Outdoor Adventures Skiing & Snowboarding The Adirondacks: Adirondacks Lake George summer fun summertime memories waterskiing
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I’ve been at Lake George, New York the past couple of weeks. With the exception of a stay in New York City, largely to attend the BlogHer 2015 Conference, I’ve been parked at my family’s camp on the east side of this thirty-two-mile-long body of water. Although I’m still spending inordinate amounts of time on my laptop, it has been delightful being at the lake and visiting with family and a few old friends.
My parents’ house, situated on the east side of Lake George, the predominantly residential part of this magnificent Adirondack lake, holds countless memories for me. I have spent many summers here over the past forty-four years and will always feel a very special connection to this place. It had been seven years since I had been here during this blissful season when the days are long and hot and the temperature of the lake is at its peak, so this visit has touched off an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in many ways. Water-wise, from jumping off the boathouse into the silky depths of the lake, to paddling around the bay in a canoe, to enjoying a sunset boat cruise with my parents, my heart has swelled in reliving some of my favorite summertime activities at LG these past weeks.
I didn’t realize that one of my most memorable moments from childhood would be recreated this summer. I never imagined that this summer’s big adventure would occur on Lake George with an adrenaline surge the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years. Twenty-five years to be exact. I’m talking about waterskiing as you’ve likely gathered from the photos at the top of this post. Phew–what a rush! I last waterskied two and a half decades ago in the Mediterranean, however, I hadn’t skied much on water ten years prior to that–in truth, I had hardly skied since I was a kid. Even then, I didn’t do it a whole lot.
Hotels & Lodging Mountain Living The Adirondacks Travel: Hotels & Lodging Lake George Mountain Living The Adirondacks Travel
I’m back in Colorado after my three-week trip to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. It’s gorgeous here in the Rockies and it looks like the fall foliage will peak this weekend in most areas. All next week should be spectacular as well, especially since it snowed last night and with the sun shining again the vistas resemble sugarcoated autumnal Candy Lands resplendent with red, orange, yellow, green and blue (the sky, of course).
Part of my heart, however, remains at Lake George, dubbed “The Queen of American Lakes” by Thomas Jefferson. I spent my time in the Adirondacks with my parents where they’ve had a second home on Lake George for over forty years. While I was there, I was busy doing my writer thing and helping them out, however, I seized every opportunity to embrace the beauty, wonder and comforting spirit of the lake, a crystalline body of water whose heavenly scent and silky feel I can still conjure in my senses. After having spent a dozen fat summers there while growing up and having returned for both brief and extended visits ever since, to me, Lake George feels like an old friend, a dear companion that always welcomes me home with heaps of love and reassurance. Even after eleven years in Paris and almost twelve in Colorado, I never tire of this lake and its shores; its beauty, grace, resilience and sometimes turbulent force continue to amaze me.
Elderly Parents Girl Talk Romance & Relationships Writing & Books: dealing with clutter dealing with elderly parents decluttering Girl Talk mother/daughter relationships Writing & Books
I’m back. Or at least I hope so. This is by far the longest I’ve gone without posting a blog since I started Bonjour Colorado in 2008. Even throughout the craziness of working as a ski instructor at Telluride Ski Resort during epic snow years, I’ve never let so much time pass without being in touch. But I can’t begin to explain how upended my life has been these past months.
I never imagined that the death of one parent might trigger a whole series of events that would make my brain feel like mush. Honestly. (The six months leading up to this life-changing event were extremely stress inducing, however, the last few months have been mind numbing.)
I’ve barely been able to keep up with emails let alone string two sentences together for a story. I had a deadline for Forbes Travel a few weeks ago that I just kept putting off. I’ve never blown off deadlines like that but I felt like I couldn’t compose a proper sentence. Finally, I forced myself to sit down and commit to the act of writing. What first sounded like an instruction manual ended up reading with more of a flourish after an hour of tweaking, so that experience helped me to regain confidence in myself as someone that has not become totally unhinged.
From that point on, I swore I would write at least a couple of hours every day. It has been a couple of weeks and I’m just sitting down now to jot off a few lines. So much for deadlines and goals.
What have I been doing? Well, I guess the best response is I’ve been juggling a ton of physical, emotional and mental clutter. I’ve been seeking some kind of normalcy, some kind of routine while everything around me has been shifting and transforming like an iceberg in the Arctic during the month of July.
My father passed away in March and since then, there has been an endless series of to-dos, none of which have had much to do with my own work. I spent a sweet period of mourning this spring with my mother in upstate New York, during which time we started to adjust to the idea of Dad no longer being around while writing thank you notes to the many people that sent flowers, goodies, donations and mass cards. I also accompanied Mom to a lot of her doctors’ appointments and attempted to gain better knowledge of what was happening in her world.
Then as if my father was upstairs pulling strings, we learned that there was a serious offer on our house at Lake George in the Adirondacks. After having been on the market for almost five years, it seemed as though it was now time to sell. Well, you know what they say about death and moving.
