I have been teaching “Marketing 201” at Bergen Community College for several years now and in the era of COVID, it has been especially difficult. With businesses shutting down never to reopen getting students to understand that business must go on and pivot is a difficult thing to do. You have to learn to adapt and survive or else everything fails.
This is happening in small downtowns all over the country. You have to learn to adapt, or you will fail. Things have gotten better though with the dropping of the mask mandates and businesses opening up.
In my live classes, I open my consulting company, “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.”, for business and the whole class bands together and we have one big project. In the era of post-COVID and online learning, I was lucky that I was able to teach one of the live classes on the Bergen Community College, Paramus Campus. It was such a pleasure welcoming students back to campus with live lectures and conversing with them.
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. corporate logo of the six trees
In the past, I have created these projects under the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. banner, the main consulting company, the Orion Malls banner, a Mall design company and the Buscomonzefi.com banner, my Tech Division. Each business does its best to be creative, forward thinking and have a thought producing presentations. I also challenge the students to top on another in their presentations and build on what they have seen others do in the past.
Professor Justin Watrel, CEO & Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
This semester’s project “It’s Wonderful in Westwood, NJ: Being a Tourist in your own Town” was inspired by the success of the “Take me back to Paterson, NJ” project in 2019 and “Rocking it in Rutherford” in 2021. I loved how the students really had to learn about the history of the City of Paterson, the Borough of Rutherford and about New Jersey history in general. This is something not being taught in schools today.
The blog on Day One Hundred and Fifty-Five: “Take me back to Paterson, NJ” in 2019:
I chose Westwood, NJ this semester because of all the years spent shopping and eating in Westwood with my family who live in the Township of Washington the next town over and many of the long term businesses that dot the downtown shopping district. Downtown Westwood had more of a history to it and was picturesque with its old buildings, classic look of the train station dominating the downtown and a park with a band stand in Veterans Park in the heart of the downtown. It was a traditional downtown in New Jersey.
The town is on two major bus routes one into New York City as well as being a railroad head for New York City. The town has become more desirable for people moving out of New York City for more open space, better schools and the amenities that come with living in the suburbs. They still want a ‘citified’ atmosphere though with good restaurants, clean safe parks to relax in and a strollable downtown with lots to offer for both shopping and eating. Westwood, NJ has all of these.
I assembled the project together in two days after walking the downtown several times getting inspiration of how to market it and ideas that I had seen in the past in other towns of what they run at various times of the year drawing ideas from towns in the Hudson River Valley.
I entitled the project “It’s Wonderful in Westwood: Being a tourist in your own Town”, a creative approach to market the downtown for tourists to come visit from all over New Jersey and New York especially the City, the way Rhinebeck and Beacon do for dining, shopping and special events like “First Monday’s” and “Sinterklaas”.
The Project “It’s Wonderful in Westwood, NJ: Be a Tourist in your own Town”:
BCC-Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. 2022 Project It’s Wonderful in Westwood, NJ
When I presented the project, I got the usual moans and groans from some of the students and excitement from the others (it all depends on their position in the company and their enthusiasm in group projects). I got the Teams organized, had them meet up with one another and exchange emails and planned my field trip to Westwood, NJ as part of the project. It took some doing.
Two weeks later, I took my class on a field trip to Westwood, NJ to walk the downtown business district, to see where the Westwood Heritage Museum was located and to visit the shops and restaurants in the downtown area. The week in between me presenting the project and us visiting Westwood, NJ, I started to make contacts in the town.
I started by dropping off a copy of the project with City Hall and hoping to get the Mayor and Council involved the way we did in both Paterson and Rutherford, talking with the head of the Chamber of Commerce and then talking to merchants who I wanted to visit that included Hartly’s, a well known Women’s Store and Conrad’s, a very well-known Ice Cream and Candy store.
We really lucked out the day of the tour. It was a beautiful day but a little windy. We started out at the bandstand which is a symbol of the town. I never realized the historical significance that the bandstand had played in the town and in it’s history. It had been an important part of the social fabric of the town during the turn of the last century and still used for concerts today.
