Saturday, April 18, 2009

Steuben County, New York

Corning - City of Glass
Clock tower in Gaffer District
Revitalized Gaffer District

Rockwell Museum of Western Art - The End of the Trail
Rockwell Museum of Western Art - features art from all eras
The Patterson Inn Museum

Corning Museum of Glass - Evening Dress with Shawl by Karen LaMont
Corning Museum of Glass - glass blowing demonstration
Corning Museum of Glass - making a flower

Hammondsport town square
Lime Berry shop
Dining at Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn with over 130 beers

Glenn H. Curtiss Museum
Curtiss was the "fastest man on earth"
Curtiss plane

The Black Sheep Inn - an octogon house
Chef Debbie at Black Sheep Inn
Octogon ceiling detail

Pleasant Valley Wine Company - on the National Historic Register
Bully Hill Winery
Hiking in Stony Brook State Park

Steuben County, nestled at the southern end of Keuka Lake, is full of trails – trails of all kinds. Imagine trails that feature hot glass, cool wines, and decadent chocolate. They are all waiting to be explored.

Museum Trail
Corning is home to the world’s most comprehensive glass collection. Learn the story of glass making from ancient times to the present at the Corning Museum of Glass. The numerous exhibits trace the history of glass making around the world. The eclectic collection includes outstanding pieces such as one of the earliest known glass portraits. The Egyptian piece from circa 1450 BC is only two inches high and most likely the head of Amenhotep II, who ruled about 60 years before Tutankhamen. Contemporary works such as Karen LaMonte’s life size ethereal "Evening Dress with Shawl," which she describes as "…a window to the interior," is just one example of the modern glasswork on display. Family-friendly handheld audio guides offer insightful commentaries on more than 60 works of art. Visitors can watch a master glassmaker make a beautiful glass vase out of molten glass then head to the workshop to create their own personalized glass souvenir.

A free shuttle takes visitors to downtown Corning where the museum trail continues at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. Not to be confused with Norman Rockwell, this museum has been declared "The best of the West in the East." Housed in the old City Hall, an architectural gem in its own right, with a buffalo sculpture breaking out of the upper floor, the museum is hard to miss. The collection, most of which was donated by local residents, Bob and Hertha Rockwell, includes works by the great nineteenth and early twentieth-century painters and sculptors, including Remington, Russell, Dallin, and Catlin. New acquisitions of recent works by Native Americans give a total perspective to the collection. The exhibits range from beautiful panoramic landscapes to Dallin’s sculpture, "Appeal to the Great Sprit;" to "NDN for Life," Quick-to-See Smith’s painting of a Native dress emblazoned with NDN. James Earles Fraser's provocative sculpture "The End of the Trail" featured in Legacy of the Vanishing Race Gallery is not the end of Steuben County’s museum trail.

Corning’s Benjamin Patterson Inn Museum captures a moment in time. At the turn of the 19th century travelers at the Patterson Inn could find themselves sleeping in a rope bed with someone they didn’t even know. Next to the Inn is the log cabin where the Mack family of five lived. Cooking, eating and sleeping took place in one small room. It gives new appreciation to today’s modern conveniences.

On July 4, just north of Corning in Hammondsport, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum will celebrate the centennial of the first pre-announced flight in America of a heavier-than-air flying machine, the June Bug. The nearly one-mile flight brought fame to Curtiss and Hammondsport. His early work on seaplanes, plus his association with the U. S. Navy, earned for Curtiss the title of "Father of Naval Aviation." Curtiss first gained fame as "The Fastest Man on Earth" when, in 1907, he set the world motorcycle land speed record of 136.36 mph. While the main focus of the museum deals with aviation there are changing displays that include miniature dollhouses and local memorabilia.

Wine Trail
Hammondsport is the starting point for the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. The Pleasant Valley Wine Company is the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes region. Established in 1860, the winery was the first U.S. bonded winery. The winery’s fascinating history includes its beginnings as a family business to its survival during Prohibition relying on sales for sacramental wines to corporate takeovers, and finally becoming a family business again. Eight of the winery’s stone buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places making it of architectural interest.

Wine lovers should raise their glass in thanks to Dr. Konstantin Frank who ignited the "Vinifera Revolution," a movement that changed the course of wine growing in the United States. He discovered that a little bug in the soil, not the climate, was the cause of the area’s poor grape yield, which he solved by grafting preferred vinifera onto local bug-resistance rootstock.

