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Christmas in New York: Part 2

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In Christmas Part 1, I gave you a brief summary of our itinerary and slagged the possibility of contracting something awful from the subway.

In this instalment of the wonderful Christmasy world of New York,  I’m going to talk about my experience at Rolf’s restaurant and Paddy Maquire’s Ale House.

First of all, let’s talk about Rolf’s. it’s as over-the-top as you imagine. I mean, take a look at this;

 

This was my first and last Christmas trip to Rolf’s. It was one of those destinations that leave you feeling glad you did it once, but a little deflated at the same time.  The mass of decorations in photos like I’m sharing with you here give the impression that the restaurant is big enough to accommodate crowds. It is not.  It’s a tiny little space like all of the other tiny little spaces in NYC.

When I made my reservation ( in September ), I was told that each person dining MUST order an entree, and that seatings were only for one hour. Considering each meal is big enough to serve at least two people, you can’t complain about the cost. Ridiculously large, isn’t really my style. If you go and don’t order the potato pancakes, what’s really the point? And the black forest cake. If you’re gonna do it, so it right, right?

No wine list offered, but $18.00 for a 5oz glass of house plonk, really is gouging. The heat generated from all of the guests crammed uncomfortably close under a zillion lights made the hour-long giant meal uncomfortable at best.

If you want to see Rolf’s, save yourself a load of cash, and line up first thing in the morning to get into the bar area for a drink. They seat you so tightly, that standing shoulder to shoulder while sipping an overpriced Christmas cocktail seems to be the best

choice to observe this NYC Christmas landmark.

Just down the street is Paddy Maguire’s Ale House.  I happened upon this gem while waiting for my table at Rolf’s.

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I have to admit that I’m a pub girl. Irish blood runs in these veins, and there’s nothing like a good pour at an Irish pub to warm  you up from the inside out. Plus, there are always friendly regulars.

Drinks were reasonable, service was excellent, and the decorations were both bountiful and welcoming.

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If you ever find yourself lucky enough to be in the city during the holidays, Rolf’s and Paddy Maguire’s are both a must see.  Although I appreciate the effort, and commitment to wowing the Christmas crowd’s at Rolf’s, it definitely costs. It’s a one-time-visit versus a multi-visit-I-wish-I-lived-close-enought-to-be-a-regular at Paddy Maquire’s.

The rest of the NYC Christmas Extravaganza can be found here.

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Christmas in New York: Part 1

Trish Taking Pic of Tree

That’s a picture of me taking a picture of ‘THE TREE’.  Photo credit to my friend Bobby who made his way from Queens for a visit in Bryant Park, and then hung in for a walking tour which pitched us down the heralding-angeled-chute of Rockafeller Centre toward the big tree.

My sweetie referred to the crowd gathered as a cult, and almost went into full drowning-panic mode trying to get the hell out of our North American Christmas mecca.

As I write this, I’m watching, “Extreme Christmas Trees”. My gifts are already wrapped, and I’m feeling full-on-merry.  I think that visiting New York City last week has a lot to do with it.

Our first stop was at Bryant Park to meet up with friends. It was also adjacent to the New York City Library where our evening tour of the famous store windows would start.   I ‘do‘ Christmas every year. Always have, always will.

The Macy’s windows this year brought tears to my eyes. On one side of the building, they told the story of Virginia O’Hanlon. I’m named after Virginia O’Hanlonwho wrote the famed response from the editor of the New York Sun that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.  Be prepared for a story if you ask me why then, is my name not Virginia…it’s a long story that involves genetics predisposed to alcoholism and shenanigans.

The Sak’s light display was breathtaking, and the Bergdorf Windows were over-the-top.  We visited the plaza hotel, had a carriage ride through Central Park,and made it (unwittingly) in to the middle of the memorial of the 39th anniversary of John Lennon’s death in the Strawberry Fields at Central Park, across from the Dakota hotel. I tried to spot Yoko, but it ‘was dark,and everyone was bundled up.

