life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, December 23, 2012

NYC Christmas

So yesterday Drew and I went into the city to look at Christmas decorations.  Yes, we knew it would be very crowded on the Saturday before Christmas.  What can I say except that we're crazy?  ;-)  It was also very cold yesterday, and windy -- very different from the weather Friday, or today for that matter.
We took the train into Penn Station, so the logical first stop was Macy's.  The windows along 34th St. are devoted to "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus".  The Herald Square windows tell the story of NYC at Christmas, with an emphasis on Macy's participation (there's a "Miracle on 34th Street" scene).
Bought a pretzel from a street vendor outside Macy's.  The quintissential NYC experience.
There were lots of street performers in Herald Square. The latest idea is to dress as a cartoon character and charge a small fee to pose for pictures. Mickey and Minnie Mouse seem to be the overall favorites, but you will also see Elmo, Smurfs, the Statue of Liberty . . . Easy way to make a buck, and you see these guys in Times Square all the time. Yesterday I also saw them in Rockefeller Center.
Next up was Lord & Taylor, 5th Ave at 38th St.Good crowd control at their windows.  Their focus is Christmas around the world.  Very charming.
Next we walked to Bryant Park.  There's a pretty tree here, about 30 feet tall, decked out in blue lights and silver ornaments.    Lovely.  You want a "big tree" experience without the crowds?  Come here.  The busiest shops, by the way, were the two kiosks with hot chocolate.  At one kiosk we sampled French truffles.  Very rich chocolate.
And then we headed to the Big Tree -- Rockefeller Center.  CROWD ALERT!!!!    I literally had to hang onto Drew for fear we'd be separated. 
We were walking north on 5th Ave.  Made a right turn onto 49th, and entered Rockefeller Center from 49th St.    Drew took a few pictures of the tree and the skating rink.  And a few years ago, when they replaced the tree topper, they put the old one on display, so Drew took pictures of that as well.    (I didn't take any photos this year, I didn't bring my camera, and my hands were so cold I decided it wasn't worth taking off the gloves so that I could use the cell phone.)
My moment of "glory" . . .tripping over a crowd-control barricade.  Managed to keep from falling but I did wrench my knee . . .
Then we walked up 50th St. to 5th Ave.   That put us across the street from Saks 5th Avenue. Saks has turned the side of its building into a movie screen.  Every 10 minutes or so, from 5 PM until 10 PM, they project a 2 minute movie all about snow and skating and etc.  Very cute.
But it creates an abominable crowd situation.  It was actually scary trying to walk from 50th back to 49th so we could cross 5th. People were packed together like sardines in a can, literally touching each other and unable to move.  Took us 10 minutes to negotiate the one short block.
Eventually we did make it out of the crowd and across the street, and took a look at the windows at Saks.  The best scene here was the snow globes -- the shelves rotate, shaking up the snowglobes so that they "snow". 
At this point we left 5th Ave. and headed to Bloomingdale's at 59th and Lexington.  Much less crowded here, the windows are done up to salute Cirque de Soleil.  Then we headed up to Barney's at 61st and Madison.  This was an interesting display, a short movie featuring Minnie Mouse, where she imagines herself as a Parisian fashion model. 
We walked back to 57th and headed back towards 5th.  The giant snowflake hangs over the intersection of 57th and 5th.  Bergdorf Goodman sits on that corner but by then we were all "windowed out".  It was getting cold and my leg was starting to hurt.  So we called it a day, and took a cab back to the Marriott Marquis Hotel.  Sat in the lobby and people-watched for about half an hour, killing time until our dinner reservation.
Dinner on Restaurant Row.  We dined at a charming spot called Lattanzi Ristorante Italiano.  Several small dining rooms, each dimly lit, with a candle on each table.  Very romantic.  They offer both Italian-Roman and Judeo-Italian cuisine, but we were only offered the Roman menu and I suspect you have to ask for the Jewish menu.  Perhaps we will, when we go back.
The breadbasket included rustic Italian bread, garlicky breadsticks and some sort of wafer, accompanied by olive oil.  One of the "specials" was lasagna bolognese. Which could be ordered as an appetizer or as a main course -- I asked for it as an appetizer.  Nice sized portion.  I had the veal piccata, thin slices of veal in a lemon-caper sauce, plated with sauteed vegetables (carrot, potato, zucchini). Drew had the veal marsala -- same dish as mine, but with a wine and mushroom sauce. Both were excellent. We don't usually order dessert but I couldn't resist the creme brulee -- served in a wide, shallow ramikin, there was more "brulee" than "creme". The custard was very light and not very sweet, but with all tgat carmelized sugar the custard didn't need to be sweet. Drew ordered cannoli, and was served two small pastries filled with a rich, sweet filling.
The walk back to Penn took us through Times Square. More crowds, more street performers. And atop One Times Square, a famous ball and a countdown to the new year.
Very full day, we both dosed off on the train ride home . . . Lattanzi Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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