Just like each wine has a distinctive flavor so does each winery. Greyton H. Taylor, whose family had been growing grapes since 1878, started Bully Hill Winery in 1958. The winery’s museum complex houses the Cooper Shop with a video on barrel making, The New York State Wine Museum of Greyton H. Taylor, and the Walter S. Taylor Art Gallery. Raise your wine IQ at Keuka Lake Vineyards, a small estate winery that produces world class wines and offers Wine Aroma and Taste classes, a hands-on experience geared towards identifying wines.

The Keuka Wine Trail is more than wine tastings it is also about dining and shopping. In the quaint village of Hammonsport check out the handcrafted items, including rugs woven by Afghan refugees, at Lime Berry. It is Christmas every day on the second floor of the Cinnamon Stick. Grab a quick lunch at the Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor or dine at award-winning Village Tavern Restaurant where Chef Lerman has created his own product line and it isn’t all about wine. They serve over 130 different beers.

The Chocolate Trail and more
Corning’s Gaffer District and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn have partnered to create the Chocolate Trail. Upon checking in at the Fairfield Inn participating guests receive chocolate treats and coupons for samples from merchants in the Gaffer District, the city’s historical business area. Sonya at The Tea Chest makes her own chocolates, Beyond Baskets features locally made chocolates, the School House Country Store has chocolate candles, and the ultimate chocolate lover’s delight is the decadent Chocolate Pate at Three Birds Restaurant. Steuben County is home to many nature trails including those in Pinnacle and Stony Brook State Parks along with sections of the Finger Lakes Trail.

Hit the trail and discover glass, art, handicrafts, dining, wine, and more – all in Steuben County. For more information check or call 866-946-3386.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hong Kong - Revisited

Harbour Plaza Hotel
The Clock Tower where the train from London use to stop
Visiting the HK Historical Museum

Hong Kong Park
Tea Museum
Tea Appreciation

Peninsula Lobby
Our sitting room
Our Jacuzzi tub

Cooking Dim Sum - Peninsula's Chef
It's all the how you fold it
Evening in Peninsula's Salon de Ning

Hong Kong is considered an expensive destination with many high-end hotels but there are many free things to do. So my idea is to pick an awesome hotel then take the free tours offered by the Hong Kong Tourist Board. Their Kaleidoscope offerings focus on culture, history and nature. A couple years ago John, my husband, and I took the Cantonese Opera Appreciation Class. It was incredibly informative, and while it will never be our favorite music, it led to an appreciation of an art form that has lasted more than eight centuries. The tour started at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum's Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall where we learned that the high pitch of the actor’s voice allowed everyone in the very large crowds to hear and the artistic makeup made it easier to see facial expressions. We learned to identify specific characters by the color of their attire. The opera companies would travel by boat stopping at villages where they would build their own stage and put on a performance. Our tour ended with attending a performance. Amazing, once we understood what was going on it was quite enjoyable.

On this trip I wanted to take the tour to the Wing Wah Cake Shop where chefs teach visitors how to make Wife and Moon Cakes but there was no room in the tour. Some free tours fill up fast. So, we took the Tea Appreciation Class. There is so much more to tea than sipping it. I was surprised to learn that all tea comes from the same plant. The difference between green, oolong, and black teas has to do with the fermentation and temperature during drying process, with green tea not being fermented at all. We learned the proper way to drink the tea and about flower teas. Watching the dried jasmine flower opening up after pouring hot water on it was beautiful. Of course, the tea it made was delightful, too. Another day we took the subway to see one of the oldest homes on the island, the small Hakka House was an incredible contrast to the skyscrapers. There are a slew of other free programs that include tai chi, learning about Feng Shui, and nature tours.

Most museums have free admittance once a week – usually Wednesday. We visited the Hong Kong Museum of History with its permanent exhibit called The Hong Kong Story. The eight galleries detail the development and culture of Hong Kong. Right next to the History Museum is the Science Museum with a variety of displays dealing with motion, the body, and electricity.

There is always something free to do near to a hotel. The Harbour Plaza fronts on a walkway that goes all the way down to the Walk of the Stars with a Bruce Lee Statue. From the Conrad Hotel, on Hong Kong Island, it is just a short walk to beautiful Hong Kong Park where there is a bird park, waterfalls, and a tea museum that is free. The Peninsula Hotel is a near Kowloon Park and across the street from the Museum of Art where works of art are displayed outdoors. Next to the park is the best place to watch the nightly laser show that lights both sides of the water. More than any other city we have visited, Hong Kong has more free things to do.