Oh New York. I’m not talking about the city. I’m talking about the state. When I say we are going on our annual family trip to New York, I mean we are going to visit my husband’s hometown. The small “village” is actually situated approximately 30 minutes Northwest of Albany and about 45 minutes southwest of Saratoga Springs. We choose to go up every year in August so that my husband can catch the summer meet at Saratoga Race Track (we are talking horse racing). Before I met him, I had no clue there was actually enough people watching the sport that a venue could sustain an event like this for over a month (holding approximately 10 races a day, 6 days a week). Don’t these people work?
Neither here nor there, we try to fly out such that we have two full weekends at the track (when the most anticipated horse races are competed). This is the third time that the girls have flown on an airplane together, so we are starting to get our hands around how best to book flights that revolve around nap times and meals. We typically pack a lunch for us all to eat on the plane, as I have found that trying to buy food at the airport can be completely inconvenient and expensive. The way there was smooth sailing. We opted to fly out on a lunchtime flight, in which both kids (surprisingly) fell asleep.
My husband’s mom picked us up from the airport, and we were on our way. Am I the only one that thinks it’s odd that so many people in New York have pools when they only get a few months of warm weather? The girls sure were excited to get in Mimi and Papa’s (that’s what they call their grandparents) pool. Our youngest didn’t even have time to get her bathing suit on. They swam long enough to work up an appetite before we headed to one of our favorite Italian restaurants in town.
Pretty mom and pop. I wish I would have taken a picture of the “buttered bread” that they bring to every table. If you can picture an entire homemade loaf of bread sliced thickly before each slice is covered in smooth butter, that would be what they serve. My children typically do not shy away from butter, but I have to say they even wanted me to scrape some of it off. One glass of wine down, our pizza arrived! See picture above. Two slices was all I needed. They serve the sauce on top of the cheese (almost like a deep dish). Feels (and tastes) like home.
We went to bed as early as the kids would let us. Why is it so hard to get the kids adjusted to a bed time on vacation? We started with one room for the girls and one room for us. We played musical beds all week (depending on who was more tired). I’m not going to lie, sleeping was pretty rough out of town, which is why it was good we had time to rest if we needed to.
Maybe it was vacation or maybe it was lack or activity, but I just don’t get hungry as early when we are in New York. On Saturday, my husband and I slept in (ultimately meaning we didn’t get up early to exercise). We dilly dallied around the house before we headed to the local golf course clubhouse for brunch. Anticipating that my next meal may not be until later in the day, I ordered two pancakes and bacon. You have to have protein right? The girls took a ride around in the golf cart before we headed home and my husband and I got ready to go to the track.
The girls are finally getting to an age where they recognize their grandparents and feel comfortable with us leaving them over night. A day at the track is literally a day at the track. We drive 45 minutes before parking, walking a half mile to the entry gate and getting settled.
I am an accountant. I understand odds. I bet a little here and there, but I don’t bet with much intention. Sometimes I try to pick a winner. Other times I pick a name or a number. For the most part I just enjoy walking around, people watching and having a few adult beverages. I couldn’t tell you how many thousands of steps we take at the track. There is a lot of time between the races. There are a lot of things to look at.
We got caught in a complete downpour at the track the first day we went. We huddled inside a long bar and munched on kettle corn popcorn while we waited out the storm. They ended up calling the remaining races. My husband can’t remember the last time this happened. To say he was disappointed is an understatement. Once the rain slowed up, we stopped for dinner at a local Saratoga restaurant. I feel like this is another one of our “regular” spots when we head up north.
On Sunday, my husband opted to hit the track while the girls and I stayed at the house. One of the neighborhood kids was having her birthday party. A pool party. With an obstacle race bouncy house and magician (who actually made balloon animals).
Since both of the girls are now preoccupied with pools, my mother-in-law and I both suited up to watch them as they swam. My oldest daughter is dabbling with jumping off the little diving board. As such, I had to demonstrate a “cannonball” to entice her jump herself. It was kind of fun.
I mention the obstacle race bouncy house because I was obsessed with it. Maybe I will have one at my 32nd birthday party later this year? I was surprised how good my girls were at climbing through, up and down the massive structure. It really was fun. In fact, it was so fun, I challenged my husband (who showed up after the last horse race) to a competition. I narrowly missed beating him (we attempted to take a video, but it didn’t work out).
