Christmas in New York

View from the Empire State Building

View from the Empire State Building

Ever since we moved to France, we've wanted to spend a special Christmas holiday in New York. 1999 turned out to be the year this dream came true, and we had a fabulous time. Among other things, we did discover that visiting New York as a tourist can be even more fun than seeing it as a resident. Not having to leave Manhattan in the evening, for example, was a delight, as was the possibility to return to the hotel in the middle of the day just to rest for an hour or two.

The trip yielded a substantial crop of photographs, way too many to display on a page using our usual format. For this reason, we only include small partial views of each photo on this page. Clicking on any of these small pictures, or on any of the picture numbers that appear throughout the text, will display a larger version in a separate window. Simply close that window to return to this page.

One last comment: typically, the small pictures only show a tiny portion of the full sized ones, so the only way to make sure you're not missing anything is to click on all the links. Enjoy this Christmas trip to the Big Apple with us!


We arrived in New York during the afternoon of December 18, having taken a non-stop flight from Nice to JFK. While in Manhattan, we stayed at the Milburn hotel on West 76th Street and Broadway. The Milburn used to be an apartment building that was converted to a hotel a number of years ago. We had a two bedroom apartment, complete with a small kitchen on the fourteenth floor, the second to the last floor in the photo [1].

The day after we arrived we had breakfast at Big Nick's, as typical a New York eatery as one can find. It's located on Broadway between 76th and 77th Street, and their bacon and egg sandwiches are, simply put, excellent [2]. After breakfast, we walked through Central Park [3] to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Milburn Hotel At Big Nick's Central Park
The Milburn At Big Nick's Central Park

In the afternoon, we strolled down Fifth Avenue where we visited St. Patrick's cathedral [4] and admired the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center [5]. Of course, we couldn't resist the large pretzels (served warm and covered with salt) -- a favorite snack of Eric's [6]

St. Patrick's cathedral Rockefeller Center Street vendor
Saint Patrick's Rockefeller Center New York snack

On Monday, it pretty much rained all day (but it was also the only rain we saw during our entire vacation, so we were really very lucky). Since we were not in any great rush to venture outside, Vicki finished the Sunday Times [7] begun a day earlier. In the afternoon, we went to the Citigroup Center [8] on Lexington Avenue where they had their annual "The Station" exhibit: a gigantic train set that features four distinctive scenes, each modeled after a different part of New York State and set in a different season. For example, in the portion of the summer scene shown here, we see a parade marching down Main Street of a small town in the Catskill mountains [9].

New York Times Citicorp Building Model train scene 1
Sunday Times Citicorp Building Summer (Catskills)

For the fall season, we move to the Adirondacks [10]. "The Station" is on display once a year during the holiday season. One can do quite a bit of indoor shopping in the Citigroup Center as well, and there are many eateries where one get a load off one's feet as David demonstrates here [11]. But what could be more appropriate than to visit a real station after admiring the model trains? We got got wet walking to the recently restored Grand Central Station, but it was definitely worth it. The main hall is magnificent, and the clock, one of the most famous meeting points in New York City, is still there [12].

Model train scene 2 Citicorp Building Grand Central Station
Fall (Adirondacks) David Grand Central

The following morning (Tuesday), Vicki took the kids to the movies while I went to the Marriott at Times Square to have lunch with two former colleagues (now friends) from my Amex days. Dave [13] and I had not seen each other since 1990, and yet we both claimed that the other had not changed a bit (perhaps we're going blind). I get to see John [14] at least once a year, and it's always a treat. A friendly waitress took the picture of what I hope will be our first annual reunion [15]. And by the way: John's picture is by Dave and vice versa. Both photos appear here without permission.

Dave John Amex reunion
Dave John Amex reunion

After a delightful three hour lunch, I made my way across Times Square [16] and up to the Plaza hotel where I was to meet Vicki and the boys for high tea at the Palm Court [17]. This is not our typical kind of place, but once in a while it's fun to indulge. We had a good time nibbling on watercress sandwiches, scones, and miniature pastries while sipping tea and watching the other patrons. We also made an obligatory stop at CompUSA where David picked up a Mac game. That night, in our hotel room, we see him busy studying [18] the "Total Annihilation" manual (by the time we were back in France he knew it by heart).

Times Square Tea at the Palm Court Study
Times Square Palm Court Study

Right around the corner from our hotel was a store that was home to a very cute cat (but then we think all cats are cute). It would sit on the scale and peer through the bars [19], acting very brave. We passed our feline friend on the way to breakfast on Wednesday morning. Vicki's sister Gail had come to town from Long Island, and after a bite at Big Nick's we were off to the American Museum of Natural History, just a few blocks away. I liked the dinosaur in the lobby [20] and the small collection of moon rocks. The one shown here [21] is sample 14305 and was collected from the lunar surface on February 5, 1971 by the Apollo 14 crew. It is supposed to be Kreep Basalt (whatever that is). Isn't this an educational web site?

