40 by 40 Update: #29 Go Back to Ithaca for a Long Weekend

(Back in May of 2007 I noticed that a bunch of people in the blogosphere had created lists of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I was intrigued by the notion but felt I needed to change the parameters. So I created my 40 by 40 list. 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 40. Well on August 17th I turn 40, and I need to give $10 to charity for every uncompleted item. So it is time to see how I did.)

29. Go Back to Ithaca for a Long Weekend – COMPLETED
Running Tally: $130.00 to charity.

I loved living in Ithaca for two years while I was a grad student at Cornell. It awakened a latent (and unknown) desire in me to live in a small town. Of course Ithaca isn’t your typical small town. Set in the Finger Lakes region at the bottom tip of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is about a four and a half hour drive from Manhattan and about the same distance to Toronto. And with Cornell University and Ithaca College in town, there is an intellectual and artistic community that most small towns could only dream of. There are some town and gown issues, and it can get a little too crunchy granola sometimes (the home of the famous Moosewood Restaurant of the cookbook fame), but over all a really nice place. The views from Cornell’s campus are breathtaking and Ithaca has one of the best farmer’s markets anywhere.
Last August on our roadtrip we got to spend a long weekend there visiting our friends Joe and Leslie.

RoadTrip Part III: Ithaca

Our two days in Ithaca were spent mainly showing John my old haunts and spending time with our good friends Joe and Leslie and their perfectly behaved two-year old Nick. They recently re-potted themselves back in Ithaca after 5 years in DC, but I met Leslie while we were in grad school at Cornell. I was more than a little envious of her new life in Ithaca. The older I get the more interested I become in living in a small town with lots of peace and quiet, a vegtable garden, and a low crime rate. Then you throw in the cultural resources of Cornell and you have one great place to live.

I showed John all of my favorite places around town and campus. (Although none of my pictures do justice to the beauty of Cornell’s campus so the one at tip is kind of lackluster.) We also spent lots of time in the Aboretum and Botanic Gardens that are part of the Cornell Plantations and made our way through the Johnson Art Museum. The Johnson has a great collection and an impressive I.M. Pei building that is perched on a hill at the corner of Cornell’s Art’s Quad. It has amazing views of Ithaca, the countryside and the bottom of Cayuga Lake, the largest (I think) of the Finger Lakes. We also had a surprisingly good lunch at the famous Moosewood Restaurant. I say surprisingly because I never really had a good experience there when I lived in Ithaca. The food was really pretty darn yummy.
One of the highlights had to be the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. Housed in a beautiful timber-framed pavilion they not only have amazing local produce for sale but lots of great prepared food as well. Cambodian, Cuban, Japanese…there was even one vendor that had a portable wood-fired pizza oven on the back of a pick-up truck.
Without necessarily meaning to, the first weekend kind of set the tone for the whole trip:
  • Lots of used book browsing and buying. Not having to pack for a flight, our turnk filled up pretty quickly with books.
  • Gardens and Nurseries. John is an avid gardener, and I don’t mind a pretty place to sit and read. The northeast has so many wonderful gardens it was like heaven on earth for John. Plus they have a had a very rainy summer so things were pretty lush pretty much everywhere we went.
  • College Campuses. You will see in future posts that we stopped at quite a few college campuses. In addtion to gardens the northeast is dotted with pretty campuses.
  • Yearning for small town life. I think we really got bitten by the small town bug on this trip. A little too young to start thinking about retirement, we nevertheless talked about wanting to end up in a quiet town or rural area somewhere in the northeast. Ithaca is probably too remote for John’s taste, but the way of life is highly appealing to both of us.
Next installment takes us to the Adirondacks.