We were joined by the Honorable Beth Dell, the President of the Westwood Town Council and I thought this was a very nice honor that the town wanted to get involved in the beginning of the project. We really had a productive afternoon.
The tour of the downtown started in Veterans Park with the Team trying to figure out on how to create some of the activities that we would be creating such as the “Halloween in the Park”, the “Nick in Time” event and the “Jazz Summer Concert” events. We used the parks layout and logistics to figure out how to configure the usage of space. Before we toured the historic train station, we took our first in a series of corporate pictures.
Our Group picture at the Westwood Bandshell at the start of the tour (Councilwoman Dell and I to the right)
We continued on to the historic Westwood Train Station, which is the home to the Westwood Heritage Museum one day a month. It had not been operating recently because of COVID but I wanted the students to see the potential in how the museum could be updated and advertised to increase traffic.
The Train Station marker in Veterans Park
We toured the station and looked over the architecture and location of the station to understand why the location of the station has helped shape the way the downtown has been built around it.
The next part of the tour, we met with the head of the Westwood Chamber of Commerce at his business, Westwood Gallery, Michael Fitzsimmons. Mr. Fitzsimmons and I had met the week before and I knew how busy he would be so we had to plan the whole visit on a timely basis.
Not only did he spend a lot of time with us but introduced the class to members of ‘Celebrate Westwood”, a group of volunteers who help organize special events in the town. Talk about a productive and very engaging conversation on what both organizations do for the benefit of the town. The students, especially the Executive and Marketing Teams, gained a lot of knowledge and expertise from it.
Our second stop on the tour was a quick one through B & S Kitchen, an innovative sandwich shop a few doors down. I had just eaten lunch there the week before and thought that the food and selection of homemade soups were excellent. With a lunch special of a half a sandwich with a side of soup for $9.95, I saw this as an excellent business decision considering the quality of the food and service. It was so busy that morning the owners did not have a chance to talk to us but I was able to share my experience with the students while visiting there.
Our third stop on the tour was Hartly Fashion women’s store, which I think is one of the finest independent women’s clothing stores in the state. For a small store, it has some of the finest merchandise for work, parties and weddings. The service they have does not exist in stores anymore where salespeople will call you when items come in and will work with you on a personal one on one basis. Hartly is in a league all its own.
Hartly Fashion at 104 Westwood Avenue
The manager, Jo and I had talked about the tour and I could tell she was a bit sceptical when I mentioned it but myself and the students came in, she captured the students attention on what quality and customer service meant to people. Especially when she described women travelling from places like Long Island, Manhattan and Connecticut to come shop in the store.
With pride, we walked through the store and were given a very detailed description on the type of customer that shopped here, what she was looking for in clothes and the attention to detail she would get in the shopping experience. It was a real eye-opener to many of the students who are completely online shoppers.
We walked the rest of the Downtown to Firemen’s Park and I discussed the pride that the town takes in its fire service and described my own time on the fire service and what a park like this means to the fire fighting community.
We toured the other side of Westwood Avene, the main street of the downtown and I discussed the amount of men’s and women’s clothing and accessory stores in the downtown area. You do not see this many clothing stores in one concentration in a downtown anymore being so close to the amount of malls we have in Bergen County. Westwood had become a destination for shopping and I discussed because of quality merchandise and good customer service these stores have thrived and propersed. To some of students, I could see this was alien to them. They were a generation where you pushed the button and it came to you.
I stopped by Pompilio’s Pizzeria at 223 Westwood Avenue to check on our lunch reservation on our way back to the train station. This is where I would be taking the Team for lunch that afternoon. With that taken care of, we made our last stop of the trip at Conrad’s Ice Cream and Candy store at 107 Westwood Avenue. I could tell for the students that was the best part of the tour. The owner Connie and the manager, Sue and the rest of the staff could not have been nicer or more accommodating to the students.
I just thought we would have a little talk on the history of the business and a small walk through but the ladies really gave the students a thorough talk on not just the history of the business but on how homemade ice cream and candy are both made (they are made on premise), how the family got involved in the business, how Connie’s son has now taken over the business and has been growing it, new product developments and how they handled COVID era shopping and how it changed the way the business is run (they now have food trucks for parties and events).
