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A New York Christmas

We always wanted to go New York for Christmas, and the opportunity presented itself when we snagged a good deal for a flight/hotel package and booked a flight leaving Christmas Eve to spend Christmas in the Big Apple.

After spending hours upon hours researching restaurants, building a spreadsheet for them, creating maps with points of interest and buying show tickets, the day finally arrived!

Day 1 - December 24

We departed Calgary, along with both our moms, for New York and arrived in Newark in the late evening. We took the train from the Newark Airport to Penn Station and then hopped on the subway to take us to our hotel, The Pod. The Pod is exactly what the name implies, a tiny room with just enough space for a bunk bed, our luggage and a sink. Good thing we weren’t planning on spending too much time in our room!

We headed to Kashkaval for dinner. The restaurant was busier than we thought it would be on late Christmas Eve. It was a deli/cheese shop in the front with a cosy restaurant/wine bar in the back. We ordered a bottle of wine, some delicious tapas and a couple of fondues and tried some ruggelach for dessert.

After dinner we strolled back to the hotel with a few detours along the way to check out a giant star suspended over an intersection, the Trump Tower lit up with Christmas lights, St Patricks Church and of course the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. The only thing that we were slightly disappointed about was that there wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen, but little did we know that would change in a matter of a couple days!

Day 2 - December 25th

Woke up for Christmas morning and went to Ess-A-Bagel for breakfast, which supposedly has some of the best bagels in New York. We were slightly surprised that it was actually open on Christmas morning.

We headed towards Grand Central Station to watch a light show, unfortunately, we were informed that the light show was cancelled this year due to lack of funding.

We made our way to Bryant Park with our skates to go skating at the rink there. After lining up to get into the rink and checking all our gear, we headed onto a not very big rink holding a large crowd of people, most of whom weren’t exactly expert skaters! We skated for awhile and just as we were getting into it we had to leave the ice to make way for the Zamboni. We waited for awhile while they resurfaced the ice and more crowds for people joined in the wait. We finally got back on the ice and got in some skating and then decided to make our way off the rink while all our limbs were still in tact.

We then jumped in a taxi for our first taxi ride in New York (Chris was disappointed it was so calm) to Washington Square Park, which happed to be close to our next stop, Joe’s Pizza for lunch! The pizza didn’t quite live up to the hype. We then got another taxi back to the hotel, this time we got the crazy ride that Chris was hoping for, the driver was erratic and definitely liked to use his gas and brake pedals in quick succession.

We dropped our skates off at the hotel and got ready to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. On the way to Radio City, we stopped in at the Waldoff Astoria to check our the inside of the hotel. We continued on to Radio City though the throngs of people that now filled the street around Rockefeller. We tried to sneak in a bottle of wine into the theatre that we were taking for a byob dinner later that night and had to go through the process of checking it.

Once inside the theatre, we grabbed a rum and coke to drink just so we could get the souvenir glass and then made our way to our seats on the first balcony. The show began with a 3-D movie, followed by several numbers by the Rockettes. We all enjoyed the show!

Afterwards we made our way over to get tickets to go up to the 'Top of the Rock' which involved many separate lines, getting yelled at by grouchy employees, a security screening (got caught with our bottles of wine again and were warned not to drink them) and a short movie.

Finally we arrived at the top, the views of the Empire State building were impressive and it was lit up with red and green lights. Chris tried to take a bunch of pictures but none of them really turned out.

Since we still had some time to kill before dinner, we went to the GingerMan, a pub with a huge selection of beers to try some brews that we couldn’t get at home. We then headed to dinner at Taureau, a tiny fondue restaurant. We tried a couple of cheese fondues and a couple of chocolate fondues for dessert.

Day 3 - December 26

We woke up early to try to beat the crowds to the skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza. We stopped to check out the Christmas tree again and took some more photos in the daylight. After paying $50 for 3 of us to go skating, we made our way onto the ice to enjoy skating to Christmas carols and a much less crowded rink than our skating experience the day before. After skating we went into the Lego Store.

