Well after seven years of trying to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival I finally got down to the city to get to the tidal basin to see the display. It looks like it will be eight years as almost all the cherry blossoms disappeared almost two weeks earlier. All the leaves were long gone and as I overheard another tourist say to a friend that she was disappointed that she had not known and most of the trees were bare.
The festival was in its second week and most of the trees had gone green. I found out later from the Internet that they peaked on March 21st and right after that we had all that rain. It probably knocked the petals off after that.
The festival ran through April 16th, 2022 (the peak of the blooms was March 21st)
It was bummer in that I finally had a free weekend open to visit Washington DC and I had been looking forward to seeing Mother Nature’s show. I even took an early Amtrak train down to DC so that I could spend time in the Basin area when I arrived. The sun does not go down until 7:30pm now (which is a pleasure).
The trip down by train was nice as I love taking my time and just watching everything fly by. The train was packed. I kept forgetting that it was the start of the Easter weekend and people were starting their holiday travel plus for some schools it was Spring Break and college students were coming on the train loaded with luggage. The train was almost completely sold out.
Union Station was a shocker. I had not been in DC since the summer of 2019 when I went down for my Georgetown interview. The station was buzzing with commuters milling around the station and workers coming in during their lunch and dinner hours to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in the terminals. Union Station had a nice selection of restaurants and boutiques to visit, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.
The place looked like a ghost town when I arrived. The terminal was busy but not like it used to be and so many businesses closed. The lower-level restaurant food court was practically empty. That was really spooky. There was two people downstairs in the about four restaurants open and one was a homeless guy. I could not believe what COVID did to the station.
Still, it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk up First Street to my hotel. I was staying at the Marriott Courtyard DC in the NoMA section of DC (North of Massachusetts Avenue-Frah Frah) and it was only about a twenty minute walk for me. I could not believe how quiet DC was at the time. It was late afternoon and the only people that I saw on the streets were the security guards guarding the buildings. It looked like everyone had left DC for the holidays.
The Marriott Courtyard DC/Capital Building at 1325 Second Street NE
I was able to check into my room early, unpacked and off I went down New York Avenue to downtown. My first stop was Chinatown because I was starved, and I needed the late lunch. Downtown DC is one of the places in the core of the city that really has kept its architecture intact and has lots of character. On D, F and G Streets lots of older buildings from the post-Civil War era to the end of the Victorian Age and the facades now been incorporated into new buildings.
F Street from the White House to the arena used to be the old shopping district up until the 1990’s and you can still see the ghosts of Garfinckel’s, Woodward & Linthrop and Hecht’s Department stores in the architecture of these former grand department stores.
Garfinckel’s Department Store was the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles”
Sadly, though when the arena was built, it pretty much knocked down the core of Chinatown and what is left now is about five restaurants, a small grocery store, tea shop and a gift shop that I am not sure whether it is open or not. There are still a few hangers on that give it some character but it’s not like the Chinatown’s in New York or Philadelphia.
There is one restaurant I still love going to when I am in DC, and I always visit it for sentimental reasons and that’s Chinatown Express Restaurant at 746 Sixth Street NW (see my review on TripAdvisor). I discovered the place several years ago when I was on a location search for my novel “Love Triangles” (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two: Reading the Prologue of the Novel “Love Triangles”):
The entrance to the former Julius Garfinckel & Company: The inspiration for the novel “Love Triangles”. The entrance is on F Street in Downtown DC.
What attracted me to Chinatown Express then as now was the cooks are always making homemade dumplings and noodles in the window of the restaurant. One of the owner’s was making pulled noodles on my first trip there and then after that I was always looking for the chef making the pulled noodles.
The last time I saw him was when I went down for my Georgetown interview. On this trip, I saw who I assumed was his kid’s wrapping dumplings in the window and I had to have some of those.
Not really looking at the menu, I ordered Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings and Fresh Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Pork, all of which is made inhouse. What a lunch! The dumplings were crisp and tender on the outside and a well-spiced pork mixture on the inside. This was made even better by the soy sauce mixture that I dipped them in.
The Pulled Noodle Soup had a nice rich chicken broth as a base with large slices of roast pork, fresh Bok choy and long strands of freshly made noodles in the soup. The soup was a meal onto itself. I slurped the soup with the noodles being sucked up at the same time. The roast pork had a nice, sweet glaze on top and they gave me a lot of it. The soup warmed me up and filled me up after a long journey.
After lunch was over, I had a lot more energy and ready to tour DC. I headed down to the Washington Mall to see the Tidal Basin. What a disappointment! The blossoms were over. There were still some trees around the basin that we a certain species of cherry tree that bloom late (these are the ones we are waiting for to bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and these were the ones on the fringes of the basin that everyone was taking pictures of with their families. I guess it is another year before I see them again.
This is what it was supposed to look like but didn’t (Wiki)
All the trees around the basin had flowered and dropped their petals. There were a few bunches of late bloomers here and there in groups that my fellow tourists huddled around to take pictures. It was pretty sad because the DC Cherry Blossom Festival was in its second week and the blossoms had bloomed already. Mother Nature had the last laugh!
Still the trees were bursting with green leaves and the start of summer looked like it was upon us. It seems that everything was growing two weeks in advance even up by me and it looked like late Spring all over the Washington Mall. The paths were full of people looking at the trees making the same comments that I did about the leaves. I have to say that the tourists have come back. I heard many languages being spoken as I walked to the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the basin and people were taking pictures of everything. It was nice to see DC busy and full of people all over the Mall.
The Jefferson Memorial was being repaired but still impressive and makes a statement when you walk around the structure. You can see all the quotes that spoken carved in the walls and reading them I was wondering how far we have come as a society with everything going on today. I had to dodge construction and people taking pictures in every direction.
I walked back to the patches of flowering cherry trees and the groups of people huddled around them desperate to show in picture the beauty of the trees. I have to admit that these patches of trees around the Washington Monument were very impressive.
The Washington Monument at 15th Street NW when I visited in 2007
I stopped for a while, bought a Coke from a vendor selling beverages all over the Mall and sat on the lawn and just relaxed and watched the sun set. Groups of families were sitting on the lawn, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. It was nice to see people again visiting the country and enjoying the city.
As I left the Mall lawn, I walked back into the downtown area. I stopped by the Portrait Gallery, but they were closed for the evening. Outside the Portrait Gallery, they were having one of the Cherry Blossom Street events with food vendors, musicians, people playing video games on the big screen and then they showed a Japanese cartoon film. There was a food vendor named Miguel’s Miniatures, who made homemade empanadas, churros, mini doughnuts and homemade lemonade. The prices were really reasonable.
I ordered the mini doughnuts that were ten for $5.00. These were freshly fried in front of me and then they had a series of glazes in squeeze bottles and sprinkles and candies to top them. It was a really nice concept and the doughnuts hit the spot after a long walk and a good lunch. It was nice to munch away while listening to the music.
As it got dark, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. I have to say that Washington DC is a great walking city. Unlike Manhattan, the streets were really clean and well-groomed, and I did not see the amount of homeless that I would see in New York City. As I walked back up through downtown and up New York Avenue, I just noticed how organized the city seemed. There were a few tent encampments but again they were under overpasses and kept out of view from the rest of the neighborhood.
I walked through most of the Northeast section of the city, just north of New York Avenue and admired all the old town houses. They all look like they had been sandblasted back to like and the fronts of the homes were covered in flowering plants and there were lots of rainbow flags almost showing me the gentrification of the neighborhood.
When I got to around where the hotel was located, I got a little lost and did not realize that there were two First Streets off New York Avenue. I knew that I had not reached the McDonalds that I had passed or some of the street art that I use as a marker to remember where I walked. So, I walked around the block and down another street. That is when the fun began.
I walked down the first First Street and knew I did not recognize anything, so I just walked through this construction site of two new buildings going up and walking through the alley way between both sites and passed a dark church on the side of these construction sites. I thought that might be a good sign. I got to the other side of the street only to walk up a street between the two First Street and more construction only to have a group of 30 bikers without helmets coming at me in each direction.
I was more perplexed on why they were not wearing helmets and doing dangerous wheelies than coming at me in every direction. Even some of the bikers had strange looks on their faces as they surrounded me and went around me. It just said to me “What was I doing there?” and “Who was I?” and they continued to ride down the street and never looked back.
They never came back around to see what I was doing. I ended up in front of a public housing complex where the residents gave me a strange look walking by. Some were trying to hide that they were smoking substances that are no longer illegal.
I just looked back once and then kept walking and found my way back onto New York Avenue, crossed the bridge on the highway and then recognized a piece of art on the street that gave me back my directional sense. I knew my bearings as I crossed over New York Avenue and walked down North Street NE back towards the hotel. It was like another world from the one I just walked through. There I found Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA at 35N Street NE.
It was surreal. I felt like I went from one world to another in just a few feet. The restaurant was just going through it first seating and people were leaving. I looked at the menu and decided that I was hungry. That and I did not want to know if I would have enough energy once I got to the hotel to come back, so I entered and got a table. What a wonderful decision.
The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, pizzas, entrees and desserts and I settled on a simple Pizza Margareta ($14.95) with a Coke. I wanted to keep it simple because it was getting late, and I did not want to have to digest a heavy dinner so late at night.
