Jake’s Birthday and the Bragdon House Bed and Breakfast

While eating breakfast with six other guests of the Bragdon House B&B following our day and night of celebrating Jake’s birthday, this conversation happened:

Other Guest: where did you have dinner?

Jake: We didn’t.

Kim: We just went to Halsey’s and had drinks.

Jake: Well, we ordered a pizza there.

Kim: So, I guess that was dinner.

Jake: And then we went to Parker’s for a drink.

Kim: We did?

Jake: Yeah, you had a White Russian.

Kim: I did? Why did I do that?

Jake: They didn’t have any coffee for an Irish Coffee, so you ordered a White Russian. I don’t know, you did that thing where you want more drinks when you shouldn’t have any. 

 

It’s a good thing the owner followed up with her own story of spending too much time at Parker’s getting “shitfaced” when she first opened the B&B. I felt much less like an ass after that. Still hungover, but not an ass. It’s a win. And, who do I think I am? The Dude? White Russian? Good lord…

We started our day last tuesday with a backroads drive to Heron Hill Winery to have lunch at their Blue Heron Cafe. The wine is good, the food is middling, the view is spectacular and it’s one of the few places in the Finger Lakes where you can sit outside AND have a waiter AND have a view. We ordered a cheese/meat board, a salad and a sandwich along with a bottle of semi-dry reisling. Nothing to complain about, but I’d argue that Fox Run’s cheese/meat board is a far better value (but no waiter, and the view is good, but not as good). We did the same last year for Jake’s birthday, so I suppose it’s becoming something of a tradition now. I remember the food being better last year, but we also went on a Friday; perhaps the busier days result in better food?

View from Blue Heron Cafe, Heron Hill Winery, Hammondsport, NY

We continued on from there into the village of Hammondsport, to have another glass of wine at The Village Tavern. We sat outside at a sidewalk table and enjoyed the view of the town square. We typically only have a drink here, or a bar snack (and by bar snack I mean oysters…so good!) and then head off elsewhere. Today was the same. Hammondsport is a quaint little village that we continually wish we could live in, but can’t figure out how we would support ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Note, my work from home thing is quite a bit more from home than it is work right now. We decided to head back north along the eastern side of Keuka Lake then cut over to the western side of Seneca Lake to stop at Fox Run for another cheese/meat platter and wine to go. Our B&B was advertised as having a great back porch and we wanted to take advantage of that. 

Back porch view at Bragdon House Bed and Breakfast, Geneva, NY

The Bragdon House did not disapppoint!! The back porch has both an screened and an open area with lots of very comfortable seating. Many B&Bs have porches but I don’t always feel at home on them. Either they aren’t comfy, or they are too tiny, too sparse, or too hard in terms of seating. For example, last year we stayed at the Magnolia House, on the other side of Senece Lake for Jake’s birthday and while they had a huge porch, it wasn’t very inviting. Perhaps it was the size of the B&B (more like an Inn) or the banquet like feel of the dining room, or the uncushioned adirondack chairs, but I just felt like I was imposing the whole time. But this place, the Bragdon House, was like being on your own porch. Much more casual, much more relaxed. We sat at the high table, put our feet up, opened our wine and enjoyed the view of the lake through the trees. 

The Bragdon House is small, four rooms, and right on Main St in Geneva. You can walk downtown to the restaurants or a little further to the lake front or Hobart College. They serve a great breakfast and have a mini-fridge on the porch for your wine and leftovers. Note that one review on tripadvisor was miffed at the lack of theme (?) and that he didn’t get a complimentary glass of wine. To even give away wine, a B&B has to have a liquor license and this place can’t get one because they are within 200 feet of a church. Seems silly, but its BYOW. Fine with me. My only complaint is that I needed a glass of water in the middle of the night and found we didn’t have any in our room. Hardly a deal breaker, and most people wouldn’t have noticed but, as you now know, I had a wee bit too much to drink and was parched.  Really, the owner couldn’t have been nicer and more our type! She recently had a baby and totally had her act together despite being up at 3AM to feed an 11 week old. We’ll be going back!