The ladies led a very engaging talk with the students, let them tour around the store and Sue ended the discussion with giving each student a small package of Conrad’s homemade caramel corn. I have never seen so many excited students! You would have thought they won the lottery. The students left so happy and I thought this was a very smart business move. Start to capture the customer while they are in the store. I found out later that many students revisited the store throughout the project.
The Conrad’s Ice Cream counter
The students used Conrad’s as the inspiration as for corporate gifts
We finished the tour with lunch at Pompilio’s Pizzeria at 223 Westwood Avenue. I have been coming to Pompilio’s Pizzeria since I was a freshman in high school when my aunt and uncle took us here for dinner when we were visiting them one summer. I also knew that they had ordered here a few times when we visited the house. Funny what you remember when you were a kid. The pizza is just as excellent as it was back in the 1980’s.
As tradition with the Town projects that make up the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. umbrella, I break bread with the students and this is my way of getting them to know one another. I found this very successful when we went to the Lunch Box in Paterson, NJ (now closed) as a group during our walking tour of Downtown Paterson and found it effective in Team building. I also get to know the students as well.
I ordered six large Cheese Pizzas and pitchers of soda and we just relaxed and reviewed our walking tour of the downtown area and how to better promote it for the town. The Team sat with their groups and brainstormed ideas over lunch. In the middle of lunch, the owner of Pompilio’s came out and discussed his family business with us and how his father’s family came from Italy and how they started the business in Westwood. I thought it was nice of the owner to come out and spend time with us seeing that he was so busy that afternoon. It was nice to see the merchants support this project.
The students created this new logo for the Town of Westwood, NJ:
The logo that was created for Westwood, NJ for ‘It’s Wonderful in Westwood, NJ: Be a Tourist in your own Town”
During class time, I tried to give the students as much time as I could but much of the work was done outside the classroom. Being a Hybrid class, I had to train the students to realize that class was not just in the one hour and fifteen minutes that we had in the classroom. This was lecture time and they needed to understand the theory of what they were doing, why they were doing it and how to understand the outcome. Most of them did very well in the academic part of the work.
The Saturday before the presentation, I took the students on a optional tour of the Westwood Heritage Museum, which is located in the Train Station of Westwood, NJ the second Saturday of every month. The Westwood Heritage Society sets the station up for visiting from 10:00am-12:00pm and I met the students at 10:30am at the museum. My entire Historical Team showed up along with about five other students which meant about half the class showed up.
The displays at the Westwood Heritage Society Museum in the Train Station
Westwood Heritage Society displays
The members of the Westwood Heritage Society gave us a tour of the museum, explained how it worked and how they set things up each month. Then they gave us a talk on the history of the town and the historical attributes of the downtown. The students got a feel for how the museum worked and how we could better promote it to the outside community.
The tour concluded with visit to the WWII bunker at the bottom of the train station. Both myself and the students were equally impressed by this.
As we prepared for the final touches on the presentation, the student Executives were nervous about the presentation. I had a very good Executive so I was not worried. I just wanted a good representation from the town.
We had to delay the presentation twice. Once because the Town Council asked if we would like to present it at City Hall and the Council was going to a conference the day of our presentation. Then it was delayed again because the day we were supposed to present it, it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and even I did not realize that we had the day off. So presentation day would be when we returned back from the Thanksgiving break, November 30th, 2022.
The day of the presentation I got there early so that I could set the room up for the presentation. I had the Reception to set up and make sure that everything in the room was working. My President and Senior Vice-President of Operations arrived early as well and then most of the Team showed up much earlier than class time. They wanted to get their groups settled in.
I also had to give the students their Dress Code grade and I have to say that I was annoyed when I saw two students wearing sneakers to the presentation. Trust me, they were graded accordingly. Every semester it is the same thing, the ladies always blow away the men.
We were joined that afternoon with Council President the Honorable Councilwoman Beth Dell, the Borough Administrator and another Councilwoman plus two members of the Westwood Heritage Museum whom we had met on a trip to the museum the previous Saturday. I thought it was very nice of all of them to come out and support the students.
