Oh my gosh, I just found this as a draft…. Ohh no, I thought I posted it long ago! Whoopsies! Well, better late than never, I always say!
In late December my parents and brother and sister-in-law drove all the way up to our little apartment west of Philly to spend Christmas in our neck of the woods. We are the Goulds, however, so of course we couldn’t stay put for long. The day before Christmas Eve, the six of us piled in my mom’s SUV bright and early, and my dad hauled us up to a random train station in New Jersey. We parked and rode the train in to where else but Penn Station.
We packed light, just for the night, but we each had a bag, so after stopping by MSG above the station to grab some tickets, we headed over to our hotel a few blocks away. The room wasn’t ready yet, but they held our things until later in the day. Without a plan in the world except for dinner with my cousin and the Grinch the next day, we ventured into the great chaos of New York City! Upon my suggestion, our gang beseeched Shake Shack for the knowledge for the infinitely renown burger and fries.
We seagulled our way into snagging a table big enough for all of us to sit and wait for our food. It did NOT disappoint. In fact, I sought out Shake Shack again when I was in D.C. the next week, and ate there at least two more times. Crinkle-cut fries are the BEST – perfectly crunchy yet soft, thick enough to grab a bunch of ketchup with each dip. The Peanut Butter shake was like eating big, smooth spoonfuls of the spread.
Bored = picture time.
It did taste as good as it looks!!
We formulated as much of a semblance of a plan as we could manage, so for our first venture beyond the food realm, we were off to Central Park. We ambled through the market, and I picked up a whimsical print of the park’s skating rink, from a friendly Australian lady. I hesitated to make my decision, and when I came back to her stall, she remembered my name! I felt great supporting her art since we had made a connection.
A word about my boots: they originally had a gold spur on the back of each shoe, which had wriggled loose on one side a few weeks prior. I had Whit fix it with super glue. Then, when I was visiting my parents, I had my dad fix the other side. Of course, the day we go into New York – the day I would do the most walking all year – the glue came loose and the spurs were dragging the ground, getting caught underneath my foot with each step. How obnoxious! When we set our suitcases down in the hotel, I had my dad borrow a pair of scissors and cut them off once and for all. Fortunately, they look fine without the extra leather strap and gold spur! PS Courtney is wearing about six of my mom’s articles of clothing in this pic, including jacket, boots, sweater, and scarf – ha!
Due to my purchasing the skating rink picture, and having the freedom to do whatever we please, we walked on over to the skating rink to see it in person. It was just as picturesque as one would imagine, and we enjoyed the classic-ness of observing the tradition of skaters joyfully circling around, magic in the air from the Christmas season.
This is what my print looks like, except more… real 🙂
Our mission, after viewing the skaters, was to make it to the Met. Funny story: the Met is actually on the opposite side of Central Park. Well, I don’t know exactly how far away it is, maybe it’s about half the distance of the park. But the park is huge, and we walked, and walked, and walked, and were still only about halfway there! Some people in the group got a little antsy, and I can’t say my feet weren’t starting to hurt.
The story behind the next picture (me and my dad) – we kept looking for the bridge from Home Alone 2 (one of our family’s favorite, ridiculous, Christmas movies) where Kevin lights the fireworks to escape from the bandits. We thought this one might be it (turns out it wasn’t), so we had to snap a pic.
Did you know there is no flat price to get into the museum? It’s a pay-what-you-wish system. We wished to pay a dollar each, so that’s what we did. Being tired of walking, Court and mom took a break in the museum cafe, which I would have enjoyed, but there was much art to be seen. The rest of us kind of split up, Whit took his own course and me and my dad tried to stay together. I admired many pieces from my favorite period: Impressionist. They had one or two large Monet waterlilies, and I remembered why I could stare at them forever. Oh, to have millions of dollars to be able to own one… the colors are so much more vibrant in person!!
We tried to hail a taxi to no avail, err, to no patience, and we didn’t have enough QUARTERS to take the bus. What century is New York City living in, anyway?!? Certainly not the twenty-first. (Who carries around eight quarters, per person, for one bus ride??) So we opted to take the subway, which was not the only time we experienced the hassle of the New York City subway on our trip. This city needs to step up its tourist game. Doesn’t it know how many tourists visit there each day…? You would think.
We finally made it to our hotel to check into our rooms, which we were dying to do. Our Christmas present was that each couple got their own room – thanks mom and dad!! We cozied into our city-sized hotel room and plopped right on the bed, bag of chips in hand. There was just enough time to take off my skinny jeans, scratch my legs endlessly (do you have to do the same??), and receive the fluff of a bed before changing my shoes and heading back into the Big Apple.
I really enjoyed seeing the city from the perspective of an overnight stay. It felt so local, to escape the madness for a few hours, retreating into a tiny room in a vertical hotel with four rooms on each floor. It wasn’t expensive either, about one hundred dollars per night, give or take (I wasn’t paying the bills, so I can’t remember ;)). On the way to our hotel that night I popped in a cafe on our street, a block off the main road (umm…I forgot the name of it. Sorry, I’m not a good NYC traveler!), just to see if they had anything gluten-free. First time’s a charm – turns out, they did! I happily paid $3.50 for a small-sized thick cookie, and it was absolutely yummy. That tiny venture reminded me of living in Melbourne, Australia for the summer.
Back to the evening’s events… after resting and freshening up, we walked just a few blocks over to DON ANTONIO. I have to say that in all caps because IT DESERVES ALL CAPS. This is an authentic Italian restaurant in Times Square. Authentic as in: we inquired about doing a half this and a half that pizza, and after our waiter shouted Italian back and forth between several of his coworkers, he informed us that no, they do not do half and half. As in, you can’t mess with their pizza method. They have a system, and they’re sticking to it.