Colorado Hotels & Lodging Mountain Living Restaurants Telluride The Rockies: Chop House Restaurant destination hotel Colorado fine dining Telluride New Sheridan night life Telluride spring in Telluride
I’m on Lake George in the Adirondacks now where I’ve been plunged into the luscious heat and humidity of an upstate New York summer. It feels glorious, especially as I sit here on the porch in a bathing suit and sarong typing away on my laptop. It has been quite the spring in Telluride, chilly and snowy all the way up through last Thursday. Of course you can never entirely put winter clothes away in the Rockies, but this year I needed good, sturdy boots right up to Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer.
As much as I’m happy to be sitting here in bare feet wiggling my toes, I was thrilled to experience that extraordinary time of the year when the mountains emerge from their deep winter slumber before I left. I witnessed the fuzzy buds of the aspens pop into bright leaves as the crystalline snows melted on their branches. The play of spring light against the fresh yellow-green of the season and the pure white snow made for a dazzling display of nature. I was happy this all happened during a time when I was busy running about to do errands because the panoramic views on my drives were beyond breathtaking. Changes in the leaves occurred seemingly by the minute. Indeed, it’s a wonderful time of the year for the earth to reawaken, especially in the mountains of Colorado.
I thought I’d share with you here some images from this time of year taken this year and last. I also wanted to tell you about a little-known secret: June is one of the best times of the year in the Rockies. In Telluride, it’s when Bluegrass happens (the third week in June), but first and foremost, it’s the month of some of the best weather of the year. The hills are truly coming alive during this time and although it might rain some in June, we’re not yet soaked with the monsoonal flows that hit the mountains in July and August. Yes, it’s a splendiferous time of the year. And the summer crowds have not yet arrived. (Not that it ever becomes very crowded in Telluride.)
My Hotel and Dining Recommendation
Truly a destination hotel, the historic New Sheridan has long served as the hub of Telluride. And as much as I don’t like to play favorites, I would go so far as to say that this glittering establishment stands out as my all-time favorite place to be in Telluride. It’s the place to go to dine, drink, savor an elegant hotel stay and just while away some time as you watch the fun and playful doings of our beautiful mountain town unfold before you. I stayed here for a night almost year ago with my boyfriend, Steve, and it was one of the best staycations you could imagine. Highlights included late-night drinks at the bar, luxurious accommodations and a superb brunch in the Chop House Restaurant. So many of the sights, sounds and smells from that stay still tingle my senses; the pop, pop, pop of the opening of bubbly for the Sunday brunch still echo in my mind along with the stillness of the night as seen, heard and experienced from our beautiful room. A true bastion of tradition and refinement, the New Sheridan perfectly embodies the spirit of Old World grandeur and old mining town charm.
When in Telluride, be sure to make your way to the recently opened New Sheridan rooftop bar, last summer’s talk of the town. Here are a couple of photos from a fun time I shared there last September with a good friend.
Romance & Relationships: aging parents dealing with the death of a parent grief life loss love mother/daughter relationships
It has been just over four weeks since my father passed away. Even though I have been almost frightfully composed, I still feel like I’m in a blur. I think I’m in the midst of processing so much.
I do want to broadcast, however, to not be afraid. My father almost died on the eve of the millennium, then in 2008 and then at the end of 2014. So I had plenty of time to ponder his eventual passing. Plus, he was 89 years old. Yet even with this mental preparation, I always imagined I’d be in pieces upon hearing the news and then, of course, at his funeral and then in the days and weeks that followed. But no, I’ve felt a calm and resiliency that has surprised me.
I mean it–be not afraid. Do not live in fear of something that will come, something that you have no control over. Those heartbreaking moments do happen in our lives and it’s unproductive to anticipate–with dread–how we will handle them. We all have an inner strength that knows no boundaries. For me, I feel that my father’s passing has helped me to get in touch with the stuff I’m made of–I am Frank Angelo Clemente’s daughter.
He was a devoted family man, an accomplished businessman and un passionnée of skiing, tennis, exercise, food, Broadway show tunes, the English language and even French. But most of all, he was extremely kind and steady, compassionate and thoughtful and always appreciative and grateful for what he had and for what other people did for him.
Colorado Girl Talk Hotels & Lodging Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel: Colorado Girl Talk Hotels & Lodging Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel
I love travel. Yes, it can be terribly tiresome but it usually brings about some of the most unexpected and exciting happenings. Case in point: Last week I stayed at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, one of my favorite properties in Colorado. It was to be a stopover with my friend, Mary Dawn, on our way back from combined promotions (for my new book and her delightful alpine goods) in Denver and Breckenridge as we made our way toward Telluride, Colorado, home base for us both. I was planning to just chill and recover from almost five weeks away, soaking up all the amenities of this first-class resort. But what an adventure it turned out to be!
