August 22, 2011: This is the first in a series of travelogues featuring great places through the eyes of people who choose to return there time and time again. These people are not tourists, nor are they locals. They are repeat travelers who intimately know their destinations — not as home, but as a place on the map that repeatedly urges them to pack their bags.
Would you like to contribute to Neighborhood Nomad? If so, let me know.
The Place: Saratoga Springs, New York
The Traveler: Beth (Three cheers for mom!)
When do you visit: Every August
What made you first decide to go here? What keeps you coming back?
August means I get to toss a small duffle in the car and head to Saratoga Springs, NY, with my husband David who loves the trip even more than I do. He started going to the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course with four of his college friends in 1974 and to this day it’s an annual trip for them. He and I go the weekend prior.
Describe the town and your favorite spots.
Saratoga Springs is my favorite kind of town. It’s full of small, historic, locally owned shops. My all-time favorite breakfast spot is Mrs. London’s — the breads (the smell!), the pastries (works of art!), and the best croissants (the taste!). Sit down with a hot chocolate or cappuccino and it’s as close to a cafe in Paris as you’ll ever get.
But first and foremost, it’s the buzz of the town in general that really gets to my soul. On the streets, in the stores, in the cafes, all conversation is centered on the race track, less than a mile away.
David’s description of Saratoga would mostly be about the track itself — about its wooden grandstands, the beauty of this particular track being like no other, and of course about the great Tom Durkin, who has been the passionate race caller for as long as I can remember. This is where the buzz begins for him (and continues for me).
What are your favorite places to stay? What’s the style/feel there?
We started out staying at The Batcheller Mansion Inn, a beautiful mansion inside and out with large rooms and a kitchen right out of Architectural Digest. Now we enjoy staying at the Saratoga Arms. It’s an 1870 brick mansion that’s been turned into a charming and elegant bed and breakfast and it’s in the heart of town, right on Broadway. Kathleen and Noel are the owners and one of the reasons we keep coming back. They make us feel like old friends. Kathleen knows everything there is to know about Saratoga Springs and of course she talks horses too. She’ll share it all with you if you just ask.
What’s the town’s personality? Does it feel different in summer than in winter?
The racetrack in August keeps the fever a notch above what it is from January through July. August is the time of year that the best three-year olds racehorses, the best trainers, and the best jockeys in the country come to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes. For me it’s all about the buzz. It’s talk of early scratches and how people are feeling about their chances on “their” horse. It’s about how they reminisce about the year they saw Seattle Slew or Affirmed win, and think this year just might be their year to watch their horse do the unheard of.