Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Greater Buffalo...A pleasant Surprise

We were suffering from PTSD as we started down Route 5 towards Buffalo; but  we figured that nothing could be as bad as yesterday, so we had no where to go but up. It was Sunday morning and the weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold without a cloud in the sky. Rounding a curve on a high bluff overlooking Lake Erie we caught our first glimpse of the city of Buffalo far off in the distance.
Now about the only thing we know about Buffalo having grown up on the West Coast is from bits and pieces from movies, TV, and the news. We know it gets unbelievably cold here in the winter. They have an NFL team named the "Bills". Buffalo Hot Wings get there name from the city, and there are a lot of vacant and decaying buildings. Other than that, Buffalo is more questions than answers.
Before heading into the city we pulled off at a little grassy knoll overlooking the water to stretch our legs and walk the dog. It sat across from an old Chinese Restaurant and a 60's era Pharmacy. The age of everything once you leave the West Coast takes a lot of getting used to. Almost everything is new where we come from, and you just don't see businesses in buildings that have changed little in the past thirty or forty years. Back in the car we headed for Lackawanna, a small suburb just to the south of Buffalo where Jerani's research of the city pin-pointed what looked to be a beautiful old conservatory and botanical gardens. We always love going through gardens, and it was right off our route into Buffalo so it was perfect. We found the turn off for Lackawanna, and as we drove into the little city we were amazed to find a huge church dominating the sky line.
This was no ordinary church mind you, but a true cathedral like you might find in Europe. It was unexpected, and since we had an hour until the Buffalo Botanical Gardens opened we found a place to park and got out to walk the dog and check out the church. "Our Lady of Victory Basilica" was completed in 1926 after five years of construction and has a capacity of twelve hundred.
At the time of completion the Basilica dome's height of 165 feet was second only to the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. It truly is a beautiful building, and to find it like this was an added bonus in a day that was already heads and tails better than yesterday.
To the east of the Basilica was a beautiful old Catholic cemetery and we walked Max around the fenced perimeter until we came out on the backside of the church and returned to the RV.
We had a quick snack in the Pleasure Way before getting back on the road and driving a mere two blocks over to the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
Another unexpected surprise in the small town of Lackawanna was this magnificent Victorian era Conservatory.

The design was modeled after the beautiful Crystal Palace at Kew Gardens in England and was built by a Buffalo construction company, George P. Wurtz & Son for a total cost of $130,000. Upon opening in 1900, the conservatory was the third largest public greenhouse in the United States and was ranked as the ninth largest in the world. It was surrounded by Buffalo's South Park which was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the same man who was behind the design of New York's Central Park.
We walked down the grand entrance right at opening time to see the botanical gardens inside, and spent over an hour touring the many wings of the Conservatory at everything the gardens had to offer.
The architecture is amazing inside the turn of the century building. The old white painted metal and rippled frosted glass, the maze-like exhibit rooms, and hidden spaces inside were great to be able to take our time and poke around in, especially since it was a sleepy Sunday morning and we were two of only seven or eight visitors rattling around in this giant greenhouse.

There were Koi pounds and glassed-in bee hives, rock waterfalls, and Cloud Gardens. It was like we had the whole place to ourselves and we felt like we could actually linger in each exhibit instead of being forced along by the crush of a crowd. It was very laid back and relaxing and it allowed us a chance to catch our breath after the dreadful day we had Saturday.

It was getting pretty warm and although we had left the RV's windows open and the Fantastic Fan on we still never want to be "those people" who leave their pets in broiling vehicles so we took a really quick tour of the outdoor gardens and then went out and retrieved our animals.

Ten minutes later we were back on the road and heading north towards Niagara Falls. 


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