Christmas in New York

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January 1st 2019
Published: February 2nd 2019
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It looks like some of the bugs got worked out of the travelblog system. Which means it is time for me to update my blog I guess!

First stop: New York City to meet with the Captain. I wanted an upgrade for the 13- hour flight and asked at check-in. No complimentary ones available because she said the flight was not very full. I asked if there was at least the middle seat was empty and she said yes, so I figured I'd rough it. Well, the flight was almost completely empty and after a bit of shuffling, I wound up with a whole row to myself! So I actually got some decent sleep by laying across the three seats and I was not the only one. I actually wound up on the same flight as a coworker and his family and caught up with them while waiting forever for my luggage at JFK; note: this airport has dropped even further due to the luggage wait every single time and delays - it's actually at the bottom now. After finally getting my luggage, I debated on train or taxi, and went with a taxi. He dropped me off right in front of my hotel.

I booked at the Even Hotel near Times Square and despite the early hour, the room was ready and they let me go up. The website showed a bigger room, but other than the difference in size, it was absolutely perfect. It was right near Penn Station and has its own little bar and nice communal area. It was a nice spot all around and I highly recommend it. So, I waited for my friend, who arrived about an hour behind me. We caught up, then immediately headed out. We were only in town for two days, and we had a lot of plans. It is Christmas in NY after all.

Our first stop was... well first we got a bagel at a place with a long line, so we knew it must be good. And it was. After a quick stop at Macy's for some boots for me, we went to Bryant Park and saw the Christmas market set up and ice skaters. We of course got a couple of drinks and wandered around, just enjoying the atmosphere and catching up. Then we made our way up to the Plaza Hotel, where we had an appointment for High Tea. It was beautiful inside and we got a nice little table in a busy cafe setting. The tea was good and the sampler of mini foods was good too, but mostly, it was all about the experience. We also had to enjoy ourselves with Lizzie, our Annual Girls Trip third member who could not make it. After tea, we got a drink in the lobby bar and extended our enjoyment of this iconic hotel. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped a little hole-in-the-wall bar, which was actually pretty enjoyable! We stopped one final time for some pizza, but it was not great; not bad, but not that drip-down-your-arm greasy cheesy pizza. The walk to and from the Hotel was iconic itself, passing by places like the New York Public Library, Trump Hotel, St Patrick's Cathedral, and all the shopping down 5th avenue, which was decorated for Christmas.

The next day, we slept in a bit, waiting for the right time to head across town to a German restaurant called Rolf's. This was one of the items on my friend's list as it is completely decorated with Christmas throughout the whole place. We got there at a decent time, about half an hour before they opened and had to wait in a line for people without reservations. Due to the popularity of the place, the staff have it down to a science. Those in our line were only allowed into the bar area and once it was full, those behind could not go in until others came out. We could put our name on a list for a table; we were tempted because we had not eaten yet, but we were worried about our 2pm tickets for the Rockettes. So, we just enjoyed our drink (cider) from a limited menu in a crowded bar that looked like Christmas threw up all over it. It was awesome.

We were able to get an uber Radio City Music Hall, and had to fight our way through pedestrian traffic. Complete madness. We got inside, got our drinks and some popcorn, because we were hungry. And sat down for the show. We actually got some pretty decent seats up in the balcony and the show, the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, was actually pretty great! After the show, we looked for a place to eat, I think it was Del Frisco's Grille. We were told that since we did not have a reservation, we needed to be out by 5, but we had a super friendly waiter, the food was yum, and no one kicked us out. I think we left around 5:30 and slowly made our way past Rockefeller Center and the tree, and Magnolia Bakery, before we got to our next show: Pretty Woman the Musical. Oy. We kind of knew it was a goof going in, but at one point we both fell fast asleep and did not go back in after intermission. No worries, we had a terrific day! And we ended it by getting a pizza recommendation from the hotel staff and it was spot on! So, we check this trip off our bucket list and I look forward to the next one.