Menomale NoMA at 35 North Street NE
The pizza was excellent with a topping with a fresh tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella and basil with a little olive oil on top. The pizza was also the right size for one person about the size of a large dinner plate. Being a thin crusted pizza and the dough was light and chewy, it was not difficult to devour the whole pizza. I thought the service was very professional, friendly and personal. Several waiters stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Between the food, atmosphere and service, it was the perfect meal. It ended a very strange walk back to the hotel.
The one thing I have to credit Marriott with is that their beds are super comfortable. I hit the pillow and slept soundly that evening. When I awoke the next day and opened the blinds and let the sunny morning inside the room. I felt so relaxed and not a bit tired from all the walking that I did the day before.
I had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s around the corner from the hotel and had my usual Sausage with Egg McMuffin combination breakfast. It always hits the spot, but I will be pretty honest. Maybe it was all the walking or just I was hungry, but I needed more even after I left the restaurant.
As I made my way down to the Mall to visit museums, I needed something else to eat. So I stopped at this small Farmers Market on I Street NW right near Milian Park and saw a woman selling empanadas and stopped for one. She said she made them from her mother’s recipes and her breakfast empanada contained Mexican bacon, chorizo, eggs and Chedder cheese. For $4.00, I thought it was a fair price. The same thing in the Farmers Market in Union Square, they would have charged six or seven dollars for the same thing. It was the perfect breakfast accompaniment.
What I liked about DC was things like this. There were small Farmer’s Markets on the side streets, vendors with all sorts of foods all over the Mall and in front of the Portrait Gallery was the Downtown Cherry Blossom Festival with the movies and food. People have been complaining how bad DC has gotten and maybe it was me but in the two days I spent there, I only saw very positive things to participate in.
I finally got to the Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street to see Yayoi Kusama exhibition that I had seen discussed on ‘CBS This Morning’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (Hirshhorn Museum)
This was one of the reasons I had come to DC on top of seeing cherry blossoms that were not there. To my surprise, the museum had been open since 10:00am (I thought it did not open until 11:30am) and then the guy at the door says I needed timed tickets that were distributed starting at 9:00am that morning. He would not budge!
Ms. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who was trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is known for Avant-guard works and her later use of polka dots as her trademark.
Video on Ms. Kusama’s work
I went back upstairs to talk to the ladies at the desk and God must have been listening to me because in front of me were two people who did not want to go see the exhibition and I was able to grab one of their tickets. Talk about luck! I hate to say it but the guy at the desk downstairs looked disappointed that he had to let me in.
I swear that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was well worth the trip down to DC. What an interesting way not only to display art but to be part of the art exhibition as well. The exhibition started with a few larger pieces of her work with lots of polka dots and pumpkins until you got to move to the private rooms where you got to part of the exhibition. This is where it got interesting.
The curator told me that this pumpkin belonged to the museum
I got to walk into her Mirrored Room with here soft sculptures and was left inside by myself for thirty seconds when the door closed. It was amazing and mind-blowing that you could see the repetitiveness of yourself in the artform and got to experience what she had seen as well. All those little red and white soft sculptures all over the floor made you feel like you were in a surreal ‘Wonderland’.
The Mirrored Room at the Hirshhorn Museum was like being in a surreal ‘Wonderland’
After leaving the mirrored room, I passed a through a small walkway and then when entering the next room of polka dot lanterns, it felt like you were walking through some crazy dream. It was so odd and exciting at the same time. It was so thrilling to be part of the artwork. It was like being in a usual funhouse.
The Polka Dot Lantern Room at the Hirshhorn Museum is a colorful ‘funhouse’
The exhibition is so engaging I wanted to walk through it again but the lines to get in when I left were so long that I knew I would not get tickets again. It is an exhibition that was worth the wait and the trip down to DC and I highly recommend it.
After I left the exhibition, I visited the Laurie Anderson exhibition and was again memorized by the lines of flags going up and down like a surrealist dream. Her videos of people sharpening knives was pretty weird as well.
Ms. Anderson’s work was just as wild, and she also makes it fun to walk through an exhibition. You become part of the art and that is just as interesting. Ms. Anderson is an American born artist who graduated with a BA from Barnard College and MFA from Columbia University. She is known for her Avant-guard works that spread across many mediums (Wiki).
The Laurie Anderson exhibition “The Weather” was another unusual journey
After spending most of my morning participating in the art of the Hirshhorn Museum, I wanted to walk through the sculpture garden. It was nice to walk amongst the flowers and all the pieces of art.
I knew I would be heading back to Manhattan after I finished at the museums and I stopped for lunch in the Washington Mall, which was line with food trucks. I stopped by a very busy one I had seen the other day called “Ribeye Philadelphia Steak” for a Cheesesteak. I had not had one since I went down to Philly for the Penn/Cornell game.
For $13.00, I got a large Cheesesteak with Wiz and a Coke and ate it on the lawn of the Mall. God, was I in the mood for that Cheesesteak. I felt like I was back at the Reading Terminal Market again. The roll was really fresh and chewy and the steaks were perfectly cooked. They must have made a mistake in the order because I got Provolone inside the roll and Cheese Wiz on top. I didn’t care. The combination was delicious and I just relaxed on the lawn on a sunny afternoon and enjoyed my lunch. Don’t miss this food truck when looking for a meal in the Washington Mall.
I walked past the White House and talk about security. The whole place was cordoned off and security is extremely tight. I had never seen all of this before. For the last twelve years there has been so much craziness with protests and people trying to get into the White House I do not blame them for the security. I have to say one thing, I saw the real FBI guys protecting the perimeter of the area and now understand why people think I look like I am in law enforcement. These guys looked like a younger version of me.
Me in front of the White House in better days in 2007
I walked back to the Downtown area and went to visit The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street for the “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibition.
The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street in Downtown Washington DC
I still remember the Watergate scandal from when I was a kid. The only importance that it had to the nine-year-old me was that all the cartoons and kids programming was cancelled for the hearings. Learning more about the incident in college and from books was how hard this hit the American public and their trust of the government.
National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” (Time Magazine Cover)
The exhibition had all sorts of illustrations of the scandal and the people who were participants of it. It was funny to see the names and faces of the people who were involved in this event and know now that most of them are no longer alive to defend themselves. Even though the scandal was seen in the form of illustration, it did make a point into the ramifications of what happens when you get caught.
It was a low point for our country, between that and the ongoing war in Vietnam and inflation, you have an idea of why the country was so cynical. I am convinced this is why the Disco era happened. When it was all over, people needed to blow off steam and have a good time. Plus, the Baby Boomers were coming of age and needed time for themselves before starting a family.
It was funny to see how the artists depicted these important people or people who thought that they were important. It is amazing how fast the mighty can fall fast. It was not until the Reagan Administration that there was some pride back in the country and in some ways that was all a facade as well. It takes an exhibition like this to point that out.
After I toured the exhibition, I toured the Hall of Presidents and saw all the portraits. I saw the portrait of the recent president and listened to the comments that patrons made. They were not all bad and some were quite complimentary. When you are touring this room, you have to remember that everyone is human, and all of these men have made mistakes in the past. Since many people do not know American history or the backgrounds of most of the people in that room, it is hard to comment on.
Before I headed back to the hotel to head home, I stopped in the Downtown Cherry Blossom event they had in front of the National Portrait Gallery and listened to the music again. The kids were playing a video game on the large screen and parents were swinging in the swings by the tables.
I stopped by Miguel’s Mini’s again and had one of his stuffed Churros with Bavarian cream. If you wanted to ever sink your teeth into something delicious, it was a freshly fried Churro filled with fresh vanilla cream. It was decadent and the perfect snack before my long trip home.
I picked my luggage up and walked back down to the train station and just made the 5:00pm train back to New York City. Talk about luck with the last-minute travel plans.
Even though I got to see just a limited version of the Cherry Blossoms in DC it gives me something to shoot for next year. It was a nice two days in the nation’s capital and told me one thing, not everything in Washington DC is all that bad.
You just have to look for the positives and you will find them!
*This blog is dedicated to Lucy, whose input and cheerleading for this blog has been much appreciated and to another memorable lunch!
I have been volunteering at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for almost nineteen years and over the years you become friends with the other volunteers. Lucy and I have gotten to know one another over the years. Last Spring, we had gotten together for an amazing lunch over pizza from Lions & Tigers & Squares on West 23rd Street.
Maybe it was the pizza, maybe it was the weather or maybe it was just the view of the Flatiron Building in the background as we were eating lunch by the plaza next to Madison Square Park or maybe all of the above. It was just an amazing lunch.
Over the Fall and Winter months we had kept in touch and the conversation always went back to that amazing lunch and just the beautiful view of the Flatiron Building in the background while we ate. I had commented to her that all over the world people wished they could be in the very spot that we were in eating lunch and here we were eating there. There is sometimes a moment in time that are just perfect.
When Lucy came in again, I had been through a lot lately losing my friend, Barbara and some family issues. So, it was nice to have someone nonpartial to listen. I was going through a lot at one time.
Having had pizza the night before and for lunch the day before that, I really did not want to go back to Lions & Tigers & Squares at 268 West 23rd Street (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) so we on a whim tried S & A Gourmet Deli at 240 Eighth Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for a sandwich.