We dropped our skates back off at the hotel, and woke up Chris’s mom who had decided to sleep instead of skating in front of the giant Christmas tree. We then went for another breakfast at Ess-A-Bagel. By the time we finished breakfast it was just starting to snow, so we headed to Central Park for a stroll through the park.

We made our way though some of the shops including FAO Schwartz and Tiffany’s. After that we headed to Empanada Mama for lunch and then over to the Columbus Circle Mall to check out some giant snowflakes. Ironically, there were also giant snowflakes coming down outside as well! At the mall there was a Salvador Dali exhibit on and we also checked out a few of the stores.

We walked back to the Pod to get ready for the SpiderMan Turn Off The Dark broadway show (a preview prior to the actual opening) we had tickets to that night. While there, we found out our flight home the next morning had been delayed from 7:45am to 2pm.

We took the subway to the theatre as the weather was frightful. There were a few stops during the show due to 'technical difficulties'. The consensus seemed to be that the stunts and set/stage were impressive but the songs and story were somewhat lacking. Guess we’ll have to wait until the reviews come out to see if the critics agree!

We left the theatre to find that it was officially a blizzard outside. We thought about going for dinner but the elements were too much to bear so we jumped back on the subway to our hotel. We went for dinner at a French restaurant attached to the hotel.

The next day we woke up to find cars buried under 6 feet of snow. Ok, not 6 feet, but a *lot* of snow. News reports were reporting on all the mayhem that the storm had caused, including closed airports and stalled subway cars that held people captive for 9 hours with no heat, so we can consider ourselves lucky.

Yet again, we headed to Ess-a-bagel for breakfast, then came back and mulled over what we should do about our flight. There weren’t really many options though, other than deciding whether we should go to the airport or not. Just as we were about to leave for the airport, we learned that our flight was cancelled, making the decision easy.

So, we would have a bonus day in New York City. Certainly not a terrible place to be trapped for an extra day. We decided to head to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) but just to check out the store attached to it, that sells interesting products designed by artists.

Then we walked to Times Square, where we decided we would try our luck at the TKTS booth for discount broadway tickets. Chris stood in line in the freezing cold for a good hour to procure us some tickets to ‘La Cage aux Folles’ starring Kelsey Grammer which we had read was really good.

We decided to have dinner at Todd English’s Plaza Food Hall. The concept of Food Hall is a ‘food court for adults’. You sit at different stations, and watch them prepare your food (assuming you order from the station that you’re sitting in front of). I had gnocchi, which was very good, but also a very small portion, despite having ordered the ‘large’. Chris had squash filled ravioli which was also very good. I ended up ordering a cheese plate to make up for the small entrée. For dessert we had a chocolate cupcake with mint icing (on top and inside) which was delicious.

After dinner we headed to the Long Acre theatre to watch ‘La Cage’. The story of La Cage is about a gay nightclub owner (played by Kelsey Grammer) who’s son is bringing home the woman he wants to marry, but is embarrassed to do so. Outside the theatre, one of the actors, a male dressed in women’s clothing, was there to warm up the crowd with some humor.

Once inside, we found that our seats were quite good, on the left side of the orchestra pit. The same man/woman from outside was also continuing to warm up the crowd with jokes. We found La Cage to be really good, with some really funny parts, and great songs. The actor playing Kelsey’s Grammers ‘wife’ was outstanding.

The next day, we woke up and checked our flights, and it appeared that today we might have to go home after all. The news reports seemed to suggest that things were getting back to normal, but we still feared that we might end up traveling all the way to Newark only to discover our flight had been canceled again.

Luckily though, everything was a go, and in fact the airport was dead quiet, security was a breeze with so many cancelled flights. So all in all it worked out really well, and New York at Christmas was definitely a wonderful place to be!