This year was the first time since childhood that I visited New York in December to see the Rockefeller Center tree and check out all the holiday window displays. Andy and I took the train down in the evening the week before Christmas and stayed at a friend’s place in Brooklyn Heights. It was perfect: fantastic views of Lower Manhattan and we woke up in the city (it felt like such a treat!), ready to explore as much as we could.Something about being in New York always thrills me, as if I’m involved in some grand mission with thrills around every corner. This, even after growing up less than an hour away. I love it. I love the beauty and the grit. I love how there might be a beautiful piece of street art on one corner… and across the way down an alley you can spot some centuries-old shutters still adorning windows!
Of course, it was a requirement to make a stop at Doughnut Plant, this time to the downtown location on Grand Street. Last time, we sampled the coconut cream filled doughnut, and I told Andy we had to try different flavors every time we go: thus we had one vanilla bean & jam filled doughnut, and a cranberry yeast doughnut. Whoa! Thank you Andy for suggesting the cranberry because I LOVED it. We were so into both doughnuts that this is the only photo we got!Next up was a place that we’d never been before, full of history and art and located far away from all the touristy attractions we’d be hitting later. My first glimpse of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine up in Morningside Heights gave me pause: eyes widened, breath caught up in throat and all. I couldn’t believe this was my first time visiting one of the largest church buildings in the world, right here in New York! I’ve been to Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Barcelona, Paris, Montreal, and they all have breathtaking churches. How come I’d never made a point to come to this one before?
Andy captured the building much better up close:It was nice and quiet (compared to the other parts of the city we visited) inside the cathedral, though the dramatic effect of looking down the length of the center aisle was lessened due to some A/V & production crews setting equipment up right in the center. Still, gazing up, you couldn’t help but experience that I’m so small feeling, as well as appreciation and reverence at what people are capable of creating with a lot of time and dedication. Oh, and then there was this to lighten the mood: Following the cathedral visit, we coincidentally found ourselves hungry and across the street from Tom’s Restaurant, more familiarly known as the diner from Seinfeld. It turned out we were lucky to get seats at all during their lunch rush, the vegetarian wrap was a huge disappointment, and the eggplant parmesan sandwich was surprisingly….incredible. So tender, so thinly sliced! (How could I not have gotten a picture??) Next up on our list was Central Park- talk about a winter wonderland! It was snowing and/or freezing rain the entire day, but when we were in the park it wasn’t bad at all. It was perfect, in fact, for a visit to Belvedere Castle, another first for Andy and I. It was nice to see other people enjoying the city despite how cold and wet it was that day. Our feet may have been hurting by the time we reached the bottom of the park, but there was still all the Christmassy things to see! We wandered through the maze of the Columbus Circle Holiday Market before taking shelter in the Time Warner Building to see the holiday light display (top photo).
We walked around the outside of the Plaza Hotel from there and headed down Fifth Avenue. This is where things start to get fuzzy, as there were a lot of blurry/snowy photos and we definitely backtracked several times. Bryant Park Holiday Market! A decadent (yet overpriced) chimney cake with Nutella inside! A peek down Park Avenue to see the small and unlit Christmas trees! Stepping into the Lindt chocolate store for free samples of their amazing Lindor balls! The holiday window displays in all the frou frou department stores! The Spectacular Christmas Explosion that was Macy’s!Rockefeller Center was predictably full of people who wanted to do the same exact thing that we were there to do: take a picture in front of the tree. Part of the excitement of seeing the tree for me is watching all the ice skaters on the rink right underneath– disappointingly, it was closed (Because it was snowing? In winter?). But that couldn’t shake the smile from my face: I was finally here again after so many years! What made me smile even more was a fellow tree gazer/photographer offering to take our picture, as Andy’s arm-length shots weren’t really doing us or the tree justice. She took one, and then said “One more, vertical!”, which is exactly what I do when I take photos for strangers. She understood! Vertical gives you the whole shot! Plus, turning the camera gives you a different perspective, and a chance for the subjects to decide which one they like best. Thank you, friendly stranger!
Somehow, Andy decided to continue the People!Everywhere!Madness! theme and walk over to Times Square, which I must say didn’t look very festive. But hey, lights!
Sorry, Times Square, but Grand Central wins my vote for best holiday lights:Grand Central, unlike New York’s other rail hub, Penn Station, is a wonderful place to wait for a train. We browsed through yet another holiday market, checked out the holiday model train show, and had a relaxing dinner at one of my favorites, Two Boots Pizza. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more satisfying end to our day in Manhattan.
A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive. –E.B. White
He fell in love with Manhattan’s skyline, like a first-time brothel guest falling for a seasoned professional. He mused over her reflections in the black East River at dusk, dawn, or darkest night, and each haloed light-in a tower or strung along the jeweled and sprawling spider legs of the Brooklyn Bridge’s spans-hinted at some meaning, which could be understood only when made audible by music and encoded in lyrics. –Arthur Phillips