Saturday, December 22, 2012

Columbus Circle holiday market, The Plaza and the store fronts of Fifth Avenue

Our last day in New York, and we were going to make the most of it.

We checked out and put our bags in storage, till we would be heading to the airport that evening, and started to walk up 8th Avenue for breakfast, and then on to Columbus Circle. Belinda had read about a holiday market that was to be set up in the Columbus Circle corner of the park.

The market took up a decent sized area, with a combination of handicraft items, food items and the odd mass produced item. It was an interesting mix of merchants, each with their own story to tell.

I spoke with the ladies of Article 22 who told me about the history of the jewelery in their booth. Products were made of aluminum, from the over 250 million bombs that were dropped in Laos in the 1960's by the US military, and now the local farmers have reclaimed and reused the metal to make artisan projects, for the purpose of village redevelopments with proceeds also going towards the clearance of unexploded bombs. I bought a set of three Peace Bomb bracelets.

Belinda and I spent some time in the booth of, where women of Nepal, have created felted and woolen projects to support a woman's coop for abused women. I bought a long felted chain with a Snowman and Santa tucked into it. At, women from Thailand  had created animals out of old telephone books and newspapers. I bought this funky little porcupine critter that will hold business cards, or simply be a fridge magnet. The creativity just blew me away. I had never seen telephone books recycled in such a manner before. There were the usual felted Christmas ornaments in booths, but the felted fuschia reindeer from the "craftspring" women of Kazakhstan made me smile so much that I had to buy a few for my tree this year. The enticing macaroons from the Vendome people also ended up in my hand make shopping bag from the I bought a six pack of pistachio and vanilla flavored ones. They told me that they had to be eaten within one week — as if that was an issue?

Off we wandered east along Central Park south, skimming the bottom of the park, towards The Plaza hotel. I really wanted to skate in Central Park, finally, on this trip, but the weather was just not cooperating. It was far too warm and drizzling to even want to go out onto the ice. Alas, this little desire of skating in Central Park has eluded me for many years now. One day.

The Plaza was decked out in all the splendor of the season festooned on every corner. We wandered in the main doors off the 58th street entrance and were handed a little map, telling us the "holiday happenings" and where they were located in the hotel. We wandered by the famous Palm Court restaurant, past the portrait of "Eloise" and down the escalators to the "Food Hall." This was new. I didn't even realize the Plaza had a food hall, and what a find it was. There was not only a food hall in the lower level, but different stores from Eloise items, to jewellery, to Santa waiting to have his photo taken. The food hall had recently opened, and chef Todd English had a restaurant and his food items also for sale there. We noticed that French food and packaging were big here. I saw one pastry tin, that could have been a twin for a biscuterie tin I purchased in Montmartre earlier this year. The desserts looked so enticing, but we resisted. This place was a beehive of activity, with a queue to get into the restaurant. I coveted a very pretty panetone that was for sale, until I heard the price, $35, and was happy to have my Tres Marie panetone waiting for me at home. I bought a book here, "A very New York Christmas." There were charming illustrations of all the New York hot spots throughout the book, and the illustrator happened to be in the lower level this day, and signed my book for me.

From there we wandered down fifth avenue taking in all the window displays. Well some weren't just window displays, but displays on their windows. The Bergdorf picture windows had a Folies Bergere theme happening, which, like the Bloomies' window, I just didn't get. The actual windows going up the building had a tasteful wreath on every window. There was a huge snowflake across the intersection of 57th and 5th. A gorgeous Bulgari designed necklace was climbing up the outside walls of their store. Cartier had their lovely big cats crawling up their walls, and Harry Winston's was just plain lovely, with marquis diamond like lighting over every window on its facade. Versace was very understated, which really surprised me. We wandered down to the iconic Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree. Even in the drizzle, during the day, it was big, bright and beautiful.

By now we were chilled and damp, and needed a place to dry off, grab a bite before heading back to collect our bags at our hotel. We were also on a mission for a Spanish coffee to warm us up. Who knew this would be such a difficult task? I guess they are out of vogue in NYC these days, but eventually we found someone that made us an Irish coffee, that was more Irish than coffee, but warmed us up none the less.

The skating may have eluded me on this trip, but the fun we had, more than made up for it. Until the next New York adventure...

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