The Travers was held this past weekend at Saratoga Race Course. It’s a big deal for the horsey set and the 43,050 who attended the $1 million race.
I love the venerable track in the Spa City, but I don’t like being around 43,000 of my closest friends all at once. And I don’t like paying top, top dollar to stay in the city while the horses are running in August. That’s why Wife L and I met Couple M before the cigar-chomping, program-tearing, fancy-hat wearing crowd started pouring in.
We visited back in July, and stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast, the Springwater.
The Springwater, as our gracious hosts told us, was built new to look old about a year and a half ago. It is a place that you will remember for everything that the owners remembered to have done, the right way. There are many fine details and so much accomplished craftsmanship. But it’s all for your comfort, not for the sake of it or for the sake of putting on airs.
Wife L and I stayed in the Polaris Spring Room. The room, which goes for $150 during off-track season, has a queen bed and fine furnishings, along with a tiny balcony overlooking a quiet residential street. The bathroom has black and white mini-tiles, and a shower with multiple heads and enough space to host a small party.
Couple M enjoyed the State Seal Spring Room ($195). Both rooms increase in price by about $145 when the ponies are in season.
Right across a small side street is the Springwater Inn, where the four of us decided to go for drinks and appetizers. The inn’s tavern has a nice easy-going feel to it. I’m not a huge calamari fan, but I did enjoy the tender tubes that were grilled and thus had a distinctive flavor.
We walked downtown, and stopped first at the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway. You are struck right away by thick carpets and velvety drapes and plush chairs, a sense of luxury emanating from its formidable past dating back to 1877. I half expected someone with a pencil-thin moustache and flashy cigarette case to descend the stairs and order a martini. We had our drinks out back, in an enclosed porch area that overlooked a walled garden area with more seating. It was fun.
Right next door is Maestro’s restaurant, housed in the historic former Rip Van Dam Hotel. We stepped into the more modern setting and tried to read the menus. It sucks to have to borrow the waitresses’ “readers,” but there you go. The Van Dam dates back even further than the Adelphi, to 1840, but it has been modernized with elegant furnishings that suggest a hip New York City eatery.
Our meals at Maestro’s were terrific. I would highly recommend it. We enjoyed everything from braised beef short ribs to ravioli to a wonderful chicken dish infused with orange, Asiago, and lemon olive oil.
Saratoga Springs is very much what many upstate New York cities want to be. It has a vital downtown, though it does come with the occasional mess from over-enthusiastic drinkers, with plenty of restaurants and shops to entertain. Make sure to visit Skidmore College and enjoy the beautiful mansions near the campus. I would just do it all when the track is closed, unless you have the ponies picked properly and can pay for the privilege of staying and playing in-season.