Ms. Hipster grew up in Upstate New York. Or Western New York. Or Central New York. I’m honestly not sure how the Rochester area is categorized in this somewhat fraught area of NY classification. Since it seems people who are from Putnam County claim “Upstate.” So who knows. This is all to say that these true Upstaters love their Finger Lakes. And renting Finger Lake houses. After all, this is at least the third different Finger Lake on which we’ve gotten one of these vacation houses, including our last trip in 2019 to Canandaigua Lake. This house on Cayuga Lake was in the ridiculously names town of Romulus, NY. I guess it’s a better name than Remus.
Like most houses in this area, this thing was a hodge-podge of old and new. Clearly a small lake cottage added on to over the years. It was lovely, of course, but some of the architectural choices made us look askance. It wouldn’t necessarily be a house I’d want to live in full time. Like most of the cheapo houses we rent, it is across the street from the lake. The street being a road where cars whiz by at 60 MPH. Not optimal, but manageable. I can’t say I loved Hipster Jr. Jr. crossing the road by herself, but I suppose she made it the week, so my worry was unwarranted.
Across that road is a lake that looks a bit like a postcard. Not like those European lakes surrounded by white-capped mountains and stuff, but a much lower-rent version of that. A lake that is only very occasionally buzzed by a boat or some youngster on a jet ski. In fact, most traffic is made up of person-powered vessels like kayaks or small canoes. But even those are few and far between. Not like those “lakes” in the western US filled with dudes in wrap-around shades farting Miller Lite and dragging their fattened barbed wire tattoos around the swarming masses. Nah, this is super-chill. Boring, even. But lovely.
With all that, the whole area feels pretty isolated. No mini-malls, no nothing, really. Just a road that circumnavigates the lake and some country lanes branching off it. It’s not like inland upstate where you can hike and whatnot. More like farmland. And Amish, interestingly. Who knew? Our particular house was literally next door to Buttonwood Grove Winery. We essentially walked through the bushes and were on their property. We first went at night to look at the stars from their open field (as our property was shaded in trees). A thing that Hipster Jr. Jr. always wants to do when we get away from the bright lights of NYC and might actually be able to see some heavenly bodies without that damned light pollution — as we did recently in Sedona. It turned out to be great. We saw planets and satellites and something that may or may not have been a UAP. But then we went during business hours to taste some wine. It was a chill experience. As far as the wine goes, my pallet is shit, but it was refreshing and fine with me. We even came back the next day to enjoy more wine and some cover tunes from a band playing exactly the classic rock covers you’d expect them to be playing. It was incredibly mellow and inviting just sitting in the sun on a hill overlooking a lake and some grape vines listening to some jams.
We did end up dodging a lot of rain in our trip. Between the sweltering temperatures. Luckily there is this little like boat house thing by the lake that we could sit in. And some chaise lounges under an overhang. From where we could stay dry and watch this wacky mink try its hardest to snatch a duckling from a mom duck. Or a dad duck. I don’t know anything about ducks, but did learn a lot about minks thanks to Google. This was the pinnacle of our excitement here at the lake. Just to give you an idea of the pace of life. The only thing that really popped, in fact, where the amateur fireworks show the neighbors on either side of us fired off. It was Fourth of July, after all. We had forgotten our sparklers at home, but luckily these people were very brave and generous with explosives. I can’t say we weren’t concerned about their children that seemed awfully close to the launches — or the fact one of them looked to set their boat slip on fire – but it went off without incident, and really allowed us to enjoy the holiday.
Now, we did have to get away from the water every once in a while. Though, frankly, there ain’t much in the way of civilization. Here are the places we visited to enhance the sitting-by-the-lake-every-day experience.
Cayuga Lake Creamery (Interlaken) I fee like perhaps we ate here 27 times. It’s one of those old-school ice cream joints that is manned by local teenagers and looks like a cross between a farm and some sort of summer camp shack. They serve food, but the ice cream is king. The service isn’t fast, but the cold stuff is pretty darned good once you get it.
Wyckoff Farms (Ovid) I’m unclear exactly what kind of farm this is since we bought both nectarines and salt potatoes at what amounts to a little vegetable stand on a strip of road in the strangely biologically named town of Ovid. I don’t do stone fruit, but Ms. Hipster said the nectarines (or maybe they were peaches?) were fresh and good. The salt potatoes are potatoes, so they kind of rely on the amount of butter and salt you put on them. So they were great!
Big M Supermarket (Ovid) Apparently this is a supermarket chain. Which is incredibly surprising given its homeyness. It reminds me of the tiny markets you might find down at the Jersey shore, or the horrifying underground Gristedes that I used to have to shop at near my apartment in NYC. It’s awkward in there. And super country.
Muranda Cheese Company (Waterloo) So this joint is cool. It’s in an old barn that’s been updated to look like one of those places where hipster couples with curly mustaches and Lisa Loeb glasses get married. Though this barn was filled with older folks, large families with large kids and some Karens with Karen haircuts looking to drink some pink wine. There are cheese tastings. Which I imagine is where the good cheese is. There are charcuterie boards, which is probably where the good meats are. There are booze pairings and the whole nine yards. It seemed great. Instead I got a canned beer and the folks we were with bought a couple to-go packaged cheese and meat things that one could probably buy at the local grocery. If you like cheddar and pepperoni then this was a good move. If you wanted to hang for a while and eat and drink like adults, I would suggest the more involved experience. It probably would have been a good time, save the children.
Happy Landing Sammich Shop (Interlaken) The dearth of eateries in this region is almost criminal. So we ended up here: a shop that seemed to barely know if they were open or not. The signs didn’t seem to indicate it was a new business, but it has to be a new business. The whole operation seemed a little haphazard, though the owner and her husband (or a guy who seemed like a husband) were nice and eager to please. The sandwiches? A mixed bag. I’m sure it’ll improve over time, but will certainly never be gourmet. You can also pick up some pyramid scheme tights while you’re there. For some reason.
Ithaca (aka The Big City) We were tired of looking at each other, so we decided to go to the closest thing to a city in the region where there might be other people. Turns out it’s mostly hippies and scammers, but that’s a different story. I think I thought we were going to Albany? Turns out Ithaca (which feels like it should be spelled “Ithica”) is where Cornell University is. A place I actually visited when I was in college. Not at Cornell. That was my backup school. Truth be told, I’m not as dumb as all this, but Hipster Jr. was incredibly impressed with the campus. I told him he probably didn’t have the grades to transfer. Which is fine. We also went to a guitar store called Ithaca Guitar Works because Hipster Jr. Jr. must go into every guitar store ever. The people working there were incredibly nice, but they had a grand total of zero left-handed guitars. Which kind of limits both her and my level of enjoyment.
Purity Ice Cream (Ithaca) We randomly chose this joint because it had been around since 1936. We figured if they’d been open that long and not killed anyone, we were safe. Turns out to be a burger and ice cream place, with burgers were cooked on a flat top, fries and all that good stuff. The food took quite a long time to get out to us, but the burger was remarkably tasty, fries were delicious and I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have the ice cream, but once again the rest of the family said it was real good. Upstate ice cream: it’s the jam, apparently.