Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Travelogue: The Irish Kingdom in the Northeast Catskills

We snuck away for another brief vacation this past weekend, and therefore have nothing to report about Ithaca, until we get back into the swing of things, and there seems to be a lot to cover, between southwest development, water sources, the November elections, etc.

What we have to offer right now is a description of the section of New York northeast of Catskills Park. That's where we went, and had never been before. If you're like us, you're curious about places you've never been, especially places so close and yet so far, so here is the story on the area.

We went there for a big gathering of high school and college friends who still stick together, after decades. Two of our gang just bought 90 remote acres, and it was big enough for our group; with about 100 of us attending, we had about an acre apiece. Of course, most of the action took place on a central parcel where, among other things, a stage was built. We like to perform.

The area altogether is remote. The main thing of note is a large ski operation in Windham. We were just north of there, in a town called Durham, where there is a notable Irish cultural center, with music performances and classes.

Probably the most notable thing of all is the Irish identity of the area. It is like a living, Irish theme park. There are signposts in Gaelic, shamrocks on business signs, and a lot of restaurants and motels called Hogan's, Gavin's, Mickey's, the Four Green Fields, and like that. People have brogues.

Our motel-keeper said that, for decades, Irish from New York City have been attracted to the rural, rolling hills there, similar to the home landscape. We suspect they were also attracted by land prices cheaper than on the southern side of Catskills Park, which is much closer to the city.

The relative inaccessibility seems to have kept the area from much snazzy development. There are miniature golf courses galore, from the 1950's it seems, and unrefurbished since then. We played at one called Supersonic Fun Park, which also had go-karts and a batting cage. It was nestled in trees and it had an ice cream parlor where they had egg creams for $1.65, and Proudly Sold Sealtest Ice Cream. It was not too crowded and it was not too expensive, either, believe me.

We passed a water park called Zoom Flume that seemed circa 1972 or so, was also hard to find, among thick trees, and looked like relatively supersonic fun. We could see that there were not long lines, which is the bane of most modern theme parks.

There were very few exotic places to eat - like, none. Each town semed to have one Italian and one Chinese restaurant, and that was exotic as it got.

Primarily, this is a place of high hills, wistful vistas, and what you might call peace and quiet. There are no traffic jams (there are few, if any, traffic lights in most towns). The area is unwired and untowered. Do not assume the presence of a telephone in your motel room - ask.

It is three hours from Ithaca, on mostly small roads. You take 79 East to Whitney Point, to 206 East, to Interstate 88 East. The easiest, though not most direct route is to stay on 88 to Cobleskill, to 145 South. That takes you there.

It is a trip not far in distance, but pleasantly distant in aspect. It is also quaint in price. We stayed at a servicable place called the Rose Motel for $65. It was clean, quiet, friendly, and had a small swimming pool. The depiction of a rose, not a shamrock, on their sign makes it easy to find.

Stephen (Patrick) Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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