Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grand Canyon of the East - Letchworth State Park

I love the outdoors and would love to visit the legendary Grand Canyon one day. But since, we were on the eastern side of the United States, we decided to head towards the Grand Canyon of the East - Letchworth State Park. Located along the Genesse River, 35 miles south of Rochester, this luscious woodlands spans 14,350 acres and boasts of 3 major waterfalls, one of which is 107 feet high!

We stayed at the Glen Iris Inn, located in the park, itself. The country inn was the historic former home of William Pryor Letchworth and overlooks the gorgeous Middle Falls. The inn itself is beautiful and brings back the elegant feel of yesteryears. The only setback is the rooms are tiny, probably the smallest that we've stayed in all our travels.
Glen Iris Inn

But the location more than made up for it. There is something soothing about sipping a cup of coffee whilst listening to the thunderous sound of the Middle Falls and watching the white foamy water cascade down like a smooth silk.

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park

The Letchworth State Park is an outdoor lover's paradise. Take your pick of swimming, fishing, hiking, hot air ballooning, whitewater rafting and canoeing (require permit). We stuck to hiking. There are about 66 miles of trails, the best are located on the south end. We were thrilled by the wildlife we saw on our hikes - deers, vultures, tons of birds and even a shy beaver.

Turkey vultures viewed from the Archery Field lookout point

A rainbow glistening in the sun

The majestic cliffs of Letchworth State Park

Lower Falls

Upper Falls

The Letchworth State Park truly deserves its title of the "Grand Canyon of the East"!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Finger Lakes - Corning Museum of Glass

I am a big fan of Corningware. I especially love their range of Corelle plates because they are so light, durable and does not chip easily. So, when a fellow bed and breakfast guest at Ithaca raved about their visit to the Corning Museum of Glass, we decided to make the slight detour south west from Watkins Glen and headed to the town of Corning, home of Corning Inc. and the world famous Corning Museum of Glass

The museum is housed in a futuristic looking building, with lots of glass (naturally) which lets in natural lighting, giving it a sense of spaciousness and airiness.

Once inside, you're greeted by a modern glass artpiece which resembles the Greek mythological figure Medussa's hair of hissing serpents
There is so much to see and do at the Corning Museum that you could easily spend a whole day there. Take a look at their scheduled shows and tours and plan your visit around these. There are many beautiful works of glass that literally takes your breath away, ranging from the classical to the whimsical, dresses to fruits, modern to historical. Take your time to wander around the different rooms and appreciate the versatility of glass art.

You must catch one of the Hot Glass Shows. It is awesome to learn how the glassblowers create beautiful vases and bowls.

And then, if your creative juices are flowing, sign up for one of the glass making classes (it's not just for kids)
Perhaps one of my favourite section of the museum is the Interactive Exhibition where we got to try out cool glass gadgets!

The Corning Museum of Glass is an absolute delight. My only regret is that I couldn't buy a beautiful set of Corelle plates from their gift shop to bring home with me!

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Tour of the Finger Lakes Region, New York - Wine and Much More...

"Finger Lakes" - I remember thinking to myself what a strange name! However, I soon found out that the Lakes (11 in total), which were carved by the glaciers in the last ice age got its name from its resemblance to the fingers of a human hand. How cool is that? The five major fingers (lakes) (from east to west) are Skaneateles, Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua. If you're wondering why the names of the lakes are such tongue twisters, they're actually Native American (who were the original inhabitants in this region).

The Finger lakes is quiet and peaceful - a pleasant change from the hustle bustle of New York City. If you enjoy the cosy setting of a bed and breakfast, you will not be disappointed by the range of quality bed and breakfasts. Apart from its bountiful vineyards, numerous state parks and waterfalls dot the region. Because each lake is long and slender (like a human finger), and major towns are located at the north and south ends of the lakes, the best way to visit the region is to drive from east to west (or vice versa, covering the bottom (or top) of each lake and then heading up (or down) to cover the other end of the lake.

Our first stop was Cayuga Lake, where we discovered the delightful restaurant, Simply Red Bistro, located at Sheldrake Point Winery on the west bank of Cayuga Lake. We also took a short but pleasant hike at the Taughannock Falls State Park to the Taughnannock Falls which is higher than Niagara Falls at 215-feet. Despite its height, the volume of water flowing down the falls cannot match the mighty Niagara. Still, it is a beautiful attraction and well worth a visit.

We headed out westward to Seneca Lake next and stayed in the quaint town of Watkins Glen. I have to admit that the view of the Seneca Lake is my favourite of all the lakes we visited on this trip. It could be that we had beautiful weather on that day and witnessed a gorgeous sunset. We grabbed a bite at one of the restaurants by the lake and enjoyed the view. What a way to end the day.

Watkins Glen is also home to the Watkins Glen State Park, which is not-to-be missed. This 776 acre slate gorge, is the oldest and most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks. The Park has 19 waterfalls and awesome walking trails. This was my favourite hike and you'll see why:

Upon recommendation of our host from the Reading House B&B, we stopped by the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, a highly acclaimed German vineyard which was also recommended highly by Frommer's. Famous for its Riesling, we were not disappointed by the wine we tasted. However, we opted for a bottle of Gew├╝rztraminer as it wasn't something we could get easily at home.

Our third stop was Keuka Lake, a small Y-shaped lake.

We stayed at the Village Tavern Inn, in the small quiet town of Hammondsport. The Village Tavern Restaurant serves good food. I thoroughly enjoyed the seafood paella. The next day, we visited Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars. Set on the slopes of Keuka Lake, we enjoyed wine tasting with a view. The gentleman who served us was very friendly and we had a great time chatting. We couldn't resist buying a bottle of Rkatsiteli and Gewurztraminer to take back with us. The wines are excellent, especially if you like sweet fruity flavours.
Stay tuned for more of our Finger Lakes tour.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Words of Wisdom

"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers,pray for powers equal to your task"

Philip Brooks (

Sometimes, all we need is a change in perspective to help us live life well. We can't always choose our circumstances, but we sure can choose how we respond to circumstances.