Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2019, including this trip to Syracuse in July.
I realize for some this is a difficult time to read about travel. I am writing often about our current global crisis — the impact it’s having on me personally, on the world of travel, and on the world at large — regularly on my social media channels, covering topics like wellness-focused practices, and giving away generously to charities helping those in need.
However, my blog audience has spoken and they have overwhelmingly requested a break from COV-tent (content about, well, you know…), and a place where they can mentally escape right now. So, I will continue to post from my past travels to inspire those who wish to daydream about the day it is safe to travel again. Wishing all of you love and peace in this time of reflection.
As someone who absolutely adored their high school experience, which had all the feel-good vibes and inter-clique bonding of High School Musical plus all the salacious fun of, um, every other non-Disney high school movie in existence, I was particularly crushed never to have had a high school reunion. At least not a five or ten year one. I’m holding out for thirty, though!
In the meantime, I have one memory to tide me over — a wedding I attended in Syracuse of one of my closest high school friends, the closest thing to a Shaker High reunion I’ve ever experienced. The weekend also gave me the opportunity to explore the bride’s Marissa’s hometown of Syracuse where I saw some cool street art, drank some fun cocktails and loved spending the weekend with my bestie Kristin and her own future husband Mark — assuming they ever give in and let me plan their wedding.
A few hours after pulling out of my driveway in Albany I was pulling into the hotel in Syracuse. I’d spied a few cute Airbnbs, but the rest of the crew wanted to stay central at the official wedding hotel and it was in a great location.
I’d been to Syracuse just once before, to visit friends at Syracuse University and SUNY Oswego our freshman year, and was interested to come back with fresh eyes. From my hotel window the city reminded me much of Downtown Albany, and a mural I spied out of the corner of my eye piqued my interest to look for more.
But first, post-drive drinks! Kristin, Mark and I set off for a stroll through the center of Syracuse, while they combed their favorite apps for the perfect place to eat. Finding great bars and restaurants is one of their superpowers, so I let them roll with it — and once again, was not disappointed.
We landed at Oh My Darling, which was contemporary, charming, and had a menu of great craft cocktails and dinner options.
After dinner, we texted the groom Matt and sure enough, he was out on the town! We went to meet the whole bridal party crew in Armory Square and let the catch-ups begin.
Matt, who may look familiar to longtime readers, had a nickname in high school: Mingling Matt. Matt won Mister Congeniality in our senior superlatives and still organized an annual Latham Bar Crawl for all the Shaker High alumni who come home to Albany for the holidays. He’s truly one of the most social guys I’ve ever known and he lives up to his nickname to this day! I adore his now-wife Marissa and was so thrilled I was able to be there for this big weekend in their lives.
The next morning, sensing the debauchery ahead, I got a fresh start with a session at the hotel gym and an early breakfast at Original Grain. I loved this funky little spot with healthy eats and a gratitude journal at the check out counter — good vibes all around.
After, I decided to take myself on a little mural walk around town. I’d recently begun following more closely Albany’s own Capital Walls mural project (which I have a blog post coming up about next week), and was interested to see what another Upstate city was working on.
I later learned the mural that I saw from my hotel window was called You’ve Made It by Jon Bocksel, a tribute to the fact that the shot clock was invented in Syracuse. As usual, the murals that brighten up our days at a glance have a deeper meaning when you dig, a bit.
Another favorite was Always Advance by Josh Luke & Meredith Kasabian, inspired by another Syracuse innovation, the Smith Premier typewriter. It reminded me of the New York State motto, “Excelsior,” or “ever upward.”
And finally, perhaps my favorites of all, the Love Letter to Syracuse by Stephen Powers. Various bridges around the city share messages that are sweet, haunting, and relatable, connecting the city to others with work by the artist in Philadelphia and in Manhattan.
I wish I’d found this blog post by a local blogger earlier — I would have hunted down a few more murals!
After my adventure, Kristin and Mark and I met up for a late lunch and scoured Google Maps and Yelp for a restaurant on the nearby water with outdoor seating but came up empty. So after much debate settled on… going back to Oh My Darling. Twice in one weekend?! I know, but in our defense, the brunch menu was extremely exciting.
It’s a Syracuse must do.
It was a great decision, and we also popped our heads into Clementine’s — a cute grab-and-go component of Oh My Darling next door.
And then it was wedding time! I’m so glad that I consulted with a few of the bride’s friends about what exactly to wear, because when I heard backyard wedding, I started mentally planning for something fairly casual. That would have been a wrong turn — this was a super swank, chic affair!
Sadly I did not do my usual comprehensive job of photographing all the decor and every little detail, because it really was gorgeous. I absolutely loved the family-style tables, the lush tablescapes, and the beautiful food stations. How could I have ever doubted that Mingling Matt would throw an epic party?
I’m also sad to say I didn’t get a great photo of the stunning bride and groom, because they have never looked better!
It was wild seeing so many blasts from the past! I’ve done a pretty great job, I think, keeping in touch with my high school besties, but with a graduating class of five hundred, I couldn’t keep in touch with everyone. So I loved seeing all these other smiling faces that I truly grew up alongside.
Now, with this being wedding three out of six for the year (seven, if you count the New Year’s Eve reception I rang in the 2019 with in Merida!) I had to get a little creative with my wedding guest wardrobe.
Remember the dress I wore to the destination wedding in the Riviera Maya in April? I loved it, but it was pretty immodest for a non-beach wedding. So I turned the top backwards and tied it in the back instead of the front and viola — a whole new look emerged! I actually may like this way better than the advertised one.
The wall that we used as the background for our impromptu photoshoot was the alter for the ceremony on one side, and a massive “guest wall” that we all could sign in lieu of a guestbook. In retrospect they probably should have hid the sharpies a few hours into the open bar because I’m pretty sure my own tribute referenced several borderline-inappropriate inside jokes from high school but, alas.
We had fun.
With Ian stuck in Canada and our friend Kara, who I split my hotel room with the night of the wedding, also flying solo due to her husband’s job, Mark generously offered to
bravely survive our antics be all of our date.
What a guy.
With Kristin’s busy job and my nutso travel schedule, we don’t get to spend near enough time together. So I absolutely cherish any time with my oldest friend.
I’m so grateful for these shots that capture the fact that our dance moves have not improved since we joined at the hip at age thirteen — and captured a hint of how gorgeous Marissa looked!
I really can’t overstate how much I loved getting to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen or talked to in years, and get quality time with those who I live across the country or world from.
At the end of the night, when I saw the photographer starting to pack up, I ran up to Matt and reminded him that he wanted to take a high school photo before the night was over. Things were a bit blurry by that stage, but we still managed to round up twenty-one remaining Shaker alum for a final snap before the after party commenced in Armory Square!
It had been such a fun night.
The next morning I sought comfort in a final walk around Syracuse soaking up my usual post-wedding perk ups: donuts, hugs, and fresh air. I mean, I couldn’t leave town without visiting a place called Glazed and Confused, right?
I have so many corners of Upstate New York left to explore. Thank you, Matt and Marissa, for bringing me to this one.
Next up: Montreal!