Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy Holidays - what I learned

The holidays are officially over. What was left of the gingerbread house has been thrown out. Courtesy of the good staff of Rabbit Hutch Towers our Christmas tree has been removed to be turned into mulch for New York City parks. And our humble collection of Christmas decorations have been boxed up ready for the move.
'Goodbye baubles. See you in London, December 2012!'
I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on our first New York Christmas. Here's what I learned:

1a. There's never a good time to see the windows on Fifth Avenue.
I'd heard a lot of good things about the windows at Bergdorf Goodman, but was deterred by the crowds. We eventually decided to saunter by after dinner uptown, a little after 10pm on December 30th. A few days after Christmas and the night before New Year's Eve - one might expect the city to be a little quiet, subdued maybe.

How silly of us. It's the city that never sleeps! Or even takes a halfday! Even at that hour there were probably a dozen people clustered around each window. And dozens of handbag sellers and crazy people banging drums, cluttering up the sidewalk.

1b. It's still worth it.
The Bergdorf Goodman windows are absolutely stunning. In fact they sent me breathless for a moment. Till I was jostled. It's hard to see the details here, but if you want a closer look check out the Trailing Spouse's report.Trendland's photos are pretty good too.
My advice? Avoid weekends, avoid the day time, but whenever you go, expect a small crowd.
2. Gingerbread houses last a surprisingly long time.
After the unseemly haste in which I baked and assembled the gingerbread house, I expected it to be unpalatably dry within a couple of days. Au contraire. I took my last bite yesterday, almost a fortnight after it was baked and a week since it was decorated. Crunchy and delicious! Good to know.

3. Calm down. It's only New Year's Eve.
Don't panic! Unless your favourite bar is actually in Times Square - which would be weird - there's a good chance you'll be able to walk in and get a drink on New Year's Eve. I booked a table at Prune a couple of weeks in advance, and when our plans changed at the last minute, called the ever-popular Cafe Cluny the day before New Year's to book a late table for New Year's Eve. Plans changed again, and we ended up having dinner at Porter House and being back in Chelsea at around 11pm.

What are the chances of being able to walk into your favourite bar an hour before midnight on New Year's Eve? Slim, we thought, and we were approached Tipsy Parson fully expecting to fall back on Plan B (a scotch back at the Hutch). We needn't have worried: there were a couple of empty seats at the bar and our favourite waiter greeted us like long lost friends. Well, it has been a couple of weeks...

I told a New York friend about this experience and she laughed and said 'Of course, this is New York, it's like New Year's Eve every day!'

4. There's no need to stockpile.
On a similar theme, there's no need to worry if you haven't stocked up on groceries. In England I always made sure I had bread and milk in the flat over Christmas and the New Year, because nowhere's really open on New Year's Day. You wouldn't want to run out of teabags on Boxing Day now, would you?

TLOML woke up with a rotten cold on New Year's Day, and urgently needed his special medicinal Korean soup. But we were out of kimchi, that essential, lifegiving ingredient. We wandered up to 30th Street and Sixth, and had our pick of all the Korean groceries we could possibly need. They sell teabags and milk there too.

Maybe none of this is news to you. But as someone who has formerly only Christmassed (is that a word? Let's make it so) in Redcar and Palm Beach, I was pleasantly surprised by my discoveries. Just as I'm planning my exit from New York, I'm really starting to see why people like it here so much.

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