If they asked me, I could write a book. But they didn’t, so here is the brief (?) outline.
1. First stop: Ridgefield CT to see nephew Eric, niece Marcela and their now two year old twins, Jonah and Naomi. It goes without saying that it was a great time (of course it was too bad Eric had a board meeting he had to attend), and that the kids were super. Also, I was very happy to see my old friend Murdoch, whom I don’t see often enough. Murdoch loved Michelle’s CD that we brought the kids, swaying to the rhythms. Murdoch and I have been friends now for over 20 years! He has to be my favorite parrot.
2. I was also happy to get an inscribed copy of Eric’s first book, “Fly Fishing: the Sacred Art”, written with Rev. Michael Atlas on the spiritual side of casting flies. I read the book over the rest of our trip and (considering this is a sport I have so little interest in) enjoyed it immensely.
3. Leaving the Danbury La Quinta (quite satisfactory), we set off cross-country, on a route few take, as we were heading to Cooperstown and the Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame. Our GPS took us mainly on seldom traveled two lane roads, which went through beautiful Catskill hills and very small and fairly non-descript villages, until we sneaked into a surprisingly upscale and vibrant Cooperstown. I was surprised that there were residential neighborhoods that could have been in any prosperous northeastern town, considering we had not seen any similar community for several hours. And the main street, where the museum is located is filled with restaurants and (mainly) tourist shops; apparently, in years past, there were more stores geared to locals, but this has changed. Our lunch was quite good, at an Italian restaurant across the street from the museum, that looked like a broken down, small town diner. I knew there was something unusual, and in fact it was a restaurant that had just opened up and they were waiting for the end of the tourist season to do the remodeling.
4. We got into the museum free (we were at the July 22 Nationals game, which turned out to be Hall of Fame induction day, and the museum honors the July 22 tickets for free admission). We spent a few hours in the building – the Hall of Fame gallery which contains a plaque for each player, and the exhibits that focus on baseball history, on the history of each franchise, and on the history of the game’s major stadiums. There is a lot to learn – much too much to absorb, but not too much to enjoy.
5. There is more to Cooperstown than the Baseball Museum. There’s a major art museum, a large agricultural museum, and the home of the Glimmerglass Opera, all of which we saw and none of which we entered. Next time. We stayed at a motel south of town, which looked like it was going to be a big mistake, but turned out to be fine. There was a small restaurant across the road with the unlikely name of the Yum Yum Shack, and with looks to match its name. Who would have guessed that this would be a first class, gourmet restaurant. My grouper, cooked in a Moroccan sauce, was excellent.
6. The next morning, back on the road, and back into the mountains, this time the Adirondacks. Heading north to see our friends at Loon Lake, four hours north of Cooperstown. Beautiful country, much of it quite remote, lake after lake, forests turning more to evergreens as we rose in elevation, lunch at the cafe at the Adirondack Museum, a large complex that, again, we did not visit, but have been told is very worthwhile. The towns we passed varied – some, like Saranac (where we went to the farmers’ market, and had earlier gone to the library book sale), looked like they were in good shape. Others looking quite depressed. And then we found Loon Lake.
7. Loon Lake has been a summer resort area for over 100 years. AT one time, there was a large wooden hotel on the lake that burned down in 1930, was rebuilt after World War II, and burned again about ten years alter. In addition to the hotel, there were a number of summer cottages (rather larger for the most part than what you might think of as a ‘cottage’) built near the hotel around the lake, and other summer homes nearby. During its second iteration, the Loon Lake area became the summer home of a number of Jewish families, some American and perhaps more Canadian (Montreal being only 2 hours away, New York City closer to 6). Today, with no hotel, the cottages have by and large been updated, some new homes have been built, and a large number of Jewish (mostly observant Jewish) families, including our friends, have a house there. The weather was a little too cool to enjoy the water, but we had a nice, and relaxing time, including being able to attend Friday night services at the Loon Lake synagogue, a one room shtetl-like pop up synagogue in a log cabin originally a hunting lodge, which has services only two months a year, July and August.
8. We took off the next morning, cross country again, stopping at the Saranac Lake farmers’ market, and heading through the Adirondack State Park on a surprisingly uninteresting road until we got to Watertown, a rather depressed city an hour north of Syracuse. About 20 (if that) miles from Watertown, on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Ontario, our other friends have a cottage, right on the water. Another couple of days here, enjoying the company of our friends, being able to see the lake from our bed, and enjoying the gardens which seem to grow so well in more northern climates. We saw the town of Dexter, and also the town of Clayton, where we had a nice meal overlooking this time the St. Lahave been wrence River, at Channelside.
