Sunday, December 29, 2019
Christmas in New York
A few years ago the Geek and I decided to stop giving Christmas and birthday presents to each other and travel instead. This year our daughter chimed in - no presents, but a trip. While discussing where to go in the winter she mentioned that she had never been to New York (except for driving through during our cross country trip in 2007). After some research we had booked our flights and a hotel just two blocks north of the Empire State Building between Fifth and Sixth Avenue - a perfect place for exploring the Big Apple.
The Geek and I had spent ten very happy days in New York in 1997 and were wondering how much the city has changed since then (apart from the World Trade Center). I have to mention here that we were madly in love at that time and probably saw everything with rose-colored glasses. It was quite different this time.
There is no doubt that New York is magical during the holiday season. Everywhere there are lights, Christmas music is playing (the most played song was "All I want for Christmas is you"), it's glittering and sparkling, magic.
And there are crowds. And more crowds. And... even more crowds.
People are pushing and shoving, kids are crying, adults are cursing - suddenly the magic just disappears and all you see is the consumerism behind the magic.
The front facade of Saks Fifth Avenue had a huge display of the "Frozen" theme that would lit up every ten minutes with a light show that was fantastic, I have to admit. The music could be heard over several blocks. A lane of Fifth Avenue was completely closed off to traffic so that people could stand and watch the light show. Both the sidewalk and the lane was completely blocked and if you were trapped in there you were stuck for the next ten minutes. It happened to us and it wasn't exactly fun (I don't particularly like crowds).
Of course, we also took our own "magical" photos - the magic being that the Empire State Building grows out of the Geek's head! However, I do like the photo of Kaefer and myself in front of the huge Christmas baubles behind the Rockefeller Center.
I can't tell you enough how glad I was about my knitted hat and scarf! It was flippin' cold in New York (17 F, fortunately it warmed up considerably after that), with the chilly wind blowing along the streets. Even New Yorkers were complaining about the freezing weather. No wonder I came home with a serious cold (just like back in 1997...).
I had brought my DSLR to New York, but from the very beginning I mainly used the phone to take photos. It was just too crowded to always stop, strip off the backpack and get out the camera. It always involved taking off my gloves, too, which wasn't pleasant especially during those first few days. I pretty much used the big camera only to take pictures of Brooklyn Bridge (which compared to 1997 had turned into a zoo) and a beautiful sunset behind the Statue of Liberty. After the third day I left the camera in the safe in our room and only took pictures with my phone. It was much more convenient and I actually took way more pictures in places I wouldn't have pulled out the camera (like in the subway).
Experiencing New York City in the holiday season was certainly exciting. I enjoyed many parts of it. We visited coffee shops to warm up and had cocktails in the evening. There was a wide range of food to choose from and we were extremely lucky to find a German restaurant with excellent food and delicious beer just five walking minutes from our hotel. We ate our fair share of bagels with all kinds of cream cheese (avocado and herbs, anyone?). We strolled along Christmas markets and ate honey roasted almonds. There were wonderful museums to discover like the National Museum of the American Indian and the Met Cloisters as well as the very moving 9/11 Memorial with its reflecting pools. Most of the people we met were very nice, ready to chat and answer questions. They put a friendly face onto this hectic monster of a city. We had some really nice and interesting conversations with people, both visitors and New Yorkers.
But I was glad when we finally returned home. I'm simply not a city person anymore. I didn't like the crowds at all, the consistent noise, the honking of the cars, the impatience, the rush. Every day we walked between 7 and 11 miles, and it was all on pavement. It's hard, and it hurts - my feet hurt, my legs hurt, my hips hurt. I was bone tired every evening and still I couldn't sleep because there was no way that we could open a window in our room and I simply can't sleep without fresh air (as much "fresh" air as you might even get in NYC). But what got me the most was the wastefulness, the mountains of trash, the plastic bags, the "to go and throw away" mindset. The streets were littered, the subway was littered and every night bags of trash piled up in the streets. It was disgusting. I learned to truly appreciate what I have in California. We might be seen as "wacko" by the rest of the country, but boy am I proud to be this kind of wacko.
There certainly will be more posts about our trip to New York in the future. For now let me wish you happiness, health and joy of living for 2020.