Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2019, including my time in my hometown of Albany.
I realize for some this is a difficult time to read about travel. I am writing often about our current global crisis — the impact it’s having on me personally, on the world of travel, and on the world at large — regularly on my social media channels, covering topics like wellness-focused practices, and giving away generously to charities helping those in need.
However, my blog audience has spoken and they have overwhelmingly requested a break from COV-tent (content about, well, you know…), and a place where they can mentally escape right now. So, I will continue to post from my past travels to inspire those who wish to daydream about the day it is safe to travel again. Wishing all of you love and peace in this time of reflection.
Since you all survived me whining endlessly about Upstate New York winters, allow me to balance that out with some gushing over our beautiful summers. Fall and spring may be my favorite — fall because of the incredible foliage and the magic of Thanksgiving and the thrill of Halloween, and spring, because gosh, it means winter is over, and we earned every last bloom and beautiful moment of it. But summer in Albany is so fleeting and fun, it really does feel absolutely precious.
I actually spent very little of this summer in Albany. The bulk of my work and wedding travel for the year fell into these short months, and for much of the rest of it, my family chose to bring my mom to Martha’s Vineyard. So I tried to soak up what I could, in the Capital Region.
One of the much anticipated moments? Finally using the goat yoga tickets I’d bought in the spring for June Farms, about fifteen minutes outside of Albany in West Sand Lake.
I bought them having no idea who I’d wrangle to join me, and was overjoyed when my homegirl Jess of Good Karma Studios was able to rearrange her schedule for an evening off of teaching to be the student instead. I’ve done goat yoga before, in Martha’s Vineyard and in Corning, but this was Jess’s first time.
Things started out strong, with the goats taking a particular interest in munching on our prAna yoga mats the moment we laid them down.
Like most goat yoga practices, it was about getting out, being silly, and connecting with nature as much as it was about any particular asanas. And of course, there was some dedicated photo time after class.
And it’s not their only offering. Every Tuesday is “wellness night” at June Farms and they offer 5K trail runs around the property — which I’d love to take part in, next time I’m home — as well as other special fitness events.
While it wasn’t my favorite instruction I’ve had at an animal yoga class — um, yup, I did alpaca yoga and dog yoga too, ha ha — the setting was idyllic, and the company divine. It always makes my heart happy to see people out enjoying each other and enjoying where they live, and June Farms does such a great job of facilitating that.
After the goats had their fill of human play time, we retreated to the Pony Barn for dinner and drinks. Y’all, I love this place. The Pony Barn serves farm-to-table artisanal pizzas, tacos, and other small plates from a beautiful outdoor stone oven, and cocktails from the chic interior barn bar.
This, I remember thinking as we sipped rosé and looked out to the rolling pastures, this is why people move to Upstate New York.
While this was my first visit, I’ve been back several times since, and I’m already planning my return for this coming summer: I want to go back and do a guided farm tour and stay onsite in their adorable renovated Airstream (with a hot tub!) They also have a cottage, a few little cabins, and a stone house for overnight guests. (PS: If it’s your first time using Airbnb, click here for a discount)
But in that moment, over dinner, Jess and I got down to business and ran over the final details of our upcoming retreat together. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more idyllic office.
The evening ended with one of my favorite things about summer — the sunsets late in evening, allowing the last remnants of daylight to linger to nearly nearly 9M.
My next summer highlight brought me up to Saratoga, this time looking distinctly greener than my weekend trip here over the winter with Ian.
The forty-five minute drive flew by in the sunshine, and soon I was wrestling the warm weather crowds for parking before meeting up with my friend Abby, a recent transplant to the city, for an event at Palette. I’m pretty new to the Saratoga scene, but even I knew this place was something special as a fresh addition to downtown: downstairs, a chic cafe and cocktail bar, upstairs, an innovative coworking space for women.
Palette also operates as a gallery for local art, featuring seasonal rotations of works from Upstate artists. I swooned over the current gallery from Monica Bill-Hughes, a visual artist from Troy.
I loved learning about the entrepreneur-friendly programming planned at Palette, and am thrilled that they are expanding to Schenectady, too. Abby and I vowed to spent a day here working upstairs before heading down to the bar for happy hour, next time I came to visit her.
It was the perfect way to kick off the real reason for my visit: the New York City Ballet at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Ever summer, the NYCB takes up a week-long residency alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra in this unique open-air theater — and finally, I was attending. It wasn’t my only first of the night — typically, I’m at SPAC for concerts for which a lawn ticket is your best bet. This was my first more, er, refined performance, and the first time I had a seat inside the actual amphitheater.
SPAC is truly one of the most gorgeous outdoor concert venues I’ve ever seen. As Abby and I sat there totally mesmerized by the performance, sipping wine and soaking up the summer night, fireflies literally danced in front of the stage. If that’s not magic I don’t know what is.
I’ve always been intrigued by the ballet but this year, I really kicked it up a notch — perhaps fueled by my newfound aerial arts obsession. I’d attended The Nutcracker over Christmas and even took a few adult classes at the beginning of the year (I wish I’d found one that fit with my schedule and that I could have stuck with!) I also started daydreaming about going to Russia someday and seeing a performance there… before or after a vodka tour, of course.
It was a beautiful summer memory, and I was thrilled to have a friend to enjoy it with, since I know ballet is an acquired taste.
