Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saratoga Springs

Skip the reading and head for the pictures

We woke up early Friday morning with a sharp urge to get out somewhere for the weekend. The economy has pretty much grounded us for months, and our trips to South America seem to be stuck in the planning and language learning stage for years - the IRS just took away the money we were saving for a trip to Peru or Argentina, so we are back to square one.

I did what I do every morning - haul myself off the bed and sit down at the computer. A few clicks, and Lake George comes up as a possibility. A few more clicks, and I found the Hilton at Saratoga Springs going for as low as $69 a day. Quick reference across my favorite Priceline info - Bidding for Travel - and we ended up with a reservation at Holiday Inn for $49, a 2-day reservation costing about as much as a standard daily rate.

The rest of the day went fast, as it always does in anticipation of a trip - be it to somewhere near or far away. I had a holiday for Good Friday, Soma had work - but managed to come back a little early, and we took off by 5.

Reached Saratoga Springs around 8:30, and within minutes had to trash our restaurant research from Citysearch. The top rated Chinese place seemed a strip mall joint with 2 customers - while the Friendly's next door had 10. Citysearch is really bad with anything outside the metros. We ended up at Limoncello's right opposite the Holiday Inn - for some bland, non-descriptive Italian. As we would discover tomorrow, pretty much anything in downtown (just a half mile away) would have been a better choice.

Holiday Inn gave us a really nice room, and the just-right mattresses helped us get the long rest we needed. Breakfast followed - with my usual 'holiday' choice of bacon, eggs and rye bread. Soma had a filling Denver omelet. Rested and fed, we asked for things to do.

Apparently the 2 major attractions of Saratoga Springs are the Spa State Park, and the battleground (Historic State Park). The battleground got us warnings for muddy trails. We skipped the spa as well, and headed out to Lake George - 30 minutes away.

This being mid April, Lake George was - well - dead. Pretty much like the US side of Niagara during December. We thought of driving up to Prospect Mountain - but the road was closed. Kept hitting roads towards the mountain hoping to find a trailhead, and after some local help, ended up at the intersection of Montcalm and Cooper for a foot trail. Good enough - a handful of other (more fit) hikers were also heading up.

Once on the hike, I remembered having done the exact same hike with Snigdha and Bikram back in '01, was the first long ride on my S4. Pity I didn't remember anything else about the hike - and had to read up on the blackberry as we were going along.

The trail was, well, really steep. Just 1.5 miles or so, but a 2000 ft ascent in that. The first half was along a rocky gully (quoting from Bob Goodwin's summary). As Bob noted, this was not the best of hikes - you were pretty much going up a water channel with rocks. It was wet, muddy, and slippery in places. An hour later (we are slow hikers), we crossed the Prospect Mountain Highway, and the trail changed from a gully to mostly dry exposed boulders - somewhat steeper, but at least we were not jumping around to stay dry. Took us another hour of following the little red marker dots on trees to get to a Summit direction marker, and about half hour from there to reach the summit.

Being mid-day, and an overcast sky, the view was not exactly spectacular - but after having put so much effort into it, we made sure to get what we could. We headed down soon after - a debate on whether to take the closed highway or the steep path we came up on was settled when the GPS said the road was 5.2 miles to base. Going down the same foot trail was much easier, but keeping a good grip on out steps was not. Took us an hour and a half to get back to our car - 60% of the time we needed to go up.

By this time we were really hungry and exhausted. We headed back to Saratoga Springs, and had some delicious cakes, canolis and cappuccinos at Mrs London's. A place we would love to go again. We are happy when fed, and walked around to explore more of the little downtown. We compared 3 dinner-and-music venues - One Caroline, Gaffney's, and Bailey's - all within a single block between Broadway, Caroline and Phila streets. Gaffney's had the best food, making our decision easy.

Headed back to the hotel, showered, relaxed, and uploaded some snaps (appreciating the SD card slot on our Lenovo netbook). Headed out for dinner around 9 - as the band was scheduled to start around 10, and we would fall asleep if we had to wait after dinner.

Dinner at Gaffney's was - well - super awesome. Their Tapas platter had a variety of cheeses, dips, flatbreads, smoked trout, and some tasty little dishes we couldn't figure out. Their Jambalaya was really spicy and delicious, and the mixed grill offered an excellent combination of steak, pork chops and chicken cutlet - and had a sweet and spicy mango chutney to boot.

"Rick Bolton, The Dwyer Sisters and Arlin Greene" came up on stage - played some Dylans and similar numbers. It seemed like everyone knew everyone - people from the bar went up and sang or played with the band, and the band members were calling out to members of the audience by name. Live music is always leagues more interesting than anything on a CD or iPod, and we thoroughly enjoyed the next few hours. The best part was walking over to our hotel - nothing kills a night out like having to stay sober for the drive back.