I was seated in front of the window to the magic behind the method, and got to watch the experts perfect their craft.
OH, and did I mention that THE PIZZA WAS GLUTEN-FREE??!
When it came out, I examined it, examined the other pizzas, and was not quite sure the waiter got our order right. It looked just like all the other pizzas on our table… I took a bite, and, mmmmmm – nope! Can’t be right, it must not be gluten-free! We lifted up the pizza to analyze the bottom of it versus the regular gluten pizzas, and sure enough they were slightly different. Hmm, that’s odd… this pizza tastes…. delicious! And it’s… gluten-free? It can’t be!! But it was.
I ordered a bready appetizer and devoured all of it. When would I experience pizza this good again?!?
(Side note: I am currently reading Eat Pray Love, and obsessing over all things Italy. Soooo maybe one day I will make it over there to get the REAL stuff!)
So, my cousin invented the NoPhone, a joke that got funded by a Kick Starter campaign. He lives close to Times Square with his girlfriend Andrea (who I loved hanging out with), and they met us for dinner that night. My mom was raving about Van’s successes (she thought it was ingenious, entertaining, and hilarious), and gushed when Van handed over her Christmas present: a NoPhone!
Here I am taking a selfie with the selfie attachment (a mirror that sticks to the back of the rectangular non-device).
Our next mission was obvious: to see the tree at the Rockefeller Center.
Whit and I stopped by to see the tree when we were in New York for New Year’s to see Phish in 2011, but one can hardly remember how big and glorious it is! What amazes me is that it is a live tree. So impressive, and spirited!
After Rockefeller Center, we did the obvious thing (after running in Anthropologie, of course): walk around Times Square, to see the lights, people, and commotion. It was starting to get drizzly, and all of us were exhausted and had seen Times Square before, so we didn’t linger, but it was still a crucial element to the Christmas-NYC experience.
My dad made a collective decision that we needed dessert. We hit up an Italian cafe for some good ol’ cannolis. There was pie, pastry, and cake enough for six families. I enjoyed sitting and abstaining while everyone else filled their bellies with more gluten. I found out later each cheesecake was $8 a piece – a piece!! It seemed like they were worth it. 🙂
Needless to say, we slept well that night! We are all good sleepers anyhow. None of us wanted to wake up super early (thank goodness!) but we also wanted to make the most out of the short time that we had, so we planned to leave the hotel around 9am. Everyone else grabbed food from the continental breakfast in the lobby, but I made a quick run two blocks down to Jamba Juice, one of my all-time favorite eateries. I felt so confident yet small going out by myself in the biggest city in the US! It was fun, but also a little overwhelming.
Once we were all up, fed, and ready, we headed for the dreadful subway to ride to Greenwich Village (pronounced Gren-itch, I learned). We had no specific plans other than seeing the arch, drooling over the million-dollar houses, and getting an authentic lunch in Chinatown. I am such an annoying tourist – I kept shouting how “This looks JUST like the movies! This looks like their place from Friends!” etc.
On the way, we passed this plaque that advertised our name on it, so of course we gathered round to take a picture!
While we’re here, can I just mention how cool and crazy I think it is that New York has SO many (enormous) neighborhoods?? It’s insane that you can be in Times Square, take the subway twenty minutes underground, and pop up in a (still super expensive) part of the city that STILL has tall buildings and tons of stuff going on?? That is what’s crazy about New York to me. It’s SO BIG!
I can’t eat Chinese food because almost all of it is cooked in soy sauce, which has gluten in it. I had also been trying to figure out a way to get over to this gluten-free, vegan bakery that my friend had just posted about on Instagram a few days before our trip. We worked it out so that since we were in the same neighborhood (Babycakes is randomly right next to Chinatown), Whit walked over with me to pick out whatever treats I wanted. Whit graciously offered to me that instead of trying to find a burger somewhere, I was allowed to just eat donuts for lunch.
I was so happy when I walked in the (tiny) bakery, that I just paused for a moment to take it in – I could have anything I wanted!! And I did. I got a half dozen delectable gluten-free desserts, including donuts, a cookie sandwich, and a CHURRO. It was amazing. I savored a couple of the items slowly for my lunch, and finished most of the rest of the things before we made it home that night. 😉
Sadly, for the rest of our crew, finding a Chinese restaurant wasn’t super successful. While we were bakery-ing, they were wandering around trying to find an acceptable place. My mom wasn’t impressed with the all-Chinese menus (what did you expect??) and I think Courtney was also hoping for some familiar Chinese-American type of offerings. We did find a place, and I think they enjoyed it. Anyways, that was definitely not a highlight of the trip.
So incredibly satisfied with my $25 worth of goodness!!
The last thing we had planned (and really the only thing we actually planned, and it wasn’t planned until the day before) was seeing the Grinch at Madison Square Garden. Evan had looked up train tickets before we left, where we would get discounted How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical tickets if we rode the train in. We were already debating driving in or taking the train, so we ended up doing that. We each got ten dollars off the musical, except for me and Whit who forgot to ask the conductor if we could keep our tickets. 😦
Our whole family loves the Grinch, so this was perfect for us! The musical was really entertaining – a great mash-up of the book/cartoon and the Jim Carrey movie version. It was especially rewarding to sit after a full day and a half of walking around the city. It was fun to be in Madison Square Garden, too – the most famous arena in the world! (Though we weren’t in the actual arena, and Whit and I have been there to see Phish already.)
One final strolling-the-Christmas-streets-classic-NYC-pic!