This is the presentation that everyone saw that afternoon:
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. “It’s Wonderful in Westwood: Be a Tourist in your own Town” website and Powerpoint presentation:
The Marketing 201 Executive Team the day of the Presentation on the Bergen Community College Paramus Campus with the Council women from Westwood, NJ:
The Paramus Executive Team for “It’s Wonderful in Westwood, NJ-Be a Tourist in your own Town” with Council members and guests.
The full Executive Team with members of Westwood City Council and members of the Westwood Heritage Society Museum
CEO and company Co-Founder Justin Watrel receiving a gift of a Conrad’s Chocolate Champagne bottle presented to him by Team Leader of Talent, Eva Sipos, of the Paramus Team.
Here is the Team’s video Marketing the Town for Tourism in English and Spanish:
The Historical Team was tasked with creating a new video to promote the Historical Section of Westwood, NJ:
The Historical Team created this video to promote the Westwood Heritage Museum:
The Team created a new Town song for Westwood, NJ “The Hub”:
This is the Team Presentation of “It’s Wonderful in Westwood-Be a Tourist in your own Town” to the Honorable members of the Westwood Town Council and the Westwood Heritage Museum:
This was one of the smoother presentations that I have had in the last two or three semesters. The students did an excellent job with the presentation. We had enough time for a question and answer session before the students had to leave for their next classes. Being an one hour class, we had to stay on a strict schedule. This differs from my night classes.
Still it was one hell of a presentation!
The Team to finish out their project arranged a company Christmas party for Corporate Headquarters. The students had to create an Invitation to the Party, A Christmas Poem, the Party Dinner menu and an original Christmas song. Here are the ideas:
I love this classic little Jersey food stand! Talk about character!
The one thing about Hudock’s Custard Stand is that it is a piece of New Jersey nostalgia to a time when things were just a little slower and when you visit, they still are. When people come here to dine, there is not a cellphone in site and people sit in the chairs or at the picnic tables and just talk to one another. Or admire the beautiful views of the surrounding farms. On a warm sunny day, there is nothing like a cup of ice cream or a footlong hot dog to make you forget your troubles.
Where you order food at Hudock’s
Hudock’s keeps things simple and friendly when you…
On a recent trip to the frozen food aisle, I came across My Mochi Ice Cream that were on sale. I had tasted these at the Fancy Food Show a few times not remembering if this was the company I had tried when I was there. These delightful little rolls of ice cream are a wonderful afternoon or snack treat.
These sweet vanilla ice cream-based nuggets are wrapped in a sweet rice dough that is naturally colored to reflect the flavor of the ice cream. What brings out the flavor of the rice dough is combination of sweet rice flour and cane sugar that combines with the milk, cream and cane sugar used to make their ice cream bases. Each one of these creamy bite size treats has two layers of sweetness and make…
Park Terrace Deli has been one of my go to places to eat uptown for a few years. I came across the deli when I was walking “The Great Saunter”, the 32 mile walk around Manhattan and needed an additional breakfast for extra protein and carbs. They did not disappoint me.
Park Terrace Deli at 510 West 218th Street
I always order the same thing here, the Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a hero roll ($6.50) and it is one of the best in Manhattan. They scramble two fresh eggs and then tuck it into a soft chewy hero roll lined with American cheese. Then they top it with several pieces of crisp bacon. The combination of flavors is amazing, and the portion size is enough for breakfast…
A la Mode Shoppe is the type of ice cream/candy shop that every neighborhood should have in it. It is a colorful spot with unusual, homemade ice cream flavors, and a nice selection of gourmet sodas, candies and gifts. The store is decorated with bright colors, comfortable chairs and a festive inviting environment. They even have a small party room off to the side of store with seating for small children.
The inside of A la Mode Shoppe (A la Mode Facebook)
What I come for is the ice cream. There are two flavors that I come for when I visit the store, Pink Sprinkles, which is Strawberry ice cream with loads of colorful sprinkles layered…
I had been shopping in the Boscov’s Department Store in Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, NJ recently and I walked into their Candy Department on the second floor to admire all their candy selections.
