Christmas in the City

As I mentioned before in part 1 of this two part series, we dropped off our bags at the Intercontinental Barclay and headed out to explore the city. It was an absolutely frigid morning in the Big Apple with temperatures well below freezing. Consequently, walking along the streets meant going in and out of stores and cafes to occasionally warm as we made our way through the ‘center of everything.’

Walking the Streets of New York:

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First Stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. I may not be much of a religious guy, but I do love the architecture of gothic cathedrals. It is certainly worth a visit and on par in impressiveness with more famous European cathedrals.

Second Stop was a rather overcrowded, and unremarkable Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. As a kid, I used to go to New York just to get a glimpse of this tree and it especially stuck in my mind as the icon of Christmas because of Home Alone 2. It was a huge let down to see the centre packed with people making it almost impossible to get a good picture of the tree. Not to mention I was all that impressed with the colour scheme for the tree for this particular year.

We didn’t see the point of spending too much time at the Rockefeller Center and elected to warm up a little before moving on to other parts of the city. My sister decided it was time we check out the Nintendo store because it was absolutely frigid out there.

A Short Break at the “World’s Largest Bookstore”:

We hung out at Barnes and Noble for a good amount of time that afternoon just browsing books. Not often that we go to the bookstore just to hangout. Just comes to show how bookstores are really not what they used to be or rather the people visiting aren’t quite what they used to be 🙂 .

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Light Snack @ The Two Tablespoons

Having walked almost 6 miles in the cold, we decided it was time to get a bite to eat. We had some big dinner plans, but it turned out that we weren’t going to last that long. Luckily we stumbled upon the Vanderbilt Urbanspace, where there was a wide selection of food stalls. A couple of the stalls caught our eye, but we finally settled on The Two Tablespoons, which is a vegetarian burger joint:

We ordered a “smoky beet burger with BBQ Sauce”, and easily ranks as one of my favorite veggie burgers. It was a splendid change up from the black bean burgers that most places offer. The best part about the stall was of course was that everything was vegetarian! I highly recommend dropping by when you are near Times Square or Midtown Manhattan.


 

Bryant Park – Christmas Markets

After taking a brief nap, we headed out on a mission to cover the Christmas markets before we were ready for our dinner appointment. As soon as we stepped out, it started snowing. Having lived in Texas for almost 16 years, it really brought back childhood memories of walking on the streets of Philly. I  realized just how much I really miss snow that actually sticks to the ground.

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Nothing feels more like Christmas than walking through Bryant Park. The park hosts one of the most well known Christmas markets in the U.S and hosts hundreds of boutique shops, an ice rink, and a gigantic christmas tree.

Though I found the shops themselves don’t offer too many unique goods, when comparing it to their European counterparts, there is no shortage in holiday spirit. Simply put: a walk through Bryant Park while it is snowing is pretty much the highlight of a visit to New York during the holiday season.


Dinner @ Vatan NYC

Vatan Indian Restaurant
409 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

After enjoying the holiday spirit at Bryant Park, my sister and I took an Uber to Vatan to meet up with family for dinner. This is usually our go to Indian restaurant in the City, and is a $34, all you can eat, vegetarian restaurant. The meal consists of 3 courses, and each is served directly to your table. You can have as much as you would like of any particular item that you may like on their fixed menu. Ambiance has a very village style to it, and the restaurant is quite spacious given its prime location in Midtown Manhattan.

Food was fantastic as usual, but service left a little to be desired. One of the waiters dropped some food on Sasidhar’s lap, and just ran off scared or perhaps embarrassed from the whole ordeal. Management (or what appeared to be management) came by and cleaned up the mess without offering a single apology. Though we let management know that it wasn’t a big deal, the guy who was serving us, wasn’t to be seen again that night. I hope he kept his job because accidents do happen!

Anyway bottom line: perhaps the best vegetarian restaurant in town and maybe even the best Indian food in NYC. At $34 per head, I would say it is quite reasonably priced compared to some of the other places of equal quality.


Roaming Grand Central

After dinner, Sasidhar and I pretty much roamed Grand Central and Midtown for a really long time until we were too tired to walk any farther. I won’t add more pictures here from that walk because they can be found in our Focal Point: Grand Central post and other posts coming up.

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NYC Public Library

The next morning we visited the NY Public Library after having breakfast at Pershing Square Cafe. Established in 1895, the New York Public Library is the second largest library in the U.S (behind Library of Congress), and fourth largest in the world. Surprisingly it wasn’t too busy on this particular morning and we were able to get a very good amount of time in the recently refurbished Rose Reading Room.

If you want to check out some Christmas decor and old world ambiance, look no further than the front foyer of the library. There are tons of photo opportunities at every turn.


We walked around for a while more on the streets of New York before it was almost time for the sun to set. Oh yeah we also had a rather unmemorable, and expensive meal at Candle 79. It is supposed to be one of the best places in New York, but we found the place rather overrated.

                               View of Midtown Manhattan, just before the hairpin turn into the Lincoln Tunnel

Bottom Line:

There are very few cities in the United States, comparable to those of Europe, with the history, culture, architecture, and uniqueness of New York. It probably represents American culture way better than any other city that comes to mind. Christmas in the Big Apple is a large part of that American culture and what we hear and dream about throughout our childhoods. It really shares a special place in most of our hearts and is truly one of those must have experiences in one’s lifetime.

That pretty much concludes our trip to New York. There’s nothing like leaving the City and taking in that view just after leaving the Lincoln Tunnel. That view never gets old.


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Have you been to New York City during Christmas? Does it evoke any childhood memories?