Talk about another excellent lunch. The sandwiches there are excellent. S & A Gourmet Deli does a great job with their food. I ordered Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich ($8.99), which was two freshly fried chicken cutlets topped with Swiss Cheese and Ham topped with spicy mustard on a fresh hoagie roll. Each bit was amazing.
The Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich at S & A Gourmet Deli
The two of us had a nice afternoon talking about what was going on in our lives and just enjoying the warm weather. What was strange was only about an hour before it was pouring down rain and then as we met it cleared up. By the time we finished lunch, it was almost the same weather as the time we had lunch last year, sunny and warm and in the 70’s. I guess God was listening.
Having lunch outside with the Flatiron Building in the background is amazing!
After lunch was over, we said our goodbyes and I was off to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see the Magnolia trees blooming and the breathtaking Daffodil Hill, where thousands of daffodils would be blooming at one time around a 100-year-old Oak Tree.
With everything going on, I am getting a little leery about traveling by subway but off I went. The ironic part is that the trip was smooth and quiet and non-eventful. I found out later on that evening that the N Line earlier the morning had been hit with a smoke bomb and a shooting. Talking about shattering an imagine. Thank God I did not know all this on the trip down to Brooklyn.
The Entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at 990 Washington Avenue
The weather was even better when I got up the stairs on the Number 2 line outside the Brooklyn Museum. It had gotten even warmer. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden was the busiest it had been all season with people taking pictures of the now blooming Cherry trees and Japanese Garden coming to life in the early Spring months.
Daffodil Hill was just as spectacular as the many years before. The daffodils were in full bloom and the hill on the other side of the Japanese Garden next to the flowering Magnolia trees which were also in full bloom. The scents were wonderful with scents of sweet jasmine and candy.
There are very few places in the world that are perfect but the bench by Daffodil Hill is one of those spots. To sit there and just admire Mother Nature at work at her best is just something. I look forward to this every year and is one of the main reasons why I keep renewing every year. For one afternoon, I just want to sit at that exact bench and admire Mother Nature’s handywork.
The Japanese Gardens are starting to bloom
The Cherry Trees in the Japanese Gardens on the other side of the hill were just coming into bloom as well and the whole effect showed that Spring is here and not a moment too soon. Everyone needed the warm weather to come and relax us. It has been a long Winter.
I ended spending over two hours just walking around the gardens and relaxing under a tree like everyone under the Cherry Tree Esplanade that has not bloomed yet. The soft grass and the relaxing sounds of contemporary music on every half hour was a nice way to spend the late afternoon.
Once left the gardens, I was going to go to the Brooklyn Museum, but it was closed and the weather being so beautiful I decided to walk to Downtown Brooklyn and see how the reconstruction of the Fulton Mall was going. So I took the long walk around the circle and walk down Flatbush Avenue towards Downtown Brooklyn. I made a few detours along the way and explore Brooklyn.
As I got to the turn off to Atlantic Avenue just off Flatbush Avenue near the Barclay’s Center, I decided to make the turn and explore a neighborhood I knew well. This part of Brooklyn I had used for my novel, “Firehouse 101” and I spent many a day exploring the streets of Boreum Hill and Cobble Hill for my book, noting the streets, parks and businesses. There are lot of memories of me walking this neighborhood almost twenty years ago.
My novel “Firehouse 101” set in Boreum Hill and Cobble Hill Brooklyn
I can’t tell you how many times I walked Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Smith Street and Court Street for inspiration. Many of the observations of those afternoons were written into the book as I tried to make it as real as possible.
When I got to the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street, I made the right turn and walked the length of Smith Street in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. It also amazes me how a neighborhood keeps changing as new businesses keep opening and closing changing the complexity of a neighborhood and how the long-time businesses still chug along and watch it all happen. There are those family-owned enterprises that make the City unique.
As I rounded Smith Street, admiring all the new gift boutiques, gourmet shops and small restaurants, I crossed over Degraw Street to walk the ‘border’ of the neighborhood in my novel and walked to Court Street and walked up the street. I needed to stop a few times at some bakeries that I had been to many times on my walks here.
As I walked all over Atlantic Avenue, I saw all the new little boutique bakeries with their $5.00 cookies and $7.00-$9.00 pies that looked delicious but were not worth the money. No pie that is about three bites is worth $7.00. When I visited the longtime neighborhood favorite, Monteleone’s Bakery at 355 Court Street the woman at the counter reminded me why this bakery has been around for 100 years. Quality and service.
The pastries at Monteleone’s Bakery are delicious
The prices and selection are also a nice part of the bakery. Their miniature pastries which are nice sized sell for $2.00 a piece and the selection of them is extensive. I bought a pastry stuffed with cannoli cream and a mini cream puff with vanilla cream. I had the woman put them in a bag so that I could eat them along the way. They both lasted barely a block.
When I mentioned to the woman about the $7.00 pies and $5.00 cookies at the bakeries on Atlantic Avenue, she just laughed and said this is the reason why Monteleone’s is so popular and has been around so long. They know their customers. I know that I will be back when I visit the neighborhood again.
I was still hungry as I walked down Court Street to the Fulton Mall and downtown, so I stopped at the Court Pastry Shop at 298 Court Street for another pastry. I love my sweets and had not been there in a few years. It is funny that the Court Pastry Shop was used in a very funny scene in my book “Firehouse 101” so I always remember my trips there in the past when I was doing location spots for my book. Their cream puffs and eclairs are delicious.
I eyed my favorite eclair in the case and bought one immediately ($3.50). I swear it had been at least three or four years since I had had one and they are still the best. They had such a thick layer of chocolate icing on them and filled with the most delicious vanilla cream.
Now being full of sweet snacks, I continued up Court Street to the Brooklyn Court House and then walked back down Fulton Street to the Fulton Street Mall. At this point most of the Fulton Street Mall has been demolished and replaced with new apartment and office buildings. This was part of the Bloomberg Administration’s plan to revitalize downtown Brooklyn with a broader retail selection and replace many of the older buildings.
It is not quite done yet but within five years most of Downtown Brooklyn should be redeveloped. It looks so much different from even two years ago. This was documented in film “My Brooklyn”.
The film on Downtown Brooklyn “My Brooklyn”
It was such a nice afternoon, and I was enjoying the sunshine so much and I had a lot of energy with all the desserts in me, I decided to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, which I have done many times and never tire of looking at the view.
Talk about the perfect afternoon to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was clear, sunny and about 70 degrees. It really looked like the tourists were back because people were taking pictures all over the bridge from every angle including ready to fall off the bridge because they were leaning so much over the rails. The view of Lower Manhattan was just spectacular.
By the time I got to the Manhattan side of the bridge, I was starved. I decided that I had the energy to walk to Chinatown which is only a few blocks away from the bridge entrance. By the time I got to Chinatown, it was almost seven in the evening and found that most of the smaller places were closed (it was a weekday). So, I walked all over Mott Street, East Broadway, Catherine Street, Henry Street and the Bowery and decided on an old standby which I love Dim Sum Go Go at 5 East Broadway.
I was hungrier than I thought. I started with Shrimp and Mango Rolls ($5.95), Duck Spring Rolls ($5.95), Pork Soup Dumplings ($6.95) and Steamed Shrimp Dumplings ($5.95). After devouring all of that, I ordered the Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings ($5.95) and the Steamed Roast Pork Buns ($6.95). Everything was so delicious and fresh and came out steaming hot. Even on a weeknight I was surprised by how full the place was and it seemed that people were ordering more than me.
I especially loved the Shrimp and Mango rolls with the breaded and fried ground shrimp mixture with a piece of fresh mango in the center. It had a nice sweet/savory flavor to it and was fried perfectly golden brown. All of the dumplings were cooked to perfection and the pork and chive dumplings had a nice flavor to them (See review on TripAdvisor).
The Soup Dumplings at Dim Sum Go Go are excellent
By this point it was twilight and just getting dark, but it was still so nice out that I decided I wanted to walk through the East Village to see how busy it was that night and to see how many NYC students were out and about. Plus, I wanted to see if the Anthology Film Center was still open on Second Avenue (it was closed that night). I walked up Second Avenue past all the trendy little restaurants and closed shops which were packed with students. I could not believe how busy the area was this time of night, but it was still in the 60’s and just a nice night to mill around.
By the time I reached 14th Street, I figured I might as well walk back to Port Authority and walked up a combination of Second, Third and then by East 23rd Street, up Lexington Avenue through Kips Bay and ‘Curry Hill’ which I had visited a year ago. All of the Indian restaurants were busy as well and the smells of cumin and curry wafted through the air. I always love walking through this neighborhood.
I walked across East 34th Street and arrived at the doors of Macy’s and Herald Square was just as busy as the rest of Manhattan with people walking around the plazas of Herald and Greeley Squares. Koreatown on West 32nd Street off Broadway was also packed with students and tourists going out to dinner and enjoying the dessert restaurants. The restaurants serving Bubble Teas and Korean Cheesecakes has long lines to them.
I finally arrived at the Port Authority at almost 10:00pm and could not believe how far my journey took me. From the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to the Port Authority. This is the power of wonderful warm weather, a nice evening breeze and good food. It gives you the energy to keep going.
