If I had won the lottery, I would have purchased a penthouse apartment in New York City, but alas, it seems I’ll only be visiting. :) So between Christmas and New Years, Rick and I traveled to NYC with Jennifer, Madison and Grayson. We usually stay at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, but since we didn’t want to get involved in the ball drop hoopla, we chose the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South. We will definitely be staying there on future trips.
Our first evening included the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Spectacular is a great description! Not only was the show fabulous beyond our expectations, but we serendipitously met a few Rockettes at the side door afterward who graciously posed for pictures with Grayson.
Speaking of Serendipity, after the show we were craving the Frozen Hot Chocolate offered in giant sizes at the popular restaurant. Since the wait was seriously long, we put our name on the list and ventured out to Dylan’s Candy Bar, where Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, has established the most luscious two story candy shop right in the heart of the Upper East Side.
Laden with candy bags, we checked our wait list at Serendipity to find we still had time to ride the Roosevelt Tram (a few blocks away) over the East River and back.
Finally, our table was ready at Serendipity and we indulged in the Frozen Hot Chocolates!
Since the following day was Jennifer’s birthday, she and I enjoyed a morning of shopping. LaDuree was our first stop where we chose a variety of macaroons to share with everyone later.
Nearby we visited the Ralph Lauren Flagship store.
And more fashion at Tiffany…
Of course their tree would be adorned with little blue boxes!
While we shopped, Grayson and Grandpa climbed the rocks in Central Park.
We all met up again in the afternoon for the Holiday Lights & Movie Sites tour. We met our guide in the lobby of the The Shops at Columbus Circle.
After a quick run to Starbucks, we boarded a very plush comfortable bus that had two screens where the guide played movie clips for the movie sights. After the clips, we passed by the sights and the guide would provide interesting tidbits about the filming. Some of the scenes were connected to the holidays, like Home Alone, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street. Others, just to name a few, were An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle as we passed the Empire State Building, and Ghostbusters as we passed the New York Public Library. For the Holiday Lights part of the tour, the bus stopped at least four times, allowing us to depart and see the fabulous window displays at the Department Stores up close and personal. This year Bloomingdale’s theme was Holidays through the Senses. As you viewed the windows, the scent of peppermint and cinnamon filled the air (scent), Christmas carols were playing (hearing), greenery edged the frames you could feel (touch), peppermint was available to taste, and of course, the sight of the displays was pure eye candy!
On the other side of Bloomie’s, there were Star Wars themed displays.
Now Barneys had a fascinating window featuring an ice carver sculpting penguins and polar bears! The poor guy carving was wearing an insulated suit as the temperature was four degrees Fahrenheit. The sculptors worked six hour shifts for forty-five days straight!
Lord & Taylor featured “A Few of Our Favorite Things.” Here is a Sweet Shop display:
Of course, no Holiday Lights tour would be complete without the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and Angels. Seventy-eight feet tall and weighing in at ten tons, this year’s beauty comes from Gardiner, New York. The tree had been in the Asendorf family for four generations but was beginning to outgrow the property, taking over the whole yard. So the family submitted it online, Rockefeller Center’s head gardener showed up, and voilà, the tree was chosen!
The tour concluded near the Empire State Building which was dressed in appropriate holiday colors.
You know, one of my favorite things about New York City is the way I’m constantly surprised, in a good way. (Not in the way that we accidentally ended up in a “special” graffiti-ridden part of Queens by subway.) But after our tour, we entered the subway to return to our hotel and were met with an awesome five piece jazz band!
That evening we strolled along Central Park West on our way to Jen’s birthday dinner at Tavern on the Green.
The following day, we toured again, and this time it was the Nolita/NoHo Food & Culture Tour. What a culinary extravaganza! Our guide led us to at least seven or eight establishments where we were served just enough to make us look forward to the next stop. Everything from appetizers to dessert and then some (wine.) Anny (yes, Anny with a “y”) such a personable and knowledgeable guide, imparted history of the neighborhoods along the way. If you’re in Manhattan, I highly recommend this three hour walking tour.
