The Trumansburg farmers market (Wednesday nights). Dinner was fantastic at Hazelnut Kitchen. We had an 8 p.m. reservation, thankfully or we would not have gotten in. Low-key atmosphere with mismatched plates and napkins, hardwood floor and very ambitious food. No room for dessert after sharing a hearty appetizer with crispy fried polenta w/ chicken confit, roasted shiitakes, moochego and entrees (steak with frites, apple cider-braised pork shoulder with spaetzle.) We contemplated getting the “Let the Kitchen Decide” entree but chickened out.

I also managed to find a dress to wear for a NYC bar mitzvah at Sundrees, a gift shop with a few well chosen clothing items and work by local artists. Next door is The Gemm Store, resale and vintage stuff (not gems) that was worth a wander.


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Gimme Coffee, Cascadilla Gorge, Fall Creek Gorge, Forest Home, Cornell Botanic Gardens, Cornell Dairy Barn – Ithaca

Busy day, exploring Ithaca and Cornell. I forgot how easy it is to entertain yourself here when the weather is half way decent. (Today it was cloudy but no rain and oddly warm, in the low 70s.)

Suspension Bridge

This morning we met an old friend from Des Moines (who now lives here part-time) at the Gimme Coffee near the foot of Cascadilla Gorge (There are now so many gimme locations that our friend initially went to another one). We walked up and down the gorge, which was full of water thanks to recent rains. A strenuous and very scenic hike. Nets are now strategically placed underneath the bridges high above the gorges to prevent jumpers. I also was pleased to see some repaired steps which makes the trip slightly less nerve wracking. As a student I walked up and down those slippery wet, leaf-strewn rugged stone steps without a care. Not so much now having broken two arms and my foot on occasion.

Collegetown Bagels is relocated across the street from its old location but still has the same alternative vibe and good sandwiches. There are almost no old buildings left in Collegetown, all of them replaced by bland modern buildings, several housing Asian restaurants of one sort or another. Are there any bars left? Not that I care.

We went over to the suspension bridge across Fall Creek Gorge, which was closed last time I was here two years ago. I forgot how much higher that gorge is than Cascadilla and can’t remember how we managed to get down in it sunbathe on the flat rocks as students. But I did see there is now an informational sign with some suggested hikes along the gorge. Next trip.

Next stop, Forest Home, one of my favorite tiny neighborhoods with narrow winding streets and a one-lane bridge. We ended up across the road at what used to be called the Cornell Plantations but that’s not PC these days so it was rebranded as Cornell Botanic Gardens. It’s huge and lovely. We drove around a bit and then wandered on foot among the wildflowers and herbs by the visitors center. And who could resist Cornell ice cream, located nearby at the Cornell Dairy Barn, also a new glass building completely changed from what I vaguely remembered from my years here as a kid. The ice cream was still excellent. I recommend Chocolate Gorges, chocolate cream with fudge swirl and bits of Oreos.


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The Lake House on Canandaigua, Penn Yan – Finger Lakes, NY

We explored the northern route for the Finger Lakes west of Cayuga today, primarily on Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua Lakes. In Geneva, I got some helpful suggestions of where to stop from a woman at the N Y Visitor Center and duly went onto visit Red Jacket Juice along Route 20/5 west of Geneva, a city with a remarkable nimbler of grand and well-preserved mansions along the west shore of the lake and a one-block groovy section downtown on Linden Street, including most notably FLX Provisons, a wellknown restaurant. (FLX Fry Bird, which serves fried chicken is less pricey and easier to get a reservation. Actually I don’t know if it takes reserved.)

The Lake House

In Canandaigua, we had lunch outdoors overlooking the water at the swanky Lake House of Canandaigua, recently named best hotel/resort or some such in the Northeast by Travel and Leisure. We had a salad and sandwich in “Rose Tavern” and watched people swimming in a pool near the spa. Yes, it was warm enough for that. The popular Sand Bar restaurant on the resort wasn’t opened nor was NY Kitchen,a culinary center and restaurant. Stately Sonnenberg Gardens also wasn’t open on a Tuesday.

Following my welcome center guide’s suggestion, we drove on Highway 364 south along Canandaigua lake to Penn Yan, passing Star cidery. Penn Yan was not as charming as envisioned. More a worn New York State Toen, but we stopped at the nicest shop, the Starving artist Woodworks. Driving on highway 54, we passed the recommended Spotted duck creamery (closed) and up along Seneca Lake’s western shore on Highway 14, Brewery Ardennes Taproom and kitchen (closed but looked amazing), Bellhurst Castle, and in Geneva, Kindred Fare – a well- regarded Restaurant. We also didn’t make it to the Seneca Falls National Women’s Hall of Fame, but visited years ago.