The weather finally broke today, and the sun came out and it warmed up. Now it feels like Spring even with the threat of a snowstorm in a few days. I am just hoping that all we get is rain. The thought of snow with all my daffodils and tulips coming up is too depressing. I figure the weather is getting warmer on the East Coast and we will not have to worry about this.
I was finally able to volunteer in the Soup Kitchen after two years. The days of the buffet lunches is over with COVID going on and we have now switched to a bagged grab and go meal with a to go hot entrée and bagged snacks to go with it. We had to bag over 500 pieces not just for the day but for the next day as well. Five of us got the work done with an hour to spare and we were able to finish by 11:30am.
I had time to visit the Avenues of the Hudson Yards and because there were only two Avenues to visit, it did not take too much time. I spent most of my time avoiding construction sites and dodging vehicles. As I have said in previous blogs in this neighborhood, these blocks are rising like the ‘Land of Oz’ and as each is finished adds to the simmering look of a modern neighborhood encased by the rest of Manhattan. The Hudson Yards is a city amongst itself.
The modern day architecture adds a totally new look to Midtown Manhattan and you should see the views from New Jersey as you exit the Lincoln Tunnel. It looks like a glittering picture with the buildings lit. It reminds me of when I worked in Manhattan before 9/11 and looking at the magnificence of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers at night. This always showed the power of New York City.
As I finished my day at the Soup Kitchen, I made my way across West 28th Street passing Chelsea Park. The playground was busy with school children on their recess and parents and guardians watching them. The benches was filled with homeless people who were starting to eat their lunches that we had just served them and talking among themselves. It is sad that this is still a state of affairs in the twenty-first century but I am not sure what the solution is in the era of COVID. I just try to do my part to give people their dignity back.
Still when you reach the edge of the park on Tenth Avenue, it is like walking into another world. Tenth Avenue is lined with art galleries, high end restaurants and luxury homes that are mentioned in the documentary “Class Divide”. Two worlds that co-exist next to one another on the edge of the public housing projects.
“Class Divide” on HBO on West Chelsea/Hudson Yards
Since it was such a beautiful sunny day, I started walking up Eighth Avenue, watching the crowds grow near the new shopping center and make their way to “The Edge” on the top of 30 Hudson Yards. The views from the top must have been thrilling on such a clear sunny day.
The building 30 Hudson Yards was designed by architect Bill Pederson of the firm Kohn Pederson Fox and Associates and is the new home for the WarnerMedia Company and is located at the corner of Tenth Avenue and West 33rd Street. The building is the second tallest building in New York City behind One World Trade Center and has the highest outdoor Observation Deck in the City. The building is taller than the Empire State Building located further down the road at Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street (Related Oxford website).
30 Hudson Yards in the Hudson Yards complex (Wiki)
The observation deck, “The Edge” is located on the 100th floor of the building and offers spectacular views of New York City and New Jersey. It is the highest outdoor observation deck in the City and showcases the innovation in design (Related Oxford/Wiki).
“The Edge” at the top of 30 Hudson Yards (The Edge)
I could see that tourists were finally coming back to Manhattan as the lines are starting to get longer at the site. It is nice to see people visiting New York City again. As I walked past the Hudson Yards Mall, I realized that this was where the Highline started and I made the trip up the stairs to see where this amazing park began.
When I reached the top of the stairs at the platform that covered Tenth Avenue and saw the most unusual sculpture in the middle of the platform. This unique work called “Untitled” looked like an airplane flying over the platform and come to find out it was based on a drone. The work is the artist’s reaction to Drone warfare the US conducts aboard (Wiki/Artist Bio/NY Times).
Artist Sam Durant is an American born multimedia artist whose works deal with social and cultural issues. He has his BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.
‘Untitled’ by Artist Sam Durant is atop the Highline
Artist Sam Durant talks about his sculpture “Untitled”
I walked the Highline from Tenth Avenue down West 30th Street, enjoying the views of the Hudson River ahead of me and the plantings that adorned the sides of the walk. Being such a beautiful sunny day the walkway park was extremely crowded so I just walked closer to the river to enjoy the breezes and then walked back and people watched. The seats above the Tenth Avenue entrance are the perfect place to work on a tan on a sunny day.
I rounded around West 28th Street again dodging all the construction and the construction workers who had stopped to eat their lunches and spread out all over the sidewalks. The one nice thing is that the area is loaded with breakfast and lunch carts offering all sorts of cuisine. The aromas near the construction sites smell of hot chilis, cumin and curry.
While walking up Eleventh Avenue, I passed the Equinox Hotel at 33 Hudson Yards and was faced with the most colorful and creative mural that looked like it was expressing groups of people and the way they live. You really have to walk around the hotel to see the whole work, but the affect is amazing. I found out later this painting was American artist Elle Street Art called “HYxOffTheWall”.
Elle Street Art explains her mural at the Hudson Yards
She wanted to reflect the neighborhood and the diversity of the City. She really wanted to show the positive part of the heart of New York City.
Elle is a New York based Street/Graffiti artist known for her bold statements. She started out as an illegal graffiti artist and over time has built a reputation as one of the top touring street artists which has led to commercial works seen all over the world (Artist bio).
Next to the hotel in the same courtyard where the rest of the Hudson Yards surrounds is the impressive “Vessel” work, one of the cornerstone designs of the Hudson Yards and a signature building. It sits like an impressive statue in the middle of a group of skyscrapers.
The Vessel was designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick in a honeycomb like structure that consists of sixteen stories, a hundred and fifty-four flights of stairs, twenty-five hundred steps and eighty landings to stop at and observe the view. It is known as TKA (Temporarily Known As) for the structure’s name (Wiki). The structure was opened in 2016 and has recently closed for viewing because of visitor issues.
I walked around the complex to admire the structure and look at its beauty. It has such unusual look to it almost like a puzzle that is opening up to the sky. It looks like it shot up from the ground which is what makes it so unique.
Architect Thomas Heatherwick describing “The Vessel”
After I left the core of the Hudson Yards complex, I visited the 37th Street Food Market for lunch. What I liked about this deli was the outdoor dining tables which are nice to eat at on a sunny day. They are located on the side of the building in a small area of the sidewalk surrounded by plants and lighting. It is a very pleasant place to eat meals.
I ordered a Chicken Parmesan Panini that was pretty good. The sandwich was filled with chopped chicken cutlets and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella. The sandwich was then pressed, and it served with a side of sauce. It was delicious.
The Food Market also has a nice selection of groceries and snacks and it’s a big place for the local residents to meet and one of the few places in the neighborhood to get these items until you walk over to Eighth Avenue.
I finished the walk walking around up Eighth Avenue and the Upper Part of the Hudson Yards around West 40th Street revisiting some of the streets I had seen in twilight just a week earlier. They seemed less ominous on a sunny day and did not have the shady characters standing around under the underpasses to the Port Authority. Just watch yourself at night walking around this part of the neighborhood.
As I have said before, the Hudson Yards is a neighborhood in transition, and it will be several years before all of these buildings are finished. The effect will be amazing in that they are building a City within a City and it will change this part of Manhattan in the future.
New York City just keeps morphing even in the Pandemic years!
Please read my other blogs on walking the Lower Part of the Hudson Yards/West Chelsea:
Day Two Hundred and Twenty-Eight-Walking the Borders of the Lower Hudson Yards/West Chelsea:
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 had to pick one of the coldest days of the year to come into New York City. Since it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to finally visit the Museum of Mathematics on East 26th Street. The museum has been closed for most of the pandemic and finally reopened for people to visit. I decided to endure the cold weather and visit the museum I had passed so many times on my walks in the Rose Hill and NoMAD neighborhoods.
Since the museum and NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) are the next neighborhood over from the Lower Garment District, I decided to walk the avenues as well to see what changes have taken place in the last twenty years as well.
With the renovations of the post office to the new train station and the development of the Hudson Yards, this neighborhood is quickly being changed from small office buildings to an extension of Midtown with shiny new office buildings and apartment buildings. New parks and malls are being developed for the residents moving in and in the over seventeen years that I have been volunteering at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen on West 28th Street, I have watched the entire neighborhood gentrify. I have never seen a neighborhood be knocked down or sandblasted since my walks in Harlem.
I started my morning walking down to Madison Square Park, which has been my headquarters since visiting these neighborhoods. The dog walkers were in full swing as well as parents strolling around with their children both in carriages and the playgrounds. Even though it was about 30 degrees at the time, it looked like people just wanted to get out of the house.
The first Shake Shack is located in the southern part of the park, and I could not believe the lines and the people dining outside. I guess people really did have cabin fever. Wanting a snack before I visited the museum, I bypassed the restaurants that I had seen earlier in the year and headed to a new takeout restaurant whose flags indicated that it had just opened. I went to Dim Sum Sam at 28 East 23rd Street.
The restaurant looked like it had just opened that day (I read that it had opened the week before) and the case lines when you walk in are filled with all sorts of buns and egg custards. The prices were a bit higher than Chinatown, but the food was a welcome on a cold day. I just had a quick Roast Pork Bun and an Egg Custard which were both delicious. I ate them as a crossed the park and finished before I got to the front door of the museum (see my review on TripAdvisor).