The shelves were ladened with products from Hershey’s Easter candies which rang true for a department store company based in Pennsylvania. So many wonderful food companies are based in the Lancaster and surrounding communities.
On one table I eyed one of my favorite holiday treats on the display table near the register, a decorated butter cream Easter Egg by the Lerro’s Candy Company. The beautifully decorated egg came in two sizes, and I preferred the larger one that would last until Easter morning.
This sweet Easter Egg was nicely decorated with all sorts of flowers and edible embellishments. The center of…
With the Easter holidays coming up, the aisles of the local stores are filled top to bottom with Easter candies of all assortments. One particular that I found that I had not eaten in years are the Spangler Bunnies, Chicks & Eggs, a delicious marshmallow candy that comes in various colors and the shapes of bunnies, chicks, and eggs that are perfect for any Easter basket.
These soft and sweet little candy figures are very similar to Circus Peanuts, another item that the company makes. This specialty item is only available at the Easter holidays. The consistency is slightly firmer than a traditional marshmallow but these rich treats taste of a sugary goodness in each bite.
These sweet treats are only available at the Easter holidays.
I have been in love with Circus Peanuts candies since I started eating. When I was little, we used to go to Joe’s Fruit Farm on Washington Valley Road in Bridgewater, NJ for our local fruits and apple cider. In the store front area of the farm (which was still going strong into 2006) used to have the old ‘penny candy’ jars.
When I was in elementary school, I used to go shopping with my mother there and used to beg for three things: red licorice strings, orange slices and Circus Peanuts. I still remember that little white bag I got filled with two of each (if I was good) and saved the Circus Peanuts for last.
Circus Peanuts by Melster Candies
I love the soft marshmallow consistency of these orange treats and…
It is amazing what three years can bring. Chinatown was all but dead over the last two years for the Chinese New Year celebrations and it was nice to see them come back in a vengeance.
It has been a rough time in Chinatown in Manhattan over the last three years. I wrote about going to the Chinese New Year parade in 2020 and it had been nothing like the parade in 2019. It had been freezing in New York City in 2019 but that had not kept the crowds away on a busy parade afternoon. In 2020, the looming crisis with COVID was spreading through China and people were very wary about coming to Chinatown for the parade. In fact, I did not see too many people of Chinese decadency at the parade two years ago. It looked more like tourists lining the streets.
New Year in 2022 was a different story as the streets were lined with people ready and happy to celebrate the New Year. That bottled up enthusiasm was shown on the streets in the core of Chinatown by hundreds of people having a good time. The morning had started out with a nice crowd that grew as the afternoon wore on. It helped that it was 60 degrees and sunny outside. It was the last day of the ‘Spring Thaw’ and the weather really helped (Sunday would bring snowy weather and 38 degrees).
It also gave me a chance to not just tour the neighborhood to see of any changes in stores and restaurants but sample foods at many of them. I came in with an appetite! There were places that I wanted to revisit but find new ones to try along the way. I arrived at noon time and needed a snack before I started my day.
The Lion Dances outside businesses all over the core of Chinatown were in full swing when I got there with groups of people following the troupes around Mott, Bayard, Canal, Pell, Elizabeth and Mulberry Streets south of Canal Street. Some of the troupes did go north of Canal Street but most businesses are in the core of the neighborhood.
The Lion Dance helps bring good luck in the coming year
Things were just really getting started on Mott Street, the main corridor of Chinatown so I walked down the street to the Bowery to see what was going on. When I arrived at the Bowery, I headed north on the Bowery on the edge of the original Chinatown. This is where I found Bowery Inn Bakery at Bowery. This must be a new bakery because I could not find it on any map.
The Bowery Inn Bakery has a wonderful selection of hot and cold baked goods, and the best part was that they did not take the pastries from the case. They were hot from the warmers behind the case lines. I ordered a Roast Pork Bun ($1.75) and an Almond Bun ($1.50) to get me through the walking around the neighborhood. The staff is really nice there and seemed happy when I wished them a Happy New Year.
