Desember in NYC - Trip Report

Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:43 AM
  #1  
kim
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Desember in NYC - Trip Report

Very long....

We were in NYC for our 10th wedding anniversary over the weekend of Dec 6-9. We were shooting for a romantic weekend, along with getting our fill of Christmas sights!
We arrived at LaGuardia on Friday AM, around 10:45. Noticed groups of women (anywhere from 2 to 10) meeting up at the airport to head into the city. Stood in line for a taxi for over 30 minutes! Short, uneventful ride into the city. Brrr, it was cold!

Checked into our room at the Inn at Irving. What a beautiful place! Fire going in the fireplace, smell of potpourri and flowers. Our room was ready and it was lovely as well. The staff was very nice all weekend and we really enjoyed the stay. Only disappointment was that Lady Mendl’s After Dark (dessert parlour) doesn’t appear to exist anymore. You can sit in the parlour and have dessert from Cibar (the lounge downstairs) or Irving on Irving (restaurant next door), but there is not really a dessert parlour per se.

After a quick lunch at the Old City Bar (reasonable $, ok burgers) we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Christmas tree. I know other posters had said that the $12 entrance fee is only a recommended donation, but I found it very uncomfortable to try to pay less, and the cashier made me feel like an idiot. We paid $20 for two and went to see the tree. It was beautiful, and interesting to read a little about the history of the crèche, but I have to say it was not worth the $20 or a special trip uptown, IMHO. To get our moneys worth, we went on to the Richard Avedon exhibit, which I enjoyed a great deal, and between the two, felt the trip was worthwhile.

Headed out to Central Park. It had just snowed the day before and the park was beautiful! Kids were out everywhere with sleds. It was so much fun to watch them coming down the hills. Also, great picture taking with so much of the park covered in a fresh blanket of undisturbed snow. Definitely something from a post card or the movies! Accidentally walked through the zoo and noted it for a future visit, much bigger and nicer than I had imagined.

Went to mid-town and stopped at the View lounge (top of the Marriott Marquis) to kill some time. What fun! We really enjoyed the revolving bar and the cocktail napkins that tell you what buildings you are looking at. Great voyeuristic views into the new W Times Square hotel; saw lots of people lounging around their rooms in their undies! Also, had nice views into several office buildings were we could see people still at work in their cubes at 5:30 on Friday evening. Beer, at least, was very reasonable; I think it was $5.75 for a draft Guinness. One drink took us about halfway around, before we had to leave for our dinner reservation.

Dinner was at Becco. All in all, a nice dinner experience. Had the prix fixe pasta which was pretty yummy. Very loud restaurant though! Seated near two different tables with large groups of women (at least 10 in each group). Beginning to note a trend…

(continued)
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:45 AM
  #2  
kim
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Went to see La Boheme. This was two nights before it opened. I think we just aren’t cut out for the opera, plus we were tired from the trip and a long day. Anyway, neither my husband nor I really got into it. I don’t usually have trouble with subtitled movies, but I had a lot of trouble keeping up with the super titles without missing the action on the stage. I will say that I thought the voices of the performers were phenomenal.

Woke up fairly late on Saturday and went hunting for some cheap long underwear. Did I mention it was cold? Intended to tour the East Village and Lower East side, but took an express subway instead of local, and ended up on Canal Street. We were promptly sucked into the shopping frenzy. What a kick! Bought Burberry, Spade, Swiss Army & Heuer. Spent waaay too much time there, but it was lots of fun. Noticed large groups of women buying everything in sight as well. Beginning to realize that this is a holiday pilgrimage for some… Stopped in Little Italy for lunch. We picked Il Cortile because I remembered it from this board. The food was very good but the service was terrible. Maybe they were having a bad day, but our lunch went on forever and not in a good way! Stopped by Ferrara’s for desserts to go. There was a line a mile long for the main store, but there is a café next door which appears to sell a smaller variety of the same stuff, but no line. We bought a pecan pie slice and a slice of espresso cake, but can’t say that either was very good.

