Central Park. View of the San Remo Towers from the Bow Bridge.
Our visit to New York City from 10-15th December coincided with unseasonably warm weather. During the day we got around in a tee shirt and hoodie, and many a time I didn’t even need the later. Day time temps were typically 14-18 degrees C and at night it only went down to about 10! It was crazy – especially as New York was warmer than our current home near the west coast in Las Vegas. Local New Yorkers were saying this phenomenal weather event is a one in 30 year event with temperature about 10 degrees C higher than normal.
View of the San Remo from near the Loeb Boathouse.
One of my favourite views – Columbus Circle from the Time Warner Center.
We were able to stay 5 nights in 2-3 star hotels in NYC for only $490! I know many of you will find this hard to believe but it is possible. We use Priceline and BRGs (Best Price Guarantees), and then we get back 7-8% by booking through shopping portal and another 2.5 % from our credit cards. We had 3 nights at the Sleep Inn, Long Island City The Queensbridge 21st St subway station was literally 2 minutes walk away, and just 2 stops from Manhattan which was very convenient. We also had 1 night at a Comfort Inn, Manhattan Bridge which is in China Town, and another night in midtown Manhattan at the Executive Hotel Le Soleil (36th St between 5th and 6th Aves). Some people might find moving hotels a pain. I wouldn’t want to do it every night but we do find it a great way to see new neighbourhoods. For example we really enjoyed our walk around China Town where I snacked on a pork bun or two, and watched the locals playing cards and Mahjong at the local park. Right next door to China Town was Little Italy whose restaurants were overflowing with locals and tourists alike.
Men playing a Chinese board game.
Near Little Italy, Manhattan
Highlights of this trip for me were:
1. Visiting Central Park, as usual. Most of the trees had lost there leaves but there was still a few with some color. We watched people skating at the Wollman Rink.
At the northern end of the park’s “Mall” is the Bethesda Terrace which overlooks the famed fountain, lake, and the Loeb Boathouse. The arched walls and ceilings under the terrace are lined with antique tiles and murals, and the space has amazing acoustics so I always enjoy listening to the talented buskers that sing there, often in groups.
The Mall later at dusk.
From the Loeb Boathouse I walked north to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir for another of my favourite views across the reservoir to the Eldorado.
Back at the Loeb Boathouse I walked around The Lake (via the Rambles) where the lowering afternoon sun gave me more stunning views of the park.
Squirrel expertly eating an acorn in “The Rambles”.
I’m always amazed at how many people pay to have their portraits sketched by local artists in the park. Even with the most gifted artist sketching me I don’t think I’d want to live with the result! Thinking about it, they probably do it just for the experience, rather than the final product.
As I was leaving the park I saw a TV crew filming, “The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt” by the Gapstow Bridge. This was a exciting to see because like many people I did find the first series delightful and very funny.
2. Watching the Christmas lights displays at some of the fancier department stores. Along with a throng of several thousand others we were enraptured by Saks 5th Ave light and music show.
Adding to the festive atmosphere The Rockefeller Center was lit up and rose like a behemoth above us, like something out of Gotham City. Of the department store window displays we especially enjoyed the spectacular display at Bergdorf Goldman, Lord and Taylor was very good too.
Lord and Taylor.
One of my favourite buildings in NYC is the iconic Plaza Hotel which is situated at the southeast end of Central Park. Up until this visit I had never ventured inside as I’ve always been intimidated by how fancy it looks. While photographing one of the stunning Christmas wreaths that decorate it’s exterior I noticed a regular looking couple enter the hotel and I got the courage up to do the same.
The foyer/lobby area is opulent as you’d expect. Further inside is the amazing Palm Court where you can enjoy “high tea”, I’m guessing for a small fortune but what an experience. Downstairs in the basement level, rather unexpectedly, is the Plaza Food Hall!! But it’s not an ordinary food hall. The vendor’s booths sell delectable gourmet fare including specialty cakes, chocolates, macarons, teas, and caviar. The Lady M Mille Crepe Cakes looked very appealing to me. Made with “no less than twenty paper-thin handmade crêpes layered with ethereal light pastry cream. Delicate and irresistible, the top gently caramelized till golden”. Sounds divine doesn’t it.
While in NYC we made sure to visit more of our favoured spots: Bryant Park where there is a skating rink and food stalls selling Christmas treats, Time Square, and Union Square which has a Christmas Market and is where we like to spend time in the fantastic Barnes and Noble book shop. Speaking of Christmas Markets there was also one at the Columbus Circle corner of Central Park.
Nasdaq Building, Time Square.