It is a tradition in my brother's family to spend Christmas Eve in the best city in the world - New York. So we did an early run to get fish for dinner, I stood in a long line at the French Bakery to get croissants and baguettes, and my brother got coffee at Starbucks. We gulped down breakfast and got into the car with the princesses and drove down to New York.
At that hour of the morning you can make good time, we pulled into the parking garage of the Museum of Natural History just after it opened. And the first order of business was to open the trunk for inspection. I asked why, apparently they are looking for "bombs". I said, that's crazy, if I'm bringing a bomb in, it's under the seat, not in the trunk. Why do they put up with that? Oh, it's only 30 seconds, and it makes them feel good. Before you approach the cash register you have to go through "security". There was a long list of things not allowed, like my Swiss Army Knife. Luckily, the guard was pretty much asleep, and we distracted her with questions about the lost and found (we found a sweater on the parking lot), so I got to take my knife in with me.
We went to Virgil's Real Barbecue for lunch - a heavy lunch, although we only had sandwiches. It was full southern BBQ furnishing, and the menu was calorie-laden. Salads? You have to be joking. I had a mixed BBQ sandwich and burped it all afternoon. Not my favorite kind of food. Then we walked to the Rockefeller Center in the bright sunlight. The streets are full of yellow cabs ferrying people to and fro, but the walk was very nice, even if we did have to keep the princesses locked into an adult hand apiece so as not to lose them in the crowds. There was a tree at the Rockefeller Center - I've seen worse in Berlin. All tinseled up and with a big crowd pushing through to see it.
There was a tiny ice skating rink in the middle of the plaza that was crowded with people, and a Santa Clause lazily skating around. All around the plaza there were flags hanging from the buildings. This is something that still unsettles me, the sheer amount of patriotic flag-waving that goes on in the US.
On the way back to the car we passed the New York headquarters of the IRS, the tax collectors of the US. They have a sign out front with the current national debt on it:
Bill Clinton balanced, the budget, remember? And Mr. Bush, Jr. pushed that up to 15 trillion (!) with his war in Iraq. We got into the car (parking in New York is exorbitant, I think my brother paid over 70$ in parking fees alone!) and headed back to Connecticut. There we got ourselves prettied up and made it to the family church service at 5 pm. It was a 2-hour service, there's a lot to get in and the place was packed.
Then home for a Seven Fish Dinner (we gave up after six, there was just no way that anyone was going to be able to eat another bite): Braised tuna with sesame and poppy seeds, clams, mussels, grilled salmon, scallops in butter and parsley sauce, shrimp in garlic sauce. Add champagne and French bread, and it was just marvelous!
We managed to get the princesses to bed after reading the "Night before Christmas" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I have tried to talk the princesses until waiting until 7.30 am to wake us. Fat chance that will work, but I tried.