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Corning Glass Museum – Corning NY

Rainy weather and a thumbs up from my Cornell friend John got us to go to the Corning Museum of Glass and I am sooo glad we did! The new contemporary wing, a high-ceilinged white glass box, is stunning, both the architecture and the contemporary glass artwork. What a perfect place to go, especially on a gloomy day. I recognized several artists whose work is at The Des Moines Art Center (Fred Wilson, Judith Schaechter) and the omnipresent Chiluly. But there is so much more going on in the glass art world beyond Chiluly, I learned.

We also went to the exhibit tracing the history of glass, which was fascinating and to a glassblowing demonstration. The latest clever pandemic-induced accommodation: instead of blowing the glass, the glass artist used some sort of foot-peddled contraption so he could keep his mask on. Whatever works. The weather cleared enough for us to eat lunch outside on the cafe patio. (Good southwest salad, tuna sandwich). We also spent a lot of time in the huge gift shop and I found a wonderful glass jewelry maker from Bridgeport Connecticut, conveniently located near Myra, who also liked his work.

We spent 3 1/2 hours at the museum and could have stayed longer but we wanted to check out downtown. Glad we did. Corning is a very well -heeled town with a healthy historic district with massive two-story elegant brick storefronts filled with galleries, restaurants, antique shops (including an outpost of FLX Provisions, the well-regarded restaurant in Geneva).

Do not pet this dog (made of glass shards)
Betsy and Fred (Wilson, the glass artist)

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Treman State Park, Ithaca Beer, Wagner Winery – Ithaca and Seneca Lake Finger Lakes

It was a veritable Cornell reunion on the trail hiking down spectacular Enfield Glen gorge from upper to Lower Treman Park in Ithaca. We kept bumping into my old college friends who were attending the same wedding we were later in the day. All of us up early to get in a hike. So Glad we did. Watkins Glen is lovely but I still think Treman’s gorges and waterfalls are more spectacular, with more water cascading down high rocky cliffs and barreling through channels cut into the rock, opening into deep pools of water before yet another waterfall. (We did the two-car trick where we parked Noah’s car at the bottom of the falls and ours at the top so we could walk one way, down the falls, hop into Noah’s car at the end and drive back up to pick up our car at the top. Saved time and exertion.)

Enfield gorge at Upper Treman

Next stop Ithaca Beer, conveniently located very close to Treman and our Airbnb on Route 13A/Floral avenue. It has a great outdoor eating area carved into farmland overlooking cornfields and a big vegetable garden. The beer and food was good too (fried chicken sandwich with a kick, grilled cheese). perfect still-pandemic dining.

Dan and Elizabeth’s wedding was held high above Seneca’s waters st the Wagner Winery on the east shore of the lake. Fortunately the weather completely cooperated with dry weather and a spectacular sunset. The guests were all bused out from Ithaca to the winery, which was very thoughtful of the hosts and saved us having to drive in the dark on winding country roads for 40 minutes at midnight. Good good, fun band, lots of dancing, great people and a lovely married couple.

Wedding sky
Perfect wedding overlooking Seneca Lake

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Watkins Glen Gorge, Reisingers Apple Orchard, Lively Run Creamery, Finger Lakes Cider House, Hammondsport, Wagner Wineries — Exploring Seneca and Keuka Lakes (Finger Lakes)

I have always wanted to explore more of the Finger Lakes west of Cayuga Lake, which is my Go-to Lake and so we did on another spectacular Fall day. We drove on scenic backroads about 30 Miles west to Watkins Glen State ParK, an old favorite where we did the course hiking, stopping first at a great outfitters store Famous Brands, with a sale (I needed a warmer sweater, which I got for $13).

On we went to Reisingers Apple orchard where we got Snap Dragon apples, which I’d never heard over. Snap is the perfect word for this hard, crisp, sweet/tart, juicy apple concocted by Cornell. Next stop two maker outposts in the countryside near Interlaken on the west side of Cayuga Lake north of Trumanburg. Both a dream! At Lively Run Dairy and Creamery, we got a cheese sampler plate of the cheese made there, eight samples, four goat cheese, four cows milk cheese. A nice young guy, masked, explained what we were eating through a pandemic-friendly plexiglass barrier. We ended up buying several: The creamy goat cheese, the Blue Yonder and Finger Lakes Gold Reserve.

