Tuesday, August 30, 2016

More Solo Adventures in Western New York

Friday, August 26 - Monday, August 28, 2016
Westfield, New York

I could have stayed closer to Buffalo while Bill is in SoCal, but we're not in this area just because there's a major airport nearby.  We're here because it's close to Chautauqua.

Not the county, the town, or the lake. I want to visit the Chautauqua Institute. Which happens to be in the county, in the town, and on the lake, all of which are lovely as well.

When I first read Sherry's post (be sure to read it, there are lots of wonderful photos and information) about this amazing place I knew I had to visit. I wasn't sure I could get here before the season ended, and in fact my visit was on the day before the last day. 

One day isn't enough to scratch the surface, but even one day is more than I can describe with any justice.

Rarely does one find such a wonderful blend of art and smart. Of open minds and strong opinions. Of opportunities to learn, and opportunities to teach. Of dogma and denominations. Of spirituality and science. Of community and individuality.

Making this an even more special experience for me is Joann who is a friend of Sue's, and who generously provides a guest pass, and the pleasure of her company over lunch and a personal foot tour. She has been coming every season for years and, like Sherry, Joann is a passionate ambassador for the program. Per usual, I fail to get a photo :-(

The institute is only 20 minutes from home and after picking up the pass and parking Piper, Tessa and I make our way to the amphitheater for the morning lecture.

Week days at 10:45 AM the auditorium fills for the morning lecture. It holds over 4000 including the choir seating area. Still not big enough, a new auditorium is being built on this site for next season.
While rare anywhere else, reading the Chautauqua Daily is the first thing one does here. Paper Boys in 1920's period clothes and cap sell them throughout the grounds.
President Tom Becker retires tomorrow after 33 years of leadership. When he gets a bit teary to begin the announcements, the full auditorium rises to their feet with thundering applause. 
Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Geoffrey Ward, historian and author. Good friends share their personal insights on jazz, genius and race. 
The discussion is insightful and thought-provoking, with the Q and A section adding a personal touch for members of the audience. How wonderful to start your day like this for nine weeks!

With narrow streets and limited parking, smaller wheels are more common.
For every speed. Shuttles also provide free transportation throughout the village.

Joann and I meet following the lecture and make our way among the crowd to Bestor Plaza where eateries, a book store, and the visitors center line the side of the central gathering area. Musicians play under the trees. Beautiful gardens and stately old homes surround the plaza. It's part going-back-in time, and part the-rest-of-the-world-needs-to-catch-up. 

We enjoy lunch on the patio with good food and even better conversation. Afterwards Joann shows me a couple highlights including the Athenaeum Hotel, built in 1881. The Grand Old Lady is spectacular. We also see the Womens' Club of which both Joann and Justice Day O'Connor are members. Sweet!

Later on the bus tour I learn that the cut-outs along the rail are bats, who have a wonderful history here until white-nose disease eliminated the local population.
From Google images, the Athenaeum Hotel
We admire the beauty, and she shares delightful history of the location and the programs. The gardens and landscaping are not only lovely, but are planted to keep the farming chemicals of properties above Chautauqua from entering the lake. While blue algae still floats along the shoreline, the water is clearer than it has been in a very long time. 

She leaves me at the Hall of Philosophy for the afternoon presentation by Rabbi Kantor. I am forever grateful for the time I got to spend here with Joann.

Education and entertainment - Rabbi Kenneth Kantor
The Hall of Philosophy is a beautiful outdoor space for listening to the lecture and songs referencing African American influence on Broadway. We all sing along to many favorites.
While the surrounding area is different, the Hall itself looks much as it did in 1874.
Tessa and I walk back to the entrance to pick up our small bus for the 4:00 tour. It is always sold out and today is no different. Every seat is taken, with the addition of a fluffy dog resting in the aisle.

Here front porches are works of art.
Large ones include many denominational houses
The original year is posted on most.
Flags and flowers.
A pale pink favorite back in the trees.
In addition to homes and gardens and music throughout the village, artwork adds to the feeling of this amazing place.