I walked all the streets in the neighborhood watching the various clubs wishing all the businesses a Happy New Year. Colorful lions bowed and shook and raised up and down wishing stores and restaurants as prosperous New Year in a city environment that desperately needed it. I have been to Chinatown many times since the holidays, and it has been very quiet down here since the beginning of 2020. All the festivities had been cancelled last year and it had been tough on these businesses. Now it looks like better times will be ahead of us.
Here is a little history of the Lion Dance from when I ran the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Asian Grille back in 2011:
The Lion Dance
The Lion Dance has a very interesting history in Chinese culture. The story is that a monk had a dream which there were many sorrows and evils plaguing the land. The monk prayed and asked the gods how he could prevent these evils from occurring. The gods told him that a lion would protect them and fight back the evils. The Chinese people having never seen a lion, but had heard stories that the lion was the king of all beasts. So the monk combined all the lucky or magical animals he could think of and so made the lion.
The Southern Lion dance is very symbolic. It is usually performed as a ceremony to scare away evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The Chinese southern lion exhibits as wide variety of color and has a distinctive head with large eyes (of an eagle), a mirror on the forehead (demons are supposedly scared of their own reflection) and a single horn at the center of the head (the horn of a unicorn mentioned earlier). Lion dance costumes are considered to be spiritually protective when used as they are traditionally blessed before usage.
The Southern Lion Dance was originated from Guangdong, the homeland of the Chinese southern style lion. The Chinese southern horned lions are believed to be Nians (which are a mythical beast). There are many different styles of dance as well as different styles of lion’s heads depending on the region that the group comes from (Wiki).
It was fun following these colorful beasts all along the streets and listen to the drumming of the groups who I am sure had been practicing. While all that was going on, people were letting off New Year’s poppers and the whole street was filled with streamers and confetti and glittering paper. It was so nice to see people having such a good time.
This video from YouTube really captures the festivities in 2022
I started to explore the back streets to see if there were any changes to the fringes of the neighborhood. I have to say that more galleries and stores are starting to open where old warehouses and restaurants used to be as you can see the hipsters moving over here from the East Village, Alphabet City and the Lower East Side. Little by little I am seeing the changes in the neighborhood.
When I walked over to Chrystie Street, and I stopped at Chi Dumpling House for some lunch and then to Tao Hong Bakery for dessert. This little stretch of Chrystie Street by Sara Delano Roosevelt Park has three of the best and most reasonable take-out restaurants in the neighborhood, the other being Wah Fung #1 Fast Food.
Wah Fung #1 Fast Food at 79 Chrystie Street has long lines
The lines for Wah Fung #1 Fast Food at 79 Chrystie Street was about thirty deep when I arrived and is always busy. People are always lined up for their containers of roast pork and duck with white rice and cabbage. You can get a delicious lunch here for around $5.00. It has been on more food blogs than I can name, and I have been here several times for their excellent roast pork and rice (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
The roast pork and roast duck at Wah Fung #1 Fast Food has them lining up everyday
I bypassed the lines at Wah Fung and went to Chi Dumpling House (sometimes called ‘C & L Dumpling House) at 77 Chrystie Street. I was in the mood for steamed dumplings and scallion pancakes.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street still has the old sign
Even though I was not that hungry I always have room for more dumplings. Both the fried dumplings and steamed pork and chive dumplings ($4.00 now) are worth the wait. These large doughy delights are served with soy and hot oil sauces that bring out their flavor. The Scallion Pancakes are pan-fried to a crisp and are fun to dip into the sauces as well.
The steamed pork and chive dumplings here are excellent!
I took these little delights into the park and enjoyed them along with my scallion pancake while I was watching all these little kids climb over the jungle gym while yelling at one another. It was so nice to see all these families out and about on such a warm afternoon. By the time I finished my lunch, it must have hit 60 degrees and it was a perfectly blue sky.
For dessert, I went to Tao Hong Bakery at 79 Chrystie Street. They have the most reasonable baked goods and drinks and the best place to go when you have eaten at the other two restaurants.