All in all, we had a great time at the party. We actually ended up eating there. They had an incredible spread of grilled chicken skewers, chips, fruit, macaroni and cheese and cake (of course).
Let me clarify. We had cake at the party. We then headed to the local diner to get ice cream. Another thing I am still trying to figure out is why there are so many ice cream places in an area that isn’t that warm a better part of the year. I’m not complaining. Just saying. Let me note, I did go for a slow 5 mile run that morning.
My husband used to scoop ice cream at the local diner, so the owner asked to grab a quick picture of the family on our way out.
Monday is family day at the track. Quite literally. I guess Mondays are considered a slower day, so they put together a variety of activities to entice families to check things out. We grabbed bagels, donuts and coffee at Dunkin Donuts before making the 45 minute drive to the track. We left early so the girls could watch the horses do their workouts. The track is open early every morning for the horses to workout, prior to racing later on in the day/week.
I guess our two year old wasn’t feeling the early wake up call because she refused to participate in family pictures. Maybe it’s her age. She preferred to walk around with her potty seat on top of her head. I let her do it. I even took a picture of it. I’m sure she won’t believe she acted that way when I tell her the story years from now. My youngest on the other hand, loved watching the animals and was more than willing to spend some quality time with her grandma.
We hit the “step and repeat” wall before heading to the playground. They have all of this at the track. The environment is quite welcoming to children. The remaining family activities were not set to start until closer to lunch, so we walked to downtown Saratoga to do some shopping and ride the Carrousel.
This umbrella. My oldest got a horse umbrella. The youngest got a matching horse lunchbox. Needless to say, the umbrella was out the rest of the day. It didn’t matter if we were inside, outside or trying to ride home in the car. I don’t know how it didn’t break. By the end of the day, she had successfully mastered opening and closing it.
The Carrousel. The main attraction for children in downtown Saratoga – Congress Park. Merry go round. I literally made it one time around before I felt like I was going to throw up. Good thing the girls were able to enjoy the ride and spend some quality time with everyone else. We grabbed sandwiches at a local deli before making the walk back to the track to watch the first race and head home. Between our early morning run and the walk to downtown and back, we accumulated over 13 miles.
I figured both kids would be exhausted from the morning and fall asleep in the car but nothing ever goes as planned in mom world. My oldest was itching to do something Monday afternoon, so I took a gamble and opted to take her with me to get a pedicure and a manicure. Wow. Let me just say this. Wow. She did better than I ever could have guessed. She sat amazingly still as she watched them massage her feet, paint her toenails and wait for them to dry.
Monday night dinner at home. Our oldest became quite the sous chef while in New York. She was more than willing to help Mimi in the kitchen. While we are talking about the kitchen and food, I should bring up Stewart’s ice cream. Stewart’s is actually a type of 7-11/gas station in the north that carries its own line of ice cream. You can actually walk in and get sundaes and milkshakes as well. My favorite – Crumbs Along the Mohawk. Just read the description. It’s a shame they don’t deliver.
The track is closed on Tuesday. We had all day with my husband to do something as a family. My mother-in-law had mentioned going to “Animal Land” one of the days that we were visiting since our youngest loves animals so much.
Animal Land is about 20 minutes from where my husband grew up. It actually reminds me of a zoo. There are a ridiculous amount of animals there – giraffes, zebras, bears, gosh the list goes on. They even have a safari ride where you ride an open air bus around an uncaged area. Animals are free to walk up to the vehicle as the guide explains the various creatures.
The girls really did have a good time. My youngest more than the oldest (as we expected). She really had no fear when it came to reaching out to some very large animals to feed them. They also had several (Chuck E Cheese type) rides at the exit for them to enjoy. We enjoyed yet another meal at home that evening before having some Crumbs Along the Mohawk.
Wednesday was another low key day. We drove to a nearby lake where we grabbed lunch and let the girls run around on a man made beach. The water was actually warmer than we thought it would be. Since I had never been to the area before, we spent some time driving around and sight seeing while the girls took naps in the back.
Since I was still gambling back and forth as to whether I wanted to compete in the Spartan World Championships, I figured I should try to get a strength workout in one of the days we were out of town. In an effort to spend time with my husband, I asked him if he wanted to go to a local playground with me. This picture is actually from last year. He was in such a bad mood about “Spartan training” that he did his own thing when we arrived at the park and gave me 40 minutes to get my stuff done. Mouth shut. I was off, and I wasn’t asking him to take videos or pictures. I wasn’t too thrilled about exercise myself, but I got in a solid workout.