 

Travel Before and After Radicchio

This post was written as a guest post on The Mommy Happiness Project, a blog by my friend Jessica about how Mom’s can remember their own happiness and self-care while being attentive to their families.

 

Before I had my son, my husband and I were fond of armchair quarterbacking the parents we saw when on vacation. And we were judgmental. Judgy McJudgerton. After our discussion of what was so wrong with those parents, we would remind ourselves that nobody asked us and laugh that we would never be in that position anyway. Because we weren’t having kids. Ever. Never ever.

Yeah.

Vacation/travel was way of life for us. A couple weeks in Italy in the summer; long weekends in DC, San Francisco, Traverse City, Galveston, the Finger lakes, Toronto; bike tours of Ireland; motorcycle trips in Switzerland; almost three weeks in South Korea; an unhealthy dedication to the Disney Food and Wine Festival. I had spreadsheets, travel apps, plastic folders, and the details of every trip down to the minute. I even planned “free time.” Seriously, it was marked out on our schedule as free time. And then…summer 2010. The Tierce Release Party at Fox Run, Italy for two weeks and then more Finger Lakes wineries. Over the course of a month with more wine than I can reasonably calculate we began to speculate that I might be pregnant. All that secret advice for traveling parents was going to come back to haunt us.

We made a decision to not let having a kid change our lives in terms our travel enjoyment. Excuse me while I collapse in tears of laughter. What were we thinking? So how does a couple bitten by the travel bug maintain that lifestyle with a kid? Lots and lots of changes. How does anyone with a hobby they love keep that part of themselves alive when your new life means you aren’t the center anymore?

Adapt, change, learn and remember what you loved about that hobby in the first place.

I still plan as if I suffer from some kind of travel OCD but now my bookmarks include travel tips with kids, kid friendly hotels, airline policies, and stroller/crib/toy rental companies. My flight plans no longer focus on arriving somewhere as early as possible but instead on the least amount of time in airports. I never checked bags (two weeks is about my max) before but now have lists of what can be checked and what I want to carry on. Most importantly, we travel both with and without our son. I know this is controversial to some and I’ll be the first to say that the pangs of guilt are tremendous and can only be dampened by lots and lots of fine dining and booze. I’m not kidding about that last part. Facetime and drinks can easy many a pang.

So what does our travel life look like now?
We still travel often, but with more repeated destinations to make planning a bit easier. There are two week-long vacations annually; one with our son, one as a couple, usually Disney World and Key West (I’m sure you can figure out which trip is which). Also, three-four short adult trips annually, usually nearby and usually one-two nights; Finger Lakes, Boston, Detroit (I know, but we have lots of friends there…), Vermont, etc. And finally, two-three mommy/Adam trips per year to visit with friends and family. Nothing out of the country yet but we plan to go back to Italy in 2015 for our wedding anniversary with our first family trip to Europe in 2017, probably every other year after that with hopes that Adam will be ready for and interested in cycling tours when he’s 13 or so.

Minimal daily planning—we fly by the seat of our pants more and really try not do everything. I’ve always wondered about those people who stand in the an amusement park demanding that their kids have fun because the trip was expensive (I wondered that before and after having my own) or who insist that their child needs to stop having fun doing what ever it is they are doing to go do some other thing that might be fun. If Adam wants to go on the Indy Cars in the Magic Kingdom eight times in a row (then Dumbo, then seven more times on the cars…) I’m not going to stop him. He’s happy, I’m happy he’s happy, rock on.

My parents go with us on family trips and it’s the best money ever spent. We bought into the Disney Vacation Club just so that this could happen. With our DVC membership I can get a two-bedroom villa with a full kitchen on Disney property for six nights and put my parents in their own room. I get babysitting for two or three nights on those trips. Sometimes that means a nice meal and sometimes it means sitting on the pool deck in the dark with drinks.

