The Saratoga Traveler: Day Trips, Weekend Getaways & Hidden Gems

June 2009 Archives

I'm a t-shirt and jeans kinda girl.  I'd rather sit lakeside than just about anywhere else.  But recently I met Liz Giblin from the Lake George Opera Company at Saratoga.

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Photo by Gary Gold

Liz is so passionate about the opera company that its infectious.  So I thought "how many other t-shirt and jeans people are out there would like to know about the opera?"

Here are some facts you may or may not know:

The Lake George Opera Company has been in existence for 48 seasons, 12 of those here in Saratoga.
The Opera Company has the oldest apprentice program in the country.  Last season alone there were 800 applicants for the program, 500 auditioned for the 8 available spots.  According to Liz Giblin the program has been "a launching pad" for some great careers including Kyle Pfortmiller (who has performed at the New York City Opera among others) and Elizabeth Roberts  who has performed throughout Europe.  

The opera company performs at the Spa Little Theater which has 498 seats but no orchestra pit giving the musical director the opportunity to be creative with the orchestra's placement.

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Photo by Gary Gold

If you're not fully convinced the opera is for you, they offer a preview one hour before the performances.

Opening night is July 2nd

This season's line-up offers a tragedy (Madame Butterfly), a comedy (Don Pasquale) and something completely unique (Eleanor Roosevelt) which is a workshop performance, an opera in development.  Meaning the audience will help the composer on the ending.

Madame Butterfly                     Don Pasquale
July 2 at 7:30 pm                      July 3rd at 7:30pm
July 5th at 2 pm                        July 7th at 2:00 pm
July 8th at 2 pm                        July 9th at 2:00 pm    
July 10th at 7:30 pm                  July 11th at 7:30 pm

Eleanor Roosevelt
July 11th at 1 pm
Tickets are $25-$80

Lake George Opera Company, another jewel in the crown called Spa State Park.
July 12th at 2:00 pm

Have you driven through Ballston Spa village and wondered where they get the beautiful baskets hanging from every street pole?  Or been to Double M Western and admired the full barrels of gorgeous flowers and thought I wish I could have something like that?  Well this is how you can--go to Bulldog Farms Greenhouse in Ballston Lake, (267 Lake Rd) named for the owner Pasquale Monaco's two bulldogs, Bonnie and Clyde.

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Bulldog Farms is a family run business, where you get personal service and beautiful, healthy plants all grown from seeds or plugs right on the premise. Their specialty is hanging baskets but it doesn't stop there.  They offer herbs, vegetables and some of the biggest most beautiful perennials that I've ever seen and don't forget the show stopping mums , all at reasonable prices.  May is their busiest month so now is a great time to go visit the greenhouse, talk with Pasquale (known to family and friends as "Pip") about what plants work best for you.  Their hours are 9-5, 7 days a week.  And if you can't make it then, visit them at the Farmer's Market in Wiswall Park on Thursdays and Saturdays. 

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See how a hobby started by his father 15 years ago, has "grown" ( sorry, can't pass up a good pun) into a thriving and gorgeous business.  Truly a hidden gem right in Ballston Lake.  They accept cash, checks,  credit cards and also have gift certificates available.

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Bulldogs is easy to find.  Take Rte 50 south through Ballston Spa.  Make a left onto Outlet Rd.  Drive past the lake and turn left onto Lake Rd at the stop sign. The greenhouse is about 1/2 mile on the right.  Just watch for the sign.

My niece and her family are coming for a two week vacation, so I'll be feeding my travel bug on seafood, gorgeous scenery, beautiful sunsets and spa treatments.

The next two weeks will be jam packed with day trips and weekend excursions.
Hopefully I'll come up with original and exciting trips that you will want to recreate or at least think about recreating.

So stay tuned because I'll be blogging from the road!

Now for the first of my hidden gem blogs.....

