Upstate Adventuring

For the weekend of my birthday, some friends and I went to stay in a luxury resort called The Sagamore, on Lake George in upstate New York (we got a very good deal!). On the drive up, we stopped at the pretty Victorian resort town of Saratoga Springs, which is full of lovely cafes and bakeries, specialist shops and beautiful architecture. I made a beeline for Lyrical Ballads Bookstore, a wonderfully higgledy piggedly used book shop on a side street, which had room upon room stacked up behind the deceptively small shop front to explore. I could have filled my arms with piles of cheap and lovely books, but I was very good and only bought one, a gorgeous edition of Susan Glaspell short stories, Lifted Masks. We then had a stroll down the main street, stopping for a delicious sandwich in Mrs London’s, and to taste the most impressive array of oils and vinegars I have ever seen in the Saratoga Olive Oil Company.

From Saratoga Springs we only made one more stop; at Stewart’s, the New York State (and a handful in Vermont) only chain of shops and petrol stations that sells absolutely the best ice cream in the entire world – fact! We first discovered them when we went upstate for Christmas, and frankly, the reason why I was so adamant on going upstate for my birthday was because I wanted to eat Stewart’s icecream again.ย  I can’t even describe how sublime their icecream is; we ate gallons of the stuff over the weekend, stopping off for a mikshake or an icecream at every opportunity. It is a great tragedy that the nearest one to New York City is a good three hours’ drive away, and they don’t stock their products anywhere other than in their own stores. So, it’s a rare treat, but one well worth waiting for. If you’re ever in the area, make a stop – the stores don’t look anything special, but I promise you, you will be blown away!

We drove up to The Sagamore and took a deep breath of pleasure; this place is incredible. Originally built as a resort in the 1800’s, it is set on a little island, and is absolutely beautiful. The swimming pool overlooks the lake, and our rooms had porches with Adirondack chairs looking out across the lake too. We made the most of our luxurious surroundings, swimming in the pool, languishing in the jacuzzi and even jumping in the FREEZING cold lake, which, at this time of year, was forbidden – for good reason. I felt like I’d been stabbed by thousands of tiny knives all over my body! The little town of Bolton Landing near the hotel was also lovely, and we had the best steak I’ve ever eaten in a little restaurant, where we were treated like family. I love the friendliness of people in small town America.

The next day we set off early, had Stewart’s icecream for breakfast, and then drove on up to Lake Placid. The scenery as we drove was breathtakingly beautiful; the Adirondack Mountains dipped and rose as we wound our way through the countryside, and the views of pine trees, sparkling lakes, rushing streams and bluish, snow topped mountains enfolded before us as far as the eye could see. As a city girl, I love any opportunity I can get to see the natural world in all of its splendour, and upstate New York is a stunning place to visit. When we arrived at Lake Placid, we were entranced by its beauty, but not enough to stop us from eating first; at the delicious Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, which serves an eclectic mix of amazing and quite English inspired food. I gorged on the best sausage and mash I have ever tasted. By the time we’d finished, we were all uncomfortably full, and so we embarked on a lovely hour long walk around Lake Mirror and Lake Placid, both of which are stunning.

Then, it was time to drive home. A thoroughly lovely weekend was had, and as I drove through the night in our minivan back to the bright lights of the big city, everyone (apart from me, obviously!) gradually drifted off to sleep, full of delicious food and fresh air. If only we didn’t have to go back to work the next day!

52 comments

  1. Ice cream for breakfast — you are a girl after my own heart! It sounds like a lovely weekend (apart from the freezing cold water part). And I will have look for that Susan Glaspell book!

    1. Oh yes! When it’s your birthday weekend, you’re entitled to a little indulgence! I also had chocolate cake, before the icecream. Delicious!

      Oh yes, do – I have skimmed the stories and they are very good.

  2. WOW! I’m a senior in high school at the moment and the only vacations I’ve ever taken are ones completely planned by my parents, which, don’t get me wrong are quite fun, but I love the idea of grabbing some friends and just driving somewhere for a few days and just see what we do! Maybe it’s just the taste of freedom that comes with graduating high school and moving on, but you’ve inspired me to make this dream a reality!