At this point our day had taken a very long detour from our plans. Decided to save Lower East Side and East Village for another day and headed to the World Trade Center site. Cannot begin to describe how upsetting I found this. Came up from a subway station near St. Paul’s church and walked along the fence where pictures and memorials still hang. I was particularly shaken by a large banner that had victims names on it. Family and friends have written messages at the names. At this point I think I would have left if I was on my own, but continued on since I knew my husband still wanted to see the site. I was surprised at the rush of memories that I had of visiting the towers on different trips. In the year and some months since the attack I had trouble visualizing my own memories, but instead was always flooded with the views from the TV cameras, but the minute we came up to the site I started remembering all the different times I had visited and walked around the area. I was very surprised at the number of buildings that still show damage and/or are still closed for repairs. Overall, the crowd was very quiet and respectful, although I couldn’t get over the tourists who could turn their back on the site and negotiate a better price for their fake watches, nor the tourists who took pictures with their friends smiling in front of the site, “Look where I am, Ma!”.

Went over to the World Financial Center to see the Winter Garden, which was very pretty, although they were setting up for a party and the view of the river had been blocked by a large screen. We stopped and saw the American Express photo exhibit as well, which we really enjoyed.

(continued)
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:46 AM
  #3  
kim
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Stopped by our hotel for a rest and then headed back to mid-town for dinner and a play. We were hoping to walk into John’s Pizza, but they had an hour wait at 6:30, so we decided to come back after the theater for dinner. Stopped at a hotel bar for a beer, and then went to see Hairspray. Now this we really enjoyed! Such an upbeat, joyful show. I was really impressed by the lead, Marissa Jaret Winokur. Preferred the first half to the second, but the real highlight was after the show. I guess Harvey Fierstein always auctions some show memorabilia for charity, and he was hilarious. My impression was that the bidding went higher than usual (winning bid was $5000 for a can a hairspray, a signed poster, and a John Waters signed CD) and the cast was really getting excited. Additionally, one of the bidders was Third Rock from the Sun star Kristen Johnston (hey, it was our only celeb encounter!). Went back to John’s Pizza for dinner and had very good pizza, but our waitress was in a hurry since it was late. It was 11:30 when we sat down, but she told us the kitchen was closing and came back for our order within 5 minutes and never offered dessert, even while we watched other patrons get served later, including dessert. Harumph!

After seeing two shows in two nights, and having very tired feet, I was really starting to wish that we were staying in the theater district…

Sunday was much warmer than Friday or Saturday, and we finally headed to the East Village and Lower East side. Followed a makeshift walking tour combining Fodor’s and book on movie sights by Chuck Katz. We finally visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which was a real highlight of the trip. I cannot recommend this enough! We did the “Getting By” tour, but look forward to going back for the others. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the stories were fascinating.

We stopped at Katz’s Deli for lunch. It was crowded but moved quickly. Enjoyed the food and the atmosphere a lot. After lunch we went to the Merchants House Museum, which was also a fascinating look at old New York. If I remember correctly, the house dates from the mid-19th century, and was more or less occupied by one family until the last resident died in the ‘30s.

We went to Pommes Frites in the East Village for a snack. Enjoyed this also, although I can’t say they were the best fries, we really liked all the different sauces. Then it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.

We had reservations for One If By Land, so we headed to the village early so we could walk around. Stopped at Varsanos chocolates for gifts, haven’t tried any of their chocolates yet, but the store clerk was very nice and helpful. Also was on a mission to find the Magnolia Bakery, since we had never made it there before. Just the smell of that shop was incredible. I think I would have been happy just hanging out there all evening eating cupcakes!

Dinner at One If By Land was good, but not great. Service was excellent, atmosphere was beautiful, but can’t say that we were wowed by the food. Can’t quite remember the cost, maybe $75/person without drinks? Had to send my Beef Wellington back because it was undercooked, but the desserts were very good (creme brulee and a molten chocolate thing).

(continued)
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:47 AM
  #4  
kim
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Monday turned very cold again, probably the coldest day of the weekend. After storing our bags at the Inn, we headed to Macy’s to check start checking out Christmas decorations. Ducked into Macy’s to try to warm up. Headed up 5th Avenue, stopping at Lord & Taylors and Saks to look at windows and go inside to get warm. All the window decorations were really pretty but I don’t think my husband appreciated this part of the trip and it really was too cold (for us) to enjoy the window shopping. Lord & Taylor was beautifully decorated inside as well. Went to Rock Center to check out the tree, unfortunately the ice skating rink was between sessions, so we did not get to see anyone skating. Went to Café SFA in Saks for lunch and had a very good, if pricey, lunch. There was a line to get in, but it moved quickly and we were seated within 10 minutes. Noticed large groups of women all along this route, shopping and eating lunch! After lunch, I didn’t have the heart to drag the hubby up to Barney’s so we headed back down to the Empire State Building, which was what he wanted to do.

