Taughahannock Falls, Finger Lakes regionWhen I first moved to New York state, I was prey to all the assumptions and stereotypes that pop to mind when the words “New York” end up in a sentence. “New York … that’s city, right? No trees, no open space, no peace. Just city.”

Well, I was wrong then and was a little ashamed last 4th of July weekend to find myself wrong again. Where I live, 60 miles north (and slightly west) of Manhatten, there’s still a country look to the place, but it’s being eroded pretty quickly by exurbia, that rural bastardization of suburbia. (Note: For a discussion of the definition and lifestyle of Exurbia, visit the Exurbitude blog — today, as a bonus, the author has a very funny description of trying to move the goat paddock at my house last weekend. Let’s just say none of us are born herders.)

Taughahannock FallsSo when we drove out the whole three hours to the university town of Ithaca in the Finger Lakes region of New York, I expected to find something pretty similar. And did I? Nope. Of course not. Because wherever I go, what I find is not what I expected. With its vast lakes, wide farmlands and winery fields, and air much less humid and much more cool than it is where I live, I could have been in a different country. My surprise came despite the fact that I’ve long been an admirer of Ronda Roaring’s Web site, I Love the Finger Lakes.

Lamore Landing WineryAnd how I do! I’m a convert. As opposed to the dusty, hot unpleasantness of Napa (relive my experience here), the Finger Lakes wineries boast cool breezes, sweet wines and some unusual merlots, and unbeatable views down to massive lakes. Looking down to Cayuga Lake at the Lamore Landing Winery, we could have been back in Scotland.

We only had three short days in the Finger Lakes, but I’ll be going back. To visit the bird sanctuaries at the Cornell University lab, to shop again at the Ithaca farmer’s market, to hike the umpteen trails through hidden woods and quiet hills.

More people should see the rest of New York state. Because that smidgeon of an island, that little city-state of New York City that enthrals so many, is simply the back door to places far more beautiful, restful, and worth seeing.