The stay started out quietly enough. We had both settled into our luxurious digs replete with full kitchen and glorious beds piled high with comfy pillows in a variety of sizes, half of which we wanted to take home. I padded down to The Westin’s newly renovated fitness center the first morning to see how I could begin to restore myself after way too much time at my desk followed by extensive travel. This beehive of fitness fiefdom was still buzzing with activity at 11 a.m.—no wonder since it’s one of the preferred athletic clubs of the Vail Valley. I peeked into their fully-equipped pilates and spinning rooms before opting for the solitude of their yoga studio where I was thankfully in time for a much-needed class. Susan, the yoga director, took special care to address my needs, those of a weary travel writer that hadn’t devoted much time to being fit since last ski season ended. Thanks to her and the calming surroundings of this specially-designated yoga oasis, I felt one step closer to being whole again.
After chitchatting with the staff about all the doings at the hotel, I learned that the resort was in a flurry of activity largely due to the Audi FIS Birds of Prey World Cup Men’s Race that was taking place at Beaver Creek during that period. “Yes, I saw the gates and skis piled up in the lobby when I checked in last night,” I said. “I had totally overlooked the fact that that was going on. Then someone told me the Austrian team was staying here,” I added.
“Come back later in the afternoon to see the athletes working out,” a couple of the staffers exclaimed practically in unison. “It’s quite the show—with all those good looking guys lifting weights and swirling in their hula hoops,” one chuckled.
Sadly, my afternoon passed all too quickly up in my room at my laptop and by the time I sauntered down to the fitness area at 5:45p.m., all the studly dudes had left. Darn, I thought. There’s nothing like checking out world-class athletes in action and I missed it.
That evening, however, on the tail end of a most enjoyable dinner at Cima, the Westin’s signature restaurant and a Richard Sandoval creation, Mary Dawn wasted no time getting in on the World Cup fun. “Would you please tell those guys over there Grüß Gott?” she kindly asked the waiter. Already it was clear they were part of the Austrian ski team, so why not send the classic Austrian/Bavarian greeting from the Alps over to them? Why miss out on some Euro schmoozing? Three guys bopped over to our table and sidled into the curvilinear booth faster than you can say hooray. We enjoyed trading cross cultural stories and experiences until the wee hours of the morning. Since MD lived in Germany six years and is fluent in German, she particularly enjoyed the exchange. My French experience (eleven years in Paris) brought less to the table yet we were all in a bon vivant mood nonetheless. Fortunately our Austrian ski team companions were comprised of the director, a coach and a technician or else I can’t see how they would have been able to race the next day.
Art & Culture Food & Wine Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Shopping Spas The Adirondacks Travel: Art & Culture Food & Wine Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Shopping Spas The Adirondacks
It’s actually pretty hard to do a day trip to the Adirondack Park, the largest protected area in America as big as the Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined. It’s also the largest National Historic Landmark in the country, yet much of the land within the Adirondack Park is privately owned including small towns, hamlets and islands. This impressive land mass—totally void of a real city—is in the middle of nowhere. But it is within driving distance of some 80 million people, so don’t expect to be completely alone in the woods. Although that can easily happen, too.
Lake Placid, the town (and, of course, lake) that to me represents the heart of the Adirondacks, is a two-hour drive from Albany and Montreal and a five-hour drive from New York City and Boston. (Although it’s only thirty minutes from I-87, also known as The Northway, if you forego the most scenic route.) The Park contains the Adirondack mountain range, some of the oldest mountains in America, verdant and thickly forested and best typified by a blue-green body of crystal clear water at their base. The High Peaks, the most formidable mountains of the Adirondacks, are located near Lake Placid which is largely why this resort town became such a hub for athleticism and outdoor activities. I find the history, culture and arts and crafts of the region to be immensely rich here as well, so that’s usually where I focus most of my attention whenever I venture into this part of the Adirondack Park.
I was stationed for a while at my parents’ summer home on Lake George, a thirty-two mile-long slice of spring-fed, glacier melt that borders the Adirondack Park to the southeast. And even from there, a day trip into the heart of the Adirondacks represented some doing. But my mom was always up for an adventure, a more than willing driver that loves to see new sites and revisit old ones. So I only had to don my tour director’s cap and off we went. It was a momentous occasion of sorts since my dad was joining us and as we commented halfway through the day, it was indeed the first time the three of us embarked upon a road trip together. (In fact my love for places of tradition and charm grew out of jaunts to Vermont country stores and such with my mother when I was a young girl. Dad was usually off working then and unavailable to join in our fun.)We drove the Northway a couple of exits up from Lake George and got off the highway to pick up Route 28 at Warrensburg, a sleepy little town peppered with antique stores. I remembered when I bought a whole set of wicker porch furniture from one of the dealers for a song.
“This is where they have the world’s largest garage sale,” my mom piped up. “It takes place every year in the fall.” And then she recounted her one adventure here in her usual entertaining manner. “They all come down from the mountains,” she explained. “You’ve never seen such a conglomeration of people and baby carriages. And they’re carting and selling everything from old washboards to fine collectibles. It takes in the whole town.”