Next stop: Finger Lakes Cidery, a stylish place with lots of people (but not too many) where we had a half flight of ciders, sampling four. (Honeyoye was our favorite) and fantastic food – a killer grilled cheese sandwich with fresh greens, the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted (not campbells), grilled cornbread with two flavors of fresh whipped butter (jalapeño, and we think strawberries from the farm.) We sat outside on the deck, with the farmland rolling out to the narrow finger of Cayuga lake and the wooded banks on the other side. Heaven. From there we drove over to the eastern shore of Seneca Lake and down along a scenic road high above the lake lined with wineries and cideries. amazing the number. Then onto Hammpondsport which turned out to be a sweet little village that reminded us of a summer lake town in Northern Michigan or Door County Wisconsin. Very quiet and peaceful with a pretty lakefront park and village green lined with a few antique shops.

The wedding of Dan and Elizabeth was spectacularly situated overlooking Seneca Lake at Wagner Winery, with a very dramatic sunset and the sun breaking through the clouds as the festivities began.


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Salt Point Brewery, Purity Ice Cream, Coyglen Airbnb, Tompkins County International Airport – Ithaca, NY

Before we landed in Ithaca, I alerted Dirck that the airport was little more than a Quonset hut so imagine my surprise when it looked completely different. Still small but more like an airport. The rental car agent fillled me in that since my last visit 2 years ago the airport has been overhauled. And of course it’s the little things that impress me including a vending machine in the women’s bathroom with free tampons and sanitary pads. I’ve never seen that before. The world as it should be!

Coyglen Airbnb

We arrived on a crisp fall day and Ithaca never looked better, with the trees starting to turn red, yellow and orange, the sun shining intensely through fast moving clouds, making the pastures a dazzling green and Cayuga’s waters shimmer. I was instantly happy in this place that I have loved since my parents took me here as a child.

Our Airbnb (Coyglen) is as lovely as the photos. An upstairs apartment in a pretty old white farmhouse with a curving wrap around porch. It sits high atop a green pasture that looks out across the hills at a slit in the woods that is Buttermilk Falls. A sweet yellow lab not unlike ours came over to greet us as we sat near a weathered wooden barn in plastic Adirondack chairs, marveling at the view. We are just south of downtown off of 13A, near my other favorite state park, Treman.

The owner told us the house was part of a dairy farm and the gravel road that runs past the house and old weathered bar is Coyglen road and leads to Coyglen, a very rugged hike with no paved trail. Hikers get very wet but the scenery is worth it, I’m told.

Madigan Mint please

Dinner was in Lansing, at Salt Point Brewery where we met our friends whose wedding we are attending. Dear, dear Myra, my friend of 40 years who I haven’t seen in two years. She came rushing over with arms outstretched and I did the same. A long overdue hug and we were off to races, catching up, meeting members of the wedding party from Kansas City, Wichita and Des Moines (believe it or not.) This is the bride’s family. The groom, Myra’s son, is from Connecticut. They met as students at Cornell. Lovely people all and we had a great time, sitting outside on a lawn around the fire pit, with the lake in the distance, drinking beer and cider and eating very good pizza.

Dirck and I couldn’t resist stopping at Purity Ice cream, an old haunt downtown, which we passed on our way back to the Airbnb. Love this place!!

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Taughanock Falls, Ithaca Commons, Cornell, Forest Home, Aurora— exploring old Ithaca haunts

Late post: I set out on a gorgeous morning for the gorges…where else? They have always been my favorite landscape feature here. After a short drive down around the lake past downtown Ithaca, I was at the grand daddy of falls, high-falling Taughanock. It was an easy 20 minute there and 20 minutes back walk on the wide dirt path through the woods lining the flat rocks of the gorge, lined by high canyon walls. Lots of water crashing down on them there falls. I noticed that the beautiful old Taughanock Farms Inn, which I used to go to for a splurge dinner with my parents as a kid, is now the Inn at Taughanock. Still there, as is the Glenwood Pines, an old roadhouse along Route 89. Last time we went there about 20 years ago, the restaurant review I did of the Pines in 1980 was still tacked up on the knotty pine wall.

Nut ridge road (to the cottage @ the lake❤️)

As forewarned, the Ithaca Commons is rapidly being dwarfed by modern high-rise apartments which I gather are designed for wealthy foreign students and remote-location tech workers. Not good. There are still some old brick buildings along what was once a street, some with good little shops, including an excellent craft gallery with some very good local ceramics. Just south of the commons, I chanced upon an amazing shop that sells “not quite perfect” (NQP) Eileen Fisher clothing for a fraction of the original cost. We are talking dresses and jackets for $29, shirts and pants for $19. I cleaned up!

Myra at their cottage!