The line for the Empire State building was long (they estimated a half hour) but it moved pretty well the whole time. The views were great since it was a crisp sunny day, and surprisingly the wind wasn’t as bad up there as it was down below so it actually felt warmer! I don’t know how the exit is set up all the time, but it looked like the wait to get down was longer than the wait to go up. We followed the employees suggestions to walk down 6 flights, from the 86th to the 80th floor, and get the elevator down from there, and that helped a lot. Apparently the line is just to get from the 86th to the 80th floor.

We headed back to the Inn to pick up our bags and catch a taxi. It only took about 20 minutes from Gramercy Park to LaGuardia on a Monday at 3 PM.

Couple of things to note – while it may be obvious I think we forgot how much time you spend out doors and walking around in NYC. We really messed up by not having enough layers, as well as the extras like gloves, scarves and hats (we had some , but not others, and you really need it all). Same thing with shoes! Don’t sacrifice your comfort for fashion. I saw plenty of NYers in jeans and hiking boots on the weekends. I also saw plenty of women in skirts and high-heeled boots, but they were going to/from work, not out sightseeing all day! Sometimes the quest to blend in is just impractical!

Thanks to everyone here who helped us plan out trip!
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:49 AM
  #5  
xxx
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Really great trip report but don't understand how you can say the Metropolitan Museum of Art isn't worth $20 for the both of you.
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:50 AM
  #6  
kim
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Nothing better than a big, glaring typpo in the heading! Yes, I know it is commonly reffered to as DeCember...
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:53 AM
  #7  
Betty
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And here I was think it was December.
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:57 AM
  #8  
kim
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I didn't mean the Met Museum wasn't worht $10 a piece, only meant that seeing the Christmas tree for 15 minutes wasn't worth it. In fact, since we stayed for the Richard Avedon exhibit, I did think we got our money's worht! Just warning people that if they are wimpy like me, and pay full or close to full price) they may want to see other exhibits at the Museum, not just the tree!
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 09:59 AM
  #9  
kim
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Fodor's either needs spell check or I need to stop typing so fast.
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 10:23 AM
  #10  
Patrick
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Great report, Kim. I think the most interesting comment however, was that with the amount of theatre you were seeing you began to wish you were staying in the theatre district. I agree. While other areas of New York are far more interesting to stay in, if you are going back and forth to midtown to see theatre every night, it is much easier to do your "daytrips" to the other areas, and not have to worry about that midtown rush traffic getting to and from the theatre every night. And not to worry about the late night trip back to a more remote hotel when you are tired, especially if you hang out to eat and or drink after a show.
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 10:36 AM
  #11  
too
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Very detailed trip report which was nice. But other than your report on Hairspray, the post had a lot of negativity.
"have to say it was not worth the $20"
"food was very good but the service was terrible"
opera: "Anyway, neither my husband nor I really got into it."
"Did I mention it was cold?"
"bought a pecan pie slice and a slice of espresso cake, but can’t say that either was very good."
"dessert, even while we watched other patrons get served later, including dessert. Harumph!"
"although I can’t say they were the best fries"
"Dinner at One If By Land was good, but not great. Service was excellent, atmosphere was beautiful, but can’t say that we were wowed by the food."

Those are just some of the negative commnents. Unfortunately some people have such high expectations that they can't really enjoy their vacations.

I agree that One If By Land is not the cheapest place, but you are paying for the ambience and it's as much about the experience as just the food alone. I'd recommend the restaurant to anyone looking for a romantic special meal.

