Welcome Rituals

Each year if in New York for New Year’s Eve, my wife and I “run away from home”. We live on 56th, just off Park Avenue in New York. So to escape the bedlam of midtown Manhattan and to ensure we aren’t even tempted to go tromping through the winter slush in the direction of Times Square with its teeming crowds, we go 20 blocks north to the Upper East Side — a venerable and gracious part of Manhattan.

We check into the legendary Carlyle hotel, the art deco gem that has been a bastion of New York since 1930 — a hub of elegance and gracious taste.  Our suite has a baby grand piano, a terrace, and beds that you sink into, layer by layer.

Upon arrival circa lunch-time on the 30th, we walk over to Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue (which originally started life as a Milano pastry shop before migrating to Greenwich Village)…for a palate and soul-satisfying lunch — and arguably the best cappuccino in town. Then to Maison du Chocolat for a velvety dark hot chocolate. A traipse past numerous legendary retailers and we end up at Crawford Doyle, a book store reminiscent of how book stores should be. In short, knowledgeable staff, a carefully tapered and updated selection, civilized people capable of insightful exchanges or at least literate banter. They love hearing of our ritual in this store — it’s a succession of little experiences Henry James would have fashioned into an evocative tale with such aplomb.

A drink in Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle as a reminder of bars that invite human interaction and almost help you mature a few notches by being in them. Then dinner at the sumptuously appointed Carlyle Restaurant where classics like rack of lamb and Long Island Duck with Ligonberry sauce are rendered as they should be. A beautiful Cote du Rhone,  Chapoutier Hermitage (1999) caressed our palates with its power and finish.

An Ipod dock in the suite, a vintage cognac, a few puffs of my cigar polish off the first evening.

The 31st finds us lingering over Cinammon Toast and fruit, The Financial Times and some brief correspondence. Snow is falling — we are truly in the midst of a winter wonderland. Our tradition is a long walk through Central Park, to Belvedere Castle, across the Ramble and back, emerging near the Metropolitan Museum. We beat the crowds (just!) at J.G. Melon’s. Even the Michelin Guide gives it gushing mention. But generations of New Yorkers have already discovered and adored this place, for its jovial, no-nonsense, bustling atmosphere, and one of the best, most unfussy, but juicy and memorable burgers you’ll ever have.  A little shopping and we’re back. We’ll meet some friends for an early drink at Plaza Athenee (a bit of the Continent graciously transported to New York), then partake in another ritual, New Year’s Eve dinner at the exceptional Cafe Boulud (one of Daniel Boulud’s most exceptional restaurants, less flashy than his flagship Daniel, but with real soul). It’s across the street from The Carlyle, so the commute is just right.

We travel for a living…so for us familiarity rather than novelty is what we seek in our time to ourselves. But rituals of this ilk allow us to deepen enjoyment and appreciation each year, to bask rather than flit. Such times liberate our attention and energy and focus for each other, for other loved ones, and the abundant joy of life lived with grateful appreciation — a true “recharge” and “re-creation”.

Happy New Year everyone!