We ate at Rolf’s, walked our asses off and got the requisite photos at Radio City Music Hall and in front of the giant, red balls in the Chase fountain.  We shopped on Canal street. It really is the giant, dirty heart of the consumer beast that has ruined our civilization…I managed to score a few bargains, and question my own ethics as a consumer.  I bought a knock-off, got my aura photographed and read (dead on by the way, and totally worth the thirty bucks. Magic Jewelry is truly a ‘hidden’ gem and a bastion of tranquility within the hustle and bustle of NYC).

Mulberry Street in Little Italy is a pocket of lights and merriment. Street vendors offer mouth-watering roasted nuts, fresh nougat, and cannoli. And by the time you make to all of these places, your immune system will be either fortified or completely destroyed by the subway system, and your feet will be wrecked.

But it’s all worth it.  At least once.

Let me tell you about Rolf’s.

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Christmas Is:One Part of a Busy Life

Champagne TowerMy fiance was not prepared for this. After putting a two-and-a-half carat ring on my finger and whisking me away on a romantic vacation, he had the strange idea that I’d just keep staring at the ring, and not dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s of venue and vendor contracts.

It’s just my nature.

We’ve both been drinking more.  In fact, I’m currently out of red wine and praying that when he rolls in from the gym that he has a ginormous brown bag under his arm disguising a big, juicy bottle or two from California. Preferably a gulpable blend of cab, shiraz, and maybe a splash of merlot. I’m not fussy, but I am a lush.

My eyes are strained from computer use. Pinterest and custom stationary sites have me stuck to my laptop.  My sweetie is looking for his cheque book to avoid ridiculous credit card fees. My son’s girlfriend who is a touch more au courant than this old gal has been indispensable when it comes to sourcing make-up artists, photographers and dresses. She’s humouring me, and winning a crazy amount of mom-points.

I’m not sure she was counting on an almost-in-law who had a penchant for sequins, pearls and ostrich feathers though.  I’m sure she cringes at the dresses I send to her, hoping she might wiggle into one and hop on the bandwagon of glitter and shimmy.

On top of wanting to have all the big items booked for the big day, I have two major holidays coming up before Christmas, and a major surgery to get through. All of this in less than two months.

He’ll be on wine duty, so long as I take care of all of the other details. And that makes the relationship work.

I spent the entire day fussing over wedding details while baking Christmas treats to take to our Christmas at the Cottage family getaway.  And then my sweetie texted requesting our Christmas in New York Extravaganza itinerary.

I’m a planner by nature. As a funeral director, I’m basically an event planner on a turbo-charged schedule who can pass top level anatomical dissection, pathology, microbiology, and chemistry while wearing two-inch heals, an ugly uniform and an empathetic smile.

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As the full time vacation planner in the relationship, I have our itineraries researched and down to the nearest metro stop, secluded cenote, and best time not to be in a line-up for too long. I lassoed reservations in September for hard to get into NYC restaurants during the Christmas season, tickets to the Fort Worth Rodeo between football games, and a first day in France schedule that brought my sweetie up from our first metro stop to the best view in the city.  I plan shit. That’s what I do.

Weddings on the other hand aren’t something I’m too familiar with.  I’ve never been a wedding person. I’ve alway been a party-girl though, so I’m taking that approach.  And fabulous parties take planning.

From the language on the invitation to the details of decor, every element of a great party has to be dazzling. It has to be dedicated to a theme, delicious, boozy, artistically lit, most of all, welcoming for everyone. If all else fails, we’re starting with champagne reception and having an open bar…how bad can it be?

In the mean time, there are gifts to wrap, passports to find, bags to pack, unpack, and pack again, treats to bake, and weight to lose. Seriously.

If, like me, you have a lot on your plate this year during the holidays, I wish you some quiet moments to appreciate everything that’s good in your life.

 

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Air Travel for the Commoner

AirTravel CaribbeanThere are few things better than being cramped in a flying-death-trap with a gaggle of strangers who lack common sense and manners.  A PAP test and  mammogram are much less uncomfortable, and take a fraction of the time.

Most recently I witnessed an individual wearing a, “WORK IS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T DIVE”, shirt waltz down the aisle of a package-vacation aircraft with every imaginable piece of kitchen survival clipped to their camo-pants. There was a phone, a travel mug, travel pillow and an assortment of acoutrements jangling. We were all coming from a beach vacation for crying out loud. Chill out MacGyver. Another person followed, travel pillow, purse, iPad, hat and carry on in tow. As she swung around looking for space in the overhead, she clobbered someone in the head with her purse.

