#184 - Hotel Saranac
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!
Island Resort, in Lake George
I've been waiting over a year to add this notable night to the blog! I don't believe we have ever stayed at a hotel, that occupies an entire island!
Don and I started getting excited, when we learned our nephew and his fiancee had decided to get married at the hotel overlooking Lake George. Gathering family for a memorable wedding was exciting enough, but adding a fun hotel stay, was icing on the cake!
The weather was lovely on June 22, when we arrived at noon.
The white, clapboard hotel looked classic, stretched out beneath the blue sky, surrounded by green grass and colorful flowers.
Resort Since 1883
The look of The Sagamore has changed a lot since it opened in 1883.
This is how the hotel looked, after a few millionaires bought Green Island and built the exclusive resort. After a couple fires and a major reconstruction, the hotel took on the current look, in 1930.
Calm in the Lobby
The hotel had a 50-million dollar renovation about 10 years ago. The yellow and white lobby looked very fresh and peaceful, when we arrived.
The valet and desk staff was very efficient when we arrived. In fact the lobby looked remarkably calm for a Friday in June. Maybe that's because about half of the groom's family was trapped in airports or driving from the cities, that their flights had been rerouted to. Luckily the bride and groom had arrived days earlier.
Our daughter and her husband were some of the lucky travelers with no issues. The 4 of us met up and explored a bit before lunch.
The view from the terrace outside of the lobby was pretty stunning. We headed down towards the waterfront, then back up the stairs.
Lots of Stairs
Luckily the air felt cool and dry, or our hike up the stairs would have been less fun.
We just hoped the weather would stay nice, since the bride would be walking down these stairs the next day!
There was something a little presidential looking about the 3 terraces and the 2-story pillars.
But the hotel felt welcoming. There was nothing stuffy or exclusive about the atmosphere.
What could be more appropriate, than Adirondack chairs, with views of the Adirondack Mountains!
The Best View
From the third terrace, I took in the best view of all. You could see all the options for lounging. One could sit in a chaise lounge at the pool or on the grassy lawn beside the water.
One could sit in a green Adirondack chair, sipping a drink and playing cards. Or for a price, one could sit on a cushioned chair, at a table, on the top terrace and be served a fine meal!
While wandering the hotel, we met up with a few other relatives, who had arrived. All hungry, we headed for La Bella Vista Dining Room.
We passed through the cozy bar area and into the empty dining room. No one in their right mind would choose to eat inside on a beautiful day, when you could dine on a deck with a lake and mountain view.
Lunch on the Terrace
The covered terrace was just what the doctor ordered for weary travelers!
A few of us ordered the lobster rolls, which we'd all heard about, from different sources. Delicious!
Our room was finally ready and our very jovial valet/bellhop escorted us to the room.
Being on the first floor made things easy for our 2-night stay.
Our corner room gave us more windows and a little more light. Sadly no lake view for us, but there were lots of flowers and trees outside our window.
Making Use of Good Weather
Sadly, rain was predicted for wedding day, so we made sure to enjoy the outdoors in the afternoon. Some headed to the pools.
A smaller adult pool and hot tub, was available just above the family pool.
Yay for Croquet!
Being a lover of dollhouses, I noticed a cute little house on wheels, sitting on the front lawn. Don, my sister and I went for a walk and I took a peek in the roof-lid. Croquet mallets and balls!
My sister and I have fond childhood memories of the game. Don and I have crazier adult memories involving aggressive players, flying croquet balls and beer. We 3 had a good and fairly tame game of "speed croquet".
Saturday's Big Event
We woke to rain on Saturday and I can only imagine how stressed Casey and Andy must have been. By 2:00 the rain was still coming down, but the wedding couple was told to make a decision.
They agreed on an answer. "Outside." By the time of the 4:00 ceremony, the rains had stopped and the misty lake and mountains created a magical background for vows. Perfect.
Our stay at the historic Sagamore had a lot more to do with the 2 who got married and all the family that gathered. My memories will recall a dreamlike setting, a magical wedding and a grand celebration with family.
We'll just have to return again, so I can absorb all the nooks and crannies, foods and activities of this impressive hotel! I can't wait!
