Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Lake George NY, Adirondack beauty

Regular readers know that one of my organizing principals in traveling is to avoid crowds. So, I scheduled my trip to Lake George in early June, the period when it is just waking up and preparing for the summer crowds. It is a time where this tourist haven is (mostly) open for business, but not yet overrun by crowds. In other wards, a perfect time for me.

Lake George is located about two-hundred miles north of New York City, in the Adirondack Mountains. It is thirty two miles long and up to two miles wide. The Lake George valley is a rift valley, formed by the  stretching of the continental plate along a fault. The lake itself was created when the glaciers of the ice age left a terminal moraine along the southern end of the valley. This geologic history has created a beautiful valley, filled with a gorgeous lake. Together, they form one of New York’s most beautiful areas. One so pretty, it has drawn tourists for over one-hundred years.

Today, the town of Lake George is home to many choices and activities for visitors. South of the lake, you will find new hotels, along with an outlet mall and most of the chain restaurants you might want eat at. Travel north along route 9N, and there are a multitude of lake-side resorts. These offer a wide variety of sleeping options, along with in-site activities and dining. My choice was to stay in town. The main drag in Lake George is Canada Street, and it is lined with motels and resorts that date back back to the 1950’s. These offer a nostalgic place to stay, while being in walking distance to everything the town offers. I stayed at the Heritage of Lake George, which offers both motel rooms and cabins. While it doesn’t offer direct views of the lake, it has lovely rooms, a pool and a good, if limited breakfast.

The Heritage
Canada Street Motels

The center of Lake George is the intersection of Canada Street (NY 9 & 9N) and Beach Road. This is a good place to start your visit because here is where you will find the Lake George Visitor Center, a great place to find out what is happening in the area. Walk north, south or east from this intersection and you will find a plethora of restaurants, activities and souvenir shops. There are haunted houses, arcades and even place with rides for small kids.

The Old Warren County Courthouse

The Old Train Station

Miniature Golf along the lake

After driving up from New York City, I had lunch at Christie's On the Lake. It is not a fancy place, but they serve good sandwiches and they have a great terrace overlooking the lake. Chrisite’s is one of several restaurants that offer views of the water. Another choice is The Lookout Cafe, on Beach Rd. Part of the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center, the Lookout serves great salads and sandwiches for lunch with wonderful views looking north at the whole length of the lake.

The view from Chritie's

The view from the Lookout

After lunch I took a drive up to the top of Prospect Mountain, where there are great views of Lake George and the surrounding valleys.

One of my favorite activities was taking a cruise on the lake. There are two main companies offering lake tours. The Lake George Steamboat Company, on Beach Road, offers trips on the Minne-Ha-ha and the Lac du Saint Sacrement. These are bigger boats, that specialize in lunch and dinner cruises. The other is Lake George Shoreline Cruises, which sails the Adirondac and the Horicon.

For dinner there are many options. I visited Mario’s, a white tablecloth southern Italian restaurant. Full meals, heavy on the tomato sauce, are available here, and they even had a three-course prix fixe on the night was there. If you want something lighter, try Ali Baba Express, which offers Middle Eastern salads, platters and wraps. For something more pub/family oriented try The Garrison. Burgers, salads and a wide range of beers are on the menu.

Lake George is one of those tourist places, that, if you haven’t been there, you might wonder if it worth the trip. But its beauty makes it worth the trip, especially if you can make the trip when the crowds are low.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Small Museums are Great to Visit When You Have Some Time to Kill

Tinglet Whale Hat

Sometimes you are in a city with an hour or so to kill. Some people look for a coffee shop to spend that time. Some look for a bar. Me, I look for a good gallery or a small museum. Luckily, New York is filled with great choices. Two of them are on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, The Bard Grad Center Gallery and the American Museum of Folk Art.

Bard College is a small liberal arts school, whose main campus is located about 90 miles north of the city. The college has a graduate program, based in New York City, that offers degrees in decorative arts, design studies and the history of material culture. The Bard Grad Center resides in a six-story building on West 86th street. The building houses its classes, research spaces and three floors of gallery space where they present exhibitions that highlight the history of culture through objects.

When I visited in June, there were three exhibitions on display. The first was a show on the changes in typography and graphic art that took place during the 1920’s . It did so using the work of Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) as a lens. Tschichold was a German graphic artist, and an innovator of “typographic modernism.” In addition to designing new typefaces, he literally wrote the book on the subject. Tschichold moved to the United States before the outbreak of World War II, and was known for designing the iconic look of Penguin Books in the 1940’s.

