Sunday, December 8, 2013

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York where a very light snow is falling.

Earlier today, knowing that the weather was going to turn chilly and snow might fall, I wrapped myself up in lots of layers, including my trusty old hand knit scarf pictured below, and headed over to the gorgeous 42nd Street main building of the New York Public Library.

I always consider that the Library's Holiday Open House, to which Friends of the Library like myself are invited, signals the official beginning of the Christmas season in New York.

Some of you all will have seen prior posts describing this festive afternoon, and some of what follows might seem familiar.  There are some traditions kept going each year, like the huge Christmas tree in the grand entry hall (formally known as the Astor Hall) and the Santa-cap-wearing jazz band that plays throughout the afternoon in Astor Hall.

Lots of entertainment is designed to amuse children.  During the afternoon, it becomes clear that children come in many ages.

This year, a new entertainment and refreshment are, the Cafe Periodical,  was popular.  Coffee and tea was served, along with gypsy swing and jazz played by The Hot Club of Bushwick.   The band can just be seen in the far corner of the "cafe."

Large paintings hanging around the room depict historic headquarters of major New York publishing houses.  The following photo is of the Scribner's building.  Years ago an elegant Scribner's book shop delighted readers of all ages on the first floors of this building.  A Sephora shop now claims that space.   Fifth Avenue is no longer the "book country" that it was in past decades.

Back in the Astor Hall, party goers were being serenaded by the LaGuardia Arts High School Show Choir.  The choir dressed dresses or white tie and tails!  Perhaps you can see them on the distant staircase?  You might also see some stilt walkers costumed as storybook characters.

More balloon sculpting was taking place on each of the Library floors.

The Library has a fabulous and varied collection of rare books, literary related artifacts and art.  Wonderful permanent and changing exhibits take place throughout the Library throughout the year.

I ventured into the Berg Collection's room today to see some treasures displayed there.  Below is my photograph of Charles Dickens' desk, chair, lamp and desk calendar.  We Dickens fans were kept at a distance from these items by a subtle green velvet rope barrier.

In a nearby glass case was another Dickens item, a large ivory letter opener given to CD by his housekeeper and sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth, as a memento of his recently deceased beloved cat, Bob.  The handle is actually made from one of Bob's forepaws.  True.

In another case in the Berg Collection room is Virginia Woolf's bamboo walking stick.

There were many other gems in this room, but nothing quite got my attention as much as that letter opener.

And so, I continued my tour of other interesting diversions available here and there.

Although I have no photograph to prove it, I did stop by the juggler's hallway area, and mastered the skill of balancing a peacock feather vertically, plume upwards, on my upturned palm.  

I could not resist taking a photo of this vintage telephone kiosk.  Working coin-operated telephones are in the niches at each end of the kiosk.  The central area has been cleared of equipment, including ... telephone books.  That amused me, being in a library.

Back downstairs on the main floor, I encountered a costumed "literary Lion," who took his character from the two Sphinx-like stone lions who grace the entrance to the Library.

In the Library's very crowded gift shop, I encountered three members of the West Point Glee Club, taking a break between several afternoon performances.  I chatted with them a while, all the time thinking how young they looked. I gave them my thanks for their beautiful music, and wished them safety when their military service begins.

On my way to reclaim my coat from one of many coat check areas, I ran into Mother Goose, charming some young and not-too-young children.

My coat, hat, scarf and gloves provided some warmth as I exited the Library down the broad stairs, and so I decided to walk up Fifth Avenue to see what sorts of decorations I might discover.

I am sorry to report that few shops, even huge major retail "names," seemed to have any decorations.  This is not how I remember Fifth Avenue looking.  The sidewalks were thick with tourists, and I wondered what they made of the cold weather and rather ordinary displays along the famous Avenue.

At Rockefeller Center, the giant trees with its over 40,000 LED lights did seem to be a bit showy.

The Rock Center esplanade was very, very crowded.  I was not the only person wanting to take a photo of The Tree.

