Posts Tagged With: Thanksgiving

The City So Nice

This is basically the expression on my face for the entire parade.

This is basically the expression on my face for the entire parade.

Before we moved over to the US, we made a list of all the places we wanted to visit during our time here, knowing that we probably wouldn’t manage them all in the time we had.  New York City was not one of the places on that list because we’d already visited it, for five days back in 2005.  I was excited by the city back then, but part of me thought that this was just because it was my first visit to the States and the whole experience was totally new and awesome.  So I wondered whether, having now lived in this fine country for more than a couple of years and become used to the place and the people, I would actually like NYC as much now that I have other great American cities to compare it to.

Like I say, we were in no rush to visit NYC.  We made the decision to return for one reason and one reason only.  The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.  Having watched it on TV for the last two years, we felt it was an experience that we wanted to see up close for ourselves, and this was likely to be our last chance to do it.  Neither of us are fans of large crowds of people, so I actually don’t know what possessed us to visit the most popular city in the US on the busiest weekend of the year, but we booked our hotel a year in advance and then there was nothing stopping us.  Except the weather (almost).  Having had unseasonably warm, sunny temperatures of around 24c in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, suddenly a huge snowstorm was predicted for most of the North East of the country, potentially bringing a large area to a standstill and ruining Thanksgiving for a lot of people.  Having heeded the warnings, we took the sensible option of leaving home a night early and stopping halfway, then arriving in the city a few hours ahead of the predicted snow.  Which, of course, never arrived in NYC.  Well, it did snow quite a bit but it never stuck, so we had a picturesque view of the city without too many problems.  Although it was chuffing chilly.  I still maintain that it was colder during our 2005 trip (and there was a lot more snow then too) however this may be because I wore my giant padded coat for the whole of this trip, which I only managed to buy towards the end of the last trip and therefore froze for most of that time.

So, having seen all the big sights in 2005, and being in the city on one of the busiest weekends of the year, we decided to avoid almost all the touristy things and just hang out and watch the world go by.  We made it to the parade and it wasn’t as crowded as we expected, but maybe we picked a good spot by the side of Central Park.  We didn’t need to get there ridiculously early and we had a great view.  As well as lots of huge inflatables, the parade involves floats with famous people riding on them.  90% of them were completely unknown to us, which I am going to maintain was because they were American and not because I’m out of touch with the Yoof of Today.  I later watched the parade on TV where you helpfully get captions to tell you who everyone is, and I have to say I was still not really any the wiser even with the names ….   I was very pleased when Big Bird went past, and I thought that would be the highlight for me.  Then I saw the Harlem Globetrotters and thought it surely couldn’t get any better …  However I was beyond excited when KISS came past on a float.  The parade stopped for a minute or two and I had the pleasure of standing about ten feet away from them, watching Tommy trying to look mean and moody whilst also waving (clue: it didn’t really work).  The only other celebrity I recognised was Idina Menzel, so I don’t know what that says about the breadth (or perhaps randomness) of my musical knowledge.

We also made it to the Top of the Rock, having done the Empire State Building on our last visit.  The advantage with the Rock is that you can see both the Chrysler Building and the ESB from it.  (The disadvantage is having to spend all day listening to the husband going “Welcome to The Rock” like he’s a budget Sean Connery and we’re in Alcatraz all over again.)  Actually, at this point I may revise my thoughts about it not being so cold in NYC on this visit.  It was officially about -1c on our way up to the top, and with the height and the wind chill and whatever other important factors, it was cold enough to cause huge pain in my hands when I temporarily (and foolishly) took off my gloves to take a photo.  It took quite some time for them to thaw out and stop hurting again.

We did go back to one place from our original visit, The View in Times Square.  It’s a revolving bar at the top of a hotel and I think it does one complete revolution per hour.  This time around it wasn’t such a surprise when I came back from the toilet and found my table had moved.  It was just as good as we remembered it, and a fitting place to celebrate the husband’s birthday.

The rest of our days were spent pottering around the lesser populated areas of the city.  Leaving aside the madness of Black Friday, we spent a morning wandering around Central Park, this time not blanketed with several feet of snow and instead covered with runners (last time I don’t remember seeing another soul).  My absolute favourite meander, though, has to be Greenwich Village.  Having read lots of memoirs about the city in the early 70s and 80s, I was keen to have a look around.  Obviously it has changed beyond all recognition since those times but it still has a bohemian vibe about it.  I was pleased to be able to avoid Starbucks and hunt out some good coffee shops like Birch, who leave conversation cards on their tables to encourage their patrons to meet new people (and I have to say their coffee was one of the best I have EVER had).