We spent the rest of the day at the house playing with the girls, before I actually took a nap. It was incredible. I hope you notice the Dora bib my oldest is wearing in several pictures. She loves Dora. She found this in a drawer at the house. She literally slept in it. That lasted about three days. I was on vacation. I didn’t argue.
I had a few “bucket list” foods that I wanted to eat before I left New York. The pizza on day one was one of them. The second was a pizza roll from Brooklyn Pizza. Look at those beautiful rolls basking in the sunlight. If I am going to go all in, I am going to go all in. They stuff each roll with whatever you want and then give you a side of marinara to dip it in.
I opted for the veggie roll. Cheese. Mushroom. Spinach. Red peppers. Bread. Lots of it. I ate every bite, and I didn’t feel bad about it. I work too hard to deprive myself.
Nights are the absolute best! Little to no humidity. It’s quiet. It’s cool. We spent a lot of time just sitting out in the front yard. I used to do the same thing when I visited my grandpa up in Floyd, VA. There is something so humbling about sitting out in the country without the phone, music or television.
This is a long post. Stay with me. The rest of the week went by pretty fast. My husband and I booked a room in Saratoga for Thursday night and left the girls with my in-laws. Prior to hitting the road for the day, we hit the road for hill and speed workouts. I typically work out with a running group outside of my house on Thursday morning. I knew they would be working hard, so I was motivated to as well. I hit the pavement and completed the following speed work out.
- Warm Up
- 2 x mile
- 2 x 800 m
- 4 x 400 m
- Cool Down
My husband finished the 400 meter repeats with me. Well, he actually smoked me, but he started at the same time as I did. It was actually fun this time. I love how much he ball busts me and jokingly eggs my athletic endeavors on.
We held off on eating anything before we got to Saratoga. By the time we had showered, said goodbye to the girls and arrived at our breakfast destination it was close to 11 AM. Hangry. There was a reason behind this. Our favorite spot is called Mimi’s. They serve breakfast until they close. I had to share this picture. We each ordered an appetizer for breakfast. Who does that. I had a biscuit and he had a grilled muffin. My “entree” was not as large, but my husband went on to order the Georgia Southern French Toast with a side of sausage. Um, look at those sausages. Are we at a tailgate? He almost finished the whole thing before the waitress said, “Wow, nobody finishes the french toast”. I think she forgot he had an appetizer as well.
We walked to the track from the breakfast restaurant (we needed it). We spent the afternoon there before grabbing a few drinks and checking into our bed and breakfast.
I stopped taking pictures at that point. It’s okay. Maybe things got a little blurry. It was like pre-kids days. We didn’t eat dinner until 9:00 PM and we stayed up past 10:00 PM. We woke up the next day without an alarm, and we both decided not to do a workout.
This is the second year that we have stayed at the Circular Manor Bed and Breakfast and it was just as good round two. My husband’s mom and aunt drove up to Saratoga with the girls and met us at the track before I drove the girls back and hung out with his dad that afternoon. He had knee surgery in July. While he is usually more mobile, he was limited this year. The girls were great about finding ways to be around him as much as possible.
Saturday. Our last full day of vacation. We did run in the morning. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the track. We saw the horse “Songbird” win the Alabama Stakes. If you don’t know horse racing, know this: she is the top three year old filly and is in contention for horse of the year. She is undefeated. I don’t go to many big races, but this race was really cool to see. We grabbed one last Italian meal on our way home before we had to start packing things up for our flight back home.
Sunday was a long day. We got delayed on our way out on Sunday. After a 45 minute drive the airport, we got through security and waited another hour before boarding. Once we got on the plane, the girls fell asleep for a little bit, before getting anxious. Storms over Charlotte delayed our landing. By the time we got our luggage and made it home, we had been traveling for 7 hours. I hate to complain, but we are getting close to just packing the car up and driving.
The time is worth it though. I needed a vacation. My husband did too. One in which we didn’t feel obligated to do much. One in which we didn’t have anywhere we had to be. Even when we go to the beach, we feel like we have to be out there as long as possible. It’s getting easier every year.