“I’d love to attend some time,” I said, imagining the whole richly regional scene. “There’s Oscar’s,” I hollered as we passed a nationally-recognized smokehouse established here in 1946.
I saw a sign for The Grist Mill, also in Warrensburg, and asked my mom if that picturesque old mill on the Schroon River was still a fine restaurant. She said it was and I softly smiled to myself with the realization that my mom was still very much on top of her game, she was in many respects my source for up-to-the-minute information on just about everything.
The drive became increasingly scenic from here to North Creek as we wended our way along the most wild section of the Hudson River. It wasn’t quite late August, yet patches of leaves were already surrendering their summer green for more autumnal hues of orange and red.
Dad napped a bit in the back seat while mom and I cruised along chatting and reminiscing, pointing out places of interest to each other as they came into view.
“Oh there’s a sign for Garnet Hill Lodge,” I exclaimed, just outside of North Creek. “That’s a wonderful place, a rustic recreation center on top of a mountain. The panorama there is really spectacular. I remember I once cross country skied up there.”
My mom, of course, had been there. I wasn’t telling her anything new.
Big old yellow school busses passed, casual coaches transformed to accommodate rafters. We even saw a bunch of whitewater thrill seekers lined up along the river.
“The lakes and waterways are full with rain,” I said. “No wonder they’re still running the river. It’s been such a wet summer.”
Referring to lakes here was like talking about mountain passes in the Rockies: There was an abundance of them and each one possessed its own particularities. A surprisingly large number of canoe-carrying cars zipped by us, reminding me of this great proliferation of lakes, streams and rivers that so distinguishes the Adirondack Park. Mom and I called out the names of the various bodies of water we passed: Indian Lake, Schroon Lake, Loon Lake, Tupper Lake and Fish Creek Ponds, names as familiar to us as those of childhood friends.
I remembered that my mom used to camp at Fish Creek with my grandparents year after year when she was young. “Now is that a lake or a series of ponds?” I asked.
“A bunch of little lakes,” my mom replied. “If we had more time, I’d like to drive in there.”
In writing this, I regret that we didn’t take the time to explore her old stomping grounds, her storehouse of memories.
After about an hour and a half of driving from Lake George Village, we entered the tiny village of Blue Mountain Lake. Here we were making our pilgrimage to the Adirondack Museum, the epicenter of history, art, culture and crafts of Adirondack life. This was my third visit here in as many decades, and each time it was more magnificent than the previous. Dad decided to sit out on the bench and read the papers while mom toured the gift shop (she’s the real shopper!) and I set off to scout out some of my favorite exhibits.
I almost darted directly to their rustic furniture collection, the largest public assemblage of rustic furniture in North America. Instead I opted for the building that housed a fleet of classic Adirondack boats. Truly some of the finest examples of craftsmanship in America, these freshwater vessels were built for both work and play. They once again reminded me of the importance of the vast network of lakes and rivers throughout the Adirondack Mountains and how people have been using these waterways for ages, both for transportation and recreation. I’ve read there are thousands of lakes in the Adirondacks which is why it takes an expert guide to know even a fraction of them.
The informed visitor realizes that the Adirondack guideboat is as identifiable with the Adirondack way of life as the Adirondack chair. (The guideboat, a sort of rowboat/
canoe, is carefully constructed so that a guide can carry it on his shoulders during the frequent portages required when traveling from one body of water to another over land, distances that often amount to a few miles or more! The Adirondack chair was designed with a straight back and seat set at a slant so that the chair would be comfortable as well as adaptable to mountain inclines. The wide armrest serves to provide a suitable resting place for a tall glass of lemonade.) Next I trotted off to the Lake View Deck where you can enjoy a wide-angle view of Blue Mountain Lake, one of the most spectacular postcard shots of the Adirondacks.
I knew my lightning tour had to draw to an end since we were on a rather tight schedule. I had only scratched the surface of this largely open-air museum made up of more than twenty indoor and outdoor exhibits. But before I left, I wanted to take a look at their paintings from the Hudson River School, extraordinary oils of Adirondack scenes that I remembered standing in front of near mesmerized when I was a young girl. They were no where to be found. My heart sank until I learned that they had been temporarily stored until January 2009 when they would be showcased again. An exhibit of museum-quality rustic artistry had taken their place which included a lot of history of the Great Camps, the grandiose family retreats built here by some of America’s wealthiest people toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Gilded Age for much of the country, especially the Adirondacks. Careful not to linger too long, I ran off to find my mom where she was just wrapping things up in the gift shop. I was glad that I didn’t have time to shop since I could tell this outpost boasted many alluring Adirondack-inspired goods from coffee table books to fleeces.
