. . . And now we get to the third and final destination of last week's travels, and for me personally the least exciting: Syracuse, New York, which is a bit smaller than Spokane when comparing the city proper (143,000 vs 217,000), but a fair amount larger when comparing metropolitan populations (662,000 vs. 574,000), the latter being a pretty good explanation of why Syracuse has a bigger skyline, albeit with many buildings that are much, much older. In any case, Danielle and I, who both grew up in Spokane, agreed that it had a similar vibe. The key difference, in my view, was that Syracuse had a greater charm, mostly because of its far more prevalent, far older architecture.
Granted, it would make sense for an outsider like myself to be far more charmed by Syracuse than anyone who grew up there. Sean, Elise's now-husband, heard about the few places I had visited in town, including Wooland Reservoir where I got lots of panoramic views of the city, and he then declared, "You've seen everything there is to see here, you don't need to come back." He had the same basic attitude of his hometown as I have had of Spokane for years.
But, whatever. It actually is extraordinarily unlikely I will ever have another reason to visit Syracuse again. The only reason Sean and Elise went back there themselves for the wedding was because it was most convenient for the vast majority of the people invited to the wedding. Aside from Sean and Elise themselves, Danielle and I were the guests who had traveled the farthest to attend. I had worried slightly about not bringing a wedding gift, and then it occurred to me that the hundreds of dollars both Danielle and I spent just to fly out there was more than gift enough. Now that I think about it, I never saw any gifts from anyone else either -- just cards, which were to be slipped into this model wrestling ring that someone had made, because I guess Sean and several of his friends are huge WWE fans. Anyway, the farthest I heard of someone else traveling for the wedding otherwise was a guy named Patrick, the one other guest known to be gay, one of Elise's high school friends who traveled in from his current home in Boston. That was an hour-long flight.
This wedding was the entire reason for my trip, though -- and for Danielle's as well. Danielle never intended to bring the girls with her, and she wanted a travel companion, and long ago asked me if I would join her. I hemmed and hawed for a while, but my mind was made up when I Google Mapped it and discovered Syracuse is all of a two-hour drive to Niagara Falls. This could very well be my single chance ever to visit there, so I said yes at that point, figuring we would just add an extra day to our stay in Syracuse and make a day trip to Niagara Falls.
There had been a little bit of deliberation as to where to fly into first, because Seattle is much too far away and Syracuse much too small for there to be any direct flights between the two cities. Elise suggested flying into New York City and driving in from there, until I pointed out that would be a rather wasteful four and a half hour drive. We considered other American destinations like Philadelphia, until Danielle suggested Toronto, and then visiting Niagara Falls via the drive to Syracuse from there. We very nearly managed to do this by having only one direct flight to fly on the way out there on Tuesday last week, except the flight out of SeaTac was far too early at 7am, and eventually we still settled on the one-stop itinerary with a layover in Vancouver -- and I already wrote all about that adventure. In any case, that was how we did it: Seattle to Toronto via Vancouver by air; Toronto to Niagara Falls by bus; then Syracuse to Seattle via Philadelphia by air on the way back, this past Sunday.
As for getting from Niagara Falls to Syracuse on Friday, we first took the Niagara Falls, Ontario city bus from our hotel to Rainbow Bridge; crossed Rainbow Bridge on foot; visited American Falls very briefly before getting a Lyft, which we rode 19 miles from there to Amherst, New York (which, with tip -- something Danielle told me she never gives to ride share drivers, which shocked me, cost me $42) to pick up our mode of transportation for the final two days of our trip: a Budget car rental. We had booked the cheapest option available, for which they had no cars, and so we got a free upgrade to an SUV. I did a little but Danielle did most of the driving, especially for the drive from Amherst to Syracuse.
And even there, we drove another 12 miles (about 20 minutes) out of our way for a super-quick pit stop in Buffalo, just so we could get out of the car for a few minutes, take some photos, and be able to say we had been to Lake Erie.