Guard cat Dinosaur Moon Rock
Guard Cat Dinosaur Moon Rock

After the museum visit, we just wandered around Manhattan for a while, looking up all the time like all tourists [22]. Thursday was our day to reach new heights! We took the number 1 subway [23] to 34th Street and made our way towards the Empire State Building. The sheer size of this New York landmark is just awesome! [24]

Skyscraper Subway Ride Empire State Building
Skyscraper Subway Ride Empire State Building

Eric [25] and David [26] spent a couple of quarters zooming in on selected details of the glorious view from the visitor's terrace on the 86th floor (see the top of this page for an example of what New York looks like from up there). Then we took a small elevator to the 102nd floor; on top, there is only an indoor viewing area, but the view is fantastic [27].

Eric David View from the very top
Eric David 102nd Floor

In the afternoon, we split up. Vicki and Eric headed towards Macy's (boooring!) while David and I walked to the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum on Pier 86 at 12th Avenue and 46th Street. We were there all afternoon. How many times does one get the opportunity to walk around on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier [28]? Or touch a legendary Lockheed SR-71, at Mach 3.6+ the fastest jet plane ever built [29]? Or walk onto the bridge of a destroyer [30]? There just doesn't seem to be anything one cannot do in New York City!

On the Intrepid Lockheed SR-71 USS Edson
USS Intrepid Lockheed SR-71 USS Edson

The variety in the architecture of New York City is spectacular. The photo of the red building [31] was taken somewhere on 45th or 46th Street between 10th and 11th Avenue on the way to Pier 96 on Thursday. The Flatiron building [32] and World Trade Center [33] were photographed during a stroll from Union Square to lower Manhattan on Friday. While the weather was spectacular, it started to get really cold on Friday, forcing many warm-up breaks in coffee shops (no one complained).

Red building Flatiron Building The World Trade Center
Red building Flatiron Building World Trade Center

Downtown, we walked down Wall Street [34] and to the South Street Seaport [35]. Right next to the East River, there was an icy wind blowing, and we barely could make the kids sit down outside long enough to take a picture [36]. It was Christmas Eve, though it certainly did not feel like it. Still, the South Street Seaport is worth a visit any day.

Wall Street South Street Seaport David & Eric
Wall Street South Street Seaport David & Eric

By Canal Street [37] and Broadway it was not quite as cold any more and walking around became bearable again. On Christmas Day we did something we had always wanted to do: we took a ride in Central Park in one of those horse-drawn carriages [38]. This was a great deal of fun, even though we were ripped off by our driver. Anyway, we liked our horse [39] better than the coachman. But maybe we are too fussy? Should a ride that's advertised at a certain rate for half an hour end after a mere 16 minutes? We don't think so.

Canal Street Carriage Ride "Our" Horse
Canal Street Carriage Ride "Our" Horse

After arguing for a while, we eventually settled the matter by not paying the tip and walked back to the hotel through Central Park. We stopped for a while to watch the skaters on the Wolman rink [40] and the ducks on a portion of the lake that had not frozen over completely [41]. We rested for a couple of hours at the hotel (these steam radiators were wonderful!) and headed back downtown to see "Putting It Together", a musical review of Stephen Sondheim numbers [42]. We knew most of the songs, but seeing (and hearing!) them performed by people like Carol Burnett and George Hearn was a delight.

Wolman Rink Duck pond The Show
Wolman Rink Duck pond Sondheim!

On Sunday we left Manhattan and took the train to Gail and Andy's house in Kings Park where, unbelievably, we were treated to a belated (but nonetheless delicious) Thanksgiving dinner (thanks, Gail!) This was also our first opportunity to see Andy's brand-new Eclipse [43], and I even got to drive it. Now if they could only get rid of those stupid speed limits! On Wednesday we drove to Huntington, our former home, and visited with Pop [44] and Dora. Right next to the Chinese place where we ate, they had a Sale at The Gap. Need I say more? Gail and Vicki were in their element [45].

Andy's toy Pop Bargains!
Andy's toy Pop Bargains!

On Thursday we were invited to what has been called "the best pasta joint in the world" elsewhere on this site: the home of Richard and Annette [46]. What can I say about them other than this: we are fortunate indeed to have friends like that. A good time was had by all, and the Christmas tree [47] was duly admired. The time passed all too quickly, and the very next evening we were already in an airplane bound for Nice [48]. Our mind is already made up: we shall do this again.

Richard & Annette Christmas tree Homeward Bound
Richard & Annette Christmas tree Homeward Bound

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