This time around, I definitely saw NYC through different eyes, as I’m very used to the US now and so I was happy to potter around and not necessarily stick to the big touristy things.  However, I am definitely still as much in love with the city as I was on my first visit.  It’s definitely up there with San Diego and Boston as one of the places I could actually live.  Looks like I will have to persuade the husband back for a third visit in the future (maybe when the temperatures are above freezing).

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Thank You Very Much

So today is Thanksgiving.  Not a holiday that I’ve ever had cause to celebrate before but it’s one of the biggest days in the American calendar.  I asked some of our friendly neighbours what it’s all about and why they celebrate it, but they weren’t really sure other than it just being an excuse to overeat.  So I consulted everyone’s favourite know-it-all, T’Internet.  Apparently Thanksgiving actually grew out of an old English tradition that was brought over by the Pilgrims (so it’s our fault then).  Allegedly Guy Fawkes Night grew out of a celebration of giving thanks after the failure of the Gunpowder Plot.  I think I prefer the fireworks to having yet another day of turkey and bad TV.  Anyway, it’s all meant to be about giving thanks for a good harvest and generally taking some time to be grateful for anything and everything.  Or something like that.  (You don’t tune into these updates for in-depth research and historical accuracy do you?)

One of the ongoing traditions for Thanksgiving is the Macy’s Parade in New York.  There are several others held in cities across the nation but the Macy’s one seems to be the major event.  The TV coverage lasts for three hours and it was entertaining enough to have on in the background while I slaved over a hot stove preparing our lunchtime feast.  It basically consists of three miles of floats, gigantic balloons, cheerleaders and a host of famous faces all singing and dancing for your delight/their lunch.  I understand that most people tune in on the off chance of catching sight of a massive inflatable Sonic the Hedgehog breaking free and wreaking havoc over Central Park.  The opportunity to see the performance of numbers from some of the newer musicals is also quite nice though.  Bit of a blast from the past as the balloons included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary apparently.  How have they managed to last so long?  The parade ends with the appearance of Santa Claus, at which point the Christmas season is officially declared to have started.  Which explains why several of my neighbours have put up their Christmas trees and other decorations today.

It’s traditional to have turkey for Thanksgiving, but not in the form we would recognise it in the UK.  People have special turkey fryers as the turkey is deep fried.  Yes really.  The advantage would seem to be that it only takes about an hour rather than roasting it for most of the day.  The fryer, being essentially a large vat of boiling hot oil, is sensibly situated outside, and I have seen a good few people sitting out on their driveways this morning supervising the proceedings.  This is another one of those things that shows our differences, basically because it would never be warm enough in the UK to sit outside at this time of year.

We went to an early Thanksgiving dinner a week ago and along with the turkey and the honey glazed ham we were treated to all the side dishes.  Green bean casserole appears to be a staple, along with mashed potato (where are the roasties?  No roasting bird means nowhere to do the spuds I suppose).  The strangest side dish was the yams roasted with marshmallows.  It looked and sounded a little weird but because of the sweetness of the yams it actually worked really well.

So I cooked us our own Thanksgiving meal today but I seem to have broken all the rules.  Quorn Roast instead of turkey (and majorly pleased that I could buy one out here), roast potatoes (because you cannot have any other kind of potato, COME ON!!), normal vegetables (no strange accompaniments here) and of course Yorkshire Puddings !!  I’m aware that they would probably be just as strange to an American as the yam and marshmallow thing is to us, so I will say nothing more.  Except that the Yorkshire Pudding would always win in a fight.  Hands down.

This afternoon I plan to anchor myself to the sofa and watch a few films.  This is, after all, our practice run for Christmas.  It seems a little odd to have today’s celebrations only a month before Christmas, but then Americans don’t really go in for Christmas as much.  I was trying to explain to someone recently the concept of Boxing Day and the fact that a lot of offices in the UK will shut for a whole week between Christmas and New Year, and they looked at me like I had two heads.  Thanksgiving is definitely the bigger holiday in the USA.  A lot of people will have tomorrow off work as well and therefore have a four day weekend.  Which brings us to the other major event of this holiday – the Sales.  Very much like our Boxing Day sales but with added violence, pepper spray and a baseball bat, allegedly.  Traditionally the sales used to start at about 10am on Black Friday, then it got progressively earlier with shops opening at 6am.  Last year some stores started opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving night, with a few more joining in the fun this year.  If you desperately want some slightly out of date electronics at a cheaper price that still might not be as cheap as buying it online and you have 24 hours or more to spare and a very strong bladder, then you may very well wish to join the hordes queuing outside the stores and waiting to stampede through the doors when they open.  Otherwise, do as I am doing and don’t bother.

In keeping with tradition, however, I will be having an afternoon nap and then putting up the Christmas decorations.  Just feel that there should be a festive Dr Who in here somewhere.  Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

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