A Non-Crowded New York Christmas

Jefferson Market Library - West Village

Jefferson Market Library - West Village

Are visions of "Christmas in New York" dancing in your head? My vision used to look like this: I would wander merrily up Fifth Avenue, stop to admire the department store windows, pop into Tiffany for a dose of glitz and glamour, find a cozy cafe for a hot chocolate, and of course soak up the holiday spirit at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

HA. I quickly realized that "Christmas in New York" can be a beast. Midtown in December is INSANE. You're battling hordes of people and walking at a snail's pace because you can't find an opening to get ahead of anyone.

BUT - there are some are great spots that feel very festive without the massive crowds.

Minetta Tavern - Just perfect for a long Christmas brunch with wreaths, garlands, and twinkly lights aglow.

Gotham Bar & Grill - Power lunch spot in the Village that is bedecked beautifully.

Claudette - A new restaurant (same owners as Rosemary's, another favorite) on the corner of 9th Street and 5th Avenue in the Village - feels like you have stepped into a Nancy Meyers movie! Love the Christmas tree.

Via Quadronno - One of the city's best cappuccinos - feels especially cozy at Christmas.

Madison Avenue from 59th St to 93rd St - This is such a lovely walk on the Upper East Side with the best window shopping. End at The Corner Bookstore (the most adorable bookstore in Manhattan) for some non-Amazon shopping.

IFC Center - It's A Wonderful Life - This independent movie theater in the Village, which feels charmingly stuck in the 1980's, shows It's A Wonderful Life on repeat every December. I see it every year on the big screen - and I dare you not to cry when Harry Bailey says - "A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town."

And worth it despite the crowds...Radio City Christmas Spectacular - I LOVE THE ROCKETTES. And when they start singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing at the end? I am a goner.

Plus - ten cozy NYC spots I wrote about for National Geographic. I especially love Marc Forgione and Tea & Sympathy in Manhattan and Black Mountain Winehouse and Dujour Bakery in Brooklyn.

The Book I Lugged Around The World

Here it is, The Goldfinch. In some fancy hotel lobby around the world. At nearly 800 pages, lugging this beast around the world has not been easy on my shoulders. It has come with me everywhere this fall - Mexico, Ireland, the Galapagos, London, Berlin, Paris, and now Lisbon, where I finally finished it.

I've had some pretty heated discussions with my friends over this book. I loved it from page one, and was completely sucked in. Then I let it go for a few weeks. I didn't even open it in Ireland. Towards the end, I lost interest and then it came roaring back. The final paragraphs completely slayed me.

I will never forget Theo Decker, or any of the characters. Hobie, Pippa, his mother, his father, Boris, Andy, Kitsey, Mrs. Barbour...and so on. They are all burned in my mind, as real as anything.  Through it all - a characterization of New York City that absolutely blew me away.

"That life—whatever else it is—is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it.

That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch."

To love what Death doesn't touch - he is referring to artwork that passes on from one generation to the next. Beautiful writing make my heart beat fast, like when you're falling in love.

What are you reading? I also just finished This is Where I Leave You in about three days. Roaringly funny and poignant.

A Quick Note on Why I Love Social Media

This week, I am sailing aboard the Viking Hemming through the Douro River in Portugal. I love river cruising - you can explode in your room for a week and everything is taken care of for you as you watch the world go by.

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

But today, I was reminded why the benefits of social media far outweigh the negative aspects. For the past several years, I've traveled the world, often alone. While I love it, managing loneliness on the road is something you deal with.

I always say the point of online is to go offline. Social media has changed my career, it's made me meet people that have become seriously good friends - some of my best friends even. It's made the world smaller in the best possible way. I have my "Little Black Book" for travel - friends that I've made all over the world that introduce me to their friends and friends of friends. It absolutely helps when I'm writing my stories, but it makes me feel at home in the world, especially when I'm missing my kitchen and my own bed.

We are in Porto, Portugal today which is a beautiful Old World European city on the river. I decided to take the morning to roam around myself. I had heard from a friend that I had to see The Yeatman Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property that has an extensive wine program and spa. So I wandered over, ordered a cappuccino and read another 50 pages in The Goldfinch. And I also tweeted the incredible view from the hotel's terrace, mentioning their Twitter handle.

About 15 minutes later, the wonderful director of marketing, Richard Bowden, appeared and said "Are you Annie?" He had seen my tweet, and had come to find me and offered to give me a tour. How amazing is that? He even ended up driving me back to the ship. This hotel, which just so happens to be stunningly gorgeous, gets it. 

The point of online is to go offline.

Here are a few shots I snapped at The Yeatman today - Click the photo to scroll through the gallery!

New Design and Hi From Berlin!

Hi from Berlin! I'm in the middle of a five-week jaunt through Europe and I was most excited to be back in Berlin. I fell madly in love back in April and wanted to come back as soon as I could. This weekend was the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall so it felt really wonderful to be back for this major celebration and to be so close to the stage at Brandenburg Gate for the concert and release of thousands of balloons that lined the former border of the wall.

At Berlin's former Tempelhof Airport, now a gorgeous city park

We just started to switch everything over to the new design! My favorite section are the Guides, which drops down for guides to Europe, South & Latin America and more. I took all the photos that are on the thumbnails and working on finding all of them, plus importing all the content which will take awhile. And I know there will be kinks to work out. Big thanks to Kelly Christine Studio for the design - I wanted the color scheme to reflect my home state of Arizona and the relaxing feel of the West Coast and I love it!

Here's the view from on stage tonight at Berlin's Fall of the Wall celebration. Mikhail Gorbachev released one of the balloons on stage. Everything was in German, of course, but I got the general gist, which was "We're very happy the wall came down. It was a terrible thing. We can't let something like that happen again. Go humanity!" Two million people lined the streets. Oh, what a night. I love you Berlin.

A New York Love Affair

In many ways, the past few months have been the most difficult of my life. Someday, I hope I'll feel strong enough to detail all of it in a more public way, but I do know when I look back that I will see it as a life-altering, life-changing summer. Have you ever felt that? That while you're going through it - you KNOW it is changing the course of your life? Which is part of the reason why I haven't been on here.

There is one thing that I'm more sure of than ever - how much I love my job and the industry I work in. Nothing is consistent or really ever clear but I love it.

Plus, I've been working on a site redesign with the amazing Kelly Christine Studio - can't wait to have it up very, very soon!

Fall travel is about to begin and I've been soaking up every minute in New York City. It happens every year around this time - I fall madly in love with living here again. 

I head to Riviera Maya tomorrow for ILTM Americas - a conference with some of the best people in luxury travel. Really, I just want chips, guacamole and a big margarita and to meet some great new friends and see old ones.

I hope you have some adventures planned this fall - and I'll see you back here with a brand new design soon!