I have a kid who thinks it’s normal to sleep in the bathroom. I know some people won’t like this either. Adam has never been a good sleeper and most certainly cannot sleep with other people in the room. It’s never happened, not once, since he was just weeks old. He also doesn’t sleep in cars. I’ve got a horror story from when he was six months old and we tried to sleep all in one room…Until he was just past two he slept in a packnplay in the extra bathroom of the DVC villa or the spare rooms of who ever we might be visiting. Now I use the Intex inflatable toddler bed for our trips and he still sleeps in the sink alcove in the DVC villa. That bed is worth 10x the $35 it cost. I’m hoping that next year he can handle sleeping in the living room on the pull out sofa, but I’ll bring that bed just in case.

I have a checked bag with a noise machine, twilight turtle, toys, blow up mattress, sheets, and goldfish crackers in it. No explanation needed. My carry on has duplo/lego blocks (a quiet toy that is also many toys in one and keeps my kid occupied for long periods on airplanes and in airports), gummies, extra pants, a tablet with headphones, and a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal in it. I still wonder what all those other parents are carrying in all of those bags!! We’ve used a sling carrier and rented a stroller for most trips and now that Adam is three we use neither. I hate the car seat in the airport nonsense, but you can’t count on a rental car agency to have a good one, so I still carry that. But not much else. I can buy food and drinks anywhere, even an airplane, I don’t feel compelled to carry food for a village on the plane ride.

I don’t drink as much in airports. I don’t sleep as much on vacation. I make paper chains to count the days to our trips. My three year old knows how to go through security. I’ve argued with TSA about breast milk and pumps (that’s one conversation I NEVER thought I’d have…). I’ve carried a backpack on my back and a baby in a sling on my front for longer than any human should have to. My travel memories now include waterslides, pony rides, kiddy roller coasters, failed sand castles, and pushing all of the buttons on the elevator (I’m sorry to all who endured that…).

Our next trip is a Mommy/Adam road trip to Michigan, in two weeks. We’ll drive across Canada and I will answer “why” 10,000 times an hour. We’ll stop to see Niagara Falls and the Blue Water Bridge, eat fast food in rest stops, and play on new playgrounds. We’ll sleep at a friend’s house with our blow up bed. We’ll visit the zoo and science center. Mostly, we’ll continue to make travel fun and an important part of our lives.

Anywhere Wednesday

We just spent 24 hours in Finger Lakes wine country, visiting two of our favorite wineries, discovering a new-to-us bed and breakfast and having ill-advised drinks too late at night. So today, if I could be anywhere, it would probably be here, sleeping it off:

Le Blanc Spa and Resort, Cancun, Mexico

Le Blanc Spa and Resort, Cancun, Mexico

Smash ‘Em Up Derby

Wayne County Fair (NY) Demolition Derby, 2014

As Radicchio calls its. Or called it. Yesterday he informed me that you could “actually, call it Demolition Derby, Mama, it has two names.”

We took him last year and he’s been talking about it ever since, a full year of smash ‘em up questions and comments from a nearly three-year old! He won a car from the duck pond game that is defying its cheap construction and going strong after multiple demonstrations of how cars smash into things. (This car should be used to demonstrate how translating some things to English doesn’t really work:

Champion Noble Charisma Preeminent Car

Champion Noble Charisma Preeminent Car

Those are all words for awesome and powerful but in the context of race car stickers, not quite right either. In any case, one little boy was very excited to go the Demolition Derby. When he heard there would also be carnival rides I think his little head exploded. We’ve been to several carnivals this year, and contrary to popular stereotypes, both the rides and employees have been outstanding. Sure, they’re a little beat up, but the kids rides have been attended to by some very nice people who clearly like, or at least don’t mind, children. We’ve hit up the Williamson Apple Blossom Carnival, Fairville Firemen’s Carnival, Webster Fireman’s Carnival and now, the Wayne County Fair. Each time we’ve bought the all you can ride pass ($15) and Adam has ridden the Alligator train countless times.

