Step inside a French Impressionist painting at Mirbeau Inn and Spa. The water lilies, turquoise Japanese bridge and French country design of this Finger Lakes boutique hotel are inspired by the home and gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny, France.
The chateau-style, 34-room inn has a wood-beam porch overlooking a small waterfall that trickles into a koi pond filled with floating lily pads and surrounded by vivid flowers, topiary and weeping willow trees.
In a touch of whimsy, there is a fake blue heron in the water to deter birds from eating the koi. "It is so realistic that a male heron flies in each year to court her," said Mary J. Manning, marketing coordinator at Mirbeau (877-647-2328; www.mirbeau.com).
The name "Mirbeau" may be loosely translated as "reflected beauty" and the inn is inspired, in part, Manning said, "by the soft light and warm colors of Monet's paintings."
The hillside resort on 12 forested acres was created by Skaneateles-based architect Andrew J. Ramsgard and interior designer Linda Dower. Dower and her husband, Gary, own the luxury inn. Their son, Matt, is spa director.
The 14,000-foot spa has 18 treatment rooms and mineral steam baths. The Resting Area resembles a regal Roman bath with marble columns, wall murals, a fireplace and heated foot massage pool.
Soft French music drifts through the dining room, which offers in-house, dry-aged beef, table-prepared salads and breads and desserts from the inn's bakery.
The hotel offers monthly wine dinners for $65 per person; the March 28 meal features Spanish wines. Themed cooking classes are also held monthly; April 4 will be Spring Harvest Meals. The classes, with tasting wines, cost $45 per person.
Along with a Wine Spectator Award, Mirbeau's lounge has a credit card-operated wine dispenser with 24 spouts that automatically pour a taste, half-glass or full portion of seasonally changing vintages.
The name Skaneateles (pronounced Skan-ee-atlas or Skinny-AT-liss) is from an Iroquois word meaning "long lake." Elegant houses and shops dating back to 1796 dot the waterfront and the 16-mile-long lake is very much a part of the village's lifestyle.
A swimming area is located next to a scenic pier. Summer band concerts are held Friday evenings at the gazebo in Clift Park, across the street from the historic Sherwood Inn at 26 W. Genesee St. The park has jogging paths, playgrounds and plenty of benches.
The Finger Lakes Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society fills the park with more than 40 restored antique wooden craft July 27-29, on display in the water and on the shore.
Across from the park at 97 East Genesee St. is First Presbyterian Church, one of the concert venues of the 32nd annual Skaneateles Festival. The festival runs Aug. 8 to Sept. 1 and includes chamber ensembles, string orchestras, a piano recital by Peter Serkin and an organ concert by Chelsea Chen. Some of the performances take place under the stars on the lawn at Brook Farm, located about 2 1/2 miles south of the village on Route 41A.
Mid-Lakes Navigation Co. (800-545-4318; www.midlakesnav.co) docks two cruise ships near the park and has offices at 11 Jordan St. Founded in 1968 by the late Peter Wiles Sr., Mid-Lakes is now run by his five children. Cruise highlights include excellent views of Roosevelt Hall, a private mansion owned by three families of Roosevelts.
Also along the shore: Stella Maris Retreat, originally owned by L.C. Smith, founder of Smith Corona typewriter; St. James Episcopal Church, a beautiful stone church built in 1874; and Ten Mile Point, a former steamboat stop with a dance pavilion that is now a children's day camp.
The company also operates the Emita II, a Syracuse-based passenger boat that plies the waters of the Erie Canal for from five hours up to three days. Occasionally, the Emita II will take a three-day journey to Buffalo and back.
>Photos and pottery
Next to Mid-Lakes at 9 Jordan St. is Finger Lakes Photography, which sells print books, posters and some excellent pottery. The stunning photographs are taken by John Francis McCarthy, who recently published a luminous Hudson River School-style study called "The Finger Lakes: Glimpses of Paradise." See his work at www.fingerlakesphotography.com.
The store's ceramic artworks are crafted by Jan Fairhurst (www.JanFairhurstPottery.etsy.com), an East Aurora native who makes what she calls "practical and functional stoneware." She still uses the old kick wheel her dad found 30 years ago in a Southtowns barn.
"I keep thinking I should upgrade to an electric wheel, but I love the control I get with my own legs," Fairhurst said. "And besides, every time I'm kicking away I think of my dad fondly."