  3. This is where I grew up, I lived near Saratoga and spent summers at Lake George. Thanks for the nostalgia. Sounds like a great birthday weekend!

    1. Oh you are so lucky. What I wouldn’t give to be surrounded by such natural beauty! I bet you had a wonderful time. It’s my pleasure to help you reminisce!

  4. I just want to know how you, not even a native to New York State, ever find out about these fabulous places? Do you have knowing friends, or are you an internet travel search genius?

    1. A bit of both, Diana, a bit of both!๐Ÿ˜‰ Most of the time I find a place I want to go, then I’ll do some googling and asking around and form a vague plan, but I also just randomly come across articles in newspapers that inspire me too. We only found out about Stewart’s because the man we rented the cabin we spent Christmas in from told us to get icecream from there. We scoffed because Stewart’s doesn’t look anything special, but we were very glad to be proved wrong!

  5. Oh, my old stomping grounds! I am thoroughly Louisiana now, but this is the beautiful area that I grew up in. Stewart’s! I had forgotten about Stewart’s! And yeah, Lyrical Ballad’s, huh? Amazing.

    1. Jenny told me this! Why did you ever leave?!?! I couldn’t leave Stewart’s behind! Lyrical Ballads is wonderful. If I get a chance I’ll head back up in the summer. Just for the icecream, mainly!๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. What a great weekend, Rachel – and happy birthday! How wonderful to find a Susan Glaspell just like that. It would be such a rare find over here.

    1. Thanks Mary! I know – I pounced on it like someone was about to steal it away from me – I needn’t have worried. It had been there a while. The store manager saw me take it and said ‘oh great choice, I was going to buy that just for the cover’. I glanced at him witheringly and said ‘I’m buying it for the author.’

      For shame book shop man!

  7. Ice cream for breakfast is good; a dairy product, right? Besides, it was your birthday weekend. Yea, Rachel!

    I’ve only driven through upstate New York in the fall and loved every mile of it. Thank you for sharing your time with us here, Rachel.

    1. Exactly! Some might say, a healthy choice!๐Ÿ˜‰

      New York state has been my favourite discovery since I got here. It’s so beautiful. I’d happily live there. I’m glad you’ve got to see more of it through my pictures!

  8. Belated Happy Birthday, Rachel! I absolutely love all the places you mention, but how could you possibly jump in that freezing lake??! Hurray for Stewarts and ice cream for breakfast.

    1. Thanks JoAnn! I thought of you the whole time I was there. In fact my main thoughts were, I bet JoAnn has a Stewart’s where she lives. I bet JoAnn gets to eat Stewart’s icecream all the time!

      I know, I was crazy. But it was totally worth it – I felt very invigorated afterwards!

  9. I am so very impressed at all the exploring that you have done over the year here in the US. You have really packed a lot in to your time, and it rather puts me to shame in that I have not been adventurous. However, distance in Texas is a bit different (it’s measured in time not miles – like “six hours to Austin” instead of xx miles). Plus I don’t really have an “end date” which means it’s easy to put things off. (See how I can rationalize anything??)

    Needless to say, I am *really* impressed at all this. How do you find these places? Are you an internet wizard (as someone above asks) or do you have extremely knowledgeable friends?

    1. Thanks Liz! Don’t feel bad – my knowledge of Britain is shocking so it’s definitely a case of me having an end date as to why I get around so much. I want to fit in as much as I can while I am here, whereas in England I am aware I have my whole life to see things and as such my sense of urgency is zero.

      I am an internet whiz but I also work for a hospitality company so they are always recommending me good hotels and things which is also how I get discounts.๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m lucky!

  10. Sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday, and a belated happy returns to you too. Thanks for taking us with you. I love the sound of the Victorian american village, what a wonderful break… and very good deals on luxury are the way forward.

    1. Thanks Simon! The Americans do quaint small towns very well – I love them. They really treasure their history here in a way us Brits don’t tend to. Good deals on luxury ARE the way forward – there’s nothing more enjoyable than a bargain!

  11. I should never click links because now I know that thousands of miles away is an ice cream store with maple nut ice cream. And I can’t get any!
    However did they get you out of the bookstore?
    And did everyone ask where you were from? :>
    Belated Happy Birthday!

