• Travel

    Day 17. Niagara Falls to Corning

    In which we travel to an enchanted grotto, by way of a grammar-ish joke, have a very healthy sandwich for lunch, sip some sweet wine and chow down on yardbird.

    Up again, early, avoiding the overpriced foyer breakfast. Into The Mighty Sentra for our second-from-last day of roadtrip, and away we sped towards Watkins Glen. Which means we passed through …


    Okay, the Buffalo sentence has nothing to do with our trip, but I can’t resist it. If you enjoy wordplay, here is some fun. If you don’t, then skip ahead top the next set of photographs.

    “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo”

    The Buffalo sentence (yes, the eight consecutive buffalos above form a grammatically correct sentence) relies on the fact that the word “buffalo” has at least three distinct meanings as a noun as well as identically spelled adjectival forms.

    Namely, “buffalo”, the North American bison; “Buffalo”, the city in New York State; and “buffalo”, meaning to bully or alternatively to bluff or deceive.

    The buffalo sentence can therefore be parsed as –

    Bisons from Buffalo, who are bullied by bisons from Buffalo, also bully other bisons from Buffalo.

    The English language is totally crazy and I love it!

    Watkins Glen

    Watkins Glen State Park is a valley, a little south of Seneca Lake, with a stream running though it. This description thoroughly fails to do justice to one of the most beautiful pieces of nature-crossed-with-the-works-of-mankind that we saw on this trip.

    Just south of the village of Watkins Glen, the park has plenty of parking at the entrance and more at the south entrance. Parking is $10 or you can probably find some free street parking and walk a ways, but that’s not really nice to the people who actually live there. Don’t be cheap, spring the ten bucks! It’s a popular place for picnics, hikes and has a large number of campsites and a small number of cabins you can hire.

    Walking from the main entrance towards the Glen

    Originally the stream running down the valley powered the local flour mill; before that it spent many, many thousands of years carving a path through the hills, creating a series of cliffs, waterfalls and pools that are not especially huge – no Niagara here – but are just remarkably beautiful.

    The Glen has been open to tourists since the mid-19th century, originally in private hands but from the early 1900s owned by New York State.

    From the entrance you make your way up a series of paths and steps built into the side of the cliffs. The path is not all that long, probably only 2km (1.25 miles) but it’s very windy and there are lots of steps. The steps, paths and bridges have been constructed in a way that is perfectly sympathetic to the natural lines of the glen itself. It’s beautiful design and excellent engineering rolled into one execution.

    Lots! of steps

    Looking back towards the main entrance, partway through the Glen

    It took us a bit over an hour to walk along the paths to nearly the top of the trail, and then back along the top of the Glen which is a much easier walk but has no views. Take your comfortable shoes, and stretch out your hammies before you set off.

    Many of the walkways were built by workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps – a New Deal organization that provided work for unemployed men in the depths of the Great Depression. In some places you can see bootmarks in concrete nearly a century old.

    It’s quite tempting to imagine elves and halflings making their way through the incredibly beautiful landscape. And I did.

    So slightly puffed and tired of foot, we had some extremely healthy salad sandwiches at a small cafe in Watkins Glen proper and moved on to our next touristy endeavours.

    Wine Lake Wine

    The Finger Lakes are some very pleasant lakes in northern New York state. The lakes are nice to look at, pleasant to boat on, and home to some of the best regarded wineries in the US. The Napa Valley winemakers would no doubt beg to differ on that; but the Finger Lake region has the advantage of a cool climate and a long maturing season that enables wine of subtlety and complexity.

    We motored on up to Belhurst Castle hotel and winery. The Romanesque Revival buildings were constructed using local sandstone and built at the end of the 19th century – a prosperous time in New York state. It’s a popular destination for weddings and the wines are quite good. I especially enjoyed the dry sparkling wines although the Riesling was a little fruity for my personal tastes.

    View across Seneca Lake from the winery

    A little further south, still on the lake, is the Glenora Wines winery and tasting rooms. They have a dazzlingly huge range of both grape- and fruit-based wines. Again, the sparkling wines were my favourites – sip and spit only, alas, as I was driving – with much of the rest of the range being a bit on the sweet side for me. But, hey, Americans love their sweet drinks.

    Corning Where?

    Our destination for the night was the town of Corning. And, yes, it is the home of Corning Incorporated, the company that makes all those glass and ceramic vessels we have in our kitchens.

    We stayed in the Radisson Hotel, a perfectly pleasant and reasonably priced lodging. It’s also conveniently located near the town’s main shopping drag, so we moseyed on down, walked the length and back again before deciding we were in the mood for some ‘cue.

    Slammin’ Jammin’ BBQ does what I think of as Memphis style barbecue (although I am no expert on these things). The food was hot, the beer was cold, the barbecue sauce was a bit tangy and a little sweet, and the staff were friendly and answered all our questions about the local beer and even gave us a few tasters to help us decide what we liked. We chowed down.

    Half a chicken, hot smoked, with fries, grilled sweetcorn and cornbread. The chicken was smoky, savoury and juicy.

    Trying to be healthy, we shared the chicken and ordered a large salad to share. Not entirely succeeding, we ordered the salad that came with little fried chicken bits on top. And some cheese. And the dressing was ranch, so … well, no-one’s perfect.

    And, on the way out you can buy a treat for your four-legged friends.

    So that was another really good day, lots of walking, some spectacular scenery, sipped some good wine and some not-quite-as-good, and a nice meal.

    Tomorrow, the end of the road trip with some quality time in the capital of New York, where we see some really big buildings and a giant heart.