My friend left early the next morning and I left around 9:30 to go to Penn Station for my train to Syracuse. Penn Station is huge and it took me a few to find the right location to wait, but I did and got a bagel, of course. The train came right on time and I headed down with a fairly decent sized group of people, with those going beyond Albany directed to the front cars. Only problem was: NO SEATS WERE AVAILABLE!!! I mean, how in the eff does that happen. After going up and down the aisles like cattle, I just threw my giant bags down in a corner devoted to disabled people's room and where luggage was already packed in. I just sat on the ground and three other girls stood near me. Ridiculous. $150 and I'm supposed to stand for 6 hours? Oh Amtrak.... wonder why no one thinks about rail service in the US? The conductor came through and she was pretty nice (the conductors were all nice, thankfully) and she managed to get me a seat in the dining car. At Albany, I was able to get a real seat for the rest of the journey, but our train was almost 40 minutes late.

And that's why I hate to travel during Christmas.

Well, eventually I got to Syracuse, hugged my dad who was waiting, and drove us home. I got to meet my parents' new puppy and she is a puppy! She used my hand as a chew toy. But she is very cute and super friendly. It still makes me really miss Lucy though... The next day my dad and I went to Bottomless Brewing. We "had" to do some beer tasting for growlers for our company coming. It really is a great place - even if I don't like a particular beer, they are all good. They generally have about 10-12 selections and you can do a flight of four. We wound up with three growlers.

My sister from DC arrived that evening and so began our official family time. The next few days, and in fact the rest of the week, were a blur to me - kids, gifts, snow, etc. My sisters and our friend Lindsey went to a nice dinner in Rochester one night, at the Ox and Stone, a place with kind of new age Mexican food. I also took my parents and sister wine tasting; most places were fantastic and the places where I'm a member (Ravines and Red Tail Ridge) went above and beyond for the experience (see my top 10 wineries in the FLX - they definitely earned their spots!). It was so nice to spend such quality time with my nieces and nephews - I miss them so much. My oldest nephew asked why I lived so far away and how much money I made and that he missed me. I had to excuse myself for a little cry. I love how they all have such individual personalities - it's amazing.

Well, I had to leave on Sunday and try to be home for New Year's Eve since my balcony overlooks the Burj Khalifa. My friends were going to my apartment to start a party and would be waiting for me. I debated on train or flight, but after the Amtrak experience earlier, opted for a flight. I was able to book a flight from Rochester on Jet Blue, which also checked my bags through to Dubai. The airport in Rochester has recently been renovated and looks great. So, I was thinking that my trip was going to be nice and smooth; I even got upgraded on my emirates flight for a minimal cost! But unfortunately, it was not to be. The lounge at JFK was renovated too, but I think the older one was much better, especially the food selections. I was disappointed. Then we all boarded the flight, and were delayed about 30 minutes for luggage or something. Then the pilot said someone had to be taken off for medical reasons, which meant waiting for their luggage to be offloaded. Finally, an hour late, we were moving. Then as we are sitting at takeoff, on the runway, I see a flight attendant walk purposefully through the business section with another man, and I assumed he was a doctor and there was another medical emergency. There was. We went back to the gate and had to wait another hour before leaving.

So, more than 2 hours delay and we finally take off. This unfortunately meant there was next to no chance I'd make it in time for midnight. We managed to land at 10:45 and I actually got my luggage immediately (shocking!), and was able to get a taxi. We were making good time until there was an accident on the highway and the traffic came to a stop. Then basically the road was shut down. So, I got out as we were near a metro station and I made my way, with some help from a local woman who pulled my big bag along. From there, we were able to watch the fireworks. Honestly it was a very cool experience, people just out of their cars on the freeways, lined along the sidewalks, hanging out of hotels - it was pretty surreal. After a few minutes, I made my way to the metro, my card is still working, and I waited for the gates to open (they suspended travel during the show). The security guys were helpful at getting me on and off the train; the crowd was brutal. I waited for my friends to walk to the station to help me with my bags and we made our way back to my apartment together. There I stayed up til 4am, most of the people were enjoying karaoke and there were like 9 people sprawled out in my place all night. I don't know how they slept. So, while it was not perfect, it was memorable!

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2nd February 2019

Bugs out!
TB bumps have been resolved. So happy to read your blog as we are going to NYC in March to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We are always reading and looking for new ideas when exploring a great city like NYC! Rockettes, the Plaza... ice skating, pizza, high tea, the joys of the holidays in the City. Thanks for sharing.

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