Tao Hong Bakery at 79 Chrystie Street
I love coming here for their egg custards, raisin twists and their cream buns. When they have their lemon pastries, I try to get those too. This time I settled for a raisin twist ($1.25) because there was not much left. People really bought them out. These twists are loaded with butter and juicy raisins and are fun to pull apart.
The Raisin Buns here are the best
After I devoured my lunch, I needed a long walk to digest, and I walked down Chrystie Street and strolled through the park. The one bad thing about Sara Delano Park is that the bathrooms are really disgusting. They really need to clean them better.
I made my way back down Grand Street and walked to the Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street. The museum had finally reopened after almost two years and a very devastating fire in their storehouse in 2020. They almost lost their collection.
The Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street
What I enjoy about this museum is the sheer history of the Chinese immigration to the United States and overt racism that has been felt by the culture since the beginning. I walked through the current exhibition “Responses: Asian American voices in the Tides of Racism” and it is heartbreaking to see what an entire society of Americans are enduring. This pandemic as one scholar noted has brought out the worst in people that has been bubbling up for a long time.
The permanent collection showed the strides though as a culture and the contributions of prominent Americans of Chinese decadency have made to the country. It was interesting to look at pictures over the years of the development of Chinatowns in cities all over the country and the progress in business and the arts that have been made.
The “Responses” exhibition
I took my time and read through the exhibitions, and it was an interesting timeline of history. It showed how generations of hard work and assimilation into the larger culture still holds dialogue. Nothing is clear cut in society. I ended up being there more almost two hours.
After I left the museum, I followed the music back to Mott Street and saw some of the more elaborate dances and saw several clubs competing with one another. There were large crowds all over Mott and Bayard Streets and since the heart of Chinatown was closed to traffic (finally people can walk around the restaurant district), there was plenty of room for people to enjoy the festivities and let off poppers in celebration of the performances.
By 6:00pm though most of the performances were slowing down and all the restaurants on Mott Street and the surrounding side streets were full of people sitting down to dinner. That was so nice to see at a time when so many of these restaurants were struggling over the last two years. It is good that they were packed the way they were pre-pandemic.
For dinner that evening I was not too hungry but when I was walking around following the lion dancers, I looked at the menu and the pictures of the dishes at Shanghai Heping Restaurant at 104 Mott Street on the other side of Canal Street from Chinatown in what had once been Little Italy. There was a picture by the front door of a Fried Duck dish and I had to go to try it.
The food lived up to the picture. The Fried Duck ($23.00) was excellent. The duck was boneless and marinated in soy and what tasted like Peking sauce and then the duck was breaded and pan-fried so that it was crisp on the outside and moist and succulent on the inside. The duck had such a rich taste to it from the flavor of the meat and so moist that it pulled apart.
Don’t miss the Fried Duck at Shanghai Heping Restaurant
Their Shanghai Fried Rice (Sum Gum Fried Rice) was excellent as well
The one thing I liked about Shanghai Heping Restaurant (see my review on TripAdvisor) was that they do not rush you. The restaurant started to fill up again after I got there and since the duck dish took some time to cook, I started to watch other patrons’ food come out and all the dishes looked so interesting and well-prepared, and people took their time to enjoy them. Since the restaurant was not on the other side of Mott Street, there were no hordes of crowds running around the street.
After dinner was over, I walked back into the heart of Chinatown to see the Sanitation Department cleaning the streets of all the confetti and streamers and popper packages. There must have been hundreds of them let off that afternoon to welcome in the New Year. It is so nice to see people back in Chinatown again. Maybe better days are ahead of us.
Gong Hay Fay Choy!
The colorful lanterns add a festive look to the neighborhood
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Opening Ceremonies at The Beekman Arms
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas.
The Downtown Rhinebeck Christmas Tree near the Community parking lot.
I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck’s merchants go all out for the holidays
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
The delicious candies and baked goods at Samuel’s Sweet Shop
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY at Christmas
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockade District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brilliantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
Shindig at 1 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY (Closed June 2022)
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Quarters and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
Christmas services at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.