Friday, December 24, 2010

Another Visitor? Bring It On!

I told you yesterday that I bid farewell to my sister as she departed Port Authority on a 3:45 p.m. bus. As I have never had the bus take much more than an hour from Port Authority to JFK, I figured we were being rather conservative with that bus time, considering her flight wasn't until 6:20 p.m. So, I went back to my apartment and did some more prep for Aunt Debbie's arrival later that evening.

Around 5:40, I got a text from Heather saying, "Doesn't look good. Still not at the airport." Oh no! She dozed off on the bus ride so didn't know exactly what the problem was, but it seems traffic was so bad that it took her two and a half hours to get to the airport, and she was too late to check her bag for her flight so she had to rebook. Do you believe that? But that is only the beginning of poor Heather's saga.

Delta is exceptionally inefficient at JFK, as we learned during our Budapest debacle. Heather waited for some time in a line to rebook, only to be told she had to go across the street to another line. That line barely moved for literally hours. I even found another person on Twitter in the same line, who was complaining that the Delta counter only helped 1-2 people per hour. Heather waited in line there for nearly three hours - about as long as her flight would have taken! Finally she got to the front, and because she had to be at work ASAP the next morning, her only option was to rebook on a 7:50 a.m. flight out of Laguardia for $200. Do you believe that?! She bought a whole new flight! The poor girl had no cell phone reception so could not call Delta herself (which is why she just had to wait), and had she had a chance to call me from the counter I would have searched and just found her an earlier flight on another airline. As it was, her boyfriend found a flight that would have left Friday night on JetBlue (LOVE JetBlue) for only $230, but Heather didn't realize Delta would cost so much and by the time she found that out, she had just had enough. So she rebooked and got in a cab back to my apartment.

By this time Debbie's delayed flight had arrived and I retrieved her from Port Authority (her bus ride was uneventful and timely). We came back to my apartment and ate some of the chili I had prepared and drank wine. Heather arrived soon after, so distraught, poor thing! We fixed her up with a big ol' glass of wine and some food and spent the night drinking heavily and talking. I was so sorry for Heather's whole ordeal, although it was nice to get extra time with her! But oh, what a mess.

Heather got up and left at 5:00 a.m. by cab for Laguardia the next morning. I knew it should only take her about a half hour to get there at that time of day, but she wasn't taking any chances. Sure enough, this time everything went very smoothly and she was at her gate by 6:00 a.m., nearly two hours early for her flight. But, she finally made it home. I'm so sorry for all the trouble, Heather!

Meanwhile, Debbie and I had a leisurely morning on Saturday and set out to sight-see around 1:00 p.m. We started with a subway ride down to 34th Street to check out the Macy's window displays.

Macy's, with the Believe Meter at the bottom

Tree on the front of Macy's, and the good old Empire State Building!

Macy's has two sets of displays: one depicting scenes from Miracle on 34th Street, and another apparently made almost entirely out of brightly colored (and brilliantly crafted) paper, depicting the story of "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!" Both were just charming and very well done. Bravo, Macy's.

Christmas Spirit at Macy's!

Letters to Santa on the judge's desk, from Miracle on 34th Street

New York Sun editor responding to little Virginia's question - if it says it in the Sun, it must be so!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

We also stopped inside Macy's for a few minutes to check out their indoor decorations and Christmas shop on the top floor.

View of Macy's ground floor from the escalator

Christmas tree on the top floor of Macy's

After leaving Macy's we went north on Fifth Avenue to Lord & Taylor to continue our window display tour. Their displays were possibly my favorite! They had New Yorkers submit their favorite Christmas memories via email and Facebook, and then depicted their 12 favorites in their store windows. It was a great look at how people celebrate today, and how they have celebrated over the course of the past 100 years. The detail was exquisite and the display as a whole was just delightful.

People in line for the Lord & Taylor window displays

One of the windows depicting someone's memory - this person recalled how her grandmother was a fabulous seamstress and made dresses for her mother and her sisters. She now buys new Christmas dresses for her daughters to carry on the tradition, and her girls even dress up their dog Rocky!

A clever recorded memory!

In this scene, the kids were making cookies a the table (while the family beagle looked for scraps on the floor), and the mother opened the fridge to reveal a snowman!

We then continued north to Bryant Park, where we made a quick pass through the shops before stopping for soup at Hale & Hearty. (Noticing a pattern?) We then went over to Grand Central, where I showed Aunt Debbie the Whispering Gallery and we wandered through those shops a bit. We then continued on to Rockefeller Center, where we fought our way through the insane crowds to check out the tree and the promenade.

