I am not exactly sure why, but I have never been a big fan of the Christmas holiday. Maybe because people seem to go crazy with their Christmas shopping, rushing the stores to find the perfect gift, which, in the end, will probably end up being sold on ebay by the receiver of the gift. Everything is more expensive, the streets are more crowded, there is more traffic… it seems that there are more people everywhere ! And somehow I always feel a bit nostalgic and saddend at the end of year…. No, Christmas is definitely not my favorite time of the year.
However, some places do manage to make Christmas magical ! For me, Germany is the best place to go around Christmas. I love wandering their Christmas market, drinking mulled wine to get warmer, looking at the Christmas shop windows… Somehow in France, we never manage to create such a magical Christmas spirit (I have to confess that I have never been to Strasbourg, where, I heard, they pretty much rock Christmas time…).
Last year, I discovered another place that rocks Christmas time. A place I never would have expected: New York.
As I was on my way from Paris to Mexico City, I made a stop in the Big Apple for a few days. New York is a great place to be around during this time of year. We spent our time going to little cafés and to museums, we went to the famous ice-skating ring at the Rockefeller Center and we even saw the Nutcracker ballet at the Lincoln Center. We could hardly have been more Christmassy than that…
But we also realized that Christmas time in New York City is cold…. very cold! Much colder than I had expected! Here is a city with extreme temperature changes between summer and winter!
But the cold does not make it any less awesome (just make sure to wear thermic clothes, one or two sweaters, a scarf, gloves… and you will be good to go!).
Winter time is the best occasion to discover the city’s incredible museums and to hang out in its cozy cafes. It gave us a good excuse to spend more time in the little cafés to enjoy a mocha or a muffin, just to get warmer. We also tried to make the most of each ray of light! The sky was mostly gloomy.
Here is what we did during the limited amount of time that we spent there.
We had the chance to stay in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and I loved this neighborhood! Little cafés everywhere, “hipster” markets, amazing restaurants… and it feels much quieter than crazy Manhattan. As it rained a lot, we could not walk around Brooklyn as much as we would have wanted to, but we still had some fun.
One day that we had been pretty optimistic about the weather and started walking around even though the sky looked very menacing, we took shelter in an amazing place: the Brooklyn Brewery, located on 79 N 11th Street. The Germany-lover that I am was immediately transported to a Bavarian tavern. They had all sorts of beers and large tables where you would necessarily end up talking to your neighbors and make new friends.
The next day we were so happy to see that the rain had stopped and that there was a piece of blue sky that we explored a lit be more Brooklyn before going to Manhattan.
2. The Brooklyn Bridge
We were lucky to have an amazing blue sky when we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, which is probably my favorite monument in New York! This old bridge is really beautiful and as we crossed over from one side of town to the other, we had an amazing view on Manhattan skyscapers.
What is so special about this bridge is that there are two levels: the lower level for cars, and the upper levels for pedestrians and bike-riders. This makes the bridge a very pleasant place for a stroll. Many tourists will have the same idea… you will not be alone! You will even see locals doing their morning jog on the bridge.
On the upper level, there are even two lanes, one for pedestrians and one for bike-riders. As you wander the lane and get disctracted taking pictures, watch out for bike-riders! Some of them will get really mad if you step over their lane…
3. Central Park
We were not that lucky with the weather the day we went to Central Park. With minus 9°C, my feet were literally freezing. I feel cold just looking at these pictures again! The park was desert that day. We were the only crazy tourists walking around… I would think about it twice before taking a picture, as it meant taking one glove off… We managed to cross the park but in the end we could not longer feel our toes… We rushed to the first café that we found outside the park to try and warm up!
This is when we realized that we were not at all equipped against cold temperatures. After walking around the park, we went straight to a Uniclo store to buy thermic clothes!
4. The MOMA
We then decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to get warmer. I had wanted to visit this museum for a really long time and was so happy to be there. I loved their Impressionist paintings! My favorite one at the MOMA was the starry night by Van Gogh.
We did some more sightseeing: Flatiron building, crazy fuzzy Times Square,Grand Central, the Rockefeller Center. Now that we had our thermic clothes, it was much easier to stay outside and walk around…
5. The Rockefeller Center
With its giant Christmas tree and its ice skating ring, the Rockefeller Center is probably the best place to grasp the New York Christmas spirit! We did not skate as we heard that there was a never-ending line to get in and that it was also very expensive. Mayby another time!
6. The Lincoln Center
And we finished our stay in New York “en beauté” with the beautiful Nutcraker ballet at the Lincoln Center. Many thanks to my dear co-workers for this amazing present! Our Christmas holiday was complete. After all, Christmas did not feel like such a bad time of the year after all…