Sunday, December 5, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Since I last wrote here, there has been a remarkable change in our weather. The calendar still tells us that it is autumn, but the temperature insists that it is winter. If the marathon race had been run today, those runners would have been dealing with stiff winds and almost freezing air.

Not good for runners, but excellent for the fir trees that have now appeared along the sidewalks. These evergreens appeared the Friday after Thanksgiving and give a wonderful scent and softening atmosphere to the blocks where they are available.

Just don't try to buy one of these beauties though, unless you have got lots of cash in your pockets. They come in many sizes, from three feet tall to well over seven feet. Delivery to your apartment can also be done for a negotiated fee.

I have been off from work for the past week and have been spending lots of time completing many Christmas gifts, and painting my cards. In a week or so, I may show you some of these creations. Meanwhile, I will show you some of the decorations I've recently seen on my quick trips around town. Once upon a time, there were many fine, large shops around New York that took great pride in creating unusual and beautiful holiday window displays.

Times have changed. Many of these stores no longer are in business, and those remaining have obviously been trying to keep up their window decorating standards, even though the economy continues to be challenging.

The above photo and the next few photos are of windows at Lord & Taylor, which try to show some retro New York Christmas interiors. They do call forth some nostalgia for times long gone. They are all right, but not breath-taking.

The following example shows a cookie baking session in a New York kitchen. The miniature bits and pieces are cute, but the tableau falls a bit flat. Note the dog on the floor.

Moving about ten blocks uptown to Rockefeller Center, I took this picture of the giant tree that is set up just above the skating rink. The lights were turned on at dusk on the following day, as heavy rain fell. The tree really is a classic shape, isn't it?

Moving on up the Avenue, I passed by Fendi, and thought its lighting scrim across the front of the store front was lovely. The lights are in motion, and give the impression of dripping ice cycles. Simple, elegant.

I'd planned a few photos of Tiffany's little jewel box windows, but they were done in white on white themes that just did not translate well into my photography skills.

And so, I turned toward the bright blue sky above the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, and offer you all this picture of the crystal snowflake suspended over that trendy crossroad. The building in the background is the Bergdorf Goodman store, with a be-ribboned wreath in each of the upper floors' windows.

I drew closer to BG to try to take some photos of their amazing windows. This year's theme seems to be "wish you were here," with dreamy travel motifs. Or perhaps day dreams.

Once again, my camera and I were defeated by the brilliant sunlight and the glass reflections. Still, you might be able to separate the planes and see a bit of what I saw.

I will try to get back over to this location on a more overcast day with hopes of better resulting pictures.

Still, I do love the following shot of the leopard coated lady taking a look at a fantasy display.

Some of the BG windows made use of paper sculptures, and stage settings made up of blown up enlargements of maps, clock faces, and celestial chartings.

Some of the props used in the windows are great little sculptures.

This mannequin's hairdo was made from peacock feathers.

This vessel was created from pleated papers.

Each of the displays conveys a sort of sophisticated jolliness.

I don't think that selling the merchandise that's featured is actually the main idea. It more showing elegance.

And so, I will leave those shop windows and take you all indoor again, so that you may shed your hat, coat and gloves, and enjoy the warmth of today's annual open house at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Many noted personalities were there.

It was possible to acquire balloons sculpted into the shape of your choice. Hat, flower, or the choice of many young boys ... swords.

A beautiful tree, a little smaller than that at Rockefeller Center, graced the entry hall.

And just in front of that tree was a bandstand, on which some traditional jazz musicians played and played.

The glee club from West Point sang carols. Many folks entertained visiting children with juggling, face painting, story telling, magic, origami, and even a small circus.

Yes, the above picture is blurry, but perhaps you can make out the green fellow in the red coat. Yes, the Grinch was in the house.

And finally, here is another crowd pleaser, Mother Goose. She kept scurrying around and it was very difficult to catch her (and her goose) standing still enough for a proper portrait.

Hoping that you all will enjoy this sampling of some current New York City sights.

You will see that we do not have any snow.

Best wishes!


  1. Thank you Frances for thsoe lovely photos! They brought back memories of childhood visits to see the window dispalys at Libertys adn Harrods and all the big department stores in London with my parents when I was very young indeed! Nothing like that here in the centre of rural Brittany so I am thrilled that at least in NY the tradition continues!

  2. New York looks magical......
    All you need is snow now Frances, would you like some of ours?

  3. PS Thanks for your lovely long comment..I am sure we could talk for hours......

  4. Those windows are magical -- part of a New York Christmas!!! Love Christmas traditions and NY surely has them. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I like the old style decorations!

  6. A walk like that used to be part of my pre-Christmas season in London, where the big stores like Selfridges and Harrods had famously elaborate and artistic window displays.

    In the country thing are a lot more modest.

