Christmassy Trip to NYC

*Note: My media storage on WordPress is full, and I don’t want to shill out for a paid version, so pictures accompanying this post can be found here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ANCVnLQ9mKzBoMrc9

For our ten-year anniversary, we decided not to really do much of anything flashy or exchange lavish gifts… at first. But then the Apple Watch 5 came out and we were both interested in getting one, so we splurged and “exchanged” them as gifts. And then Lauren brought home a bottle of Don Julio 1942 tequila. For a while, we thought that was the end of it, but then Lauren announced that she wanted to celebrate paying off our credit cards by taking an anniversary trip somewhere fun. Who the hell was I to argue! We also were able to fly 100% free by redeeming miles, so that helped sweeten the pot. I decided if we were going to do such a trip, it had to be somewhere wintry so we could soak up the Christmas spirit. Several cities were in consideration, from Denver to Montreal to Washington, but in the end all signs pointed to New York City.

For likely the tenth time, it was great aunt Alice to the rescue to stay with the kids! This was the first time she would be in charge of both Johnny and Edie alone, no small feat.

We departed early the morning of Thursday, December 12. I got to the airport in record time, and we breezed through security, giving us a full hour. We decided to pay $29 and enjoy the brand new Delta SkyClub at the Austin airport, as we are American Express Delta card holders and qualified for a discount. When you consider it’s all the free food and drinks you can handle, $29 seemed like a steal. The direct flight to JFK landed us in town just after 1pm ET. We checked into our posh hotel, The Mondrian, and wandered a short distance until we found an English pub, The Churchill, to enjoy lunch. After that, we stumbled into Foley’s, New York’s famed baseball-themed bar with a ton of memorabilia. We walked to the west side of Manhattan and took a stroll through Bella Azbug Park and The High Line, a mile strip of park that I believe was once an old rail line. At this point in the trip, it was nice and cold! I was not wearing a stocking cap and my ears were freezing, just as I had hoped!

That night we wandered down to Rockefeller Center and saw the famous giant Christmas tree and skating rink. We retired back to the hotel and rested before enjoying dinner at Sabai, a Thai restaurant. We tried to go to a Nikola Tesla cocktail bar but it was too long of a wait, so we called it a night after 10 miles of walking for the day. In the middle of the night, I was awoken when a former babysitter apparently drunk dialed me. I struggled to get back to sleep for over an hour, so I found a bottle of wine and took down a few big gulps and that did the trick.

Two hours later, I sprung out of bed at 5:00, threw on some clothes, and walked briskly through Manhattan alone to NBC’s Today Show. Whenever I see it on TV, it only looks like there are 200 or so people hanging around. Not so! There are thousands. I thought I would be the first person in line for the 7am shoot, but I was probably the 750th. When I finally got through security and into the staging area, everyone was trying to find a good spot around the corrals where the hosts come out at the end of the show and chat with the crowd. No one, however, was standing directly behind the glass windows where Al Roker and Hoda Kotb and Melvin whatever are doing the show. I could see on the monitors that I was pretty well directly behind the hosts and would have been pretty visible on a lot of shots. I don’t know too many people who would make a point to get up at 5am on vacation to try to be seen on TV, but clearly I am not alone. The hosts said they believed that day’s audience to have been the biggest they’d ever seen, estimating around 3,000 people. And when I left at 8:45, there were still people lined up down the block waiting to get in!

I hoofed it back to the hotel and met Lauren, and we promptly headed south to find one of the city’s many famed Christmas markets. We did some shopping and bought some souvenirs, found a Whole Foods for Lauren to inspect, and then headed on foot to a German restaurant called Rolf’s. This place is decked out floor-to-ceiling in the most unbelievable over-the-top Christmas decor anywhere. The wait to get in for a standing-room-only spot at the bar was wrapped around the block! We decided to wait it out, and were glad we did. We made friends with another couple in the line, who went and got some bagels for the wait. If you didn’t see the pictures on Facebook, you’ll want to check out my gallery above. Truly jaw-dropping.

After that, we again took off on foot for Times Square where I had booked a 2-hour walking tour through Atlas Obscura, which was promised to showcase some of Midtown’s weirder, off-the-beaten-path attractions. We paid $25 each for the tour, and I think we got our $25 worth. It was worthwhile, but it was a rainy, misty day and we had already walked so much on the trip that I probably didn’t get as much out of it as I’d have liked. We were shown the world’s greatest public restroom, a subway rat statue, a crazy sound tunnel at Grand Central terminal, a Superman movie location, and things of that nature. After that, we got on the subway and headed to Brooklyn to eat dinner at a place Lauren heard about called Pizza Loves Emily, which surprisingly is known to have one of the best burgers in the country.

At this point I had been up since 5am and it had finally occurred to me as I took a seat on the subway that—and I swear I am not exaggerating—that was the first time I had sat down since waking up. I had been on my feet for over 11 consecutive hours. And the only thing I ate or drank during that entire time was half a bagel in line for Rolf’s, and a liter of German beer when inside. That’s it! We ate dinner at this place, which was very good, and took the subway back to the hotel where I crashed hard for 11 hours.

On Saturday, it was far from Christmassy—nearly 60º and misty. We visited a neighborhood bagel shop which featured another long line, and then walked again all the way through Manhattan up to explore Fifth Avenue, which is supposed to feature the best window Christmas displays. We went up into Central Park to explore, then did a mini bar crawl on the way back, hitting up bars such as BarBacon, Alfie’s, and Rum House. After a minor afternoon buzz, we ventured to another area of town where Lauren wanted to shop for yarn. Then, it was time to get ready for the grand finale of the trip, our visit to Broadway to see Hamilton! The show started at 8 and we were a mere 1.5 miles away, so we figured leaving around 7:10 in an Uber would get us there in plenty of time. WRONG! Traffic was so ridiculous we had to get out of the Uber and run to get to the theater in time, and we barely made it. Very stressful! Hamilton was a great show, living up to expectations. Truly a masterpiece! I certainly did enjoy my first ever Broadway show.

After the show, we were trying to get to an 11:30 dinner reservation. We were running late, traffic was insane, and Lauren was in heels. She was very flustered and asked me to just figure something out for transportation. Seeing no cabs stopping, no Ubers moving on the map, and never quite confident in my subway skills, I hailed a pedicab and told him to step on it! I didn’t quite realize his rate and our distance from this restaurant, but suffice it to say, I spent more on a pedicab than on the forthcoming dinner. I felt sick forking over nearly $200 for a stupid bike ride! We ate at Momofuku and then turned in for the night.

Our return flight to Austin was uneventful, and we were reunited with the kids by early Sunday afternoon. From all reports, Johnny was a great helper to Alice, and Edie was apparently good too, which is great news as she has been a demon child of late!

All told, the NYC Christmas trip was a great success, but the lack of much cold weather put a slight damper on things. I was surprised how expensive everything is there—a pint of domestic beer anywhere is $8-$10! I was also taken aback by how early it gets dark—it was pitch dark by 4:30, something we don’t see here in Texas. Maybe it was like that back in Minnesota but I have clearly forgotten about it. This marked my third visit to NYC. In 2007 I went with Walsh and Nick to see the Twins play the Yankees one last time at the original Yankee Stadium, and in 2011 Lauren and I visited both New York and Boston on an 8-day getaway. I still hate the Yankees, but the rest of New York is pretty A-OK!

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