#182 - Inn at Saratoga
Saratoga Springs, NY
In June, a family wedding took us to upstate New York. Don and I planned for a stop in Saratoga Springs, the town known for natural mineral springs and thoroughbred horse racing.
We spent one night at this old inn, which has been operating continuously since its opening, in 1843.
The house-like structure had great curb appeal, with shutters and porches and hanging flower baskets. It looked more like a family home, than a nursing home.
The inn wasn't exactly a nursing home, but it did open as a rooming house, which catered to the ill. Many came to Saratoga Springs for health issues back in the 1840's. Those being treated by local doctors, could get extra medical supervision at the boarding house, where a doctor supervised diet and special needs.
The New Section
When we checked in, I asked for a room in the original, "old" hotel, rather than the addition.
The woman at the desk tried not to laugh, when she told me the "new part" with the brick veneer, was built in 1866. The "new" 4-story wing was needed to handle the increasing numbers of tourists. The mineral springs didn't just attract the sick.
Dim and Cozy
When we first stepped inside, I inhaled a little of the hotel's history. The smells were a mix of old wood, worn carpet, fabric and kitchen smells. A 175-year-old building is going to smell... old. I'm okay with that.
I hoped our daughter and her husband would be fine with it too, since they were due to join us. Luckily they greeted us in vacation spirits. They seemed intrigued by charming lobby area, as they checked in. They were amused by the tiny elevator, with its mural, as it chugged us up to the second floor.
Our room wasn't far from the elevator, but the slanted floor added a little humor to our journey.
I love old floors that make you feel like you've had a little champagne!
Spacious Front Room
There are 42 rooms in the inn and not many of them face the front.
We asked for rooms on the front, but sadly the little porches I had seen in the photos, weren't really useable. But I could keep an eye on the street action below... not that there was much action to witness.
George and Martha
Mr. and Mrs. Washington were busy keeping an eye on us, from their portraits. I was amused. George's frame seemed to be hiding some kind of secret door. I peeked and it was just a boring utility box.
There were a number of curious antique furniture pieces, like a desk with a million small drawers. The bed was lovely, but too large to be an antique. I usually prefer authentic... unless there's an option of a heavenly king bed with fresh linens.
Relaxing a Bit
There was a good amount of space for lounging and washing up. The bathroom had been nicely updated.
It made me wonder about those poor patients in the 1840's, without plumbing or electricity, washing their faces in bowls of water and straining their eyes trying to read by kerosine lamp.
Downstairs in the hotel, it was fairly quiet at 4 pm.
We explored the sitting area with grand piano and sofas.
Side Room Cocktail Parlor
This Victorian parlor got a little more lively later in the evening, when the tavern was open.
I should have taken a peek at the shelves to see what the book options were.
This was my favorite spot, near the fireplace.
Winter guests probably flock to the wingback chairs, when the fire is burning.
I'm sure there was no alcohol in the inn, back when it housed patients. In fact I'm pretty sure today's corner tavern, with large windows, was probably once part of the porch.
Maybe in the late 1880's guests sipped a drink or two, when Saratoga Springs became more of a resort destination. I read about the "colorful" Primo Suarez, who ran the inn for 35 years, catering to Cuban vacationers. Maybe they served Mojitos and Daiquiris!
The quiet hotel became livelier at happy hour. Don, Heidi, Jamie and I enjoyed listening to the guitarist, who also had about 8 harmonicas.
He humored me with my request for a song that involved a harmonica, sounding like a train. We thanked our musician with a tip, before walking into town for dinner.
I could smell breakfast and coffee, before the elevator doors opened, in the morning.
The complimentary breakfast offered quite a variety of freshly baked goodies. The parlor was a little brighter in the morning. Perfect way to ease into the morning.
I tried out the rockers on the porch...
...but we didn't get a chance to try out the complimentary bikes.
Instead, we walked off our breakfast, by strolling through a nearby neighborhood.
I always appreciate a hotel, when it's located near a lovely neighborhood with gorgeous homes. I found a few, I'd like to buy!
The hotel was 175 years old! That is notable! Best of all, it was maintained and updated just enough. There had been no Marriott Makeover, to make me question the age of the hotel.