I continued walking up the Avenue, and as I neared the Cartier building, I saw impressive red and gold LED lighting.  A big red bow and several golden panthers engaging in kitty behavior about the building.  I made sure to include a yellow cab in my photo.

There are three panthers.  One on top of the front of the building, one climbing up the side of the building and one resting on top of the side entrance.

I do apologize for the photograph quality.  My hands were very cold.

Fendi has some jolly stylized Santas dancing along the front of their store...more lights.

The next photo is a very discrete peek into the window of a very exclusive, perhaps even stuffy or even snobby club.  Once only men could be members.  I have been to lunch and to some parties in this place.  All that was years ago.

A  much less dignified window view is in the following photo.  The Henri Bendel window is a tribute to the late Abe Hirschfeld, a brillian cariaturist, famous for his portraits of actors, and for always hiding his daughter Nina's name in each drawing.

Harry Winston's facade was all aglow, thanks to extravagant use of ... LED lights.  I actually saw shoppers shopping in that very luxe shop this afternoon.

Across the Avenue, Tiffany had some sort of vinyl decorations applied to its facade.  Very tacky, I thought.  By now I was getting very cold, and so I did not go across to take photos of the actual shop windows.  I promise to make a return visit.

Bulgari has a snake made out of ... well, by now you might be able to guess, snaking its way around its corner walls.

And so, at last, I reached the beautiful windows at Bergdorf Goodman.  Even inside my cashmere-lined leather gloves, my hands were so, so cold, that I could barely click the button on my camera.  I do promise to return to this location so that I can have better pictures to show you all of these fantastic creations.

There are ice cycles galore, and the theme of these windows is Holidays on Ice (a la the name of some glamorous skating shows.)

April Fool's day has everything topsy turvy.

I definitely remember that this following rosy-toned window was a salute to Valentine's Day.  A frosty Valentine's Day.

The next two pictures are of the Halloween window.

Spooky cobwebs amidst the ice.

The 58th Street windows around the corner from Fifth Avenue, continue the frosty theme, but without designating a holiday.  The monkeys that appear in these windows get recycled year after year by the visual team at BG.  I look forward to seeing them over and over.

Here's a perfect outfit to wear for a evening stroll in the woods.

Lots of little monkeys helping out this couple.

And so, as snow did actually begin to fall as I looked at those snow scenes, I thought it was time to find myself a bus to take me home.  

It's been fun, sitting in my cozy apartment, while putting together this little report of one December 2013 afternoon in New York City.

I plan to show you more New York City holiday views by next weekend.  Thank you all for your visits and comments.  Hoping you and yours are getting happily into the spirit of the season.


  1. Thank you for the tour, Frances -- Bergdorf Goodman is spectacular! Hope you have warmed up now!

  2. I must return to say that I found Mr. Dickens' letter opener a tad disturbing...

  3. Hello Frances, NOW you got me in the very Christmas mood! Thank you so much to show all these fabulous impressions from the library and all the fa├žade decorations. I did really enjoy the tour and look forward to more. I wonder how cold it was? Have seen the pictures at TV, how extreme! Hope you are warm and fine. Best pre-Christmas wishes from Belgium.

  4. What a wonderful Christmassy post! It's sparked off a festive feeling ... thank you! I've been so busy in my studio sending things for other peoples' Christmases that I haven't given ours a thought at all.
    I would love to wear the grey sparkly outfit on the right in the last window photo :-)

  5. Thank you for sharing a taste of New York getting ready for Christmas. What a vivid and vibrant city you live in! I visited with my tiny son 30 years ago and would love to return one day.

  6. What a blissful uptown tour - so I need to get up there very soon to see for myself.
    Yes, what happy library memories!
    Hoping to see you this week.