Her mugs, bakeware and bowls will be on sale July 14 and 15 at the free-admission, fifth annual Finger Lakes Lavender Festival at Lockwood Lavender Farm, 1682 West Lake Road. Established in 1854, the 120-acre farm has been in the Lockwood family for five generations. Along with flowers, wheat, corn, barley and honey, the farm sells lavender soaps, lotions and bath salts. "In the spring, we welcome lambs to our flock of Corridale sheep," said Karen Wheeler-Lockwood.
>Wine with pie
Just down the lake at 2433 West Lake Road is Anyela's Vineyards, the only commercial winery on Skaneateles Lake. The winery is named after the grandmother of Jim Nocek, who hails from Fredonia and is a third-generation viticulturist.
He and his wife, Patti, first planted their grapes in 2001. Unlike other Finger Lakes vineyards, they protect their vines from the cold after the fall harvest.
"One by one, we carefully remove them from the trellises and bury them in the rich earth to insulate the sensitive primary buds," Nocek said. "In spring, we re-trellis the vine for maximum sun exposure."
Daily tastings take place in a wood-beam building and nearby gazebo with spectacular views of the lake and in a cellar carved into the hillside. For directions and hours, check www.anyelasvineyards.com.
Another husband and wife share duties at Heart 'n Hand Bakery (www.heartnhandpies.com), a little north of town on Route 321 at 4463 State Street Road. Since 2000, Donna Parr has been making 100 fruit pies a day (25 pies at a time) in her home kitchen's convection oven. Her husband, Jim, puts together about 60 savory meat pies daily.
"It's a team effort," said Jim Parr. "I prepare the meat fillings and Donna makes the fruit. I fill the crusts, she wraps the pies and I watch the oven."
" 'Pie fixes everything!' is our motto," Parr said.
One more sweet tooth stop is The Chocolate Pizza Company (www.ChocolatePizza.com) at 60 East Main St. in nearby Marcellus. The candy shop is run by a 23-year-old Syracuse University grad named Ryan Novak and has been featured on ABC News and the Food Network's "Unwrapped" show.
"I bought the business in July 2010 from Bonnie Hanyak, who founded the company in 1988," Novak said. "She gave me my first part-time job at age 15 and I told her I wanted to buy the company when she was ready to retire."
The pizza "dough" is premium chocolate mixed with English toffee, topped with almonds, pecans, walnuts or M&Ms.
Novak offers a pizza-and-wing combo with a "wing" made of a potato chip topped with peanut butter and dipped in chocolate. "No chicken meat or breading are used in our wing combo," he joked.
>Places to eat
Built in 1807 as a tavern, the Sherwood Inn (800-374-3796; www.thesherwoodinn.com) has a candlelit dining room with a wall of windows overlooking the lake. The seasonal menu features American classics like Yankee Pot Roast, steaks and fish dishes with an extensive Finger Lakes wine selection. Breads come from Sherwood's Patisserie, which sells fresh-baked goodies behind the inn at 4 Hannum St.
Some of the 25 rooms in the two upstairs floors have fireplaces, Stickley furniture, lake views and Jacuzzi tubs. Rooms come with breakfast on the Lakeview Porch.
Across the street is the Bluewater Grill, 11 W. Genesee St. (315-685-6600). The cedar-shingle restaurant is built on stone blocks reaching out into the lake with a boathouse in the back. Menu includes sushi, craft-brewed beer and delicious desserts like red velvet crepes, along with homemade soups, ginger and honey scallops, and a layered Napoleon with tuna tartare or Maryland crab cake.
Just off the main drag in a thick-walled stone building is Joe's Pasta Garage, 25 Jordan St. (www.joespastagarage.com). It was built in 1820 as a construction shop for carriages and sleighs. The garage was converted into a restaurant, and Jamie and Kristin Hunt took it over in 2003. He is a 1999 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and there is a lot more than pasta on his six-page menu. Seafood arribiatta is a top seller, along with grilled chicken with cherry peppers and black angus beef and cheddar stone-hearth pizza.
Take the Thruway east to Weedsport Exit 40, head south on Route 34 to Auburn, then east on Route 20 to Skaneateles. For more tips on dining, lodging and events, check out www.skaneateles.com. It's about 135 miles from Buffalo.