I picked up my sister from Ithaca, NY yesterday. She was doing an internship at Cornell, working as a lawyer in some kind of enlightened, experimental family court. My sister just finished her first year in law school at Queens University in Canada. It was an 8 hour drive to get there and only 6 hours to get back when I decided to try some shortcuts against the advice of Microsoft Maps & Trips (a computer program that gives you Mapquest-like functionality when you are disconnected from the internet).
Ithaca was an interesting place. If you can imagine a city founded by hippies and based on hippy ideals then that is what Ithaca is like. Despite the city's size, there are no Starbucks, Burger Kings or McDonald's to be found; the city somehow blocks the entry of these mega-corps through by-laws.
The local restaurants only serve organic food, the eggs sold there only come from "free-range chickens." And the stores eschew polyesterl opting instead for cotton grown in the continental USA guaranteed to be assembled in non-sweat shop conditions. In a word, they seeking to live sustainably.
I went to a famous vegetarian restaurant there called Mooseheads famous for publishing a series of vegetarian cookbooks that is closely followed by a legion of fans. I purchased their "quick and easy" cookbook; translation: a cookbook for people who don't have time to cook.
Interestingly the people of Ithaca have set up their own currency called "Ithaca hours" which is pegged to the US dollar. The currency is designed to promote the local economy. They call their currency "hours" to emphasize a view of money that sees it as "potential labor."
Who are these people? They are mostly hippies, Cornell professors, and a whole bunch of lower-income people, who, despite lacking means still adhere to the city's ideals.
The city also has some interesting natural features. First the city has a series of gorges aka waterfalls. I followed my sister through a beautiful nature walk that consisted of a long upward climb that followed the path of a river. The river twisted through a series of mini water falls culminating in a super long waterfall at the end of the trek. Cornell has taken advantage of these gorges by situating its buildings in such a way that they overlook the gorges. Also there is one river that snakes through the middle of their campus. I tried standing under a waterfall -- it really is quite relaxing.
The tallest gorge is taller than Niagara Falls, NY. Not surprisingly, the city is full of hills. The hills are so steep that I actually wonder how people get around during the winter without sliding. Anyways, that's all for now. -H:)