Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holidays, and things to come

Well, here I am faced with the task of making New Year's Resolutions, and a natural one is that I write in this blog more frequently. So with any luck this entry will be the first of this renewed effort.

The holidays for Therese and I included two adventures, one with family away from home, and one by ourselves (as it were) at home in New York City.

On December 23rd we boarded an afternoon Continental flight from Newark airport to Ft. Meyers, FL to spend the Christmas weekend with Therese's family in Naples.

It was the first time I had been in Newark airport in several years, so it was a chance for me to see it with new eyes. Specifically, I had recently spoken with someone about the New York-area airports, saying that my feeling is that they are all dirty, dingy and generally suck. This person said, no, Newark is actually pretty nice. So I was curious to see what my experience at Newark would be like.

Well, we luckily got there at the time of a lull: we were told by an agent that the morning had been incredibly busy, and that the evening was also expected to be crazy. But we got there having checked in on line with nothing to check, and found the security line non-existent, thus arriving at our gate nearly two hours before our flight was to leave.

Time to look around for somewhere or something to eat. There was a Sam Adams bar that had some sandwiches that looked halfway decent. Therese got her Cuban sandwich heated up and got a large Cherry Wheat beer to go with it: the Cuban was fairly tasteless and her beer tasted like artificial cherry syrup had been drizzled into it, rather than any real cherries being infused into the beer taste. My sandwich was ok. My winter special (don't remember the actual name) beer was pretty hearty, with a little hoppy edge to it.

The plane left a little late but made up the time in the air. We were unable to get an exit row so we felt kind of crammed in (especially me). Some young stand-in guy got the seat next to us at the window and let out stinky farts the whole way down.

So overall, not bad, but to me, Newark was not a significant improvement from any recent experiences I have had at JFK or La Guardia airports.

We arrived in Ft. Meyers to discover that the weather was a balmy low 80s, a great upgrade from the 40s weather in New York City. Therese's brother Sam picked us up in the family sedan and we had a very comfortable leisurely ride to Therese's mom's house in Naples. Along the way Therese and Sam caught up and I got to know Sam a bit, it being my first time meeting him in the flesh (we had previously spoken on the phone a couple of times and exchanged messages on Facebook).

It was also my first time meeting Sam's wife Cyndi and their two children, Hope (20 yrs. old) and Dan (almost 18). The four of them are currently keeping Therese's mom company in a townhouse which is part of a golfing community. The house is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, with a large kitchen, livingroom, dining room, den and garage. Pretty typical, I guess.

So there we were, to spend the weekend. Sam had planned out menus and made numerous trips to area supermarkets and beverage stores. Eileen, Therese's mom, had spent hours upon hours constructing baskets for a Yankee swap and other packages, so that we could do basically 3 rounds of gift-giving: one on the 23rd, one on Xmas eve, and one on Xmas day. So we ate and opened presents and drank, and the next day we did it all over again. We were on our own for breakfasts, but Sam took care of lunch and dinner each day. The kids cleaned up after every meal.

My one contribution was making a chocolate cake from a Barefoot Contessa mix that I had brought with me, which I did on Xmas day. That became part of dessert that evening (although Therese and I got to sample it before then). Sam got plenty of good bottles of wine. We went to the store and got extra margarine and almond milk to make sure we'd be able to make almost everything non-dairy for my benefit (I am allergic to dairy).

One of the gifts I got Friday night (the 23rd) was a big bottle of Kahlua, so we had glasses of Kahlua over ice with milk (almond milk for me) to finish about every day. In 3 days, we drank the entire bottle, and that was fine with me (it was really tasty).

Meals included Filet Mignon for Xmas dinner, crab chowder, chicken prepared I forget how, and of course lots of side dishes like cole slaw. Nobody went hungry.

Somewhere toward the end of the weekend, I realized that it had been 80 degrees for a high every day and I had never experienced it, staying inside in the air conditioning all weekend. Therese and I had talked about going out to a movie at some point over the weekend, but there were dvds available to watch: the old 1950s Harvey with Jimmy Stewart and Bernardo Bertolucci's "Besieged" with Thandie Newton and David Thewlis (the latter was wonderful). So we didn't feel like we needed to go anywhere.

Nevertheless, if we do this next year for Xmas weekend, I am going to plan an excursion into the weekend...

So there it was, a very nice relaxing Xmas weekend, with plenty of chances to get to know Cyndi, Sam, Hope and Dan, lots of good camraderie, very nice.

The following weekend was of course New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Therese and I had made reservations to have dinner at Trattoria dell' Arte, a nice restaurant across the street from Carnegie Hall. From 7 to 10p they were offering a 7-course dinner for $150 per person, which was much more reasonable than the other deals we explored. And we've been to Trattoria dell' Arte a few times and know we like the food and wine there.

We got all dressed up - me in my tuxedo, Therese in her evening dress and jacket - and arrived shortly before 10p. The restaurant was inside the zone blocked off for viewing the ball drop in Times Square, so we had to take a bus and then walk, showing our pass to get through the barricades. The food was all quite good, the prosecco and red wine I had just perfect, and the champagne and chocolate covered strawberries a nice send-off. I had a veal chop for my main course, while Therese had a lobster dish with seafood risotto on the side. The tiramisu dessert Therese had was apparently splendid while my mix of chocolate and raspberry sorbets was exquisite. Every course was nice.

We elected to stay inside rather than fight our way outside to see the ball drop at midnight. We felt sufficiently festive, and the service was really great. Some fellow went from table to table after midnight trying to get people to promise they would come back next New Year's Eve. Oh, he was nice about it, but still, it was a little odd.

So coming up we are thinking about doing a weekend in DC at some point, perhaps a long weekend in California's Napa wine country and San Francisco (or Seattle), and maybe even a week (with two weekends) in Paris and environs. And then next September if all goes well we are spending 10 days in Belgium - Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.

In the meantime, I will start to catch you up on the traveling I did during 2011. I've reviewed a lot of attractions and restaurants from that traveling on TripAdvisor, so I will be sure and include links as appropriate in case that might be helpful!

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