A West Side Gem - The Fortunate Cup Coffee Shop and Cafe

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Once you walk into the Fortunate Cup at 120 West Ave, you feel it.  The earth tones, the comfy chairs and fireplace,  the use of free wi-fi, the delicious aromas of fresh brewed coffees and soups cooking.  Owner, operator Doreen Kamen likens it to her own home.  Its a place that begs you to sit, sip and relax.  You can grab a quick lunch or breakfast through the drive through window or sit outside with an iced tea and watch the world go by.  And when chilly weather comes back and we all know it will, you can sit in front of the fire or watch the snow through the large windows.  I found this shop quite by accident.  I was working down the street and was looking for someplace different for lunch.  Since I had an hour I thought I would check it out and have been coming back as often as possible ever since. 

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The Fortunate Cup doesn't compare to other coffee shops in the area, downtown in particular.  Its very new, only open since September 2008.  Its very clean, with wood floors, chrome lighting fixtures and over sized chairs.  Even the bathrooms are all automatic and gorgeous.  And the food--excellent.  Doreen developed the menu with a chef friend of hers.  They offer soups, year round along with a host of gourmet paninis, salads and wraps.  One of her most popular creations is a breakfast panini--eggs and other ingredients all melted together on a Belgian waffle.

If you are in the mood for something a little more traditional for breakfast, they offer muffins and scones.  My favorite combination is a warm melty chocolate chip muffin with a hot, steaming, creamy mocha.  Yes I am a chocoholic and proud of it!

The Fortunate Cup brings something much needed on the West side of Saratoga.  A coffee shop with free and ample parking,  a warm and inviting atmosphere; and a place where businessmen and women, students, or anyone else can come and enjoy a hot beverage, (or if you prefer one of their popular teas) a sweet or a lunch.  Stop in often and take a look at their specials, try something new--like an authentic Italian gelato or my absolute favorite, The Woodsmen sandwich--a combination of roast beef, bacon and smoked gouda cheese with garlic mayo.  Perfect.  You too can discover this hidden gem right on West Ave.

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Be sure to tell them you read it here on The Saratoga Traveler.

The Fortunate Cup
120 West Ave.
Monday-Wednesday  7am-7pm
Thursday 7 am - 9 pm
Friday and Saturday 7 am - 5 pm
Sundays 8am-5pm
Drive through opens at 6:30 am

They welcome businesses to use their conference room.  If you would like a luncheon served they will be happy to accommodate you for an extra charge.  You can reach Doreen at 226-0800.

I like to travel. I always have. I remember once when I was in my 20's getting into a car with my best friend and just driving. This is when I still lived in St. Louis. We both decided we needed a break so we picked a road, a highway and decided to see how far we could go. We ended up in West Virginia. There is something about travel--exploration, discovery that makes it so enticing, so addicting. Over the years I've done the same thing, just picked a destination and went, whenever money and time would allow. That's what this blog is about. Exploring new places and maybe not so new places. Seeing things in a different way. Its amazing what travel can do--educate, fill you with a much needed sense of relaxation, give you a sense of wonder or connect you to places that you've only seen in pictures. So I urge you to get out there, feed your travel bug and share your discoveries and I hope this blog will give you the needed information or inspiration to do that. I welcome your comments and suggestions--feel free to voice your opinion. On Wednesdays I'll share my plans for the weekend and on Fridays I'll highlight a hidden gem in and around Saratoga. Mondays will be a recap of the weekend, with detailed information, directions--everything you will need to repeat the trip. I look forward to sharing my journeys with you as the Saratoga Traveler--so let's hit the road!

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Kim Bernard

Moved to Saratoga from St Louis MO (home of The Gateway Arch, Baseball Cardinals and of course Anheuser-Busch) with my family for my husband's job. In the last 2 1/2 years we've had the opportunity to explore and discover day trips, hidden gems, along with some of the most beautiful, historic, interesting and curious places in New England. So come with me and look through a Midwesterner's eyes at Saratoga and beyond. I hope you enjoy your adventures and feel free to share yours and together we can feed our travel bug!