We set off looking for a place to have a picnic since by now we felt famished. We drove a short distance to Long Lake where we spotted an available bench that faced out onto this long (not surprisingly!) and very narrow lake. I sat in the middle of my mother and father like a trusted guidebook wedged in between two cherished bookends on a shelf. I didn’t know much about this fairly remote and deliciously unspoiled part of the North Country, so we just sat and snacked and took in the scene. And what a scene it was! All of us were highly entertained by the constant comings and goings of the seaplanes that taxied off and landed before us. Scenic flights and boat tours, too, appeared to be big business on this sliver of a lake which I imagined held many nooks and crannies of great interest. It was a perfect day for flying, boating, swimming (the adjacent public beach bubbled with activity) or just gazing out upon the water. The whirring and gurgling of the planes and boats, mixed with the cries from the kids on the beach and the birds overhead, created quite the memorable Adirondack soundtrack. Our Kodak moment was further enhanced by the savory picnic my mom had packed which included cheese, chips, supersatta, olives, hard boiled eggs, crudités and grapes.
I left my parents on the bench and scurried off to check out the scenic flights and boat tours. At $40. per person for a twenty-minute fly over and $30. for an hour and a half boat cruise, I found it all to be quite affordable. I turned around to admire the Adirondack Hotel across the street and sensed from its old and sturdy exterior that it was the sort of authentic place at which I would like to stay. I toyed with the idea of taking a quick tour around, but I didn’t want my parents to grow too weary too soon of my investigating. It’s always nice to save something for next time in any event.
We continued along the scenic byway passing signs such as Trail’s End Bar or High Peaks 26 miles that conjured up images of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts testing their meddle in these rugged mountains renowned for their quiet beauty but also for their highly changeable weather, swollen population of bugs and an occasional rattlesnake.
When we passed a sign for Raquette Lake, mom reminded me about the Sagamore, the Adirondack Great Camp built for the Vanderbilts, which is now a National Historic Landmark open for tours. “You can also take a wonderful boat ride on the lake,” she added.
She had done both; I had not.
Our own little Adirondack trail spliced through Tupper Lake, then edged its way around Saranac Lake, one of the coldest places in the country in the winter.
“This is where a lot of the elite have homes,” my mom explained. “Jane Pauley, Gary Trudeau…”
My mom continued with her many tidbits and tales, much of which she regularly gathered from watching a lot of morning television and reading the papers. I loved it when she served as my tour guide. Dad remained silent throughout most of this, mainly since he was either napping or didn’t hear us. Or perhaps he just wanted to tune out our jabbering.
We pulled into Lake Placid, all three of us eager for a good cup of coffee. Our tour was scenic, yet long. I suggested we go directly to the Mirror Lake Inn, a grand old lodge, rendered even more elegant with the addition of today’s most sought after amenities. It happened to be teatime here and we were invited to stay for a refreshment since I was meeting with someone from the hotel for a little tour. My parents stowed themselves away within the inn’s handsome library while I took in the highlights of this renowned place of lodging.
I was particularly enamored with the lakefront comprised of a big, beautiful old boathouse, a sandy beach, an ample line up of Adirondack chairs and lounge chairs and an assortment of boats—from kayaks to canoes—that would be the envy of any Adirondack vacationer. You could sit here and stare out onto the lake for hours. This lake, which is actually Mirror Lake, is especially pristine since no motor boats are allowed. (Mirror Lake is the lake you see from the town of Lake Placid; Lake Placid, the lake, is just a short distance away.) I poked into The Cottage, a great-looking pub perched at the water’s edge. The deck looked especially inviting on this bright, sunny day but I also learned that it’s open a fair amount year round, thanks to space heaters.
The caffeine perked all three of us up enough to stroll down the main street of Lake Placid—just a short distance from the Inn—to browse in a few shops. I was thrilled to see that the Adirondack Museum had a satellite store here, which for me, was the highlight of all that I took in on the street. Some sales were going on in the many outdoor stores, but I refrained since they were mostly featuring the sort of clothing and gear I can find back home in the Rockies.
Dad just bobbed along throughout all this, a most agreeable travel companion that I hoped would join my mother and me on future excursions.
We all brightened considerably back at Mirror Lake Inn where we had decided to have an early dinner. The three of us greatly appreciated the understated elegance of this fine resort. We settled in to a corner table next to a large bank of windows in their award-winning restaurant, The View. Here we relaxed from the busyness of the day, feeling tremendously soothed by the tranquil views of the lake laid out before us.
“I think you need to get out on the water when you visit the Adirondacks,” I commented to my parents. “Whether you take a ride in a big boat or in a canoe, that’s such a huge part of the Adirondack experience.”
My parents concurred and I could tell they were thinking about all the cruises we took in our boat back on Lake George.
“Sitting here, admiring this scene is pretty special, too,” my dad added. “Particularly in front of such a delicious meal.”
He was quite right about that and there’s no doubt the dining was first class.
“I just wish I could check in for a few days and have lots of fun exploring the area,” I said somewhat sad and frustrated about having to leave so soon. “I’d like to dig deep into some of the shops on the outskirts of town, attend one of the special antiques shows and maybe even take a little paddle on the lake.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice,” my mom replied with both a wink and a smile. “Maybe next time.”