The Roast Pork Buns are amazing
The National Museum of Mathematics is a great little museum for families with small children. The museum has two full floors of exhibitions with a spiral staircase separating the floors and a gift shop at the entrance. On the main floor there are interesting interactive exhibitions such as the Shapes of Space that show how different shapes fit together on a curved surface. I was not too sure what the point of it was, but the kids seemed to enjoy it and it was interesting to see how they connected. The Square wheeled Trike was interesting as you rode a square wheeled type of bike on a bumpy surface to check velocity. The kids and young parents really liked this.
The “Shapes of Space” exhibition
The displays I enjoyed on the main floor were Motionscape, where you had to walk as fast as you could on the track to check the relationship between velocity, your position and acceleration. It was interesting to see how your body movements when walking affects the way you react. The other display that was really popular was Hoop Curves which was always busy. The exhibit used statistics and a robot arm to shoot the basketball. The kids got a real kick out of this when trying to make a basket.
On the lower level, there were more interactive displays along with an explanation of the math along with the creators of the theory. I found that interesting because you could see who all the mathematicians were who the projects were based on or who had contributed to them.
One of the interactive displays that I enjoyed was the Tessellation Station, where you could create displays with magnetic tiles on a large board. Later I learned about Tessellation as a form of making shapes fit together in a pattern and then the theory behind that. It was a fun way to use your creativity.
The “Tessellation Station” exhibition is a lot of fun
Another was the Tree of Life, where the computer copied the movements of myself and then used them to show the how I moved my arms and legs in a pattern. It was funny to see myself repeated over and over again like a tree with branches. It really did measure the movement of my body.
The Twist and Roll display showed how to put different shapes and sizes together and show their movement on the board. The one display that all the kids got a kick out of was the Math Board, where the colors and shapes of the section of the floor lit up when you walked on them and was controlled by the way you walked on them.
The “Math Board”
The Museum of Mathematics is a great museum for younger children who want to get physical and have a good time and like the interaction. I learned a few things too about the fundamentals of math and some of its background theories.
Still, it is a great museum for kids under the age of twelve and their younger parents. I think anything over that age would warrant a trip to the American Museum of Natural History or the Liberty Science Center with more exhibits that are age appropriate. It is a museum you should visit once or twice with small children who are at the learning stage and just want to have fun.
After I left the museum, I decided to walk the two avenues in the neighborhood of the Lower Garment District and see how things have changed over the years. There has been tremendous growth and building in the twenty-five years since I worked here and for the better. Most of the older buildings and cut-rate businesses are gone being replaced by a vibrant commercial district that was desperately needed in this part of the City.
Ever since the City reopened last June and even before, this area of Midtown has been changing at breakneck speed. The blocks around Eight Avenue has been under construction for about three years with one small building blocking a bigger one from being built on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street. Madison Square Garden on the corner of Eighth Avenue between West 33rd and 32nd Streets is under construction for renovations and additions and much of lower Eighth Avenue the smaller businesses have emptied out due to lack of business with the pandemic.
Madison Square Garden is one of the most controversial buildings in the City when it replaced the old Penn Station. The majestic building that was designed by McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style and opened in 1910 was closed in 1963 and knocked down for the current building.
The outcry from this started the Historic Preservation Movement in the City and prevented future buildings from demolition. These types of buildings are now protected under New York City’s Landmark Preservation Act. The biggest problem cited at the time was that the rail service was declining, and the building was getting too expensive to maintain (Wiki).
The old Penn Station that was knocked down in the 1960’s
With the reconfiguration of these grand train depots today not just at Grand Central Station (see my blogs on Midtown East and Murray Hill) as well as Penn Stations in Philadelphia and Washington DC, I could only imagine what it would be like today. We are now seeing it in the new Moynihan Train Hall in the former James A. Farley Post Office building.
The James A. Farley Building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White and was designed in the Beaux Arts style, the sister building to the former Penn Station (where the current Madison Sqaure Garden now sits). The current renovation of the building to turn the dream into a reality is by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Wiki).
I was able to walk the halls and staircases of the complex that afternoon and the interiors are still not finished with a few of the restaurants now opened but the polished floors and new artwork is in full view. The public bathrooms are a nice change from the ones in Penn Station. The rest of the complex will be open by the spring.
The new rendering of the James A. Farley Building to the Patrick Moynihan Train Hall (Vno.com)
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a former politician and diplomat.
The train station is now open but not yet finished but the first restaurants have opened and there is good traffic flow through the former post office. I could not believe what a five-year renovation and millions of dollars can produce. When the new train station opens fully with shops and restaurants, it will rival anything all the other stations.
Down the block from the station, there are two restaurants that do stand out amongst the closed establishments and the fast-food restaurants. One is New York Pizza Suprema at 413 Eighth Avenue. The pizza here is amazing but a bit pricer than most of the pizza places in the Garment District but the quality more than makes up for it. Every time I have eaten here the food has been terrific.
The other restaurant that I enjoy when I am in the area is New Dynasty Inc. Chinese Food at 393 Eighth Avenue in a store whose sign still advertises videos and games. Don’t miss this excellent and very underrated Chinese takeout establishment. I love their Orange Chicken and Roast Pork Lo Mien when I eat there. They also have excellent eggrolls.
When I walked back around Eighth Avenue and down West 34th Street to Seventh Avenue, there is construction all along West 34th Street so don’t be surprised if this is all new businesses and shops and dining in the next year. Madison Square Garden is going through a major renovation and rebuilt on this side of the property.
Like the Grande Dame of the neighborhood, the Seventh Avenue entrance of Macy’s greets you on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street. This entrance leads to the Men’s Store where you have really nice public bathrooms in the basement level if you need them.
Walking down Seventh Avenue from West 34th Street brought back a flood of memories for me of lunch breaks from work and a lot of late night walks from the Fashion Institute of Technology when I was attending graduate school there. There still is a lot of silence as Madison Square Garden is active but not as much as it was before COVID. Even Penn Station is not as busy even though Manhattan is opened up. Many people are not back to work yet in the office buildings.
The creepy part is passing the Hotel Pennsylvania, one of the most famous hotels in New York City (Pennsylvania 6-5000 as the song goes) at 401 Seventh Avenue right across from Madison Square Garden. The hotel had been closed since the pandemic started but even when I worked at Macy’s the hotel always seemed run down. It was not a place many Macy’s executives wanted to stay at when they were doing business at the store.
The Hotel Pennsylvania was built in 1919 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and was designed by architect William Symmes Richardson from McKim, Mead & White. It was designed by the firm who designed Penn Station across the street and the limestone facade mirrored that of the station. The hotel has gone through many ownerships over the last one hundred years and returned to the name Hotel Pennsylvania in 1991. The hotel closed for business in April 2020 and is in the process of being demolished. There will be a new series of office buildings built in the area (Wiki).
The Hotel Pennsylvania at 401 Seventh Avenue (Wiki)
We will always have Glenn Miller though. Pennsylvania 6-5000.
At the edge of the neighborhood lies the back of the campus of The Fashion Institute of Technology which just reopened to students earlier this year. It is nice to see the campus finally back in session again.
There are a few interesting restaurants that I have eaten at over the years along the way. Mustang Harry’s at 352 Seventh Avenue I had just eaten at earlier in the year for the Michigan State University versus University of Kansas Champions Tournament basketball game. The food is good, but it is very expensive for what you get (see the review on TripAdvisor).
Mustang Harry’s at 352 Seventh Avenue is a good place to watch the games
As I made my way back up Seventh Avenue, I stopped at Rony’s Fresh Pizza at 355 Seventh Avenue for a quick slice for a snack. This little hole in the wall pizzeria near FIT was really good. For a dollar, the pizza had amazing flavor and the sauce was delicious. Sometimes these places surprise you.
Rony’s Fresh Pizza at 355 Seventh Avenue is terrific
After I finished my walk of the Avenues, I took a detour up Sixth Avenue back to Bryant Park and stopped at Krispie Kreme at 994 Sixth Avenue for a doughnut. All this walking put me in the mood for something sweet and I had not been there in a while.
I had a Lemon Filled Glaze doughnut ($2.00) and I swear, it was the best two dollars I ever spent. I had not had one of these doughnuts in over a year and it always tastes so good. The best part it was still warm, and you could taste the glaze over the sweet filling (see my review on TripAdvisor).
I walked all over Bryant Park just admiring the crowds in the park on such a cold day and decided to take a walk-up Times Square and watch the crowds. I could not believe on such a cold day lots of people were milling around.
I ended the evening back in Hell’s Kitchen at Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen at 811 Eighth Avenue. I had not been there in almost three years since before the pandemic. It had not been open for the longest time and before the pandemic, it was always packed during Christmas of 2019. I swear I have been coming to this restaurant since its opening.
Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen at 811 Eighth Avenue
The food here is excellent and what a meal on a cool night. I started with an order of Fried Bread, which tastes like a churro without the sweet filling. That really warmed me up with the crisp soft bread at every bite. I had an order of their Soup Dumplings and I love to slurp these things with every mouthful bursting with every bite in your mouth.
