Nearly every Christmas as a child, my father would bring us to NYC the weekend before the actual holiday. We would do plenty of cool things like skate at Rockefeller Center or eat at fancy restaurants, but the main purpose was to get our first Christmas present early at FAO Schwartz. We would wait in line and see the guard and hear the music and the clock inside and cling to the window in anticipation. I was always preparing for a doll or stuffed animal of some sort and my brother towards the remote control cars. I have now passed this tradition onto my stepchildren. So this weekend when they arrived, off we went to NYC with my husband and my Aunt for a fun filled weekend.
We spent the night at the Courtyard Marriott in Chelsea on West 30th. We got in late due to a flight issue with the kids and decided to head right to bed. I planned to have breakfast nearby and then off to the Statue of Liberty after that. Everyone was up at 9 am and the weather was so warm we couldn’t believe our luck. No coats were really needed… IN DECEMBER! So off to breakfast less than a 1/2 mile away at Blossom Du Jour. Let me first state that when you walk in and it is tiny but the staff is so friendly and happy you can’t help but smile and feel this huge warmth. They were taking out fresh croissant and vegan cronuts sandy with cinnamon and sugar and the little kid inside of me got giddy. My aunt and the kids both had the waffles and my husband and I had the vegan scramble wraps. I also bought 2 cronuts for us all to cut and share. The verdict? I am in love with their cronuts. I could eat them every day for the rest of my life. The waffle was very dense, I snuck a bite from my oldest. Then I inhaled my almost too-eggy-to-be-true tofu scramble wrap splashing it down with Raspberry Lemonade Soda. It was the best faux egg breakfast meal I have ever had. I am not exaggerating, you MUST try this. Even my husband was happy. The only comment was “I should have ordered two, I am still hungry”. This was about an hour later.
I grabbed a smoky avocado wrap to take with me in case there was nothing vegan for lunch options on Ellis Island or at the Statue of Liberty. We grabbed a cab and headed over to Battery Park. The seagulls were out and the squirrels were acting like they were a small free circus act. It was a beautiful day for the animals of NYC and my kids were so delighted by it all. The youngest started naming all the birds. I could not have asked for a better set-up. We got our tickets quickly from will call and hopped right on the top floor of the boat to the statue. It was a wonderful ride and the seagulls follow you all the way. My husband took tons of photos of the 50 or so floating over our head. Seagulls are my favorite bird and probably one of my favorite animals. I find them smart and funny and both land and sea all mixed together. They are so resourceful and determined as well. When i was a kid my grandmother and I would go to Revere Beach outside Boston and get french fries from Kelly’s Roast Beef and feed them to them. This of course is probably not healthy but they loved it and I loved them. I digress.
When we got to the island we were luck enough to have tickets to the platform (but unfortunately not to the crown). So we climbed the 400 or so stairs up and it was such a beautiful view. The kids were just in awe and ran about the island afterward. We taught them about the importance of it all as we went along. They really seemed to understand it. My aunt loved going because she could see her grandparents in her mind traveling across and arriving. The joy that must have overtaken them. It is truly a magical place. We headed back a bit later to go to the Central Park Zoo.
We got to the zoo with about 1.5 hours to visit. If you have never been there this is more than enough time. It is a small zoo. There is also a Children’s zoo attached that could tack on another 30 minutes but we didn’t indulge on this trip. Now I know many vegans are against zoos. I am in many cases. This zoo however is small, has minimal animals and ample staff. I feel confident the animals get enough attention and care but I do agree there is nothing perfectly like the wild. I am lucky to have two very animal loving girls as step-kids. They were interested and the youngest even felt like we should take one of the seals home to put back in Boston Harbor. I was happiest however in the aviary of tropical plants and birds. It was similar to a sauna when entering and it felt as though you truly were in their habitat. They flew freely and there was no border between you and the birds. Some you could touch they were so close but I told the children not to because you don’t poke animals. There was also a darkened area sectioned off for amphibians, snakes, etc. I am terrified of snakes so I stayed away I only went in to see the mongoose. Because they are adorable.
When we left we waited to watch the clock go off and the animals dance around the pedestal while the clock sung a Christmas carol. Then walked to Strawberry Fields so I could take a photo of the Imagine Mosaic and then to dinner. The kids ran the whole time, stomping on snow piles and jumping off rocks. It was a great day in Central Park.
We had dinner at Le Pain Quotidien on the upper east side just a block from the park. The food was the best I have ever had since I became vegan. I wish they had a Boston location in which case I would be there every Friday. The whole family was in awe. We started with a sampling platter of prosciutto, cheese, breads, fruit, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, infused oil, and jams. I had some oil, bread, fruit, tomato, and jams. It was amazing. Then for dinner I chose the six vegetable vegan quiche that came with a side of mesculen salad and a pot of tea. The dressing was perfect on the salad. I would fork a few of the greens onto a slice of bread with apricot preserves from time to time. So indulgent. The quiche was absolutely beautiful. Brightly colored layers with a simple and rich flavor and topped with an artichoke heart slice. The small slice of quiche was perfect. When it was time for dessert I picked the Hemp Seed Blondie which was more like a small square cake with a few chocolate chips than a brownie but still delicious, I also grabbed a taste of the brown rice pudding my oldest stepdaughter had ordered and it was yummy. I left so happy and full. The whole family continued to rave about it on the ride home that night.
Last we headed over to FAO Schwartz. It was later about 8 pm and the line had dissolved. We headed right in and the kids looked for about an hour until deciding on their choices. Both chose extra large stuffed animals. The youngest chose a Cheetah and the oldest a strikingly life-like Orangutan. The Cheetah was named Candice while in line and the Orangutan was Enrique. Full of smiles and french country flavors we headed back to the hotel and then home in our new Prius. It only cost $35 in gas for the trip there and back. Amazing car to own.
I am so grateful for my family and our ability to have these adventures this holiday and all year. I hope that all my readers have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Much love this Holiday Season.
Food is Love.
The Hippie Gypsy.