At 5:45 PM we bought our ticket, rode four rides and then the deluge began. We waited, at a hotdog and popcorn (this is a food and travel blog, right?), then it stopped and we rode three more rides before it started again. This time we took shelter in the beer tent where Rad discovered a spinning neon sign that left him mesmerized and filled up the 30 minutes we waited for the rain to stop. So, we got seven rides out of our $15, still better than buying tickets (21-28 tickets would have come to just a bit more than $15) and went to get a good seat in for the Derby. Also, more popcorn. And a water. And Jake had bacon-wrapped-deep-fried-meatballs. And pierogies. He said the meatballs weren’t very good. I’m not sure how that’s possible.

8PM is mighty late for our little guy, and the drawn out lining up process for the first round put the start at 8:15. Rad watched intently, got to see one car flip over and another on fire (pro tip: RX7s and similarly shaped cars are bad for this sport; their hoods are like ramps for the other cars and you will likely be driven over and possibly smooshed, the driver was so shaken up by the car that launched itself up his hood that he actually left the derby).  There were firemen flipping cars, spraying hoses and generally being everything a three-year old would hope a fireman would be. That round was over by 8:35, Raddy thought the whole thing was over, declared it both fun and too loud and asked to go home. Who am I to argue?

All the way home: Why did that car flip over? Why did that car catch on fire? Why was there steam? and smoke? Why is it night? Why is it dark? Where is the moon? Where is the sun? Why do we not have the sun? Where does the sun go? Why did that car lose its wheel? Why was it loud? and so on. Then at home he recreated the demolition derby on his road rug on his bedroom floor, complete with fire truck, John Deer Gator, ambulance and tow trucks. And finally at 9:45, he went to sleep.

It’s not a cheap night. $5 admission for each adult to the fair, $15 for the rides, another $8 for each of us to the derby–$49 just in admission plus food and drink. But the happy little boy (and the epic people watching; I need to go back just to watch the people…) was totally worth it!

Anywhere Wednesday

Seokguram Grotto

I was lucky enough to travel to South Korea on a fellowship program in 2008. While I became enamoured with South Korea then, I still lament that I was rarely allowed free time to absorb everything. My visit it Seokguram Grotto was a rare moment during that trip in which I was able to make a choice about my trip. The Grotto is within a national park at the top of a mountain. You can drive there (or ride in the fellowship provided bus) or hike a four kilometer trail to the Grotto. I chose the trail.

Read more here and here.

Love, Hate, USAirways, and Southwest

I don’t know that anyone loves an airline or even really loves air travel. Going somewhere if fun, but the hassle is also large. TSA, carry-on requirements, regional jets, delays, passengers who seem to have been living under a rock for the last 13 years all conspire to stress you out. I know why they serve booze in airports.

Last year I regularly flew Southwest for work, twice a month or so. Same flights every time and I complained. I complained about the cattle call boarding (really? I just want to know where I’m sitting) and the jovial pilots and attendants (do your job of getting me to my destination and stop trying to entertain me). The clientele of SW can be decidedly less experienced at flying as well. BUT. BUT. They were on time. Always. And I had enough miles/points to get first priority boarding, so I usually sat in the exit row with the other six business travelers on the plane. That meant no trouble with my carry on either (then I used a small rolling laptop bag and a purse/tote).

For a few months this year I was doing a similar flight with USAirways and I can’t believe I ever complained about SW. Really, I can’t understand how one airline can have such a tight ship in terms of boarding, on time rates, and pleasant employees and another manages to be late every single time I fly with them.

The last five flights I’ve taken with USAirways have been delayed or canceled. Three of these are the exact same flight–the 3:45 from PHL to ROC. I’ve been cancelled to Seattle after two delays for mechanical issues for an AM flight, told I there was no way to get me to Seattle that day, and sent home after spending 8 hours in the airport. I arrived less than one hour before my presentation time. Another was delayed because my plane was hit by lightning at the gate. Clearly, this delay is out of their hands, but it was a small set of passengers and I’m amazed that we couldn’t be placed on other flights rather than waiting four hours for a new plane. The three from PHL were delayed for a flat tire, an overtime crew, and nothing. That’s right. Nothing.