I did a quick drive through Collegetown, at the foot of the Cornell campus and saw that our old house at the bottom of steep Williams street is still standing, still beating the odds (and gravity). The suspension bridge over the gorge was closed (boo) so went onto the little hidden hamlet of Forest Home north of North Campus and sat on a flat rock, dipping my feet in the surprisingly warm water and watched somewhat wistfully the young kids riding the gently rushing water over the slippery flat rocks. Those days are over for me. Don’t need a third broken arm. I stopped briefly for a late light lunch (chicken soup) at the new general store in an old building in King Ferry and then drove a little further past lovely old white farmhouses and dairy farms high above Cayuga’s waters to check out Aurora, a sweet little town with some well-maintained old buildings (thanks to a philanthropist who went to Wells College there). Some businesses have closed sadly but still a pretty place. Didn’t make it to Mackenzie Child’s, the pricey home goods company based a mile north of Aurora.

Forest Home

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Robert Treman State Park, Ithaca Bakery, Bright Leaf Vineyard – Ithaca

Upper Treman gorge trail ❤️

(Late post…)

Fortunately I had my friend Tom to lend a hand, literally, when the gorge trail along the rushing waters between Upper and Lower Treman State Park got a little scary. After tripping on a tree root during a hike in the woods a year ago in Norway and breaking my arm, it is taking awhile to regain my confidence as a hiker.

Ithaca Bakery downtown

After our two-mile hike, we plunged into the ice cold water of the swimming hole at the base of a waterfall with white water crashing down the mossy rocks. So many memories of this place from childhood summers and college summers and summers with our kids. We almost didn’t get to swim because of inhospitable water conditions that closed the swimming area yesterday.

Blue green algae is the scare de jour on Cayuga Lake but no one has been able to adequately explain what the health risks are. And I have thoroughly enjoyed my late afternoons swimming in the lake which is warmer than the gorge pools but still very refreshing. Tonight myra and I went to a wine tasting at a new winery, Bright Leaf, just up the road. We listened to live music, sipped wine, nibbled on crostini and couscous,and admired the sunset over the lake, an orange fireball slowing dropping into the pale blue water.

I also stopped for late lunch at the Ithaca Bakery downtown – the T-burg twist rules! (Tuna with avocado on brown bread,)

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sapsucker Woods/Ithaca and Francesca’s/Syracuse”

Maybe it’s because I am old enough to aspire to be a birder or maybe it’s that I never realized what a cool place an ornithology lab can be, but I was pleasantly surprised by my visit yesterday to The Cornell Ornithology lab at Sapsucker Woods. I arrived as a free lab tour was starting and it was great, about 18 visitors from all over (including a guy from Wales who mentioned living for a few years in Ottumwa, Iowa and loving it) and a very engaging guide who led us into the areas normally off bounds for visitors. We saw some very interesting stuffed birds, bird feet and bird wings in the specimens lab (or some such) and learned all kinds of interesting tidbits about the life and study of birds. (See Notes below) I also walked on one of the sawdust paths in the woods around the attractive modern lab building with a borrowed pair of binoculars (which an 8 year old girl tried to show me how to use) to try to find some noteworthy birds. Next trip I’d like to go on one of their early morning free guided bird walks on Saturday or Sunday.

Sapsucker Woods birding

We had another nice late afternoon by the lake, dinner at the picnic table and a last trip to Cream at the Top for Ice cream (bittersweet symphony and dark chocolate chip!) . Myra and I took a last (for me, this year) morning walk along the lake with her nice neighbor Heather and then it was time to say goodbye. No tears this time. Loved being with some of my favorite people in one of my favorite places and I’ll be back!

My friend Tom picked me up for a pleasant 1 hour 10 minute drive to a good restaurant in Syracuse called Francesca’s where I had lunch with my friend Cynthia. Great time catching up after two years of not seeing each other and good food too (antipasto salad, Italian wedding soup). Now at the Syracuse airport with what I hope is only a briefly delayed flight to DC.

Notes from Lab Tour:
ebirds, merlyn bird id
How to draw blood of a bird- from under wing
How to trap raptors (put live prey in trap)
If you heard the bird you saw it (ID by song/sound)
Mallard duck teeth (skull) to tear meat
Red tail hawk foot. Intense grip.
Grey hound hawk eats 30 rodents/rabbits per night…more during mating season?
Owls fly silently so rodent prey can’t hear them.
Other birds have amazing eyes to detect fish in water.
Sheer water hawk spends 90 percent of Time soaring in air. Land to eat and sit on water. Migrating birds sleep while flying.
Reynolds game farm In Ithaca breeds pheasants (game farm rd)
Can bring bird found hit by car on road to lab.
Bird net app to try to Id sounds. In beta. Hear bird sounds in wild and Id by phone. Swift recording box and record sounds and then grad students ID.
Ebird to crowd source population studies.
Technology to record bird sounds. First done at Stewart park. Hollywood. Macaulay library – crazy equipment to record rare bird songs and old field journals
Humans can make Pshishimg noise to communicate and lure curious birds 
lab motto: keep common birds common
Bird of prey movie

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