The best perk of the hotel, was it's location. We were able to walk to restaurants and shops and the Thursday evening vibe was lively and artsy! The hotel helped us imagine Saratoga Springs 100+ years ago. The location, made us eager to get to know the town of today!
#86 Mirror Lake Inn in 2012
Lake Placid, New York
Flowers, blue skies and cool temps. That's what greeted us when we got out of the car, a couple summers ago.
Don and I met his sister and her husband for a few days at their favorite hotel in upstate New York. We hadn't been to Lake Placid, since Jane and Bernie had married there over 10 years earlier.
Nearly 90 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Wikoff, retired on the wealth of Mr. Wikoff's "Fuller Brush" fame.
They bought an old estate which they turned into the Mir-Lac Inn. Over the years the inn expanded and by 1932, the Norwegian Olympic team made it their temporary home for the Winter Olympics.
When we entered the main lodge (which has been rebuilt after a fire some years back) it made me wish it weren't summer.
Everything about the place felt cozy, even the mighty moose and buffalo looking down on me. I would love to see that big fireplace glowing on a cold evening... while someone played the harp nearby. Yes, there was a harp.
It would have been fun to have curled up with a book on one of the leather couches, in the winter. But then, I remembered what Lake Placid was like in February of 1980.
Don and I were spectators at the Olympics, bundled in bulky layers of scratchy flannel and lumpy down. I'm chilled just remembering the hours we endured in blizzards... only to to glance at the blur of a bobsled or luge flashing by.
Jane had made all the reservations, so we had a lovely room with a balcony and even a bottle of wine!
The high ceilings gave plenty of room for the massive bed.
Even the bathroom was cozy with dark woodwork. But it's the bath products that I remember most fondly about the bathroom. From a young age, I was a big appreciator of the mini soaps in Howard Johnson's and Holiday Inns.
I had a collection. I still collect hotel toiletries, but I bundle them up for a local shelter. However, I couldn't part with these cute little bottles of lotions and shampoos. Each bottle showed the hotel name and a drawing of an Adirondack chair! In fact, I'm proud to say I still have and use the little round, refillable bottles.
The view from the balcony was the best part of the room.
The first night we slept with the door open and I actually woke to the sound of a distant cry of a loon!
A View to the Side
There was more than lake and mountains to observe.
We got to watch sailboats gliding by (no motorboats) and a wedding party preparing for photos!
In the evening Jane and Bernie swam laps. Don and I joined them and we ended up sitting around a table bundled in towels.
Bernie told so many stories, that made us all laugh. The best ones included animals!
In the Morning
The next morning was cool and Jane did her swimming in the inside pool.
I loved the painted clouds on the ceiling and the wooden deck chairs and even a wooden bridge in the very back.
And in the afternoon, when the weather warmed, we headed to the little hotel beach across the street and lounged on the lawn between dips.
We've stayed at a lot of beachside hotels, but there was such a calm feel to this lawn & water setting. Sounds of the surf can be soothing, but maybe it was the lack of water noise that was so calming.
They had a wonderful old bar with a lively crowd in the evening.
And there were a few dinner options in lovely dining rooms with great views. But breakfast was the big treat for me.
There was a rather splendid buffet of breakfast foods. They are known for their Adirondack Flapjacks. But even better than the food to me, was sitting on a screened in porch, looking down on the trees and lake. All was picture perfect. Even the gentleman dining in his spiffy beret, seemed photo worthy.
There were grassy chair spots and decks for chairs and of course a porch or two with rockers.
I have a thing for chairs and I even posed my tiny Little Bear (used for photo ops) on a lovely Adirondack chair.
That was right before he fell from my pocket and became lost... then later rescued and mailed to me by the tourists who found him!
I can't think about the Mirror Lake Inn stay without remembering how I lost that crazy bear and was forced to put out "Missing!" posters!
For the story : http://thebethlists.weebly.com/ongoing-list-of-bear-travels/little-bears-last-adventurewith-me
There is something old-fashioned and family-like about this rather cozy inn. Don and I were so lucky to share the experience with Bernie and Jane.
They helped us experience every nook and cranny. Sadly, Bernie passed away since our stay at the inn.
What has become "most notable" will always be personal. When I think of Mirror Lake Inn, I will always remember Bernie's laugh and his stories!
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!