Four years ago a tradition began.
After a delicious Italian dinner and Crème Brule dessert at Mediterraneo (on 2nd and 66th) to celebrate my friend from elementary school’s 25th birthday, the birthday girl, her roommate and I ventured off into the night in search of Christmas. It was the first week of December, the time of year when Manhattan’s midtown dresses up in its finest to welcome the holiday season. So for hours we wandered empty streets gazing at the twinkling lights, dancing characters and shimmery 5th avenue accessories in the closed-up store windows.
Just like that, the “Birthday-Christmas Tour” custom was born.
When it came time to plan this year’s surprise birthday she-bang I knew just what to sign us up for: The Amazing NY Race, Holiday Edition. Put on by Pogo Events, the scavenger hunt event is a team race around the Big Apple mimicked off the reality TV show, The Amazing Race. The events does take on different themes throughout the year, and I was tempted to go for the NY Desserts edition, but a tradition is a tradition.
So one crisp Saturday morning after receiving instruction alongside 20-something other teams, some dressed in costume and one with their own theme song, Francaise Fille (the b-day girl), AAA, K and I headed into the city to chase down Christmas –– after fueling up with a delicious French breakfast of quiche, omelets and crepes at La Grainne Cafe, of course. (It’s on 21st and 9th, and I highly recommend it. Triple thumbs up!!!)
(Our dessert crepes: Creme De Marrons, Clement-Faugier chestnut cream with creme fraiche; and Fruits Frais, mixed fruit with strawberry sauce.)
Here are some of the highlights of the hunt:
For the first task we were given images of a handful of NYC landmarks that we had to locate, visit and document with a photo. The movie-themed Gingerbread sculptures at the Le Parker Meridien (56th between 6th and 7th), the giant piano at FAO Schwartz (5th and 58th), the Central Park ice rink where we needed a photo of us pretending to skate, and the L-O-V-E outside some building on 6th where we needed a photo of us holding hands with ten strangers, were just some of the places on the list.
This kept us busy till 2 o’clock, when we needed to return to our departure point to face a road block (We had to name as many Christmas movies in two minutes as we could think of.) I note: Christopher Street is very out of the way from midtown’s Christmas magic.
The second half of the scavenger hunt was a list of holiday items and scenes that we had to find and document with a photo that included all team members. Some of the highlights were: a Christmas window display (hard to see, but there is lights and tinsel in the window); building a snowman; wearing tinsel (we ticked a lot off our list in this convenience store); a giant candy cane; jingle bells; and all the reindeer names (the book ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – how brilliant?).
We didn’t win in the end, but we all did, at different points in time, rate the day something between “awesome” and “best day ever.” (The best rating came from the birthday girl herself, who ranked it “best birthday” both at the height of adrenaline and the morning after.)
You know what the funniest thing about this tradition is? Francaise Fille doesn’t even celebrate Christmas. She does, however, have more holiday spirit than most people I know, and dedicated many Black Fridays to helping my family decorate our Christmas tree. Ho ho ho!
Merrrrry 28th Birthday!!!