Friday, July 6, 2012

Sitting Here in the Niagara Tower

Our room is on the 29th floor of the Niagara Tower Hotel.

  The American Falls, as seen from our window.
The Horseshoe Falls, as much of it as we can see from our window.
Both falls.
But before we got here, we had to leave Portland, Maine. We planned to leave early because I wanted to stop at Brewery Ommegang, in Cooperstown, New York. The entire plan was to take the brewery tour, eat at their pub, enjoy a pint or two, and then drive to Niagara Falls in time for dinner at an Italian restaurant, Fortuna's. Since it is about 11 hours of driving, if we leave at 7:30am, spend 90 minutes at the brewery, we will get to the restaurant at 7pm, and the hotel by 8:30ish.
Again, those are the plans. What really happened is:
We left the B&B at 8:30. Most of the drive was uneventful. Many toll booths and all Interstate travel. Until Samantha told me to get of the Interstate to get to Cooperstown, New York and the Brewery Ommegang. (Samantha is the voice of my GPS unit, and I think she is a bit psychotic.) She had me take state highways. Then county highways. Then we were turning down narrow, tree-lined country roads. Then she said, "In 400 feet, turn left on the goat path. Prepare to ford a stream."
Not really. But we were way off the beaten path. I kept looking at my gas gauge to make sure I would have enough to get back to civilization (which is defined as roads with at least two lanes running in each direction.) Finally, painted on small wooden sign was "Brewery Ommegang" with an arrow pointing to the right. So we turned right, and after a few miles of extremely country roads, we came to the brewery.

It was 2:30. A little later than our plan, but working. I LOVE this brewery. All their beers are exceptional Belgian-style ales. When we first decided on the idea of this vacation, I was waiting for this visit. I was completely geeked to be here. We walked into the brewery store, and found it filled with people. Apparently I was not the only person to want to see the brewery. We signed up for a tasting (I was really looking forward to trying a few of their specialty and seasonal beers. I enjoyed their five regular beers and they had three unique varieties that I wanted to taste. And then buy, of course.)

We decided to do our shopping first, then the tasting, followed by the tour and finish with a light lunch. I picked up two of the three beers that I have not had previously as well as some glassware and a t-shirt. Tammy was standing in line to pay and I went to the tasting. My first disappointment was they only offered samples of their six year-round offerings. But at least one of those was new to me.
My second disappointment was that new one was the only beer that I did not like. (I tried to call Tammy and tell her not to buy that bottle, but of course I had no cell service.)

The guide to the tasting tried to do a good job of teaching everyone about the beers, but unfortunately the room was filled with people making these comments: "This is terrible beer. It isn't anything like Bud Light" and "How are we going to get a buzz on samples that are so small". Everyone was too busy chugging their two ounce portions. It was frustrating.

The next disappointment was when we went on the tour, our guide really didn't know much about the brewing process. Or if he actually did have knowledge of the process, he was "dumbing it down" for everyone. But even Tammy, who doesn't like beer, and has never brewed a beer, could identify when he made obvious mistakes.

"Even I know that was wrong!"

The final disappointment was after the tour, we still needed to wait another hour before getting a table in the cafe. We had asked to make a table reservation before the tour so that we could get a table when the tour was done, but they don't do that. So we left. I couldn't wait that extra time.

The bottom line is that the parts of the trip that I most anticipated ended up being the bigger let-downs. Maybe that is to be expected. The greater the anticipation, the greater the chance of disappointment.

We hit the road and got to Niagara Falls, New York at 8:30. Later than we wanted, especially because the restaurant where we wanted to eat closed at 9:30. But we got a table right away, sat down and quickly ordered. Because we had looked at the menu while driving, we knew what we wanted. We ordered a mixed antipasto platter and a meal of capellini with olive oil and garlic. (My cell phone's camera did a poor job of getting the picture.)

Dessert? Cannolis. It was too much, and yet we couldn't stop.
If you want classic Italian, eat at Fortuna's.

We arrived at the hotel at 10pm. Tired after a long day of driving and eating, we went to bed, ready for the next day's activities. And what are those activities? I will post them tomorrow, but they include wine, food, and martinis.

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