The next big event on the calendar was one of our close family friends’ weddings in Troy. A huge extended group of friends descended for the weekend from around the East Coast, with my dad even flying in from California. I picked him up at the airport and we went straight to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que an Upstate New York favorite, for a casual rehearsal dinner with unbeatable views of the Hudson River off the back deck.
See what I’m saying about those summer sunsets?
After dinner I brought my dad across the street to one of my new favorite local finds, The Berlin Lounge. Opened in late 2018 and tucked away above Wolff’s Biergarten with limited opening hours, The Berlin Lounge still feels like a stumbled-upon secret with speakeasy vibes. Between the mood lighting, the high-end cocktails and the throwback jazz soundtrack, it really is totally unique to anything else you’ll find in Troy — and I still dream of their lemongrass martini.
The next day, it was wedding time! Olivia and John rolled into town just in time for me to steal one of her dresses — what are sisters for — and for us to get ourselves over to Pat’s Barn in Troy. I’d been tickled ever since the save-the-dates went out due to the fact that the groom’s name is also Pat. He was destined to get married to Cindy there!
Pat and Liv and I all grew up together, our parents part of a tight-knit group of friends called The Gang that I’ve blogged about before. I never felt closer to that group than I did last year, with many of the members on speed dial when we needed help with my mom. With blood relatives so few and far away, they truly stepped up like the family we’ve always treated each other as.
With two adorable kids of their own now, Pat and Cindy were already family, too. But we were all thrilled when they decided to make it official with a wedding.
And what a wedding it was. I cried my way through the ceremony, ate my way through the happy hour and barely missed a single song on the dance floor.
It was also a very, very touching wedding, especially when the groom, who my mom was somewhat of a mentor to over the years and who she shared a very special relationship with, made a tearful and heartfelt song dedication to her at the reception. It was a reminder of the many lives she touched, simply with her kindness and her open heart.
Out of the six weddings I attended in 2019, this was the only one that was local, and while I’m not complaining — I love me a destination wedding! — it was nice to have a whole weekend of festivities right in the Capital Region, getting to see a local venue I’d never before been to and have so many family and friends coming in to celebrate. Pat’s Barn was the sweetest spot!
It was a beautiful wedding for a beautiful family, and we were honored to be a part of it. (And again, I’m kicking myself that I don’t have a photo of the bride and groom. Mental note to step up my game for any and all 2020 nuptials.)
We were also lucky that the wedding brought Olivia home in perfect time to celebrate her birthday. We didn’t have long for festivities — the post-wedding brunch was at the Saratoga Race Track, and Liv and John were catching a train back to Philadelphia shortly after. So I planned a surprise birthday breakfast, complete with a full decked-out dining room and bagels from Bruegger’s Bagels, a national favorite founded right in Troy.
I’d facilitated our family’s big group gift to Olivia — a Cricut Maker crafting machine. Let’s just say, Olivia’s local A.C. Moore has never been the same since.
After breakfast, I jetted out for an event that earned a dedicated blog post of its own — the annual Capital Walls mural tour, which I was thrilled to bring my dad along for too. Stay tuned for that!
Finally, I darted back up to Saratoga for perhaps my most hotly anticipated evening of the entire summer — Heart, live at SPAC!
It was actually the most epic lineup, but Heart was definitely what sold me. Alone, These Dreams, and What About Love are on heavy rotation on my ballads playlist, often play at top volume on long drives in the car. How often do you get to see a band that peaked in the 80’s perform live?
My new cultural event other half Abby and I went for lawn seats for this one, and found a perfect spot on the grass to settle in with our snacks and frozen beverages. Amazingly, you can bring your own coolers into SPAC, but we were happy to splurge on overpriced concert food — SPAC really does have some awesome offerings.
First up, we fell absolutely in love with the vocals of Lucie Silvas, who how holds a coveted spot on my favorite country playlist. Next, Sheryl Crow, who I hadn’t seen live since I was a kid! She is an incredible performer and charmed everyone silly with her tributes to her crew, her little asides on how the music business has changed in the decades she’s been working on it, and bringing her “interns” onstage — her kids, who she brought to swim in the Springs and bought a new guitar strings for in town that day, according to her cute monologue.
Apparently, many considered her to be the main event because the show did clear out a bit after she left the stage. But I loved all three performers so much — it was one of my favorite nights of the summer. And this sunset didn’t hurt, either.
Abby wasn’t my only new hometown friend. Liz, my high school bestie who I’d just been to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park with, also made her way back the 518 just as we were about to head to the Vineyard for the rest of the summer. While the timing made me a tad wistful, I was thrilled to have any another best friend nearby when I could sneak out for a dinner or yoga class together.
Outside the adventures shared here, life remained our familiar routine of trying to balance work, caretaking, and sanity. Attempting to return full throttle back at work, with no more new hours in the day and three retreats on my calendar, was a challenge, but it also felt good to go back in action. A feature in Upstate Magazine was the perfect thing to boost my spirits while I was bending over backwards to get my work life back on track.
And at home, we tried to enjoy the weather as best we could, given our limitations — walks around our neighborhood, visits and meals with friends, and of course, movies at The Spectrum. One of my cherished memories was when Yesterday finally came out. My mom was a lifetime Beatles fan and her best friend, Miller and I all decided to bring her together.
We were holding hands crying and singing along in the back row! To this day, when I miss my mom I turn on Let It Be.
And with that, we packed up the car and said goodbye to our Upstate summer, with eyes forward for the fall.
What’s your favorite season where you live?