It is truly amazing how much you can pack into a single day. Michael and I left our home, in rural Ontario at an early hour of 6:45 am. Most of our gear was packed and ready to go the night before, but the stained glass panel I was taking, a weighty circular panel with regular1/4 inch, one inch and two inch bevels in it, needed a little extra care. We drove via Toronto for a short visit with family, and then headed on our merry way. We had no fixed itinerary for the day, knowing only that we wanted to find the hotel in Buffalo before dark.
As we hurled along the QEW it became evident that we missed lunch and were going to be in Buffalo in far less time than we thought. An executive decision was made to do a little bit of Canadian sight seeing and find a place to eat. It had been quite a few years since we had been down this way and the idea of visiting Niagara on the Lake, seemed like a good place to start.
The scenic highway that starts about here and meanders the shore of Lake Ontario will not get you quickly to Niagara Falls nor Fort Erie, where we planned to cross the Peace bridge, however it will take you through some pretty country with wonderful lake views, a short intense blast through Niagara Falls and tease you into the Ontario wine making district. Micheal and I did not fully appreciate just how this industry had grown. As we past vineyard over vineyard, some significant wine makers were easily represented here, as were some smaller boutique wineries, with names I was not familiar with. We looked at each other knowing that we would have to make a weekend jaunt down this way in the future. There is a similar quality of light and something familiar in the value of the dirt, that makes wine country unique. The caress of the sun, the dry heat, clear blue sky - what grape wouldn't want to do a little sun worshiping here? I couldn't help but remember the Napa Valley tour with the SGAA out of Oakland and trips to Greece and France. All this, with it's own unique twist, here in my own back yard.
Even with this delightful detour, we still managed to arrive into Buffalo before 5:pm. I don't know what it is about American maps that I find so confusing. Even with Google maps instructions I managed to get us upside down and turned around. With a little help from some of the locals, we managed to find the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo. Now, we arrived on what I would call late afternoon on a Tuesday, fully expecting to see the downtown core starting to empty out all it's city workers. We found the traffic to be unusually light, if not downright empty. At first, we thought it might be the maze of a few of the one way streets that might have contributed to this experience, but this empty feeling was with us, until Thursday night.
After we settled in, we did a little reconnaissance, you know find the floor with the workshops, where the presentations were going to be held, see if anyone else might have arrive as early, but all was very quiet. So Michael and I wandered off, stretching our legs a bit and expanding our choices of restaurants, while scouting for a great breakfast diner.
Again, as we wandered, the uncanny quiet for what we thought a city should sound like and be active with people, was not. We walked down Main street which was mostly the transit track and the back end of a large shopping complex, which seemed mostly closed or vacant. As we looped around, government buildings sat quiet, long concrete walls of parking garages created deserted tunnels of silently changing street lights. It was very bizarre. However before you believe Buffalo was all a science fiction weird apocalypse, in all honesty, it was not. No matter which way you turned, there was this fantastic architecture.
As we were to find out later, Buffalo had decided to save as much of it's turn of the century architecture as possible. This is not without those for and against the idea, as we still saw obvious new and unsympathetic architecture next to beautiful old structures, but as a whole, it creates an architectural identity for the city that is as marketable to tourists, as functional for businesses. We could have taken photographs until the sun set we were so excited by little vistas of glorious buildings, around each and every corner.
We ate at a refurbished masonic temple, now a funky bar and restaurant, just across the street from the Hotel, where only the exterior gave a hint of the buildings original use. Michael and I tried some of Buffalo's local cuisine, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Our waitress was most accommodating about the area and the building. We were but a handful of patrons, so we had a good chat. So ends day one.