Intermission II: The LA Tourist Speaks

I asked my sister, Katherine, to list her LA: Top 5. Being a first timer in the city, I’m not surprised that she responded with the following:

1. Hiking to the Hollywood Sign.

2. Walking Hollywood Boulevard.

3. Driving through Orange County – to Laguna Beach and San Clemente.

4. Exploring Beverly Hills and witnessing everything it is known for – the Lamborghinis; the brand name stores – Gucci, Prada; Rodeo Drive…

5. Drinking a Moroccan mint matcha latte at Urth Caffe in Santa Monica.

Though I’m a resident of LA, even I get excited when I glimpse the Pacific Ocean’s shimmer on a sunny day, take a Star Line tour of Hollywood stars’ homes, and hopscotch the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While Kath’s Top 5 may read like that of a guidebook, it’s a worthy list that reminds me that all that glitters in LA really is gold to the tourist.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

Hollywood Sign c/o the iphone

Hollywood Sign c/o the iPhone

Top of the Sign

Top of the Sign

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Looking over LA

Kath looking over LA

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Lucille Ball's old home

Lucille Ball’s old home in Beverly Hills

Bijan's Bugatti

Bijan’s million+ Bugatti on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive

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Tourists

Tourists

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Oz premiere on Hollywood Blvd

Oz premiere on Hollywood Blvd

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Chilling at the pool at the Loews Hotel hollywood

Chilling at the pool at the Loews Hotel Hollywood

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

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Warming the fingertips - Montage Hotel Laguna Beach

Warming the fingertips – Montage Hotel Laguna Beach

Photo Shoot at Treasure Island Park, Laguna Beach

Photo Shoot at Treasure Island Park, Laguna Beach

The Pacific

The Pacific

San Clemente - through Katherine's rose coloured glasses

San Clemente – through Katherine’s rose coloured glasses

My sis, Kath, with her fave Moroccan Mint matcha drink at Urth Caffe

My sis, Kath, with her fave Moroccan Mint matcha drink at Urth Caffe

Happy Holidays! xoxo New York City

The Norway spruce that decorates Rockefeller Center this year is 74-foot tall; it is decorated in 30,000 colored lights and topped with a Swarovski star. Though the Rockefeller Christmas tree looks similar from year to year, give or take a few feet in height, each tree to have graced the plaza has told a different story of its origin. The 2011 tree was not selected per the usual application process, as it was scouted by the Rockefeller Center’s head gardener on a property in Mifflinville, PA whilst driving along the I-80 freeway. The tree now stands proudly in the middle of Manhattan, admired not only by its owners (albeit in a different light) but also by throngs of visitors at any one time. This is just one example of the preparation and energy that goes into the creating the Christmas  experience in Manhattan.

Christmas time at Rockefeller Center

Manhattan is one of the best places to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, and there’s no doubt that NYC puts on a great show for its visitors and residents. It inspires department store pilgrimages (for the shopping as well as the window displays); ice skating excursions to the renowned rinks at Central Park and Rockefeller Center; Christmas market hopping – from Union Square, and all the way up to Columbus Circle – where you can drink hot apple cider whilst perusing the stalls that sell all sorts of beautifully made handicrafts, intricate fine jewelry, artworks, and everything else in between. As I have discovered over the years – two, three, even four days is not enough to experience the city during this time of year. Despite any compulsive planning that may have been undertaken prior to the trip, there will always something to catch your eye and veer you off of a scrupulously mapped course. I recommend setting aside at least one week to experience New York in its holiday splendor. Unless it’s just gift shopping you’re after – then, a long weekend will suffice.

Inspiration for the gift list...!

The original Magnolia Bakery in the West Village

Having been brought up in Australia, I have never much cared for a chilly Christmas season, with or without snow. I’ll take the festive season in summery Sydney any day. Sure, I understand that a hot Christmas may seem strange to many people – after all, even I think that a decked out Santa Claus is more believable in chillier climates – though as I get older, it’s more about being with my family and creating memories, than anything else. Christmas time, for me, equates to beach weather and long, hot days; indulging in barbequed everything – grilled squid, charred lamb chops, sizzling meat patties – while relaxing in the backyard; enjoying the company of family and friends on rooftop bars, overlooking beautiful Sydney, a glass of Verdelho in hand. I always seem to take a trip to Oz in the middle of the year, and haven’t experienced a Christmas at home in a long while.

"What Katz's is to pastrami, City Bakery is to hot chocolate." New York Magazine

Ice Skating at The Standard Hotel ice rink, as seen for the High Line

As it’s not a matter of going big or going home (my adopted home of NYC always delivers for the holiday season!), I do embrace the result of months worth of festive preparations made by the city. Whether braving the crowds that descend upon Midtown Manhattan, or during a stroll through the calmer parts of the city – be it Greenwich Village or the Upper East Side – it’s easy to spot coloured fairy lights prettying up balconies and storefronts; decorated Christmas trees or Chanukah candles framed by windows; wreaths hanging from doors and adorning brick walls that would otherwise stand bare. It’s a time when each neighbourhood equally embraces the festive season and an underlying theme of embellishment: now, less defined by their individual ‘hood appeal, and more unified in making Manhattan look like one very well decorated and brightly lit Christmas grid.

A Christmas tree

Beautiful West Village

This year being no different, I set the nostalgia aside and took some time to explore New York City in its lead up to Christmas. En route, I became happily reacquainted with New York’s charm despite the droves: the beauty is in its street scapes and their everyday activity. This is the very reason I fell in love with New York City in the first place.

The Strand book stall lines Central Park, Fifth Avenue

A pianist in Washington Square Park

Here is a charting of a festive few days around and about, with some of that old New York charm thrown in. Enjoy!

Wall Street's barricaded Christmas tree

Christmas and hope soldier on in the midst of construction at Ground Zero

Lights against Chinatown

Delights at Dean & Deluca

Washington Square Park Christmas Tree (Empire State Building in the distance)

Fiddlesticks on Greenwich Avenue

Part of the Tiles for America fence (Greenwich Ave and Mulry Square)

Simply decorated

View from the High Line at night

View of the High Line at night

See my post here for daytime images: Above it all: Manhattan’s High Line.

Dinner by a crackling fire

Macy's

Merry Christmas from Tudor Place

Christmas decorations as New York Public Library

Candy Tree at Dylan's Candy Bar Pop Up Shop

A 'wreathed' and bustling Grand Central Terminal

Toy Soldiers

Celebrity ornaments by Christopher Radko, exclusively for Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's window

Louis Vuitton for Bloomingdale's

Lady Gaga, for Barneys

Gaga's Crystal Cave at Barneys

Gaga's Boudoir at Barneys

The Plaza Hotel across from Central Park

Bergdorf Goodman, mirror/crystal window

Bergdorf Goodman, paper window

Avant-garde, haute couture, reflections at Bergdorf Goodman

Bergdorf Goodman, metallic window

Shopping at Tiffany & Co

Star light, star bright... make that wish on Fifth Avenue

Have a Happy and Safe Holiday!