Lake Placid is a two-hour drive from Albany and Montreal and a five-hour drive from New York City and Boston. The closest major airports are in Albany and Montreal.
Oscar’s Adirondack Smoke House, 800-627-3431, www.oscarssmokedmeats.com
The Grist Mill, Warrensburg, 518-623-8005, www.menumart.com/gristmill
Garnet Hill Lodge, North River, 518-251-2444 and 800-497-4207, www.garnet-hill.com
Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, 518-352-7311, www.adirondackmuseum.org; note that the museum also conducts many tours and educational programs. Their Rustic Furniture Sale, Fabric and Arts Festival and Antiques Show and Sale—all held at the museum in September—are of particular interest.
Helms Aero, Long Lake, 518-624-3931 and 518-624-3561; they offer scenic flights as well as fishing and hunting day trips and charters.
Long Lake Boat Tours, Long Lake, 518-624-LAKE
Adirondack Hotel, Long Lake, 518-624-4700, www.adirondackhotel.com
Great Camp Sagamore, Raquette Lake, 315-354-5311, www.sagamore.org
W.W. Durant boat tour, Racquette Lake, 315-354-5532, www.raquettelakenavigation.com
Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa, Lake Placid, 518-523-2544, www.mirrorlakeinn.com; The Cottage is part of Mirror Lake Inn and is open to the public along with the Inn’s other restaurants and spa.
Adirondack Museum on Main, 75 Main Street, Lake Placid, 518-523-9074
More Tours and Visits
Adirondack Canoeing Vacation Planners, outfitters in three different locations including Saranac Lake and St.Lake, 888-775-2925, www.canoeoutfitters.com; they offer rentals and sales of all kinds of Adk small pleasure craft and gear as well as a variety of touring services.
Raquette River Outfitters, Tupper Lake, 518-359-3228, www.raquetteriveroutfitters.com; reputable place for rentals and purchase of canoes, kayaks and camping gear.
Blue Mountain Designs, in the village of Blue Mountain Lake, 518-352-7361
Adirondack Decorative Arts and Crafts, 2512 Main Street, Lake Placid, 518-523-4545; three floors of Adk arts and crafts are showcased here.
Twigs, 121 Cascade Road, Lake Placid, 518-523-5361; located about a mile out of town, this store features antiques, regional crafts and artwork.
Art & Culture Food & Wine Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Saratoga Springs Shopping Spas Travel: Art & Culture Food & Wine Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Saratoga Springs Shopping Spas Travel
“You can either go to the Carousel or the Adelphi,” my mother said. “But we’re not doing both.”
It was amazing how even at the age of blankety-blank my mom could still make me feel like a child. It’s a good thing we were such buddies, such devoted travel companions that she could get away with a remark like that and still leave me feeling totally unscathed. This was our afternoon out in Saratoga Springs, a beloved town for all upstate New Yorkers, but perhaps even more so for me since I had lived here at one point in my life. (It also happens to rate as one of the top destinations in New York state along with New York City and Niagara Falls.)
The truth is that I didn’t arrive in Telluride directly from Paris. Toga-town captured my interest in between and I will always reserve a soft place for it in my heart. It is a grand destination, distinguished largely by its hometown America charm and pristine and abundant examples of Victorian architecture. Visitors have been flocking to Saratoga Springs for more than a century and a half, first for its mineral waters, later for its gaming. Tourism has always been a big industry here, particularly in the summer when the town opens up the Saratoga Racetrack, the oldest thoroughbred race course in the country, along with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, or SPAC, summer home of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Mom and I needed to go on one of our outings for it had been a while since we had experienced the kind of female bonding that best occurs over doing lunch, shopping or going for some kind of beautification together. I was back east in the Adirondacks visiting my parents, so nearby Saratoga Springs, a town sometimes referred to as the gateway to the Adirondacks, seemed like the most logical choice. Plus my mother and I wanted to go see Alan, my mother’s hair dresser of nearly forty years who works out of Saratoga part-time. I planned our afternoon around our beauty appointments and except for lunch, I thought I’d leave the rest to chance. Dad was to come along, too, a welcome addition to my well established dynamic with my mother, so I imagined there might be some kind of an attraction he would vie for as well.
We made a direct beeline to Mrs. London’s, a lovely tea salon/bake shop that would easily rival Paris’s finest Right Bank pâtisseries. I wanted to have a belated birthday celebration for my mom and I knew that Mrs. London’s was as much a favorite for her as for me. The three of us sat primly at little marble tables, sipping iced tea and munching on delectable sandwiches. We took turns hovering in front of the glass display cases, eyeing each and every pastry and cake in an attempt to make our selection for dessert. We settled on the idea of sharing one luscious lemon meringue tarte amongst the three of us. But at the same time, we ordered a pain au chocolat, a kouign amann (a buttery specialty from Brittany) and a rich, dark brownie to go.
We also selected a Fire Bread, the creation for which Michael London, owner of Mrs. London’s with his wife, Wendy, is perhaps most famous. This is a dense, crusty bread similar to France’s renowned pain Poîlane, which to me is best in the morning, toasted and smothered with butter and honey.
