Wednesday, November 24, 2010
A Saratoga Stroll
What with holiday cooking and cleaning, I didn't get to the woods this week, and I was beginning to feel kind of cranky about it. I need a dose of sky over my head every day, or I start to go nuts. So today, when the last pie came out of the oven, I was out the door to enjoy what was left of a gorgeous blue-sky afternoon. No time to run off to the woods, but a nice long walk around town would suit me fine. And what a town I live in! I step out my front door, and just see what splendid houses greet me right across the street.
Both of these mansions were seedy rooming houses when we bought our house in 1971, then were abandoned to pigeons and rot for many years, until they were finally restored to their former glory. They are currently single-family homes for folks who live in them maybe three or four weeks each summer. Nice quiet neighbors, that's for sure.
At the end of my block I turn toward downtown, and only one block away is this magnificent public library.
Right around the corner from the library are great places for food and live music. Hattie's restaurant won a fried chicken "throw down" against Food Network's Bobby Flay, and Caffe Lena is the oldest continuously running coffee house in the country, where folks like Bob Dylan once got their start.
Just a stone's throw from Caffe Lena is another venue for live music of the rowdy rock-and-roll variety. In just a few weeks, my son's band The Figgs will be playing here to promote their new record. December 11. Don't miss them!
Broadway, the main street of downtown Saratoga Springs, is lined with many beautiful old 19th-century buildings, and is just three blocks from my home.
One of my favorite stores downtown is G. Willikers, a really terrific toy store that sells the kinds of toys you don't have to compromise your principles to buy -- and spares me from ever having to go to a mall for the kids' birthday presents. (And they even give me a grandma discount, now that I shop there for so many grandchildren.)
G. Willikers' window is always a delight, and never more so than at holiday time.
Our downtown post office is a splendid old building, with beautiful architectural details and murals by French-American painter William Pene du Bois, who is probably best known as the author-illustrator of such children's books as The Three Policemen and Twenty-one Balloons.
Heading north on Broadway, I pass many beautiful old "cottages" that were once the summer homes of prominent thoroughbred racing families, although many are now occupied year-round by Saratoga residents.
Our bank's president lives in this lovely white house.
I don't know who lives in this house now, but it used to belong to Penny Tweedy, owner of the famous racehorse Secretariat, a Triple Crown winner who lost to a longshot named Onion in Saratoga's Travers Stakes. There was a major-studio movie this year about Secretariat, but I don't think the script included anything about that Travers loss.
I keep heading north on Broadway, which, just beyond where this photo was taken, turns into a rutted dirt road impassable to autos but perfect for folks who love to walk in the woods.
Skidmore College is out here at the far end of Broadway. The college's many cultural offerings -- art exhibits, concerts, lectures, dance and theater performances -- certainly add to the quality of living in Saratoga Springs.
Heading home, I return downtown and stop in at the world's best coffee shop, Uncommon Grounds, to warm up and just smell the great coffee aroma from roasting beans.
From world's best coffee shop to world's best bakery: Mrs. London's. Why do you suppose everyone here is smiling?
Mmmm! I'll bet this is why. I often stop in here to just gaze at these pastries, almost too pretty to eat.
Home again. The aroma of fresh-baked pies greets me as soon as I open my door. They may not be as pretty as Mrs. London's cakes, but I know they'll taste mighty good. But I have to wait until tomorrow, when we go to our daughter's in-laws in Vermont for Thanksgiving dinner.