 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 11:11 AM
  #12  
Kathy
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I really enjoyed Kim's trip report and did not find it at all negative. She came across as very honest in her experiences. The purpose of a trip report is to report on your experiences, not to give a glowing report no matter what. For the length of it, the few negative comments pointed out by the previous poster are not many, taken with all of the positive things she had to say. Thanks Kim!
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 11:20 AM
  #13  
Elizabeth
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Hi Kim! Great report! We usually go to NYC around Christmas but this year we won't make it until late January, so it was fun it "live" the trip via you! I think you offered some great advice (layers, sensible shoes, the wait at the airport that some may not expect! etc) and although someone thought you were negative, I think it was good that you told HONESTLY what you thought about things (and I noticed that you were happy with a lot of your trip too!) Glad to hear you enjoyed the Tenement Museum - we haven't been yet and your comments just made me want to see it more. Thanks so much for posting and sharing your experiences.
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 12:29 PM
  #14  
r-travels
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I enjoyed your trip report, and will consider some of your activities during my own next visit. Agree that a complete report must be honest, even if not all positive, and that even so, each person's experience can vary. Thank you. (there is no X in my REAL eddress)
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 12:46 PM
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kim
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Patrick,

I love NYC so much and always want to soak up as much atmosphere as I can, which is why I try to stay in different neighborhoods, but you got my point exactly! I see alot of recommendations to people to stay "anywhere but the theater district" and I really need to rethink that. As small as the city is, when you are seeing it mostly by foot it gets a lot bigger. I always forget that we end up walking if we are one subway stop away from a destination, because it always seems like too much of hassle to go up and down stairs, follow signs, wait for trains, and then you inevitable have to walk 2-3 blocks to and from the stations! I also need to acknowledge to myself that I try to cram too much Broadway into too short of trips. I always start off thinking "just one play" ...
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 12:53 PM
  #16  
kim
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Too [email protected],

I am really sorry that you thought that the negative comments detracted from the report. I have to say that I was disappointed, overall, in our meals. I have had other trips to NY where I thought every bite I put in my mouth was heaven, and maybe I was expecting too much this time.

Maybe you should go through and read the report again, this time looking for the positives!!! I think I was positively giddy about several things, but didn't want to sugarcoat the things that went wrong. If nothing else, it is important to remember that things don't go as expected no matter how well planned things are!
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 12:54 PM
  #17  
Christine
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Even the french fries didn't live up to her standards! I have to second the other posters statements about negativity. As I was reading through the post, I realized that the poster must be the type that restauranters dread.

I would have to agree however that the Christmas Tree alone is not enough reason to go to the Met. But who goes to one of the best museums in the world just to view a tree???
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 12:59 PM
  #18  
kim
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One more thing I need to clarify, just in case it seemed negative - I really thought it was neat to see the large groups of women who had gathered for what seemed like an annual girls weekend in NY. We noticed that alot of times it was 4 or 5 women with their teenage daughters, and I thought what a great trip that must be for them. I also noticed that alot of the women were meeting up from different parts of the country (I overheard lots of conversations in the to/from airports as well as in NYC) which I thought was cool. I just thought it seemed so festive and everywhere I noticed a group they were having a blast!
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 01:35 PM
  #19  
Cappy
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Great report Kim!! It's refreshing to hear a good, honest report. Including but ESPECIALLY, the negatives. You'd be doing a disservice to perhaps many individuals taking your advice. I wouldn't have written it any differently.

You're obviously not a pushover nor do you seem to be overly critical in your expectations. I too would probably be disappointed at some french fries. Fries are fries, IMO, and when people rave about fried potatoes and when an establishment gains widespread notoriety, well they better be damn good or it's likely I'll be disappointed as well.
 
Old Dec 16th, 2002, 01:37 PM
  #20  
junebug
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For crying out loud, people!! This is exactly why trip reports are few and far between around here lately. Kim is *allowed* to not like her meals or find things in New York not to her taste! It's called having preferences and expressing her opinions, which is what these freaking trip reports are supposed to be! So she thought the food wasn't the greatest at some places -- let me tell you, I've lived in NYC for 20+ years and you know what? I've had some meals that did not give me tastebid orgasms! And some food that was actually bad! For heaven's sake, you people are ridiculous. Kim, on behalf of my fellow New Yorkers, thanks so much for visiting and I hope we'll see you again some time. NY is a great city and we appreciate our visitors. To you nitpickers, grow up!
 

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