The order of Wonton Soup was perfect on a cold night with the rich broth and soft meaty wontons and Bok choy is almost a meal onto itself. I really missed the food here.
Walking around the neighborhood brought back so many memories of my years of working at Macy’s and for that has changed in the neighborhood it feels like little has as things still do look the same. They just look better and more vibrant.
That’s what can happen in twenty-five years in a City that just keeps morphing.
Please read my other blogs on walking the Lower Garment District:
Day Two Hundred and Seventeen: Walking the Borders of the Lower Garment District/Flower & Fur Districts:
My best friend approached me at the last minute and asked if I wanted to go with her to the “Wendy Williams Show” taping on February 28th, 2022. I had never been to one of these shows before, so I said sure. I did not know that I would have to be up at 5:30am to get into the City to stand in the VIP line by 8:15am.
We had a lot of fun as they warmed the audience up and got us going. Wendy Williams was on hiatus at the time of the shooting so Michael Rappaport was our host. I found it fascinating how they run these shows and how they all work.
Maricel and I at the filming before the show started
The show that morning.
I could see the two of us every time the host asked the head camera man a question. We could be seen sitting at the top of the platform. We did make a shot with the camera before one of the breaks so that was pretty cool.
Maricel and I on TV! This was right before the second break.
The show lasted an hour and we got to see one of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (whom I did not know because I never watch the show. I have not seen it since Season One). There was also a shopping segment and a discussion of current events. The taping was for about an hour.
After the show, I took Maricel to Milanes Spanish Restaurant at 158 West 25th Street right around the corner from the studio, where they specialize in Dominican food. I had been there twice before. The food was excellent, but the place is so run down. It really does need a refreshing (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
Milanes Spanish Restaurant at 158 West 25th Street
The food there is amazing though. We shared some chicken and beef empanadas for an appetizer, then Maricel had the Oxtail Stew, and I had the Cuban Sandwich. I thought the food was delicious with the sandwich being filled with freshly roasted pork, ham and Swiss Cheese and then pressed into a fresh roll.
The Cuban Sandwich at Milanes Spanish Restaurant is delicious
It was cold all that day, not just in the studio and the restaurant but outside got unbearable with the wind. After lunch was over, I just left the City for home. Still weather aside, it was a great morning and a lot of fun.
I recently came across Munch Rights snacks on a recent trip to Dollar Tree and have enjoyed the quality and taste of the three flavors that I have tried. Going from bag to bag I wanted to try them more.
First what I like about the Munch Rights snacks is that they have 0 trans fats, very low in saturated fats and low in calories. For people with special dietary concerns, the snacks are gluten free (due to their corn meal base) and Kosher. These guilty pleasures are a welcome to someone who absolutely loves Fried Extra Cheddar Cheetos. The problem I have like most snackers is that once I open the bag, I have to eat the whole thing because they are so addictive. Munch Rights takes that guilt away.
After all the running around of the holiday season (and I ran from one part of the state to another), I finally got back into New York City to resume my walk of the Garment District. With a new variant spreading around the City, you would think the Manhattan would be quiet but that did not stop the tourists from coming to the museums and seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree that was still up into the first week of January. It was business as usual just more people wearing masks outside.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was still packing them in after Christmas was over
Manhattan is resilient when it comes time for the pandemic. More restaurants, stores and businesses have opened up and like everyone else, you wear your mask to stay safe. I don’t mind showing my ID and my vaccination card if it means I can still enjoy doing the things I want to do, stay safe and support New York City businesses that desperately need the money.
I have to say one thing, everyone from stores to streets took down their Christmas decorations in record time. When I was in the City at the MoMA for a “The Contender’s Night” movie, I saw department store display windows being changed, the decorations outside Cartier being taken down on Fifth Avenue and most outdoor decorations gone even before the Epiphany. I thought that was strange but I guess it is time to move to Valentine’s Day and to Chinese New Year. Hope fully things will get better as it gets warmer in three months.
When I started my walk of the Avenues of the Garment District, some streets were busier than others. The core of the Garment District is still so quiet with most of the manufacturing that still goes on in the area shut down and even some of the hotels that have now been built in the area had a lack of guests. When I moved to the side streets in the afternoon, talk about no people and this is in the afternoon.
The thing about this part of Manhattan is that these buildings were built in post-war years and replaced most of the turn of the century buildings that I saw when you walk below 34th Street. These were built for the growing clothing businesses for manufacturing and showrooms which are now being refitted for offices of Tech and Advertising firms with most of the manufacturing being zoned out of the area during the Bloomberg Administration.
Even so some of these buildings have been torn down for new office and apartment buildings that are changing the whole Times Square/Garment District area. It is more of an extension of Midtown stretching down to 34th Street and then the historic older Midtown section begins with NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and the Flatiron District. Still here and there tucked into corner of the streets and avenues, there are architectural gems and interesting artwork.
Another thing that the Garment District is known for is the bevy of reasonable restaurants that cater to the garment and office workers in the area. This has really been affected by COVID and several have closed for business, while others have finally reopened from their months of slumber. It is nice to see these businesses reopen and bring vibrance back to the area again.
I started my walk on Eighth Avenue exiting the Port Authority onto a crowded street with cars and cabs all over the place. For all the problems with COVID, New York City still seems very alive to me. From walking down Broadway to visiting the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, there are tourists all over the place.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the main artery for people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania at 625 Eighth Avenue
As I was exiting the building to West 40th Street, I took a long look at the Ralph Kramden statute that sits just outside the Port Authority. I passed this sculpture many times over the years but when you really stop and admire it, you can see the detail work of the statute. The statue was dedicated in August of 2000 and was a gift from TV Land to the City of New York. It was thought at the time this would be the perfect spot as the character was a bus driver (CBS News 2000).
The “TV Land” sculpture of Jackie Gleason as ‘Ralph Kramden’ by artist Lawrence Nowland
Lawrence Nowland is an American born artist from Philadelphia, PA and was a graduate of Millersville University in Pennsylvania and did his graduate work at the New York Academy of Art School of Figurative Art and was known as a Figurative artist.
Walking down the block from the Port Authority, you will find one of the only branches of the Philipine based Jollibee fast food restaurant at 609 Eighth Avenue, one of five in the tri-state area. You can hooked on their Fried Chicken sandwiches and their peach/mango pie. The place has been crowded since its opening and made one of the quickest comebacks after everything opened up last June.
Walking down Eighth Avenue is a little gloomy during the week since COVID hit. This used to be such a bustling area with the manufacturers and showrooms in full swing. Now most of the streets are quiet from the offices being closed down. I can see how it is affecting the small clothing and fabric shops that still dot the side streets. Even with Fashion Institute of Technology reopening, it is still quiet.
Although not architecturally exciting, there are still a few gems located in the corners of the block. There are many small buildings in the neighborhood that I have passed for years on my way to work at Macy’s and I never really looked at them closely. You might miss them if you don’t look up and look at the details.
The first one is 301 West 37th Street which has the most unusual carvings of gargoyles all over the sides and inside the window ledges. It gives the building almost a creepy, demonist look to it. The building was built in 1915 and is currently going under a gut renovation.
Just off Eighth Avenue is Non Solo Piado, a wonderful little Italian restaurant that specializes in Roman street food. Every time I have eaten here the food is terrific. The restaurant specializes in a type of calzone/turnover called a “Cassoni” and crisp pizzas called a “Piadizze”. I have tried the Cassoni Napolento filled with sausage and potatoes in a pastry crust and the Piadizze Margherita with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella. The food and service are excellent and so reasonable.
The other building that is grand in detail but has been sadly neglected over the years is 557 Eighth Avenue. The Beaux-arts’ designed building was built in 1903 by architect Emery Roth who was part of Stein, Cohen & Roth. It was run as a residential hotel for most of its history and now houses commercial space in the upper floors and fast-food restaurants on the bottom (DaytonianinManhattan.blogspot/Loopnet.com).
At the end of the block stands the Hotel New Yorker like a Grande Dame guarding the Garment District. The Hotel New Yorker on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street at 481 Eighth Avenue. The hotel was designed by architects Sugarman and Berger and designed in the Art Deco style. The hotel was constructed in 1928 and opened in 1930. The hotel now managed by Wyndam Hotels put the hotel through a full renovation in 2006 to bring it back to its glory years now reflected the resurgence of the neighborhood (Hotel New Yorker History website/Wiki).
This is where I am noticing that the neighborhood is changing during COVID. They are knocking down a lot of the West 34th corridor and rebuilding it especially around Madison Square Garden. This area really needed it. When I was working at Macy’s, this was not the safest area to walk around in. This was an area of cut-rate stores and depressing office buildings. It still amazes me how the City reinvents itself and the area is now a desirable for office workers and residential living. Being right near the subways, LIRR and shopping, it is showing the changes in the old Midtown district.
Walking back up Eighth Avenue, the architecture is mostly older loft buildings that are still used for light manufacturing and showrooms but on this avenue is a stretch of great restaurants that cater to the workers that are so reasonable.
Grilled Chicken at 230 West 36th Street is a great little hole in the wall that caters to many of the Garment workers and the delivery guys speeding all over the City with other restaurants orders. The food is plentiful and reasonable. They make the best Fried Shrimp and rice and their Banh Ma sandwiches with Fried Shrimp and Grilled Pork are just excellent. This places really surprises you when you dine here.
