We have done a good job of touring our home state over the course of the pandemic. For a long time, it was the only place that truly felt safe and accessible. But I’ve gotten vaccinated (yay!) and as I await the slow re-opening of the rest of the world, I’ll always feel uniquely nostalgic about our travels through New York State this past year. It was a different kind of travel, balancing exploration with space and caution. So much space. It’s going to be strange to transition “back” to a world where we don’t all have a collective focus, where every conversation doesn’t turn to the pandemic. I’m not even sure who we all are anymore – what’s individual and what’s universal. How to stand on our feet. But something that has never changed is my need for room and reflection. As chaotic as traveling can be, it gives me physical space from an everyday that’s always running. That lets me breathe. This trip might be the last slow-paced, drivable escape we take for a while as we look ahead to flying again and going to further and further places. I’m both ready and apprehensive. We all need a little time to relearn how to walk.
Last September, we drove up and over the north end of Seneca Lake en route to Niagara Falls. It had a totally different feel from other parts of the Finger Lakes. So this time we got a quiet lakeside Airbnb on the outskirts of Geneva and set off North again, braving pelting rain and blinding fog to reach our destination by dinnertime – we never can seem to dodge the weather when we travel (tornados in Kansas, blizzards in Vermont…). The sting of terrifying driving was immediately numbed by BBQ brisket and pints of beer at The Rusty Pig in downtown Geneva, and later that night, an impromptu PacMan competition at the antique game table in our Airbnb and the stillness of the gigantic lake outside our window.
The next morning was the first of several spent at the edge of the dock with coffee in hand. The wood was damp from an overnight rain and the air was crispy and biting. The wind would slap the water and immediately retreat, almost like a helicopter was landing on it. A hundred swallow birds darted across the surface catching bugs. The sky was grey and subdued, but strangely serene. The blue emerged as we sat. I rested in that still place between chaotic and in-your-face beautiful. My coffee tastes better.
We began our winery exploration without hesitation. Our location was central to around a dozen vino-laden destinations and a few breweries. To leave the Airbnb we had to cross a set of empty railroad tracks that were set between the main road and the lake. Gently, one tire at a time. The wineries were quiet for an overcast Friday so we had no trouble with space (Billsboro was especially nice). Just before dinner we had a “comfort food bites and wine pairing” at Zugibe which consisted of a plate of miniature food and matched sips. All of the lunches in one.
That night I took Katie to a surprise birthday dinner at Belhurst Castle. Six courses with wine pairing. The whole weekend was soaked in wine already so we decided to go for broke. Dinner was in the “old” part of the castle which our host told us served as both a cigar lounge and a portion of the underground railroad. We must have appeared to be the most interested of the 3 couples present because our “tastings” kept getting a top-off, even after the paired courses had been cleared. I had to refuse a free refill at one point for fear of being unable to drive us the 2.5 miles to “home”. That may be a first.
Before we left, we checked out the “wine spigot” on the second floor which was built from a repurposed pipe system and lets patrons pour themselves wine from inside the old castle wall. Just watch out for ghosts.
By the evening, the wind had stilled, and the swallow birds had subsided. The water was glittery from small clusters of light on the other side. Weather forecast predicted snow later that evening, which felt like a kick in the gut – so we awaited the sneaky winter by soaking in the hot tub and then watching Free Willy in the darkened house while finishing off a bottle of sparkling wine. I never said we were classy.