Aunt Debbie with the Rockefeller Center tree

Aunt Debbie wanted to go to Top of the Rock, so we got our tickets for that and went on up to try to catch the sunset. I was so pleasantly surprised that 1) it was not very windy so not excruciatingly cold up at the top, and 2) it was much less crowded than the last time I went up there. I definitely did not expect either of those things to be the case! We spent some time up there enjoying the view. I always love going up to Top of the Rock - that and the Brooklyn Bridge are the two things I never get tired of taking our guests to do!

Looking downtown from the 70th floor

Sunset over New Jersey

Times Square

With Aunt Debbie at Top of the Rock

We then went back down to the Plaza, where stopped in the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop for some shopping. At this point Aunt Debbie had the idea that we could go for frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, so I called to see what the wait time was. There is always a wait there, so I was expecting an hour and a half, maybe even two hours. But no. THREE HOURS. Pass!

We made our way back out into the Plaza to take some more pictures. Let me tell you - I have never seen it crowded like this (with the exception of the Tree Lighting). It was just wall-to-wall people. You just crammed in and shuffled along. It was absolutely brutal. I am so glad it wasn't like that when Heather was here too, or I might not have been able to motivate myself to go back there again with Aunt Debbie. It was just awful.

Sure, it's pretty, but do you see the crowds?

People in line for ice skating

But, if you don't let the crowds get to you (and if you figure out how to do that, please let me know), the whole area is still very pretty. We hung out in the promenade for pictures and to watch the new light show on the side of Saks, which I was not super impressed with. I much prefer the version I have enjoyed for the last two years, which was my most favorite decoration in the city. So, I am disappointed in this change, but what can you do?

Angels on the promenade

VIDEO: "The Snowflake and the Bubble" on Saks

Another look at the tree

After the light show we went out to Sixth Avenue so I could show Aunt Debbie the big ornaments and big Christmas lights. Again, the crowds were INSANE. Where did all you people come from?!

Radio City

The ornaments

The light bulbs

The crowds. UGH.

We then made our way home, stopping for some groceries and Crumbs cupcakes along the way. We spent the rest of the night relaxing with chili, wine, and conversation.

Sunday morning we got up and went to church, where Aunt Debbie's sister Lori met us. We worshipped together, then came back to my apartment for brunch. Aunt Debbie put together a wonderful spread: two types of cheese, crackers, sausage, pepperoni, fruit, toffee, pain au chocolat (crescent rolls with chocolate chips in them), and of course, mimosas. Delicious!

The table

Aunt Debbie and Lori

After brunch we went out to do a little sightseeing once again. We walked through the south end of Central Park, past Wollman Rink and the Bridge. We came out at Fifth Avenue and walked over to Barney's so Aunt Debbie could see the window displays, then back to Fifth. We stopped briefly in the Plaza, and paused to look at the Bergdorf Goodman windows again. Then we continued down Fifth so Aunt Debbie could see the rest of the decor.

Christmas tree inside the Plaza

Looking south on Fifth. I love the giant snowflake hanging over the street!

Trump Tower looking festive

We stopped briefly in St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was decorated with lovely wreaths. We also stopped into Saks, which was gorgeous. It was decorated like a winter wonderland, with all white and silver, except for one mannequin in a stunning red gown.

Wreaths on the columns in St. Patrick's

Decor in Saks

Lori was so generous and treated us (and two of her nieces) to the 5 p.m. show of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, so we met up with her nieces Kristen and Ashley for the show. Once again, the show was great and everyone loved it!

3D glasses with Aunt Debbie!


One of my favorites - the Wooden Soldiers


Santa's workshop

The Living Nativity

After the show Lori went back home to New Jersey, but Kristen and Ashley accompanied us to Columbus Circle. We wandered through the holiday market there, then went inside to see the light show. Debbie loved it! Then, we said goodbye to the girls and went back to my apartment.

That night we had some nice conversations via Skype with my mom and my cousin Molly, then were off to bed!

The next morning we got up and got ready, and I took Aunt Debbie to Port Authority around 11:30. She had no trouble getting to the airport on time (again, I'm sorry, Heather!). Eric's timing worked out just about right that he got to Port Authority on his way home from Florida right when I was dropping Aunt Debbie off, so we met up there and walked home together.

It was a great visit, Aunt Debbie! Come back any time! And everyone else - you're always welcome!


AD said...

Thanks, Meghan -- I loved it all!

Becky said...

I'm coming next year if it kills me!