This delicate ballet continued as people kept boarding. I was fascinated by the lack of decorum, and complete disregard for other passengers. This has become a typical experience when it comes to package vacation carriers.

As a teenager sitting in my boyfriend’s living room, his very proper Irish father reacted to a belch or some other such masculine roar by calmly telling us that as we aged, we would appreciate small manners that added up to civilized society. I’ve aged. I appreciate it.

During my last experience with a trans-atlantic flight, I experienced the most absurd rushing to board I have ever seen, with a line-up forming an hour prior to boarding. What resulted was an irritated mob of unorganized boarding-a lovely way to begin an eight hour forced confinement. I’m convinced it was because people were vying for overhead compartment space.

airplaneMy most recent experience with air travel have been interesting to say the least. No, I cannot boast surviving a terrifying emergency landing like a friend and colleague.  I have never been privileged enough to witness a mid-flight take down of an irate passenger, and on the other end of the spectrum, I have also have never been graciously upgraded because I’m an obedient, no fuss traveller.

I did however witness the trio of women who swung their luggage around like a cat by the tail, spill red wine on themselves and the passengers behind them while laughing loud enough to keep everyone awake on the plane. Combined with the guy behind us who coughed up snot throughout the entire journey, it was a five hour exercise in patience.

Alas, I have been around long enough to witness the complete decline in etiquette and common sense when it comes to air travel. Perhaps it’s because the real estate inside aircraft has become more valuable. Overhead bins have become kind of like the condo market in Toronto – you know, people throwing money at 400 square feet like it’s an estate home on five acres. It’s all getting smaller and demand is exponentially rising.

Please, I beg of you, the next time you arrive at the gate, leave your ego behind, get in, sit down, and don’t be an asshole.

 

 

 

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What You Need to Know About Paris

 

First of all, you need to know that I love Paris. Like: Love as-in-I-would-move-there-tonight-with-nothing-but-a-carry-on-kind-of-love. Looooooove…..

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Recently I was asked by an acquaintance to send some information about my most recent holiday in the City of Light. It took me forever to get back to her. Mainly because I knew just how into it I would get, and therefor how much time it would take me to compose an email as full of useful information as I could muster with all of the enthusiasm I have for the city. I enjoyed every.single.second.

I went on about my favourite places, included links and maps, tips and tricks, and loads of my very own opinion. Which, of course, the world needs more of.

paris cafeYes, I adore all of the idiosyncrisies of the French. This includes terrible and rude (if not also terribly rude) service and their casual sense of elegance.  I love the tiny streets of Montmartre with the colourful shops squeezed together like hippies on a road trip. I love the billionaire-on-a-budget attitude of St. Germain, the connection to great artists I feel when I sink into the reading nooks on the second floor of Shakespeare and Company, and the thrum of those places where new worlds collide and your footsteps become unsure.

Had I only been able to make one suggestion to her though about getting a feel for what to expect, it would be this;

Find a lovely scarf which is slightly too long to wield delicately, and get thee to a crowded outdoor patio in the spring time. Order wine or coffee and a tiny glass of water, and no matter what the menu, expect an exquisite presentation of deliciously prepared food. All of this served to you by the most disinterested and apathetic server that you can imagine while your scarf blows in the wind like a prop from an Audrey Hepburn movie.

Welcome to Paris.

 

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Coffee Shops – Getting Your Money’s Worth

balzac guelphToday I got to visit my Mumster.

Visits with my Mumster usually are bittersweet because it means that I’ve just dropped of my kiddo again. Hey, you win some, you lose some, but I’m grateful for my time with both.

This year I want to experience new places in the cities that I frequent the most.

Increasing  my repertoire of coffee shops is a sure fire way to do just that. It will also lend itself to more visits with friends, and more laid back writing time.

I finally got to Balzac’s in Guelph . I sent the address to Mumster, and she and her manster met me there. As with all new places, finding parking can be an adventure, but today it was a grand adventure.