Several statues with water features
The site of the founder's original cottage as both garden and art.
Kirsten Engstrom's United We Stand sculptures 
adding whimsy
and joy among the gardens.
Residents and visitors enjoy all the recreation of the large lake.
I could write several posts on just what I learned from Joann and the afternoon tour. The history of this place includes presidents and scholars and artists and musicians and Nobel Prize winners. And families who have been coming here for generations to learn and share; to be inspired, and to inspire others. From Children's School to live opera there is something here for every age and every everything. 

If you get the chance, come. I know I'll be back.

There are other locations throughout the country on the Chautauqua Trail.
Saturday morning Tessa and I head south again, this time stopping in Mayville, NY, for their annual Celtic Festival and Gathering of the Clans. Celebrating their 96th year, this is a high-energy fair with more kilts than shorts, and recognition of 19 participating clans. At the front gate a man walks up and gives me a wrist band. Says he has an extra one from a promotion he won. Saving the $10 entry fee is a very nice start!

So many kilts
Each clan has a small booth with history including shields and plaids "going back" hundreds of years.
Pipes and drums play all day - keeping the energy up in spite of the very high temps and humidity.

The festival is on the shore of Lake Chautauqua and many folks enjoy the music from the water.

Ancient tradition and modern recreation share the water
Parking's a challenge so this is a great way to arrive for the festivities.
All sizes and speeds here.
We hang out in the shade listening to the music and talking with people who must pet Tessa, and get kisses, and oooh and aaah over her. She gives as good as she gets, and all walk away with big smiles. I could sell tickets....

Then I spend way too much time observing this dancing pink castle.

What is
going on here?
Ohhh, fixing the tent frame!
What every grown up princess hopes is in her castle :-)
I'm really wanting to watch the highland games - but by the time they get started it is nearly 90 degrees and there is zero shade or breeze at the arena. Only those who brought shade tents are waiting to watch, I'm afraid there will be very few cheering them on today.

I manage to see one caber toss as we're leaving

Getting balanced before the toss
I have nothing to compare it to, but the toss flips the log completely over in the air and sends it about ten yards. I'm impressed!
All the textiles and drums and jewelry and clothes and music are things that I love, but fortunately have no room for. I enjoy a fresh squeezed lemonade and a Welsh cookie, but make no other purchases. There was a time.......let's just say small space is good for the finances.

Sunday I am a lazy slug all day. It's wonderful.

A wonderful surprise awaits me Monday morning - cool temps! For the first time in weeks I leave the door open, the AC doesn't come on at 8 AM, and we sit outside enjoying our big green yard.

So nice to be comfortable outdoors!
I extend our stay so Bill can enjoy a full day here.
Taking advantage of the nice weather Tessa and I head for Lake Erie State Park just 8 miles up the road.

I tell the ranger I'm only 60, and she let's me in for free anyway. Saving nearly $20 in two days, I'm very much liking the people of western New York!

Although "beach" is a big stretch of the term as I know it, Tessa immediately knows where we are. The sound of the waves, the Sea Gulls on the floating dock, the life guard chair - she is definitely at the beach!

It begins....
Such a dork.
When the ears are all the way up, she's flying.
Not much sand on this little beach
but the water is nice
and it sounds like the beach
and we have it all to ourselves.
After a couple hours just enjoying, we take a walk. Outside the campground (50 amp, 20 amp, or dry camp - Site 10 overlooking the lake is the prime spot), there isn't a lot to this park but the little beach and wonderful water views from the cliff top.

The gulls take flight as we walk away

Nice water views from the cliffs
This very large building is the only thing here. No signage. All locked up.
Pretty chalet style architecture
Spiders and wasps have taken up residence 
One peek inside and I decide to explore elsewhere....
The grass and trees are green and the bridge is strong
but the creek is very dry.
The ranger tells me that although the area is in a drought, the lake is higher than normal for this time of year. Mother Nature probably knows what she's doing :-)
Tomorrow Bill heads home and I have some errands to run before picking him up at midnight. Us girls have kept busy, but we'll sure be happy when he gets back!!!

Max with Daddy Nick and Pop Pop (yes, the baby has the most hair)