  7. The library was a gem I just wouldn't have thought about visiting before being tempted by the photos on your blog, and I was so glad we made time to go there during our all-to-brief visit to your wonderful city... and you know how inspirational it proved! Bravo for braving the cold to post those fabulous photos of window displays - your blog fans will certainly appreciated your efforts; the Bergdorf Goodman windows were magical. Cx

  8. What a fascinating day. Somehow one doesn't expect all that from a 'library'!
    The windows of your stores are so imaginative. I'd love to see them in real life...but your post made them come alive anyway!

  9. Terrific coverage of so many high points France.
    I remember those panthers from last year on Cartier.
    Never east to shoot at those high angles.
    Bergdorfs never disappoints does it...

  10. Thank you for braving the cold so that we may enjoy the view in indoor comfort. The BG windows are lavish, worth the walk I would think.
    Also well worth the view is your Etsy shop with the beautiful knitting!

  11. What a wonderful wintery walk around New York. We were last in NY just before Christmas in 1985 and I remember loving the festive atmosphere.

  12. oh dear, how i wish i were there. thank you for sharing (and braving) the cold for these photos frances.
    i'm glad you were wrapped up snugly though in that gorgeous scarf!

    hannah sent snow photos this week, i hope you have a good pair of boots!

  13. Oh, I have had so much fun taking a walk with you through NYC. Every time I do I learn so much that I didn't know about the city.
    Looking forward to you showing us some more of your lovely city.
    Stay warm!!
    xoxo Ingrid

  14. Thanks so much Frances, these are wonderful! I'm so impressed with Cafe Periodical, I'd love to stop there for a drink. And what decorations! London puts in a show but the scale of NYC is something else. Those Berdorf Goodman windows are superbly creative.

    Really enjoyed seeing them. Thanks again!
    Steph x

  15. Frances I really enjoyed this cold tour of New York. I can’t believe that we were at the Library just a few weeks ago – I could visualize every room you described – it must have been so much fun for you. Looking at all the lights and decorations, and with the wee bit of snow, would put anyone in the right spirit for the holidays. The icy snowy windows of BG are spectacular. I know we were in New York recently but I am already homesick for it. Stay warm Frances in your cozy flat.

  16. I love the candy cane. But what a shame that not all of NY has risen to the occasion. My husband is currently in NY, I shall await his thoughts on decorations!
    Thank you for your kind comments on my knitting!
    Keep those hands warm x

  17. Some glitzy and some not so glitzy Christmas decorations there ... but your fun time in the warmth of the library looks like the most fun :)

  18. The BG windows are absolutely spectacular. Wow!. I could see myself spending a lot of time just studying and admiring them.

    The Library Open Day Party is a wonderful way of getting people inside the doors. I suppose all guests are members anyway but there will be some children who have their appetite for book reading whetted by an afternoon of entertainment of such high calibre.

    Enjoy your wonderful city and I am looking forward to more pictures taken on a day which may be slightly kinder to your frozen hands.

  19. Wow, what a library and what an array of festive images. How could anyone ever be bored in your city?

  20. Such a pretty post Frances! How I enjoy looking at your beautiful photo's from NY at Christmas time. What an amazing building the public library is! Happy to hear you enjoyed yourself.

    Wishing you lots of fun on the pre Christmas festivities!

    Madelief x

  21. I to your blog hoping for some Christmas in New York photos! So lovely. Thank you for posting them for all to enjoy.

    A fan in Dallas

  22. Hello from Norway. Beautiful Christmas from N Y..♥

  23. What a stunning pictures, Frances!
    I wish I could to be there at Christmas. But I never been abroad yet... I would love to know NY!

  24. Frances,
    We live a 20 minute walk from the area you so beautifully photographed and made so very special for even we New Yorker's.

    Being down South this past Christmas there were too few decorations for us to see that spoke of Christmas as Romantic as what you have recorded and sadly
    of all things Christmas the news was of a huge compromise of personal security lost when one used credit cards at a local department store a cyberspace theft.
    What would Charles Dickens write of
    this modern digital compromised Christmas?

    Best, Mike & Kitt