From there Danielle drove us the rest of the way to Syracuse, with a lot of toll road confusion that in the end somehow worked out to us never paying any of the tolls at all (don't tell anyone), even though we actually went through a booth. We had no cash on us, though, and the e-reader in our rental car windshield didn't seem to be working properly.
Eventually we finally found our way to the hotel in Syracuse, which was the one lodging place I booked and paid for: the Hotel Skyler (pictured above), part of the "Tapestry Collection" by Hilton. Even this building was quite old and held some real fascination for me -- I already posted this on all my social media and included it in the photo digest email I sent out Monday night, but I feel compelled to include it here too, for posterity:
The Hotel Skyler in Syracuse, NY has a fascinating, religious-based local history with many current design flourishes in reference to it. Built in 1921, it served as a synagogue for a local congregation of German Jewish immigrants dating back to 1870. It housed the Temple Adath Yeshurun for the next 55 years; the congregation still exists today, just in another building. By 1976 the building was owned by the City of Syracuse, housing the Salt City Theatre Group. (Syracuse apparently has a long salt-related heritage, the streets once paved with it.) Since 2011, it now houses one of Hilton Hotels’ “Tapestry Collection,” but retaining its temple structure and columns, and even stained glass windows in the lobby, so checking in is sort of like walking up to a pulpit. The inscription remains above the columns: OPEN YE THE PORTALS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS I WILL ENTER AND PRAISE GOD.
Sean and Elise's rehearsal dinner was on Friday, the day we arrived in Syracuse, all of about ninety minutes after we first checked into our hotel -- and we were at this place, called Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, for the majority of the evening. I told them not to worry about it and I would be fine, but they were very sweet in making sure there were plenty of vegetarian options even though I was the only known vegetarian in attendance. And to be honest, I had more and better choices at that dinner -- which was presented buffet style in a private event space on the second floor -- than I did at the wedding itself: the most incredible fried green tomatoes I ever had; truly excellent macaroni and cheese; very tasty veggie skewers; delicious "salt potatoes"; delicious deviled eggs; even the salad was really tasty. I had more than plenty of eat, and they even had containers to take home leftovers, of which Danielle and I took quite a bit (most of which was eaten during our travels back home on Sunday).
They even had an open bar. There was some confusion, and I wound up buying two Fuzzy Navel cocktails early on that ultimately proved unnecessary. The bartender told me at first that the bar would be open for only beer and wine as of 6:30. I did not want to drink beer or wine; I wanted a cocktail, and the Fuzzy Navel was stunningly cheap -- $6 each. That's so cheap I practically considered it free. Still, the two I had together, with tax and tip, came to roughly $16, which I could have saved had I just waited a bit instead of getting my drinks at 6:00, because Sean later made sure the bar was open for any and all alcohol.
It was just as well, though, because I was able to drive the car back much later in the evening, when Danielle got seriously drunk. And I mean seriously -- like, wasted, beyond anything I had ever seen her do before. I could provide details here that would be genuinely embarrassing for her, but I think I'll just skip that. Suffice it to say that a bunch of us went to an Irish pub afterward, where I opted not to buy any drinks for myself, did not spend a lot of time talking to people, and probably looked like one hell of a stick in the mud while everyone else was having a good time. At the end of our time at that pub, Danielle came back to our table after spending an inordinate amount of time at the bar, with a glass of beer in each hand, and she was already wasted by this point. She hardly got any drinks out of those, though, before the group decided to move on to another stop.
