Saranac Lake, New York
In June, Don and I joined 2 of my siblings and spouses for a road trip in the northeast. I was pretty excited when I found Hotel Saranac on the internet.
It had just reopened a few months before, after a 35-million dollar renovation. The prices were decently priced for a spiffed up boutique hotel. So we booked!
Hotel Saranac was quite the "True City Hotel" when it first opened. But when we arrived, I was a little surprised by the contrast of the stone lower level and the basic brick upper stories.
The smokestack in back, made the building look industrial.
Grand in 1927
When the hotel first opened, they proudly advertised, "modern, fireproof, 100 rooms, 100 baths, no invalids, European plan".
Now that's something to boast about!
Cure Cottages and TB Lab
The statement about invalids, makes a little more sense when you know the history of the town and its connection with tuberculosis patients. The first lab for TB study in the US, opened in Saranac Lake, in 1894. It's now a museum, just around the corner from the hotel.
The town is scattered with "cure cottages" which were modified homes, with large porches and sunrooms, to house the healing patients.
Our 3 cars arrived on a cool Sunday afternoon. There was plenty of free parking in the spacious lot.
It was nice not dealing with valets and traffic, but after fumbling suitcases to the entrance and fighting a heavy door, I sort of missed the pampering of a "doorman", which I'm sure they had in 1927.
The lobby seemed more like of a hallway with openings to the restaurant, spa and gift shop. We checked in at a desk along the wall. The staff was very pleasant, but didn't make it clear that there were tricky routes with two elevators, if you wanted to avoid stairs.
We thunked our bags up a few stairs to find one elevator. We pushed the button, then enjoyed looking at old photos while we waited.
The hallway also had a nice updated feel. I adore old hotels that renovate without destroying the old feel.
But we were traveling with others, who might not be as open to quirky-old-stuff. Since I had picked this hotel, I was glad not to need apologies for musty odors or drippy faucets.
What I didn't realize, was how small the rooms would be. After checking in, we all texted each other, with a little humor. "Very cozy...!" was the positive reaction everyone had to our tiny rooms.
The comfy king bed took up most of the space. The 55-inch TV was so close to the bed, it felt like sitting on the front row of the movie theatre.
I loved the bright colors and fabrics. The artwork with Ferris-wheel and tent was a fun touch. But, besides the bed, the little seat below the window was about it, for lounging space.
There was a sweet looking door that had some original hardware. I liked that cute door, until I realized it blocked no sound from the adjoining room. The strangers weren't really being all that loud, but I didn't need to be alerted each time they got a text.
I loved the smell of the bathroom products. The "Ampersand" lotion and soaps carried the same name as the hotel's spa. The bathroom really did look and smell lovely...
... but it was teeny tiny, just like the room. The door opened inward and hit the toilet. Oh my.
The Grand Hall
The hotel may have lacked in lobby atmosphere, but it made up for that, in the Grand Hall on the second floor.
We gathered near the fireplace, both evenings that we stayed.
I'm a little confused about the beams, because they matched this old photo perfectly. But I read somewhere that the beams were replaced rather than restored. If that's true they did an amazing job.
The mixture of old doors, floors and ceiling, along with modern furniture and art, was just right.
Clever and Classy
The Grand Hall Bar at the end of the room was a fun looking place to gather. I loved their clever use of old phone booths. You could sit on the little chair and write a note, instead of talking on the phone.
The modern lighting and super comfy looking chairs made me want a martini. But we gathered our group of 6 on the sofas and ordered some wine.
It was actually pretty chilly for July, so the fireplace seemed cozy.
Of course there wasn't much heat coming from that small gas flame, but the idea was nice.
The chill was mostly coming from the open doors to the terrace.
If only the temps had been warmer, it would have been lovely sitting out there. The next evening, they lit the fire pits, but we weren't able to grab an open one.
There was a totally available shuffleboard game at far end of the Grand Hall.
When you're staying in a hotel with your brother and sister, it's almost sinful to not play a game! Next time... I will challenge my siblings... and win!
Campfire Adirondack Grill & Bar
I love a good theme and the restaurant off the lobby had a great one. I loved the green metal chairs and camp cups.
The modern campy-style was refreshing, when so many Adirondack themed places decorate with too many logs and bears! And my sister was clearly quite happy with the Eggs Benedict and French Toast!
The sign (installed in the 1940's) is the most notable thing in town. And that is kind of how the hotel felt. It was a big hotel in a sleepy town. There were a few kinks and that's to be expected with newly opened hotels.
Besides the big sign, I will remember a beautifully restored, historic hotel with tiny rooms... the Great Hall with dramatic beams... and the perfct location. We were able to walk to shops, restaurants, the lake and neighborhoods. That's a big plus!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!