At Alan’s, I was fully debriefed on the current dining scene in Saratoga, one that can change as fast as the odds on a horse race. (Fortunately only a couple of my favorites were scratched!) Alan is a trusted source since not only is he a hairdresser, but he’s also a foodie. Dad sat reading the sports pages throughout our discussions and blow dries.
Mom and I left nicely primped and decidedly eager to go somewhere to show it off. Dad bestowed us with much appreciated compliments and told us that he didn’t care where we went next. We contemplated shopping since Saratoga is known for its many quaint shops but none of us needed anything. It was at that point that I envisioned a ride on the old-fashioned, wooden carousel in historic Congress Park (perhaps proceeded by a stroll through its beautifully manicured grounds), followed by a drink at the Adelphi, Saratoga’s landmark hotel.
I had done pretty much all there is to do in Saratoga when I lived here except take a ride on the carousel. (Although I had read a lot about its impending arrival, this revered treasure—which is now enclosed in glass—hadn’t been transplanted here until after I left town.) My romantic notion of twirling on the carousel alongside my aging parents withered when confronted with the choice my mother presented to me. I have a huge weakness for fine hotels and the Adelphi ranks among the most distinctive I know, so going there would, of course, be my first choice. Be sure to visit Congress Park, however, when you’re in Saratoga since every acre of it has been laid out with great purpose and design. The Saratoga Springs History Museum, housed in the famed Canfield Casino (which you can sometimes tour), sits right in the center of this handsome tract of land.
The three of us padded into the hotel and I was delighted to see that not much had changed since I last spent time here many years ago. Actually I don’t think the hotel has undergone many significant restorations within the past one hundred years. And to me, this worn and tired look only adds to its charm. We wandered through the Victorian-era lobby, decorated with velvet settees and rich wallpaper and paused just long enough in the bar area to admire the room’s painted murals and fine spread of fruit, cheese and desserts including blackberry pie and carrot cake. Already I felt like this was one of the last bastions of civility left in Saratoga, an elegant retreat that furnished the necessary accompaniments to both a glass of wine and a cup of tea.
I was leading my parents toward the courtyard patio, a marvelous oasis populated with large and lush exotic plants and forest green Adirondack chairs. I could remember seeing long, lithe ballet dancers draped over these chairs after an evening’s performance, but ballet season (July) had ended and most of the crowd seemed to consist of the horsey set that takes over in August. We had passed a couple of garden rooms on our way out here, each one more prettily decorated than the next. In the end, we settled for the open-air Courtyard Café where we could sit surrounded by dark green latticework trellises, gaze out onto the patio and listen to the trickle of their garden fountains.
We sipped fresh fruit daiquiris and chatted about “our old days” in Saratoga. We all had enjoyed doing a day at the races from time to time, especially if it meant dressing up and languishing over a long lunch at the clubhouse. My dad talked about a poached salmon plate that he found particularly memorable. All of us went more for the show and the fun of it than for the gambling. With its two-storied grandstand, its cascading flower boxes, its supremely maintained grounds and racetracks, complete with a little lake in the center upon which floats a canoe bearing the colors of the stable that won the famous Travers race the year before, one was easily taken with the beauty of this historic landmark. And then, of course, the magnificent thoroughbred horses, the jockeys dressed in brightly-colored silks and the crowd sporting everything from shorts and T-shirts to flouncy dresses and hats, provided a whole other source of entertainment.
Reminiscing about this was bitter sweet. I was quite sure my dad would never return to the races since clearly he felt more comfortable in less hectic surroundings these days. (Even Mrs. London’s was a tad too noisy for him.) We had talked about going to have breakfast at the track, one of my all-time favorite things to do in Saratoga where you can watch the horses train early in the morning and also take a stable tour and learn about the history behind this American institution. (Founded in 1864, the Saratoga Racetrack perpetuates a long tradition of horse culture in the region through the actual races, the horse sales and the horse farms situated throughout the outlying area.) In the end, Dad and I decided to postpone our date for breakfast at the track until next year.
We glanced over at the table next to us and admired a small group of fashionable people that had clearly just come from the track. We could hear them bemoaning their losses and celebrating their victories over Martinis and large pots of Darjeeling. Indeed it was the time of day when teatime and cocktail hour blurred into one. I sensed that my parents were feeling somewhat wistful about missing out on this great Saratoga tradition of attending the races, world-famous meets held here but six weeks every summer. I reminded them, however, that delighting in a fine hotel could be considered an even older tradition in Saratoga, especially since virtually all of them—some of the grandest in America—had long ago been torn down. Thank goodness the Adelphi remained and amidst its tattered coverings, one could easily gain a whiff of Old Saratoga.
Saratoga Springs is about a 45-minute drive north of Albany International airport.