Sean had already left and encouraged Elise to leave soon given their big day the next day. A bunch of the rest of the group still wanted to go out even more. We all walked Elise back to her hotel, and then when everyone started talking about going into another bar across the street from there, I was like, "Danielle, I can't, I need to go." She was going to come with me but asked if I would go get the car, which was still parked by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and come back to pick her up. This would have been a simple process except that Elise's wild-drinker nursing school friend Casey took everyone to yet another location while I was getting the car, and I had a hard time figuring out where the hell they were, until I took a wrong turn onto an arterial street that had a fence down the center and almost no turn options. I finally had to take out the GPS on my phone to get to the intersection Casey had told me to go to, after multiple calls on Danielle's phone. At one point she had suggested meeting back at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and then she called back again to give me a specific intersection to find them at: "She's done. She's falling down." Once I finally found them, I gave Casey a ride back to her car, and then finally drove Danielle and myself back to our hotel.
Things got in some ways even worse after that, necessitating a herculean amount of patience on my part -- had I made different choices, that night could have ended explosively. But, I held Danielle up as I walked her from the car and into the hotel, and she got undressed and basically passed out in her bed. I was in bed that night at around 1 a.m. Eastern time.
Danielle woke up the next morning remarkably well, with hardly any hangover. I was amazed; I would have felt truly awful -- in fact, I already had once in Toronto, the first morning there, after the drinks I'd had Tuesday night did not sit well with me, and I'd only had two cocktails that night. It took well into late afternoon on Wednesday before I felt normal again, and I'm glad that never repeated. Hotel Skyler had a pretty impressive spread for its complimentary continental breakfast we had both Saturday and Sunday mornings, and we rather took our time getting ready for the wedding day on Saturday.
That day was much more pleasant on the whole, even though Danielle did drink a fair amount again that evening, in spite of insisting on Saturday morning she would not be repeating what she did on Friday night. To her credit, so far as I could tell, although she got a little drunk at the wedding, that day I never saw her cross the line into wasted.
Sean and Elise's wedding was at place called The Orchards at Rocking Horse Farm, the mercifully brief (maybe twenty minutes) ceremony performed by a friend of theirs who got ordained just as I had for Danielle and Patrick's wedding in 2005. The ceremony was outside the barn that served as the venue for the dinner and reception, and overall, as I later noted to Danielle, the whole day had been very well planned for all involved. Really nothing went wrong; even the rain was mostly cooperative, only occurring for about half an hour much later in the evening after dark when everyone was inside anyway.
The place is a legitimate farm, with horses, alpacas, and even roosters walking around right outside the barn. Inside the barn was charmingly rustic, though, and still perfectly suitable for a formal affair. Elise had suggested Danielle and I coordinate our outfits, and since Danielle wore a green dress to the rehearsal dinner, on Friday I wore my black slacks with my button-up shirt that is white with checkered thin black and green lines; it was the only even remotely dressy shirt I had with any green on it. (Turned out we were pretty overdressed for "Dinosaur Bar-B-Que," anyway; Sean was in shorts.) The dress Danielle wore to the wedding was white with a pink floral print on it (floral prints must be super in right now; I'd say easily half the female guests were in a floral print of one kind or another), so I wore my white jeans with my solid pink Express button-up shirt -- which Elise later specifically complimented me on. You can see Danielle and me in our wedding day outfits here.
In fact, you can see the full collection of three Syracuse-specific photo albums on Flickr here; or more specifically, the Syracuse city photo album here, the rehearsal dinner photo album here, and the wedding day photo album here. Although I did take a few, I did not take a whole lot of photos of Sean and Elise myself -- I hardly know them; I had spent time with Elise only once before, and had only met Sean briefly on a FaceTime call with Danielle once before -- but I did take plenty of photos of the facility and the area around it and the like.
I actually do finally have the tags done on the entire whirlwind trip, which I finished this morning. I still have plenty of captioning to do, but between the captions that do exist so far, and the tags now on all photos, some information can be gleaned now from every shot on Flickr, the entire six-day trek represented on Flickr here.
There's a lot more I could tell, and perhaps -- probably -- I will in the further captions I eventually finish up on Flickr. But here, at Fruitcake Enterprises Blog, I've finally gotten you all caught up, eight days after the whole trip began and three days after it ended.
[posted 12:12 pm]