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.

I have so much to be thankful for: my dear husband and children and grandchildren, above all, and also good health and contentment. And a beautiful place to call home.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


June said...

Oh! Saratoga! The city saved itself just in time from complete deterioration. Now it's just a beautiful place to look at!
I have been in G. Willikers, and it's a fantasyland. The architecture throughout Saratoga County is . . . just wonderful.
But of course I would think so, it being The Old Home Place...

Louise said...

What a lovely tour around Saratoga Springs. I have only been there once, and then, of course, I spent most of my time at the track, and at the auction across the street. It was one of my most memorable vacations. From your photo tour, it looks like I'll have to go again, just to see what else besides horses are there.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Jens said...

Jackie --- My gratitude for this Thanksgiving post that reminds so well of our visits to Saratoga Springs. Those visits were in summer and so there was not the snap of late Autumn air, but at any season it is surely an extraordinary pleasure to explore the town's charms.

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy the way you savour the sublime - the detail and the moment! We visited Saratoga Springs several years ago - speaking of enjoying the serendipitous, it took us two days to get there from New Haven, CT area - our hotel was right on
Broadway - breakfast each morning 'on the piazza' - besides the obligatory visit to the race museum (not the week for racing) we enjoyed the offerings of the Lincoln Spa. A delightful few days! Thanks for your delightful blog!

Woodswalker said...

Hi June, when did you live here? Your comment about it being a fun place to LOOK AT is right on, since only the very wealthy can afford to buy homes here any more. Luckily, we arrived in 1970, at the depth of Saratoga's decline, and were able to buy a big in-town house for a ridiculously low price.

Yes, Louise, you must come back and discover the other parts of Saratoga. The track is an important part of the town, but only a part -- although the money it brings to the city in August allows us to have the kinds of shops and restaurants we would not have otherwise.

Jens, I hope you feel a bit inspired to come back for a visit. We miss you.

Thanks, hikeagiant2, for your gracious comment. I'm glad you enjoyed your Saratoga visit. One of the city's greatest charms is that it offers many of the joys of urban living while being located just minutes away from genuine woodsy and mountainous wilderness.

June said...

I'm back very late to answer your question. Sorry.
I never lived in Saratoga proper, but in the Town of Milton. We moved away in the 1960s when I was not yet in my teens. I mourned for a long, long time.

Mary Ellen Ryall said...

Fabulous site. Will be in touch soon Recommended on Simply Saratoga Springs on Facebook.