    1. Nancy, I’m telling you – that maple walnut ice cream is out of this world. I think Stewart’s is cruel for not shipping their ice cream. But what can you do!

      My friends dragged me! ‘Come on, Rach! We don’t have all day!’ etc!

      No they didn’t, actually – I think they’re used to tourists up there so a strange accent doesn’t stand out. I actually get asked more in New York which surprises me – what also surprises me is how few people can accurately locate my accent. I am apparently Australian.

      Thank you!

  12. Happy Belated Birthday, Rachel! I used to live in Saratoga Springs, spent loads of time in Lyrical Ballad AND at Mrs. London’s – they have the best croissants! Stewart’s also makes killer Salt & Vinegar Crisps and Eggnog for the holidays. I also lived in Saranac Lake which is the neighboring town of Lake Placid AND spent lovely weekends at The Sagamore – especially in the Autumn. Your upstate adventure couldn’t have been more perfect (complete with ice cream for breakfast!) and thank you for sparking such lovely memories! Next stop – Vermont!

    1. Thank you, Cate! Oh, how lucky you were to live there! The Sagamore is incredible – I wish I could have stayed for longer. And Stewart’s is officially my favourite shop in the world. I’d choose my house based on vicinity to a Stewart’s! I’d even work there! Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from that ice cream counter!

      I’m glad I sparked happy memories – next stop Vermont indeed! I am desperate to visit!

    1. It really was, Joanne! The hotel was so luxurious, I was thoroughly spoiled! I sat on the porch but I didn’t read…I drank gin and ate chocolate cake instead. It WAS my birthday!๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. A birthday to remember! I must visit this place one day and you made me laugh with your being ‘stabbed by thousands of tiny knives’, a sensation I remember well.

    What’s your favourite ice cream flavour? I tend to go for anything remotely like Death by Chocolate but when I’m feeling like something different it’s strawberry.

    1. Darlene, you MUST. The Sagamore would be a lovely place for a romantic weekend getaway! Oh goodness me…I have never felt anything like that before!!

      Good question. Normally I would say chocolate but since moving to the States I have been introduced to the joys of chocolate peanut butter and so now that is my favourite. I can’t get enough! Icecream with chocolate peanut butter cups in it is also irresistible to me. If I want a less sickly choice I’ll go for sorbet – I love a nice mango sorbet.

  14. What a lovely trip, thank you for giving us a peep. The best ice cream I ever had was from a shop in Brighton, sherry trifle flavour – sooo decadent!

  15. I love the serendipity of book recommendations like this – I bought the Susan Glaspell short stories online, didn’t know the volume existed, though I like Fidelity very much!

  16. Happy belated birthday. Wait, shouldn’t I say “belated happy birthday”? That sounds better. Your birthday wasn’t belated, I was. I digress, your trip looks wonderful. Any time that I am around a beautiful lake is a good time. It is peaceful by a lake.

  17. A belated Happy Birthday, and I wish I’d known you were coming through my town, I would love to have met you! Isn’t Saratoga wonderful? I grew up in Virginia, which I love, but we are so happy in upstate NY and content to have raised our family here. And don’t get me started on Lake George! The first time I saw it I thought, “One day we are going to have a boat and go on this lake in the summer…” and we did, for several years, in fact, we docked our boat on the same island that the Sagamore is on. Now we have kayaks instead, but… there is NOTHING as more beautiful than Lake George! And we have heard people who’ve seen Alpine lakes say the same thing. You must try to come back this summer and see it again!

    1. Thank you Bet! Oh, what a shame! I am SO jealous that you get to experience the area every day…what a beautiful place to live and bring up a family. I’m glad you get to enjoy the surroundings all year round – if I can manage to fit it in I will definitely be back this summer!

  18. I was hoping we’d hear about your birthday treat. You certainly know how to enjoy yourself to the full.

    Can’t think how you were on the one hand so controlled about the books and on the other so delightfully mad about the ice cream!

    You’ll never forget that birthday in America.

    1. Thank you, Chrissy! I’m glad you enjoyed my tale! I had such a wonderful time, and I won’t forget it, you’re right. Hehehe – I am a nightmare when it comes to icecream – I won’t be stopped!

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