Anny had emphasized how special and transitory the graffiti art is in New York. She recommended capturing by photo, since it’s often here today, gone tomorrow.
After touring, we stopped at Rizzoli, a well-known Manhattan bookstore, to browse…
After Rizzoli, we headed back uptown and spotted preparations for the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. Throughout our stay in NYC, we felt totally safe and secure. The police were very, very visible, everywhere, everyday.
Since we weren’t planning on attending the festivities in Times Square, we toasted champagne in our room at midnight as we watched the ball drop on TV, then rushed out the front door of the hotel to watch the magnificent midnight fireworks display over Central Park. Wish I had a picture of that! What was I thinking? Hmm, champagne…
The following morning we started the New Year off right by subwaying downtown to catch the Statue Cruises boat to the Statue of Liberty! She’s so beautiful! Such an awesome, inspiring sight!
Here is what it looks like inside, from the pedestal upward…
Throughout the museum, there were body parts casts to give a sense of her massive size that you could use as photo ops.
Then it was on to fascinating Ellis Island.
After watching the short movie about the history of Ellis Island, we were invited to join a tour led by a park ranger (Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are a National Park.) This man missed his calling–should have been on Broadway. He brought the immigration experience to life by dramatically asking questions of each person in our group as though each one of us were immigrants trying to make it through the difficult inspection process. We learned so much! Each immigrant was subjected to a rapid fire series of twenty-nine questions by the inspectors. And that buttonhook that was used to flip the eyelid to check for disease–it was not cleaned from person to person! If a family member was rejected because of disease, who would return home with them? Our experience with the park ranger was seriously thought provoking and interesting. Never enough time at Ellis Island!
But as we departed, the skyline beckoned us back to the mainland.
The next item on our agenda was to visit the massive 9/11 Museum. On a previous trip, we saw the fountains, memorial wall, and the small starter museum. This time we were able to enter the new museum and all its many sobering exhibits. Here is a picture to give an idea of the size of the museum.
The museum is, of course, a sad experience. Although it is not a place of solitude, it is a place of respect. Visitors speaking in hushed tones are met with display after display of personal stories, both visually and auditorily, as recordings are played of loved ones’ calls from the Towers, and 911 calls. Screens replay the news reports of the surrounding days. As I write this, I heave a heavy sigh, not being able to impart the gravity of this collection of tragic memories. The hopeful elements concern the survivors and their stories. Now that we have seen the Memorial, and the Museum, our next visit to New York should include the new One World Observatory. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere gives a Top of the World type experience with 360 degree views. The elevators reach the 102nd floor in less than 60 seconds and the building offers many dining rooms and cafes.
We ended the evening with a scrumptious dinner at the ever-pleasing Balthazar restaurant. It has been described as a “blended atmosphere of NYC, Paris, and a local diner.” After our meal, we stopped next door to gather some of the luscious pastries at the Balthazar Bakery for dessert later. :)
The following day, we didn’t waste time, as it was the last day of our trip. Of course, our final hours consisted of a little more shopping. Our favorite was the MacKenzie-Childs store on 57th Street, within walking distance from our hotel. Trust me, this store is a real life walk through her catalog! Oh, the vignettes throughout the store! Here are just a few:
What? More shopping? Just a quick dash into the Shops at the Plaza, and meeting Grandpa for lunch in the Plaza Food Court below.
After good-bye hugs, Jennifer and the girls were off to the airport since they were departing a few hours before us. As for me, I said, “Grandpa, grab your Kindle. We have one more stop to make, and it’s a short subway ride away.”
Oh, yeah! You didn’t think I’d miss it, did you? As the elevator operator swung the lever on that ancient elevator door and allowed us to step into fabric Mecca, I suggested Grandpa sit up front in the “husband waiting” section, while I frantically explored all four floors and the new Mood Home next door.
I offer a “Thank you, Mood!” and a wave good-bye! Hauling my bulging Mood Fabric bag onto the subway, then onto the plane, I bid a fond farewell to my favorite city in the world. :)