I can’t believe that it is already two weeks ago that we were in New York City! Time flies when you are having fun and last week was a combination of fun and not so fun – preparations for the Alliance Francaise Fête de noël (Christmas party) and having a cold. The French Christmas party was a success and I had my first “teaching” experience in French; as the responsible for a so-called atelier where school children had to write a letter to père noël (whom I still insist on calling Father Christmas and not Santa Claus 😉 ). It was fun as I had to practise both my French and my Spanish, and it was interesting to see how the students’ level of French had nothing to do with their age – obviously depending more on how long they had studied French…
Anyway, back to our weekend in NYC – it was cold but sunny, and involved a lot of walking and meeting with friends. It was the first time I actually spent the night in the city, however not in Manhattan but in Queens or rather Long Island City where we had found a relatively cheap Quality Inn. The hotel was basic but perfect, the only drawback was that the subway didn’t work during that particular weekend in the direction of Manhattan due to repairs on the line. It did mean that we spent a little more than expected on taxi rides, but at least the hotel room was cheap.
We had quite a busy Friday with visiting Princeton, meetings (O) in the HQ of his company in NJ and dropping off the rental car in Newark (O had been in NJ since Tuesday) before we could take the train into NYC and change to the subway towards Queens. It was actually my first time on the subway in NYC! After we had checked in at the hotel, we headed back to Manhattan and checked out the home department of Bloomingdale’s! O headed towards the KitchenAid food processors as usual (he really wants one but can’t make up his mind if he wants to spend the money or not…) and I loved the beautiful decorations in the Christmas part of the shop. We had fika in the department store, in the middle of the kitchen section before I was allowed to buy two Christmas ornaments (the cheapest ones..)!
The evening was spent together with my fellow blogger Saltis and her husband M plus their beautiful daughter Ella and the cool cat Lipton. They live just next to the Queensboro bridge on the 18th floor with an amazing view over Manhattan – another first time for me; I have never been up in one of the city’s skyscrapers so it was great to see NYC by night from above (for free, ha ha)! We had such a cosy dinner with Saltis and M, and it was great to see that the guys (M and O) enjoyed it as well. It has been said before but it is really wonderful how you can meet such great people through the blogs and connecting also when meeting IRL.
Taking a cab back to Queens proved to be quite an adventure, not because the taxi driver refused to drive us there, which apparently is quite common (it is not popular among the cab drivers to have to leave Manhattan!) but because it turned out that the driver was new at the job and completely lost!! It reminded me so of my favourite film Night on Earth where the German taxi driver Helmut gets lost in the Bronx!! The funny thing is that the New York taxis have GPS, but apparently only in the backseats – there are tv screens which show you exactly where you are going, so we had to help the driver find his way to our hotel… 😀
The next morning we crossed the Queensboro bridge again by taxi for the big surprise – Saltis and M were meeting with bloggers Annika (+ her daughter and husband) and Petra (i.e Sporty Spice) for brunch and we had decided to not tell the other girls that O and I were crashing their brunch date. We arrived late to Ritz Diner, which made the surprise even better – Annika and Petra just stared at me when I walked up to their table and said hello! I actually felt a little silly, since they just kept staring and not saying anything, and I started to wonder if the surprise had been such a good thing, but finally they recognised me, phew! It was great to see the girls (including Annika’s daughter Karolina) again and to meet Annika’s husband. As usual time flew too quickly and when Petra suggested that we should go to the traditional Christmas bazaar at the Swedish church* we jumped at the chance (except Annika who had to join her family who had already headed to a big toy shop).
One of the best things about our holidays was to experience the cold weather and get into a Christmas mode – and thanks to Petra’s suggestion to feel even a Swedish Christmas atmosphere! The julmys (Christmas cosiness) at the Swedish church involved some [very strong] glögg (Swedish mulled wine), saffronbuns and pepparkakor (ginger snaps).
The rest of the day was spent walking – we probably visited every Borders and Barnes & Noble shop in Manhattan in search of the Lonely Planet guide book for New York State… As you know I am a huge LP fan but to my disappointment we didn’t find it so we had to buy Fodor’s New York State even though I hated their Virginia guide 😦 While searching for the book, we visited the Strand bookstore, bought some apples at the farmers’ market and winter hats at Filene’s Basement on Union Square, found a great little shop selling vintage hotel and restaurant china (as well as new stuff) called Fishs Eddy, admired the Christmas decorations at the ice skating rink by Rockefeller Centre and bought some more ornaments for our Christmas tree in Crate and Barrel on Madison Avenue before we finally sat down for an extremely late lunch at a Europa Café and had an amazingly tasty roastbeef sandwich (maybe because I was sooo hungry and cold??).
Our day ended in the East village together with O’s colleagues – American couple C & S who used to live in Brussels, and Belgian B who happened to be over in NJ for work. It was great to catch up with them, and to hear of the Americans’ experience in Europe. The evening started in McSorley’s Old Ale House – a chaotic Irish pub where the decor hasn’t been changed since 1910 (and apparently not cleaned either!!), followed by dinner in The Holy Basil Thai restaurant and after-dinner drinks in Jimmy’s No 43 where they serve Belgian beer to O’s and C’s delight (Belgian B was less excited, as he was returning to Belgium a few days later). Even though I had enjoyed the cold weather all day, the change in temperature from Puerto Rico kind of got to me when we were on our way back to the hotel and O insisted on walking to the subway and travelling by public transport part of the way (to save money) instead of taking a cab all the way from the Village to Queens. I agreed with him in principle but it was freezing cold and I was tired so I did sulk for a while…
We finished off our stay in NYC by a walk in Central Park with our luggage on Sunday morning! Fortunately we travelled quite light… Central Park is such an oasis in the city and it is difficult to imagine that you are so close to the bustling streets when walking along the paths where people stroll slowly and relaxed (except for the joggers). I love reading the plaques on the benches from people who have donated a resting place, very often in honour of a loved one.
Our trip continued via New Jersey and Pennsylvania to upstate New York and Canada, but I will write about that another day.
*) I have also been to the the Christmas bazaar in the Swedish church in Brussels – a great way to show foreign friends how Christmas is celebrated in Sweden.