11 December 2013


New York City is a great place to visit any time of year but New York City around Christmas is exceptionally exquisite. Paul had to be in training in New Jersey the first week of December so we drove the 6.5 hours from Northeast Ohio to our favorite spot near Morristown with high hopes of consuming lots of great food in mere days.

We left Salem early Sunday morning so that we could check into the hotel, grab some food and then head into the city in order to attend one of the Hillsong Church’s evening services.

The Hillsong NYC church does not have a permanent location to date but often holds services in a club on Irving Street near Union Square Park. People line the block an hour before each service with hopes of attaining one of the few chairs.

This church is unlike any church I have been to in a lot of ways. For one, people worship in an actual New York City nightclub. Chairs are placed on the dance floor; the bar serves as a purse check and they have “information on tap.” The church, with its 34-year-old pastor who reportedly sports a mohawk and tattoos, aggressively and energetically preaches each week to a varied but from my experience mostly young crowd.

But the work the church is doing is pivotal and the messages preached are some of the only grace messages we have found stateside. So, when we saw an opportunity to attend a service in line with Paul’s required training, we took advantage.

We checked into our favorite Hanover Marriott and grabbed some food in the hotel pub before driving to Hoboken where we parked the car and planned to grab a train. Unfortunately we did not find parking in time to catch the once-a-half-hour train so we instead parked the car and walked around the corner to Carlo’s Bakery.

We for the first time encountered a line and the Sunday night lineup became reminiscent of Singapore’s Sunday evening crowd. Knowing we had time to kill since we would not make the 5 p.m. service, we decided to hang out and grab some sweets at New Jersey’s favorite bakery.

After nearly an hour in line both inside and outside the store with no hope of hearing our number called within the half hour, we vacated our position and took the train into the city. We were cold and still a bit early when we realized we had been walking in the wrong direction, so I suggested we pop into a common diner for some hot chocolate.

Paul and I each had a cup with our main courses: a not-so-good chocolate chip cookie that was presented in plastic wrap on a plate and Paul’s cup of chicken and rice soup. When I asked Paul how his soup was, he replied, “I think Tim has ruined soup for me.” Tim, Paul’s step-dad, makes all of the food for which Annabell’s Restaurant is famous, including the best soups we’ve ever had. Tim Annabell – soup killer for the rest of the world.

Back on track and warmed from the chocolate, we ambled in the right direction and found a place in line about a half hour before the service. Once inside we quickly realized that we would not be sitting at any point throughout the service but the 1.5-hour time frame did not frighten us. We enjoyed the music and the message and then wandered back in the direction of the 14rd Street station.

When we were literally steps from the station, I popped Paul a question: “How are you doing? Are you tired?” When he said he was fine and quite awake, I took a few steps toward the street, flung my hand in the air and successfully secured us a cab.

Paul, confused and I am sure slightly intrigued, got into the cab behind me as I shouted to the cabbie: “Rockefeller Center, please!” Minutes later we were in front of Christmas goodness: giant Christmas displays of oversized string lights and red glass ornaments were presented along the Avenue of the Americas.

Then, around the corner from Radio City Music Hall, we saw it – the Rockefeller Tree. In three days’ time the tree would be lit in front of a massive audience and celebrated with live celebrity performances. On this night, however, the tree just stood in is natural beauty.

That was the first time I had ever seen the Rockefeller Tree. Even though it was naked, I was filled with delight. I don’t think I would have even thought to see the tree if Nicola Brown hadn’t reminded me of its presence. After a brief look around at the skating rink and the angel displays, I made Paul walk all around the city as I tried to get in as many sights as possible within 45 minutes.

We walked down to Bryant Park before walking into Times Square where the New Year’s Eve ball had already been installed. Then, we drove down Broadway as we approached the 33rd Street station.

Empire State Building behind Bryant Park

Times Square area, blocked off due to construction so it was far less crowded than ususal

I thought that was a pretty good run. Thursday evening I popped back into the city with Paul’s flight attendants who were also in town for training. We had a great time seeing the tree – lit in all its glory this time – along with a few other popular sights. 


Desi and LeeAnn enjoying some NYC street food. I am pretty sure they were second guessing my food truck choice but they quickly learned that street food, especially in NYC,  is awesome. 

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