Another great place to eat is the original Upside Pizza at 598 Eighth Avenue. On many a cold night I have been warmed up by their Pepperoni Detroit pan pizza and their regular cheese slices are so rich and flavorful. They really loaded on the cheese and the pepperoni on to their slices and then bake them to a gooey delight.
COVID has really changed this part of Eighth Avenue around where the New York Times building is located and Times Square since the shutdown. Many restaurants and stores have closed but slowly new ones are opening or reopening. Traffic in this area is pretty consistent so businesses change hands a lot now.
As the movie theaters slowly open again and Broadway is opened on a limited basis show by show, the area is beginning to get busy again but not to the levels pre-Pandemic. During the week when I am walking these blocks, I see a difference in the number of tourists and residents walking around the Port Authority area.
Seventh Avenue is still always busy. This area has changed a lot in the twenty-five years since I worked in the area. When I worked on 34th Street, the buildings were filled with showrooms and designer headquarters. It is a more diverse group of businesses today and I swear much better restaurants and stores. It has gotten more upscale.
Sitting at the top of Seventh Avenue like a guardian is the Times Square Building at 1 Times Square or 1475 Broadway. This building is known to many New Year’s Eve revelers as where the ball drops.
One building that stands tall in Times Square is One Times Square known as 1475 Broadway. Once the home headquarters for the New York Times was opened in 1904. The building was designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz. The original façade was of stone and terra cotta but this has been mostly stripped and is now home for mostly advertising. The ball still drops from the top of the building every New Year (Wiki).
It is amazing to see the radical changes in this area of Manhattan since I started to work there in 1988. It is almost night and day in its appearance of not just the buildings but the parks and businesses that line Seventh Avenue. When I had worked there twenty-five years ago, you really did not choose to walk on Seventh Avenue after 8:00pm when most office workers went home. It was not the safest or well-lit avenue especially below Times Square. How thirty years and a whole development of the area change things.
When I walked down Seventh Avenue today, it is like walking through a haunted house that is less scary. I remember my years as a young executive in the City trying to maneuver around the area and sometimes feeling safer walking down the old 42nd Street with the porn theaters and head shops. At least I knew there were police milling around. Today, there has been such an improvement in the cleanliness of the area and the more expensive stores and restaurants that has spread to Broadway as well but even this is being upended by COVID. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Again, most of the buildings in this area were built after the WWII for the Garment industry and have that loft-box look to them but like Eighth Avenue, there are still a few standouts that have survived the wrecking ball or renovation. One being the elegant 488 Seventh Avenue.
488 Seventh Avenue was built as the Hotel York in 1903 by brothers James and David Todd, who had an interest in building luxury hotels. They commissioned architect Harry B. Mulliken, who had designed the Hotel Aberdeen on West 32nd Street for the brothers, with his new partner, Edger J. Moeller, who formed the firm of Mulliken & Moeller. The York Hotel was their first commission together. The hotel was designed in the Beaux-Arts style with elaborate carved decorations (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The Hotel York was a residential and transient for most of its existence attracting the theater crowd when 34th Street was the Theater District of the time. As this moved uptown, the hotel was bought in 1986 and was renovated for residential and commercial use (Dayton in Manhattan). The Tokian Group now owns the building and it is luxury apartments.
Towards the edge of the neighborhood is one of my favorite deli’s and known to thousands of Macy’s Alumni, Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue. I have been eating at Al’s Deli since 1988 and only recently in the last two years since exploring this section of Manhattan again have come back.
Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue is a Macy’s favorite
It still makes some of the best hamburgers and cheeseburgers in the City and their breakfast sandwiches are still oversized and delicious. Their Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a hoagie is still something that warms and fills me up in the mornings. Don’t miss their Chicken Parmesan Sandwich as well.
Across the street from Al’s Deli on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street is the Grande Dame of the department store industry and my home away from home for seven years in the beginning of my career, R.H. Macy at 151 West 34th Street. When I started working at the store in 1988 it was funny but the locker rooms and cafeteria featured in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” had not changed one bit, at least as I remembered it.
Macy’s New York on the Seventh Avenue side of the store in Art Deco Style (Wiki)
The Seventh Avenue side of the building was added in 1931 making Macy’s the world’s largest store. The building was designed by architect Robert D. Kohn in the Art Deco style that was popular in the day (Wiki). The entrance is still iconic to shopping enthusiasts who are looking for the perfect gift.
Walking up Seventh Avenue, also known as the Fashion Mile to many in the retail industry, is the Fashion Walk of Fame plaques that line the avenue from 35th Street above Macy’s up to 42nd Street. You have to look at the sidewalk to see some 30 plaques honoring some America’s most celebrated designers including Halston, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
The honor was started by the Fashion Center Business Improvement District and these are chosen by a group of fashion panelist each year since 2000 (The Vintage Traveler.Wordpress.com).
I stopped at Zeppola Bakery at 499 Seventh Avenue for a quick snack. Everything looks so inviting from the fluffy doughnuts to the stuffed sandwiches. The bakery for all its visuals is on the expensive side and a small heart doughnut filled with raspberry jelly cost $3.95. Delicious but a little pricey.
When arriving at the corner of West 39th Street and Seventh Avenue in front of the Chase Bank at 551 Seventh Avenue is the very iconic sculpture of the Needle Threading the Button that is part of the Welcome Booth on Seventh Avenue.
The Button and Needle Sculpture is actually part of the information booth (NYPL.org)
According to the New York Public Library, the sculpture of the needle and button is actually part of the Fashion Center Information Kiosk that has been closed for a few years. The sculpture was designed by Pentagram Architectural Services in 1996 and was inspired by artist Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures. The district is currently looking into replacing this kiosk (New York Public Library Research Department).
Artist Claes Oldenburg was a Swedish born American artist. He was born in Stockholm and moved to the United States with his parents. His father was a Swedish Diplomat who was stationed in Chicago and he studied art at Yale University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was known for his large art installments. Even though this was not designed by him, the work was inspired by his sculptures (Wiki).
The other sculpture next to the kiosk is of a garment employee working on a sewing machine. This sculpture by artist Judith Weller was of her father who worked in the Garment Industry entitled “Garment Worker”. The sculpture was created by the artist in honor of her father, a machinist in the garment trade and to Jewish garment workers who were the backbone of the community. It was created in 1984-85 for the Public Art Fund (Public Art Fund).
The “Garment Worker” by artist Judith Weller
The Mission of the Public Art fund that was funded in 1977, is to bring dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City and offer powerful public experiences in art (Public Art Fund).
Artist Judith Weller is an Israel born New York artist who is known for her genre of work dedicated to the laboring people all over the United States (Ask Art.com).
Crossing over to Broadway from the busy 42nd Street Mall I was greeted by the recently reopened Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square. For most of the recent history of this property it had been falling apart and was offices in the times I worked in Manhattan.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV and it opened in 1906. The hotel was designed by the firm of Marvin & Davis in the Beaux-Arts style. The outside of the hotel was built in red brick with terra cotta details. The hotel was fully renovated in 2015 (Wiki).
In front of the Chase Bank at 1411 Broadway is Golda Meir Square with an open plaza. Tucked into a garden almost hidden from view by the plants is a bust of Golda Meir by artist Beatrice Goldfine. It looked like from old pictures the original pedestal is now beneath the planter. It was unveiled in 1984 (Wiki).
The bust of Golda Meir by artist Beatrice Goldfine in Golda Meir Square is now hidden in a garden.
Artist Beatrice Goldfine is an American artist born in Philadelphia and studied at the Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania Institute of Fine Arts.
Walking down Broadway most of the buildings are relatively new or been built after WWII but two really do stand out. One being the Haier Building at 1356 Broadway. The Haier Building was built by architects from York & Sawyer in the Neo-Classical Revival style. The building was completed in 1924 and was the headquarters for Greenwich Savings Bank. The building is built with limestone and polished granite and features Roman Corinthian Columns (Wiki).
1352 Broadway-The Haier Building (Former Greenwich Savings Bank-Wiki)
The Haier Building stretches from Broadway to Sixth Avenue and is impressive on both sides of the building. The building was used by Greenwich Savings Bank from 1924 until 1981 when the bank went out of business (Wiki).
The other impressive building on this side of Broadway is the Macy’s New York Broadway building facing Herald Square. The store was built between 1901-1902 by architects Theodore de Lemos and A. W. Cordes of the firm of De Lemos & Cordes in the Palladian style a form of classic Roman and Greek temple style (Wiki).
Macy’s New York at 151 West 34th Street on the Broadway side of the building
Herald Square has dramatically improved since I worked at Macy’s. When I worked at Macy’s in the early 1990’s, Herald and Greeley Squares were places to avoid until about 1994 when the parks were renovated and new plantings and French metal café tables were added. Now it is hard at lunch time to find a table.
In the process of the renovations, the City also restored the statues dedicated to James Gordon Bennett and Horace Greeley.
The statue dedicated to James Gordon Bennett and his son James Gordon Bennett II
The statue is to Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom and Invention and two blacksmiths who flank a bell that once topped the Herald Building where the New York Herald, which was founded by James Gordon Bennett in 1835. The statue was dedicated in the park in 1895 (NYCParks.org).
