Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Roaming the Rust Belt (2017)

A NOTAble brand and a spooky-sounding waterway

Following an introductory bowl of mixed cereal, I had loaded up a plate with a generous portion of crispy bacon, a small but flavour-packed American sausage, a couple of hash browns in the unexpected style of disc-shaped Swiss Rösti, and a helping of scrambled egg in a disconcertingly garish shade of bright yellow. I was still enjoying the benefits of being a Hilton Honors 'Diamond' member at the DoubleTree Syracuse in upper New York state - and this despite a shrinkage in my overall pattern of hotel stays brought about by a change of address to the heart of Edinburgh's West End, which meant that I had no prospect of retaining that status beyond the first quarter of 2018.

It was Black Friday 2017: 24 November. It amused me to think that I had only discovered the American meaning of the term 'Black Friday' a few years previously, yet in the intervening period this had already become commonplace usage in my native UK. Two days previously, I had taken a routine British Airways domestic flight from Edinburgh to London Heathrow, checked into the new Premier Inn Terminal 4 at the bargain introductory price of £30.50 for the night, and made a brief foray into Central London. The following day, Thanksgiving Day in the USA, I had met up with Bruce in Terminal 5 before we both took an excellent 'old school' BA flight to Washington Dulles. We wondered whether it would turn out to have been our last Club World experience on the upper deck of a Boeing 747. BA had already made significant withdrawals from its fleet of these aircraft, once the largest in the world. A short hop on United had then brought us to Syracuse, NY, and then an even shorter drive in our newly acquired rental car, a Volkswagen Jetta, had delivered us to our present location.

With breakfast already out of the way by 0745, thanks in part to mild jet lag, we were ready to hit the road by 0815. It was my turn to do the driving, covering approximately 90 miles to the city of Rochester, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Our first port of call on arrival, on this wonderfully clear but decidedly chilly morning, was the George Eastman Museum. Located on the estate of the founder of the Kodak empire and including his family home, the museum is an important film and photography archive, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s. We spent an enjoyable 1.5hrs touring the site. The mansion was in festive mood, with a gingerbread-house competition in progress, while festive music was being played on the world's largest organ to be installed in a private residence. The instrument even includes an unusual carillon!

Leaving the car parked where it was, we then explored the absolutely gorgeous NOTA - that's 'Neighborhood of the Arts' - district on foot, marvelling at the sheer attractiveness of the buildings, which was further enhanced by the strong autumn sunshine. We eventually found an appealling venue, Ox and Stone, for a well deserved leisurely lunch.

BELOW: Depressed industrial areas such as the Rust Belt were reported as being instrumental in propelling Donald Trump into the White House. From what we could see, opinions were very much divided.

After a further walk around NOTA following lunch, we returned to the car and drove the fairly short distance to the nearby village of Pittsford, on the banks of the Erie Canal. Our hotel for the night would be The Del Monte Lodge, situated right beside the canal. We checked in and immediately realised that Marriott had come up with a pleasingly stylish addition to its Renaissance portfolio. But we were keen to get back outside and go for a walk around the village. This turned out to be another very attractive location. With this latest discovery coming hard on the heels of NOTA, we were beginning to ask ourselves: "Rust Belt? What Rust Belt?"


Later, we got the evening started with a couple of cocktails in the hotel bar, which proved to be a great happy-hour bargain. We then enjoyed a fabulous red-wine 'flight' with charcuterie-style snacks in a canalside wine bar.

Once again, this all seemed a far cry from how I had imagined this part of 'Forgotten America'. All in all, a truly amazing first full day of our joint road trip!

Friday 24 Nov

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