Specs and the City: Part 1

White Christmas in New York Central Park

Every year, Christmas season is celebrated by millions of people around the world in different styles and traditions.  Some are lucky to have a Christmas tree, a kiss underneath the mistletoe, Christmas stockings filled with goodies, a gift from Santa Claus for being a good boy or girl, or time to spend with their loved ones.  This year, I was lucky to fulfill my childhood dream of having a White Christmas in New York.   New York was the perfect city to celebrate the festive season for its iconic attractions and festivities.

The original plan was to spend Christmas with Rosemary, Virginia and her friend;  we could have been the perfect replica of the original cast of Sex and the City.  But because of the snowstorm and blizzard that struck New York during the Christmas week, only Virginia made it to the Big Apple.  Virginia had arranged a 4-night stay, starting December 23, at Indigo Hotel, which is located in Chelsea.

Our first pre-Christmas party was an invitation from my friend Claire. The host was actually Claire’s friend whom she met at the laundromat.  Although the host and guests were lovely, the party was not what we expected.  After staying for over an hour, we decided to leave the party and forage a place to eat and drink.  Honestly, the host was a bit eccentric.

Claire being the local decided to take us to Boqueria. Boqueria is a cozy and small but trendy Spanish Tapas Restaurant located in the Flatiron district.  The place was relatively packed when we walked in.  We thought we had to wait for a while to be seated, so we decided to order a bottle of champagne at the bar.  We had to find a reason to toast for our first round of drink – to celebrate a belated birthday for both Claire and myself.  Surprisingly, we only waited for 10 minutes to get our table.   The tapas selections we ordered were all delicious.  My favorite was the pork dish combined with octopus.

We concluded our evening at the Standard Hotel with a glass of ‘penny drop,’ a very refreshing drink mixed with Vodka, house-made ginger cordial, lime juice, ginger beer, and fresh ginger.  During the holiday season, Standard Hotel builds an outdoor ice skating rink. Claire was so eager to skate and finally convinced me to go and skate with her. But the moment I got to the rink, I could hardly put my feet forward. After all the trials and errors to be a Michelle Kwan wannabe, I decided to just be a spectator and the official photographer. But at least I tried!

The following day, on Christmas Eve, I took Virginia for lunch at ‘Eataly,’ one of my favorite eateries.  Eataly is within 5 minutes walk from our hotel.  I loved walking around – flower shops were filled with Christmas décors and lighted Christmas trees lined the walkway.

Before Christmas Eve, I spent time with my online friend ‘Skype’ to chat and wish my family a very Merry Christmas.  Skype has been my reliable best friend and “window to the world.”  It was certainly great to be able to speak to and see my family online, but I know it would have been more fun if I could have flown for one day to spend Christmas with my loved ones.

Christmas day was a pleasant day for us.  Virginia and I had the opportunity to go to  Ippudo, a highly recommended Japanese restaurant known for its great Ramen selections.  Ippudo’s aficionados normally line up before it opens.  We were expecting that on Christmas day, this wouldn’t happen.  Unfortunately, when we got there, the place was jam-packed – a line of anxious patrons was waiting for their table and a few were seated at the bar. The normal waiting time is up to 2 hours but we were lucky to be seated within 30 minutes.  At the bar, you will immediately notice all types of bowls displayed on the wall, and if you look down at the glass-covered bar, it is filled with dried noodles. I love how the place is designed and decorated.

Overall, the food was excellent.  There is a windowed chamber located downstairs, which reveals the secret of their success –

this is where they make their noodles and dough for that mouth-watering pork buns.  In addition, the staff was very friendly and attentive.  As you enter the restaurant, you will be greeted loudly in Japanese by the staff and the chefs.  The experience and ambience were unforgettable – I could even see myself working there; everyone looks happy and as if they love their job.

At around 6pm, we visited New York’s most sought after landmark, The Rockefeller Centre, to check out the most iconic sight displayed during the festive season, the illuminated Christmas tree. Walking along in the midst of the crowded 6th Ave. it’s like being in an international festival where you hear all different languages spoken and see kids of different colors everywhere as they gather around to see the giant Christmas Tree.  Food carts were abundant thus making it easy for spectators and skaters to grab a bite.  A few hours later, we realized that it was dinnertime.

On Christmas day, we were forewarned that most of the restaurants around the area would be closed.  But due to our persistence, we were able to find a quaint little French restaurant, La Bonne Soupe, on 55th Street, between 5th and 6th Ave.  Although it is a French Restaurant, it also showcased a variety of dishes to suit everyone’s palate.  To top it all off, the attendants were friendly.  Here we met a family from Venezuela seated next to our table.  It was a relatively good treat for a minimum cost.

December 26 was my first Boxing Day in America and had the chance to experience a Japanese buffet lunch at Ichi Umi. The buffet was an “all-you-can-eat sushi and pan-Asian” food. Ichi Umi is located on 32nd Street between Madison and 5th Avenue, which is a 15-minute walk from our hotel.  The place offers a great value for your money.  They have a huge selection of sushi/sashimi, salads, seafood, hot and cold dishes all laid out in a long food bar.  The one thing that you need to remember is to get there early.  Unfortunately, we only had an hour to savor the endless food selection as it closes at 3pm.

As we walked back to our hotel, the weather changed drastically to a chilling and windy snow.  It appeared Santa heard my wish for a White Christmas, a day later.  I must have been too good this year for giving me inches of snow!

That evening, the closest place to eat was the hotel restaurant, Blu. The restaurant was relatively busy due to the weather conditions outside.  In-house guests opted to stay in rather than braving themselves to dine outside as the blizzard became worse throughout the night.  We sat at the bar area and enjoyed a good dinner complemented by a nice drink.  Before returning back to our room, we ordered a bottle of wine and pizza.  Darwin, our server, was kind enough to allow us to bring a bottle back to our room.

I must say we were lucky to be stuck in the hotel as we sat in our comfy room knowing that we had easy access to the hotel restaurant.  We felt sorry for passengers and commuters as we watched the news and witnessed thousands stranded in the airports anxiously waiting for the next available flight, while others shivered aboard stranded buses and subway trains;  all bound to return to their respective homes after the holiday weekend. We really felt sorry for them!

We checked out at Indigo Hotel at 12.30.  The lobby was really busy and a few guests including ourselves were trying to work out on how we can get out from the hotel, as the road conditions were really bad.

We bravely walked out to get to the main road to get a taxi.  We dragged our luggage from the hotel through the snow to get a cab from 6th Ave to Cnr Madison 54th Street.  Thankfully, we managed to get a taxi in 10 minutes.   It was a BIG dig day for the city of New York.  Only a few main thoroughfares were open, many shops were closed, roads were fully covered with snow, city plows and crews were everywhere trying to clear snowy streets. The 3 airports of New York were still closed. Although skies were partly sunny, winds raged.

On this article my featured hotel is Hotel Elysee.  To view the full review, please click here to view

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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