Christmas Shopping New York Style

Well you cannot say it’s dull! The New Yorkers sure know how to do Christmas. Sassista One decided to venture out into the chilly streets of Manhattan to see what it’s really like. Don’t expect a a quiet stroll around the shops – it is free-fall chaos.

Day one was just checking the sights and the lights. You don’t have to go far to find shop fronts transformed into winter wonderlands, complete with robotic polar bears, skating penguins, cute chipmunks frolicking in snow and, of course Santa and an army of elves. Every shop interior will have bows, baubles and banners which turn stores into places of beauty. If you really want glamour, then Saks Fifth Avenue steal the show with a spectacular light show, set to music, which turns the façade of their building into a five-story fairy-light extravaganza. It plays every ten minutes and draws such crowds of adults and wide-eyed kids that the NYPD have to set up barriers and traffic control. If you can muscle through the throng, then a short walk gets you to the Rockefeller Center and the stunning lighted Christmas tree surrounded by trees transformed into sparkle sticks with white light. If you don’t mind forking out an eye-watering $17 for a glass of wine, then pop into Morrells and sit outside wrapped in your coat and just drink it all in – sights, sounds and a damn good Shiraz. Walk north on 5thAvenue and you will reach the now even more famous Trump Tower (have ID and a reason for passing ready for the heavies), the only building so bling it doesn’t need decorating.

Day Two was shopping. We started with a taxi ride South to Soho Village in downtown New York. It was a little disconcerting when the driver started an animated discussion with an imaginary passenger in the front seat, but then you realise that the crazy driving of the other cars is the only thing to be nervous about. Soho is where New York gets quaint. Narrow streets, still made of square granite sets and old shop fronts take you to a past era of New York. Here the shops are busy but sedate. You are left alone to browse and wander through stores which range from the lovely Bloomingdales to the strangest of antique shops and food markets to die for. It is worth venturing a little further South to see the Freedom Tower – surely a monument to hope with something so beautiful built on the ground of such tragedy. A lunch in Luca (see restaurant reviews – this is a must go) and it was back to mid-town for an afternoon of shopping bootcamp!

Whatever you want is there to be had. From beautiful baubles for the tree in Macy’s to edgy outfits in Saks. If you want something different look at Kirna Zabete. Then the staples are there in Loft (disappointing this year) and Ann Klein (OK this year).

If you like to browse, stay away. Venturing into a midtown department store is to invite an onslaught. Concession stall staff swoop like seagulls, showering you with perfumes, lotions, potions, the latest, must-have nail equipment (it looked evil!). When I foolishly admitted I needed some foundation, I was virtually manhandled into a chair, my make-up removed and a slick of colour put on my chops. When I refused to buy there the look of disapproval took me back to primary school.  But all was not lost when I loped into Walgreens Empire State on 34thand found Chanel Romero – a truly delightful young women who asked all the right questions (no-one else asked), found just the right product (the others slapped on what they wanted to sell), gave time to give me a full face cover (the others left me with a patch of Trumpian orange on my cheek) and was so-unpushy she might have been a Brit (the others bordered on demanding). I parted with dollars for the first time that afternoon and left the store not only calm, but a happy shopper. I noticed people were smiling at me. The reason?  Chanel had calmed me down, made me look good and I was smiling.

As ever, shopping in New York is a mass of contradictions:

  • You step over beggars into stores where you can spend a million dollars in a few minutes. If this is your bag then Tiffanies and Saks are a staple

  • It is quicker to walk than get a car – and your fitness tracker will be red hot at the end of the day

  • You can eat the worst of sugar laden junk and then walk into food markets brimming with the most beautiful and freshest of foods – check out the food market in Grand Central Station

  • Art deco beauty looks out on 1960’s visual brutalism

  • When one rough New Yorker barges into you, another will turn and check you are alright with a smile and ‘Happy Holidays’

  • The clothes stores are full of Sassy, unusual clothes in vibrant colours and edgy style. Out in the street there is standard issue puffer coat, bobble hat and woolly mitts. Where does all that fashion hide?

Shopping tested, it was a hike up to Times Square to watch young, ripple-torsoed men who would turn the most menopausal-mean woman into a Cougar, do acrobatics, then another yomp to the Waldorf for the early-evening must do – the New York Cocktail.


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