I submitted a complaint to USAirways, explaining that this is my regular flight, that three times in seven weeks it was delayed and that in that particular case it was listed as on time both online and in the airport despite the fact that the plane was just pulling up to the gate at our departure time. They passengers needed to deplane and the plane loaded before we could leave, resulting in a 40 minute delay that was never updated or announced.

Here’s the reply:

Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. We appreciate it when customers take the time to share their concerns.

I’m sorry that you have had continued delays to Rochester. Your most recent flight on July 11, Flight 4057 shows a 38 minute delay due to loading baggage. It is not our intent to create difficulties for our customer’s and realize this continuous irregularity is frustrating.

If you would like us to further review your other flight delays, please send us your ticketing information for each one you would like us to address.

We look forward to providing a more pleasant flying experience in the future. Thank you for choosing US Airways.

Really, loading baggage? I was standing there. The plane wasn’t delayed for baggage, it wasn’t even there at the departure time. Also, it was not listed as delayed anywhere.  My reply:

Thank you for your reply. I find it fascinating that the flight described below was delayed for baggage, as the plane arrived at the gate and the passengers from the previous flight were deplaning at the time I was listed to depart. Seems as though my flight was late because the previous flight was late. Also, the boards, gate and website all showed that we were on time despite the very obvious delay.

But that is neither here nor there. USAirways can list whatever it likes as its reason for late. The fact remains that in the last three times I’ve taken that flight it has been delayed by a minimum of 38 minutes (as you state below). Three times in seven weeks. One delayed flight is just some bad luck, but consistent delays on the same flight are signs of larger problems.

I don’t expect resolution. I just want you to know that when I can convince my corporate travel manager to stop using your airline you will know why.

I know. I’m a juvenile. All of this and I’m still using my Dividends Miles card to earn 25000 more points so we can get one RT to Rome next year. I’m a glutton for punishment. But I’m also really surprised that they didn’t offer some points or free drinks or something. Not much later they replied that the case was closed. I should have pressed I suppose.

This is where SW gets it right I think. I’ve had one bad SW experience–Buffalo to Key West. At the time, SW had one flight a day to Key West from Orlando. We were slightly delayed out of Buffalo for deicing and were told that many people on our plane were headed to KW and the SW would hold the plane. We landed to watch our KW flight pull away from the gate and were told we’d have to wait 24 hours, that they couldn’t get us a hotel or a car and weather (deicing) was not their fault. I was annoyed that I was told they’d hold the plane but even more annoyed when they said there was nothing they could do. I asked for a manager and another manager. I explained that I was a frequent flier with them, that I had used rewards for these tickets and that I understood a flight was 24 hours away, but that we would drive and get out of their hair (we’d been holding up the line for nearly an hour by this point) if they would pay for the rental car and refund my points for the Orlando-KW leg of the trip. They did and gave us $200 in flight credits. We used the car voucher to get a convertible Camaro and drove 5 hours to Key West. Not the best day, but certainly not the worst and they kept my business.

USAirways is only getting my business because I’m 2/3 of the way to a free RT to Europe. I’m sure we’ll be delayed and lose a day of our Roman holiday next year.

Anywhere Wednesday

If I could be anywhere on this Wednesday it would be Atrani. In a perfect world, I’d be in our previous B and B high up Atrani’s eastern slope, looking over the water with a big ass plate of prosciutto and fresh moz, washed down by a local white.

Alas, Frances and Bruno closed up shop to focus on wedding photography and music. I can’t blame them, if you could, wouldn’t you keep this view for yourself instead of serving breakfast EVERY SINGLE DAY to others while they enjoy the view?

The view from the now closed Rooms With View, Atrani, Italy

So, I’ve had to find a new place  in Atrani to imagine sitting and this one is almost as good:

Dolce Vita in Amalfi: Green House, Balcony, Atrani, Italy

It’s in the same area, looking over St. Mary Magdalene church (google yourself some MC Escher Atrani to see his multiple versions of this church) and the sea. I’m a creature of habit I guess, but when you find a place like this, a town like this, a view like this, you want to spend all of your free time there!