Antonin Jean Carles was born in France and was a student of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Toulouse. He was known for his monument sculptures.
Walking back up Broadway, it started to get colder as the afternoon went on but I came across an unusual sculpture that had just been put up entitled “Passage” by artist Serge Maheu. This interesting piece of street art you could actually walk through and as you walked through it, the colors changed.
“Passages” by Artist Serge Maheu (Artist’s bio)
It was like walking through a tunnel of hula hoops. The artist was going for a “transformative, playful experience” during an otherwise gloomy time in winter (Patch.com).
According to the artist, “Passage” explores the emotional connections between light and sound (Serge Maheu bio).
Artist Serge Maheu
Artist Serge Maheu is from Quebec, Canada and graduated with a degree in Computer Engineer, he has taken a path down the creative route to become a multimedia director. He specializes in film, animation, photography, sound and music (Serge Maheu bio).
By the time I reached Bryant Park, the sun started to come out again and it cleared up slightly. The park was filled with people ice skating or eating. The tables were mostly filled on this cool day which I was surprised at considering the weather. It does not take long to see how the changes in the park have led to change in the building here.
Standing guard at the edge of the neighborhood is the new Bank of America building. This innovative building was designed by architect Rick Cook from the firm of Cookfox Adamson Associates. The building was designed with a clear ‘Curtin wall’ and several diagonal planes for wind resistance. The building was also awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for sustainable ‘green’ architecture (Wiki/Durst website).
Bryant Park is another interesting park. In 1988, you would never go into this park unless you wanted drugs or wanted to get mugged. The park was surrounded by bushes and it was in extremely bad shape. When the New York Public Library was going through a renovation, money was allocated to fix the park. It is night and day from when I passed the park in the early 1990’s. Talk about a difference that twenty-five years makes.
Bryant Park in all its glory
The original park opened in 1870 as Reservoir Square after the Croton Distributing Reservoir that was once located on the eastern side of the park. In 1884, the park was renamed for New York Evening Post Editor William Cullan Bryant (Wiki).
The park has suffered from neglect in the past including times in the 1930’s and the 1960’s and 70’s and had been through past renovations but in 1980 the Bryant Park Restoration Group was founded and took over park services. Since then, the park was fully renovated in 1992 and continues to improve with continued maintenance. Now there are events like ‘Movies in the Park’ and ‘Winter Village’ with a skating rink, rows of boutiques and the Christmas tree (Wiki).
Bryant Park in Christmas past
Lining the park on Sixth Avenue side of the park is a series of interesting statuary that I think most people miss when walking by the park. The first one is the statue called the “Andrada Monument” or also known as the statue of Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, the Brazilian statesman. Every September, the Consulate General of Brazil commemorates Andrada and Brazilian Independence Day by hosting a small ceremony at the monument (Wiki).
The statue was created by artist Jose Otavio Correia Lima. The artist was born in Brazil and attended the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. He taught and ran the college until 1930 (Wiki).
Jose Bonifacio de Andrada was a Brazilian Statesman who was also a college professor and naturalist who was one of the most important mentors of Brazilian independence (Wiki/Britannica).
The other statue on the opposite side of the park is of Benito Juarez, the former President of Mexico and its first indigenous President serving twice. The statue was created by artist Moises Cabrea Orozco and is the first Mexican to be commemorated in the park system.
Benito Juarez was a lawyer and statesman who served as the President of Mexico twice. He also served on the Mexican Supreme Court.
In between these two statues at the western side of the park as you walk up the steps to enter the park is the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, one of the most beautiful pieces of art in Bryant Park. This fountain is one of the nicest places to sit by on a sunny warm day and there is not a time that I do not make a wish in the fountain.
Artist Charles A. Platt was born in New York City and studied at the National Academy of Design and the Students Art League. He was known as a landscape designer, artist and architect of the American Renaissance Movement (Wiki).
The fountain was designed by architect Charles A. Platt in granite and bronze and has the most interesting details to it. It is the first major memorial dedicated to a woman in New York City. The fountain was dedicated to activist Josephine Shaw Lowell (Wiki).
Josephine Shaw Lowell was born in Massachusetts and moved to New York with her family in the 1840’s. She was committed to social charities and was named the Commissioner of New York State Board of Charities, the first woman to hold the position. She also founded many charities (Wiki).
This time of the year Bryant Park is taken up by the skating rink and the restaurants that surround it. Most of the Christmas Village was closed and it looked they were going to take it down. The Christmas tree was surprisingly still up and lit and at night makes the park festive.
Across from Bryant Park to its south are a grouping of beautifully designed buildings. On the corner of West 40th Street and Sixth Avenue is 80 West 40th Street, ‘The Bryant Park Studios’. The building was built in 1910 as showrooms for artists. The building was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by architect Charles A. Rich (Daytonian in Manhattan).
Further down Sixth Avenue is where one of the first Chick-fil-A in Manhattan opened at 1000 Sixth Avenue in 2015. It was also their largest outlet at the time with three floors. The place had lines wrapped around the block during its first several months until more outlets opened around the City. I hate to say it but for all the controversy about the restaurant, I really do love their chicken sandwiches.
Another interesting building that stands out is an old home at 966 Sixth Avenue which is the former J. E. Winterbottom Funeral Home. The business moved in 1885. Before that the post-Civil War house was constructed in the Second Empire style with a Mansard roof. It was once a private home before the business moved in (Daytonian in Manhattan). According to current records, it is going to be Manhattan’s first Sonic restaurant. It will be the first urban Sonic to open outside the one on Staten Island (Patch.com).
At the very edge of the neighborhood on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 35th Street is the most interesting piece of artwork on a building that once housed the Desigual flagship store. The work is by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel and entitled “Multicultural Freedom Statue” and was created in 2019. It is a tribute to multiculturalism in New York City (Artist Bio). The store has since closed.
The painting at Sixth Avenue at West 35th Street by artist Okuda San Miguel
Artist Okuda San Miguel was born in Spain and known for his colorful geometric styles in painting. He graduated from the Complutense University of Madrid with a BFA and has shown his work all over the world (Wiki).
The last building I noticed for its beauty was on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 34th Street, 47 West 34th Street (1378 Broadway or 2 Herald Square) the Marbridge Building. The Marbridge Building was by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in 1909 in the Classical Beaux Arts style and has been used as an office building since its opening (Wiki/Photo/Street).
For dinner on the way back up Sixth Avenue, I ate at the Kyoto Spot Mochinut at 1011 Sixth Avenue. They had the most unusual combination of a Potato Half and Half ($7.95), which was half a hot dog and half a mozzarella stick rolled in rice flour and chopped potatoes and then deep fried and they served it with a spicy type of duck sauce. I also had one of their Ume Mochinut doughnuts which were made out of rice flour but tasted like a funnel cake. It was utterly amazing.
On my second trip exploring the avenues, I had dinner at Main Noodle House at 1011 Sixth Avenue. The food and the service were excellent. I had a traditional eggroll and it was one of the best I have had in a long time. For the entree, I had the Cantonese Wonton Soup ($10.95) with roast pork, wontons and lo mien noodles. It was the perfect meal on a cool winter night. It was a meal within itself.
It was late when I finally arrived back at Bryant Park in time to see the Christmas tree in full blaze and hear the music and laughter of the skating rink. Across the street I saw the green and red lights blinking of the new Bank of China building at 1045 Sixth Avenue (or 7 Bryant Park). This building is interesting for its shape and its ongoing light show.
The building was completed in 2016 and was designed by architects Henry N. Cobb and Yvonne Szeto from the firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and it was interesting on why they designed the building in an ‘hourglass’ design. The firm stated that “they wanted to enrich the experience of the park while at the same time make its relationship to the park a clear expression of its identity (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners). The building is the New York home of the Bank of China.
Bank of China Building at 1045 Sixth Avenue (7 Bryant Park)
Being right across the street from the Bryant Park Studios at 80 West 40th Street shows the contrast that this neighborhood is going through now with a combination of the old and the new and showcasing its beauty. These buildings are adding character to an area of Manhattan that was not so nice just twenty years ago.
This part of the Garment District is the reason why we are seeing less of a Garment District but more of a commercial core that surrounds Times Square and promotes how a City can change for the better with a game plan. All around the core of a park that you would not dare set foot in for almost thirty years.
Talk about transformation!
Check out my other blogs on the Garment District:
Day Two Hundred and Three: Walking the Borders of the Garment District:
Sometimes you walk through a neighborhood and you come across a little shop that is just so cute and interesting that you have to stop in to see what they carry. This is the attraction of Epices Bakery on West 70th Street, a small French pastry shop with beautiful and delicious desserts. Not only is the selection nice but the sights and smells when you enter of freshly made coffee and buttery baked goods greet you when you walk in.
There is a nice variety of baked goods in the glass cases to choose from. One side of the store is dedicated to pastries like eclairs, cream puffs and fruit tarts and the other has savory breakfast items like ham and cheese croissants, small quiches…
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
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. 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 nightfall
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
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.
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
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 ‘Stockage 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 brillantly.
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.
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 Annex 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.
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.