Saratoga Racetrack, www.nyra.com/saratoga
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, www.racingmuseum.org
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, www.spac.org
Mrs. London’s, 464 Broadway, 518-581-1834, www.mrslondons.com
Alan at Limelight Salon of Saratoga, 24 Hamilton Street, 518-580-1007
Saratoga Springs History Museum, Congress Park, 518-584-6920, www.saratogahistory.org
Adelphi Hotel, 365 Broadway, 518-587-4688, www.adelphihotel.com
More of My Favorite Restaurants and Cafés in Saratoga
Caffe Lena, 47 Phila Street, 518-583-0022, www.caffelena.org; folk music and more.
Chez Sophie, 534 Broadway, 518-583-3538, www.chezsophie.com; fine cuisine in a sophisticated setting.
Chiante Il Ristorante, 18 Division Street, 518-580-0025, www.chiantiristorante.com; wonderful Italian restaurant with a happening bar.
Circus Café, 392 Broadway, 518-583-1106, www.circuscafe.com; casual dining served up in a Big Top setting—a must for kids.
Country Corner Café, 25 Church Street, 518-583-7889, www.saratoga.org/countrycornercafé; great place for breakfast if you can find a seat!
Four Seasons Natural Foods, 33 Phila Street, 518-584-4670; www.fourseasonsnaturalfoods.com; a favorite for healthy food and products both to enjoy here or to go. I would often eat here with Mana, my yoga instructor, whom I ran into recently at their outdoor seating. Enquire about her here if you want to experience one of the best yoga classes ever!
Lime, 7 Caroline Street, 518-584-4315, www.limesaratoga.com; fun Caribbean food.
Sperry’s, 30 1/2 Caroline Street, 518-584-9618, www.sperrysofsaratoga.com; a Saratoga classic.
My Old Shopping Haunts
De Jonghe Jewelers, 470 Broadway, 518-587-6422, www.dejonghejewelry.com; original designs of the finest quality.
Lyrical Ballad, 7 Phila Street, 518-584-8779, email@example.com; seller of rare and extraordinary books and prints.
Menges & Curtis Apothecary, 472 Broadway, 518-584-2046, www.mengesandcurtis.com; quality beauty products and gift ideas in an Old World setting.
Putnam Street Market Place, 433 Broadway, 518-587-3663; www.putnammarket.com; fine comestibles and wine, including delightful dishes to go.
Saratoga Shoe Depot, 365 Broadway, 518-584-1142, www.saratogashoedepot.com; shoes, accessories and clothing for all as well as a plethora of gifts—all at discounted prices.
Saratoga Trunk, 493 Broadway, 518-584-3543; www.saratogatrunk.com; high-end women’s fashions and accessories including hats!
Worth Checking Out
The Art District on Beekman Street emerged within recent years as a happening place to shop and dine. I especially like it since it’s not at all touristy. (Broadway, the main street of Saratoga, does become a little too much of a scene for me during the thick of the summer season.) This is an historic neighborhood, originally primarily Italian, where Al Capone and Lucille Ball once hung out (although perhaps not at the same time!) There are some nice art galleries here to explore. My mom and I dined to mixed reviews at Gotchya’s (www.gotchyas.com) on a separate occasion. You might fare better at The Beekman Street Bistro (www.thebeekmanstreetbistro.com), although I don’t have any firsthand reports. For more on the Art District of Beekman Street, go to www.saratogatourism.com/vcstuff/beekman.
For the Outdoors You
I became more in touch with sports and how regular physical activity can benefit you so much both physically and mentally when I lived in Saratoga. (Remember I was coming off of living eleven years in Paris where for me exercise consisted of a stroll in the park or a walk in the countryside.) This is where I launched myself into cycling and discovered that some of the best road riding in the country lies less than a mile out of town. Think of all of those horse farms and rolling hills! I also loved to ride out at the Saratoga Battlefied, a beautiful parcel of countryside steeped in history. Closer to town, it’s fun to hike, picnic or just poke around at the Saratoga Spa State Park, a National Historic Landmark, which is indisputably quite picturesque. In the winter, I would sometimes cross country ski in this park and then swing over to Mrs. London’s for a hot chocolate and a croissant.
Blue Sky Bicycles, 71 Church Street, 518-583-0600, www.blueskybicycles.com; shop here to outfit yourself for your cycling, rent a bike or obtain information on the great rides in the area.
Saratoga National Historical Park (The Saratoga Battlefield), 518-664-9821, ext. 224, www.nps.gov/sara
Saratoga Spa State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, 518-584-2535, www.saratogaspastatepark.org
Any of the Jacobs Burns Mysteries by Matt Witten; he was a fellow author when I lived in Saratoga and all of his stories are set in the Spa town.
“Saratoga: Saga of an Impious Era,” by George Waller
“Saratoga Springs: An Architechtural History, 1790-1990,” by James Kettlewell; I was friendly with James when I lived in Saratoga. He was the most distinguished Art History professor associated with Skidmore College, which is also located in Saratoga.
“Saratoga Trunk,” by Edna Ferber and Stuart M. Rosen; my absolute favorite which is a terrific movie as well!