When planning a trip to Rochester, it is important to pack your sense of humour as well as your usual travel essentials. I guess this is probably true of any destination but, if the last few days have taught me anything, Rochester is one of those vampiric places that will try and suck the very spirit out of you.
Don't get me wrong; Rochester is very pretty. But flying into the airport on Thursday morning, I had a prime window seat from which I could view incredibly flat, green land. Being from the Midwest, I am no stranger to flat landscapes but heavens! Built on this verdant, fertile soil were...wait for it...farms!! No one told me that Rochester was in the middle of farm country!
Oh sure, Rochester also has a Downtown area, and my hotel (and the nearby Hyatt) are proof of that. But look over the back fence, five minutes down the road, and you see nature. I have had it confirmed that Rochester plays host to squirrels (eek), foxes, coyotes, BEARS, and any number of other creepy-crawly critters. I'm talking honest-to-goodness, no-holds-barred, christ-almighty nature!
I arrived at the Hotel at lunch time, and was looking forward to checking into the Hotel and watching an in-house movie before Kate arrived. But the Hotel had different ideas. Because Kate's office didn't tell the hotel that I was coming, they wouldn't let me check in. And they wouldn't let me leave my luggage with them so I could explore the town. And given that there was not any decent coffee shop or pub within reasonable walking distance (and I was later to learn that this applied to ANYTHING one might want to experience), all I could do was wait for Kate in the lobby of the Hotel. For five hours.
I hated the hotel and all of its staff by the end of that afternoon. No one even told me where I might get decent coffee (which was, as it turned out, in the lobby cafe, partially concealed by the Business Center in which I now find myself). No, telling me that would have been too helpful. So instead, I sat in the lobby, read my book, and tried to stay awake as everyone paraded past me and stared as if I had been stood up or abandoned or something.
Fast forward to Kate arriving and she sweet-talked the concierge, a beautiful man by this stage, not the cranky wench that greeted me earlier in the day. So I soon had in my possession some breakfast buffet vouchers that we didn't have to pay for. Bless Kate. A delicious dinner later that night with a contact of Kate's, and we had an early night.
Up early the next morning, we were taken out on a driving sight-see tour of Rochester and the surrounding area. The City itself is quite ugly, with no decent architecture or sites to recommend it. But once you get out of the City into the dreaded rural countryside, it really is very pretty. Even more so, I'd imagine, in autumn, when the leaves are apparently such an array of colours you can barely handle it. I viewed all of this from the relative safety of the back seat of a Mercedes M-Class and so let's just say that I was dealing with things well.
We had dinner at the Hyatt at 8pm that night - the only place open to us within walking distance from our own hotel. But the Hyatt staff didn't quite know how to deal with two girls who wanted cocktails AND wine with dinner. Kate relented and had the Mary Kay cocktail (created in recognition of the cosmetics conference being hosted there) and let's just say it was pink and sweet - just like the makeup really I guess. But just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, the Hyatt ran out of coffee. I know, can you believe it?! I texted my friend from Chicago who works at the Park Hyatt to tell him, and he could only muster an incredulous "WHAT?!". Yep, no kidding.
Saturday was the first official day of Kate's wine competition so I was on my own. I went down to the concierge desk, and asked for directions to the shops so I could buy some clothes. The woman printed me some exhaustive driving directions. When I suggested that she had misunderstood me that, in fact, I was on foot, she laughed at me. "Really?" she enquired, "you really don't have a car?". And that set the tone for the rest of my day.
The vehicles in Rochester really need licence plates that read "Rochester: Where Anything Worth Seeing Is 25 Minutes Drive Away" because that's basically what I got every time I asked to see something of interest. Cinemas? 25 minutes drive. Museums? 25 minutes drive. What crap. But it was not a complete loss, because after walking around the City limits across bridges and along the river and such, I sat in the Hotel room with any icy diet coke, room service, and "Casino Royale" on the TV. Anything bad I ever said about Daniel Craig should be stricken from the record. He really was delicious.
And so here I am on Sunday morning, in the Business Center of the Hotel, waiting for Kate to call me to spend Lunch with her. One of her fellow judges is a friend of hers from Bordeaux and I saw him at breakfast this morning and promised him I'd join them for lunch. But between now and then, I think I can fit in another Diet Coke and in-house movie, before it's time to fly to sweet home Chicago.
Because in Chicago, everything of interest is right there in front of you and anything resembling farms and nature is a comfortable 25 minutes drive away - which is just how I like it.