It was as if I found a whole new nerd world. The best parking was across the road from The Round Table, what appeared to me to be a completely geeked out bar. I have absolutely no clue what any of the board games are that they offer, but it looks so cool that I may recruit a geek friend to take me and train me.

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Also, there was the Medieval Gaming Academy. You know, with axe throwing and the like, but aptly named for a university town. I was admiring the confident, postured pace of two gamers (I’m not sure which establishment they were coming from). The two of them moved with the masculine grace of knights, they carried themselves with a kind of ancient chivalry. Any onlooker could assume they were serious about being part of the round table and medieval gaming community. Fine specimens of men they were; fit, firm, with long flowing hair that only the most masculine of men can carry off. It’s the kind of hair that women fantasize about tumbling onto their neck while making love…  That’s as far as the illusion went. It was shattered quickly when they loaded themselves into a brand new grey, four-door Mazda. There endeth my brief infatuation with Mr. Stand-Erect-Long-Haired-Gaming-Geek.

My muster missed this part. She was already on her way home, but I wished we could have shared the moment together. It’s one of those moments you either get one another’s sense of humour or you don’t. It’s these brief moments of connection that make all relationships memorable. The simple ones that happen at coffee shops all over the world.

These are the same moments my son and I share with a quick glance when we know what one another  is thinking before  anyone else could even guess.

These extraordinary moments…all for the price of a coffee and a google map.

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Paris-It’s a Love/Hate Kind of City-Part 2

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As you read in Paris Part 1, I have a bias toward Paris, so let me start there;

The French, like any nation/culture have their own way of doing things. A way of eating, drinking and socializing that has earned them a place in history as gracious host to a generation of writers and artists who shaped the western cultural world. I can respect that.

Merci pour la petite cafe.

What I cannot respect, regardless of where I am, or who I’m interacting with, is rudeness.

As much as I love, love, love Paris, my most recent visit was a much different experience than that of years ago.

In general I find that human interaction during our day-to-day interactions lacks patience, empathy and kindness. More often than not, whether I am the client or the professional, people tend to express an inflated sense of entitlement and lack basic manners. The elements of civilization have been lost, and it shows in Paris.

Wait staff,  famous for snooty service throughout recent history, were stretched too thin, and much less charmingly rude as they were flat out over-worked.

This is a global phenomenon rather than a French one in my opinion. The world is becoming more economically divided, with access to security much less attainable. Consumer appetite for more, more, more has replaced any sense of spirituality, and everything is expected at the speed of our mobile browsers. We have lost our appetite for connection as our appetite as consumers has grown.

moveable feastParis is a city locked into a nostalgic identity. That’s why we flock there. We are there to see the places where great artists and writers were inspired, lived, worked, and sacrificed for their art. We are not there for the reality of out modern world.

Like any tourist destination the line-ups, pick-pocketing and general collection of human grime is inevitable. The airbrushed photos of the modern city set us up to try to create an unattainable reality, kind of like the airbrushed photos of Beyonce’s thighs.

We like the image of people relaxing on patio cafes, sipping coffee or wine, talking about ideas and art and sensual pleasures, but we find it almost impossible to embody this lifestyle. Addiction to our mobile phones and giant paper-cups full of coffee is a cultural phenomenon unto itself, but it is not compatible with our nostalgic idealism of Paris.  And this is why some people hate it there.

My partner described the city as Disney for Adults. Travel has become a collection of passport stamps rather than an experience. Line-up upon line-up of people at historical sites were more concerned with trying to take instagram-worthy photos than enjoying the actual experience. Watching this, I thought that handing out Valium and wine at the ticket booth would likely make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable for everyone. Even I got tired of my own posts with classic images of the city strategically placed in the background.

The idea of a person or place is often not the same as the reality.

The romance of Paris is like a real romance. Quite often we delight in the potential of our partner, but can’t acknowledge the reality; they’re a shitty person. With regard to Paris, we love it, but personalities don’t always mesh with a city so romanticized by history.

Personally, I can linger over a tiny coffee or scrumptious glass of wine all afternoon while writing or daydreaming, or being engaged in discussions about what matters to me in life; happiness, love, the creative process. For others, slowing down and living the ideal is a much harder thing to do.