9. Rather than enter Canada at the top of I-81, we went to Cape Vincent and took the private ferry through simple customs to Wolf Island, a Canadian Island across the lake from Kingston, Ontario, We were pleased just to make the ferry on time, but then when it came to the longer ferry to Kingston, we had a wait of over an our on this Canadian resort island, not being able to do much but grab a sort of lunch (mine was a slice of pizza and a coke) and wait in line (we were #3 of what must have been 100 cars). A smooth ride, and an hour or so later we were on the Canadian mainland.
10. We spent some time driving through the attractive Kingston downtown and around !ueens University, and then got on the totally uninteresting Highway 401 to drive to Toronto. I think that was about a 2 hour drive, but it seemed to me much longer.
11. We were staying in the eastern portion of Toronto, the Scarborough neighborhood, so did not drive all the way to downtown, A large Delta hotel, just off the highway, in a newly expanded neighborhood not quite visible from the highway, but filled with high rises, single family homes and commercial areas, almost all of which is geared to a portion of Toronto’s large Chinese community. If you are looking for food other than Chinese, good luck. That is, except for the shopping center/mall across the highway, where for the first night we had a relatively inexpensive meal at Mr. Greek, and then saw the delightful, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the AMC 20.
12. We drove into downtown Toronto via Sheppard Street – reminded me a little of Wilshire Boulevard, a relatively fast road, some hills and curves, high rises and (again Asian) shopping areas. We then wound up on Bloor Street, west of downtown, where we wandered through book and record shops and had an Indian lunch at the Mt. Everest. After lunch it was the wonderful Bata Shoe Museum (I expected nothing, so I could not have been disappointed, but I certainly was surprised at how fascinated I was at almost everything). And then a drive around downtown, so we could see the baseball park, the hockey arena, the hockey hall of fame, and more. Then it was back to our hotel, driving through some poorer and less attractive areas of town, then a poor Italian meal and back to the AMC 20, to see Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love.
13. Our final day in Toronto had us drive into town on a different route (Eglington, I think it was called), and then Bathurst, where we were able to see many of the city’s synagogues and Jewish community facilities, and were surprised at how rundown the surrounding commercial areas appeared (compared with what we saw elsewhere). We then drove through the surrounding residential areas, mainly single family, and they looked very comfortable and nice, increasing the mystery as to the Bathurst commercial buildings. We did stop for breakfast at a bagel spot that seemed to feature both kosher and non-kosher products, so everyone could be served – the pastries were not good.
14. Once we got into the central city area, we would up in another of Toronto’s many close in, rather funky neighborhoods, that were filled with small shops and restaurants – coffee, books, records, clothes and just about everything else, including a raw vegan carry out. We then went to the Art Museum of Ontario, where we saw two wonderful temporary exhibits (140 or so Picasso pieces from the Paris Picasso museum, and a large exhibits of photos by, along with an excellent almost full length documentary film about, American photographer Berenice Abbott. We also walked through the museum’s permanent collection, which was heavy on Canadian artists and not very interesting (in my opinion).
15. Then a drive (still another route) back to the hotel, and mediocre dinner, this time at Casey’s Bar and Grill, and another film, Hope Springs (this one I thought a bit farfetched).
16. On our way out of town the next morning, we decided to drive through the city, because we hadn’t really looked at the lakefront. We first stopped on East Queens at a terrific coffee shop for breakfast, and then to the Distillery District, which we glimpsed from the car, and then to the roads , that hugged the lake. The view of the city from this vantage point is extremely impressive. Toronto, on the whole, is not in my opinion, an attractive city overall, but its funky neighborhoods, and the view of the downtown skyline from the lakeside, almost make up for it.
17. There are things we didn’t see in Toronto, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the Science Museum, the zoo, and the inside of the hockey hall of fame. Next time. We did more shopping than we thought we would (we each bought a pair of shoes, at Heel Boy and Winner), I bought a pair of jeans, we bought some gifts, and some books.
18. We crossed back into the states at Buffalo, had lunch at the restored Lafayette Hotel, and then took a nice drive through rural western New York and Pennsylvania, stopping for the night at a very nice Holiday Inn Express just north of Dubois PA. We had a nice meal at a surprisingly lively Luigi’s in town. Dubois is an interesting older town, marred only by its politics, as evidenced from the ads on AM radio, conversations overheard at the restaurant, and yard signs questioning the president’s birth.
19. An early start the next morning, a poor diner lunch in Frederick MD, and were home by 2 p.m. No complaints about the trip.