Five Year Plan by Gustav Klutsis

Build New

Also on display was “The Story Box: Franz Boas, George Hunt and the Making of Anthropology.” Frank Boas was a German-American anthropologist who argued against the racism and Eurocentric heirarchism that permeated (and continues to permeate) the field. He believed that there was no biological basis for the concept of race and that societies should not be ranked a “higher or lower.” George Hunt, the child of a Tinglet mother and a European father, was born in Prince Rupert BC. He was a linguist and ethnologist. Together they studied the culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw people in British Columbia. The exhibit explored the historical context of their work. It delved into the issues of appropriation of cultural items and their return. It presented actual and recreated articles along with archival photos and historical explanations of the research done by these men.

Couch Back

Ceremonial Belt

Another small museum in the area is the American Folk Art Museum. Located across the street from Lincoln Center, the museum has a large collection of “self-taught” art created in the United States. The museum used to be located next to MOMA, on 53rd street. However, due to financial issues, the museum was forced to sell its buildings there and it moved to it current, if smaller space. The collection includes paintings, sculpture, quilts, and furniture. It is a fascinating look at the history of art and crafts in this country. I really enjoyed some of the historical paintings of New York City, and the three-dimensional objects, especially those that were used as advertisements for businesses.

Third Ave. Railroad Depot by William H. Schenck

7 1/2 Bowery by La. Prelette Wriley

Armoured Horse by Solomen Stien & Harry Goldstein

Reconciliation Quilt by Lucinda Ward Horstain

Seeing good art doesn’t have to be and all day affair. There are many small museums and galleries where you can stop in if you have an hour to kill, and they offer some great works.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Visiting Lake Garda. Old towns and beautiful Views

Planning my last day with a car in northern Italy, I thought I would try to drive around Lake Garda. It is less than one hundred miles around, I thought, and it is extremely beautiful. My experience with the holiday crowds in Verona reminded me to be flexible and ready to change my plans.

I hit the road early on a Friday morning, and when I arrived at the outskirts of Sirmione, on the southern end of Lake Garda, it was clear that it was going to a crowded day.  I grabbed a free parking spot near Parque San vito, in the Colombare neighborhood, which is about 2.3 Km (1.5 miles) away, at the southern end of the peninsula on which Sirmione sits. There is a bus every twenty minutes or so from Colombare to the old town, but I decided to walk, and get a feel for the area. The peninsula is a resort are, with hotels and restaurants jockeying for space along the shores of the lake. The southern end of the peninsula has a beautiful park to walk in, and I walked along with others who had decided to park in this area.

Sirmione has been a vacation destination for the rich families of Verona since the 1st century BCE. That’s right, families have been summering along Lake Garda for over two thousand years. The town was fortified during the 4th century, and it has played a key role in defending the southern shore of the lake. Looking past the growing crowds, Sirmione is a beautiful medieval town. It has narrow, winding streets that open onto lake-front piazzas. I walked around the town for about and hour-and-a half, but there is a very limited space inside the city walls, and it was quickly filling up. I needed to find a place where I could escape the crowds and relax.

I took the bus (€2) back down to Colombare, and headed to a cafe that overlooked the marina and parking lot where I had left my car. La Dolce Vita is a nice little cafe with very good thick crust pizza, fresh salads, and an excellent dessert selection.

Looking at my GPS, it was clear that the holiday crowds were going to make my circumnavigation of Lake Garda impossible. So I changed my plans and headed for the town of Salò, about 30 Km (18 miles) from Sirmione, along the western shore. I spent the afternoon walking along the waterfront. The town sits at the end of an inlet in Lake Garda’s shore, which provides a beautiful backdrop, as the hills tower over the water. I passed the time by people watching. The holiday crowds were not as overpowering here, and I was able to sit at a cafe, and enjoy the weather, some coffee, and watch the world go by.

Lake Garda was the last stop on my road trip through northern Italy. I spent a week driving from Florence to Bologna to Padua. It was an experience that I had never had in Europe. The car gave me the freedom of movement that I did not have on past trips. I was able to visit more places, and to see more of the country that I had in the past.  Driving the expressways was easy, especially after I became used to the speed at which other cars went by me. I stuck to the slow lane. Off the expressways, it was a bit more challenging, but the use of traffic circles kept things moving, and kept speeds down. I won’t say that I will always rent a car, but it does open more options for future trips.