Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Remember that great Fall weather we had?

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… because a week later, it’s pretty easy to forget that, what with all the gray and cold and even snow.

Fortunately, we were on vacation the previous week. It did start in Timmins, for the previously blogged-about wedding and funeral.

Timmins had just glorious weather while we were there, with highs around 20. We went for two big walks during our visit, one on the Ski Runners property, another through the “tailings rehabilitation” area at the end of the road my parents live on. Interesting to see how far that went, in an area that was largely off-limits to me when I lived here as a kid. At one point we had “beautiful lake and fall colors” on the left, “ugly open mining pit” on the right. That’s the north for you.

On Tuesday we drove to Ottawa, our biggest day of driving for the trip, as we split up the Timmins trip by stopping in Barrie overnight on the way up. So besides driving, all we had time for of note was dinner with friends, which I’ll write about separately.

Wednesday morning, for the first time on the trip, it was a bit drizzly, so we visited the Museum of Nature. It was our first time there since the exhibits were fully open, and it was fun to see everything. They had a special exhibits on ants, and another one on frogs.

Dinosaur section of Museum of Nature

We stepped into another world

Blue frog at Museum of Nature

With strange creatures

The rain had mostly stopped by noon, so after a sushi lunch we just did some walking around and photo taking, and visited a Bernard Callebaut chocolate store I’d spotted the night before on Dalhousie. Very good.

Bytown, just below Ottawa

The nation’s capital can look grand

War statue in Ottawa

Very grand indeed.

The next day we drove to the Finger Lakes region of New York. (Did we drive too much on this trip? Probably.) Our B&B turned out to be this huge, gorgeous old house in Montour Falls — right beside those falls, in fact, and near a church that had become a private residence. (Would love to know how they converted the interior into living space.) The B&B included a great breakfast with all kinds of fruit, baked beans, eggs, bacon, and on on, and it was interesting talking to the other guests, who were mostly Americans, but there was a young German couple staying there as well.

Cook's Mansion, Montour Falls

Our humble abode for the trip

We didn’t do a whole lot the first day but walk around Montour Falls itself.

But on Friday, we decided to emphasize the hiking, as the forecast threatened possible rain on Saturday. We started with Watkins Glen State Park, which had really nice trails through a canyon going around and even behind waterfalls. It included a fair number of stairs but wasn’t really that arduous; nothing like our Italian walking trip! Things were wet after all that rain, so we were glad of waterproof boots and rain jackets, but the weather was nice.

Watkins Glen State Park hike

On the stairs, in the canyon

Watkins Glen State Park hike

Some of the falls

Our afternoon hike was to another set of falls in a canyon, but this trail was just flat and didn’t bring you quite as close to the falls as the other had. It was pretty, though.

Hike in Finger Lakes New York

Hike to the falls

Waterfalls in Finger Lakes New York

Overland view of falls

Our dinner reservations were near this set of falls, and we ended up with some time to kill. We visited a few little towns, including one with a chocolate shop, so I stocked up on more of those. (My favorite local chocolate shops seem to keep closing on me.)

Saturday ended up being not so rainy after all. We started with a visit to a big market in Penn Yan, which was fun and provided me with a new purse. We then hit some wineries. Did you know there are about 110 (!) in this region? We got to 3.

The first was the big complex of Bully Hill. It’s very busy, but they do their wine tastings “en masse” here, with two guys providing lively banter as they pour everyone their choice of two options for a total of five tastings. It was fun, and there were two wines we would have bought if we hadn’t been concerned about wine limits when going over the border.

Location of Bully Hill Vineyards

View from Bully Hill

Once we found it, our next stop was Rasta Ranch, which has a real hippie vibe to it, with tie-dyed clothes and Jim Morrison posters for sale. A long-haired dude gave us a free-flowing sample of various options that were unusual, though not necessarily fantastic. Still, Jean was taken with the name of the Ja’maca Me Blush! wine and wanted to buy that. I then noticed Bohemian Raspberry, which they let me taste. Actually pretty good–very raspberry, not too sweet. So we got a bottle of that, too.

Finger Lakes scenery

Driving in Finger Lakes wine country

The best winery, wine-wise, was Chateau LaFayette Renau. We would have bought a bottle of everything we tasted had we, again, not been concerned about wine limits at the border. These included a nice 2007 Pinot, a delicious 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, a semi-sweet red blend that didn’t come across as that sweet, a very pleasant semisweet Rieseling, and a dessert wine based on the Niagara grape, the same one used in Welch’s grape juice, but here turned into a surprisingly pleasant drink.

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