    I envy you this lovely walk, I can't even get to the nearest town because of the snow. I'd be happy with a few local windows and maybe a visit to a market.

    England was never meant to be as cold and snowy as this, I might as well live back in Europe.

  7. Your shops are so pretty, we will miss our high street shops when they are gone. Let us hope that shopping online allows the department stores to continue.

    We have your snow, and frost and fog. It looks pretty but transport is difficult. keep warm x

  8. Ooooo! I loved all those window displays and decorations. Especially the Fendi icicles and the cut and paper sculptures - marvelous!

    I love living out in the sticks in rural Suffolk, but you've made me wish I could put on my smart winter clothes and fly over to Manhatten to do Christmas shopping in style!

    I'll have to be satisfied by your expert reportage!


  9. I dont think even the shop windows in Paris could compete with Bergdorf's. What amazing scenes. Thank you Frances.

  10. beauty in the city - I love anything made with paper so it was a treat to hear your descriptions and see the store windows. thank you.

  11. It has been years since stores up here bothered with special Christmas windows - once Eaton's failed there were no more large department stores other than the Bay and it relies on horrible mass-produced balls and snowflakes hanging from ceilings and no windows at all.
    Thank you for the tour through your wonderland. I think it would be worthwhile to visit NYC at this time of year!

  12. Oh thank you for that snapshot of your lovely city at Christmas! I much prefer to see these things from my chair at home, and despite your modesty your photos give a wonderful flavour of New York looking just as I imagine it does.

  13. Thank you early viewers for your comments. I apologize for somehow having deleted my photo of the Rockefeller Center tree in my original post.

    Got the tree included now! All we need is the snow....

  14. Lovely photos, Frances.You did find your way around town for them. I appreciate that. You just need some snow to make it perfect. Would you like some of Europe's snow? we have enough to spare.

    I like the tree in the library. It looks very cheerful. The jazz band seems like it would be a lot of fun to listen to. I can't wait to see your painted cards.

  15. You've lit the torch of longing! Now I will simply have to go into downtown Toronto to see the flagship stores' decorations.
    I also like that photo of the lady in the leopard fur in front of the fantasy window, what a juxtaposition.
    It sounds as though you are far ahead of me in getting ready for Christmas. I look forward to seeing what you have been busy making.

  16. Thank you for that lovely trip to New York.

  17. Frances, thanks so much for this. I am a child again, marvelling at the sights and really those sculptures are something else aren't they. I mean we have very little like that here. You could make an entire exhibition of them and bring it to London and people would pay £30 a time to see it. Now there's a commercial opportunity. But you photographs are so wonderful too. Surreal with the doubly planes and the way they are lit. You could certainly put them in an album or a competition.
    New York, New York!

  18. That was a really enjoyable tour round your city, Frances! Great photos and I love the one where you have double visions from the windows. Amazingly beautiful and puts me into those stories my parents told about New York. It must be breath taking to see it all lit by night - just a wee bit of snow missing now :-).

  19. Hello Frances, More snow during the night, so pretty here today but cold. Glad I am wearing my knitted socks. I am busy making crafty things for Christmas.
    Nice to see the New York decorations and window displays, so different.
    No problem here with fresh fir trees, although they can be expensive. Looking forward to decorating with berried holly and ivy, the traditional country way.
    Keep warm. millyx

  20. Hello Frances.!

    What wonderful festive pics you have shared with us, thank you.

    All looks so magical, as to those gorgeous tree's, they are terribly expensive here too.!

    Heard on the news recently that some businesses are not doing so well and that maybe folk are ordering from the internet instead. This may be the case, but what better way than to window shop and enjoy browsing those fabulous clothes in store also.

    Love Liberty Frances, remembering shopping there many years ago when in London.


  21. Hi Frances,
    New York knows how to put on a great show. Specially for Christmas. It is charming and magical, a bit over the top but so much fun! Thank you for showing us. I always enjoy your tours around NY.
    Warm regards,

  22. I would really like to take a walk and look at those windows!
    Quite different from the shop windows in my little, little town :)

  23. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who romanticizes the idea of NYC at Christmas-time. I enjoy looking in shop windows, but I would have truly adored attending the Open House at the New York Public Library.

    The smell of pine carried on cold winter air is surely one of the season's best pleasures. HOW expensive are those trees, just out of curiousity?

    Thanks, indeed, for your very kind comments on my post on Gwen Raverat's Period Piece. Please do read it; it's such a treat.

  24. Am I too late?
    I too was a bit left cold by Lord & Taylor's windows :(
    And I've yet to figure out Bergdorfs this year...I must go back and shoot and night and I've been procrastinating like crazy even when I've been around the corner and could have run back.
    Take a look at the tiny window at Petrossian on upper 7th Avenue and try their huge...oh wait you don't like ginger cookies :)
    Loved taking this walk with you Frances