Monday, November 26, 2012

Dispatches from New York: Week 8, Last Week

On Monday, after having spent a lovely sunny, but chilly weekend in New York with Riley, Maarten went back to work and Riley moved on to visit with friends. I was a bit tired from the weekend, so we were slow getting out. We went to the key park for a little while, but it was too cold to be out for long.
Nap of note: Fletcher fell asleep with his hand in the (empty) popcorn bowl

In the Netherlands, December 5th is 'Sinterklaas', a day when children receive presents from Sinterklaas. He usually arrives in the Netherlands by boat from Spain, where he lives, with his white horse and his helpers, called 'Zwarte Pieters' Black Peters. His arrival is a big day in ports all over the country and usually televised. Children wait for him at the harbor and there is a large parade as he marches through town. His helpers hand out Peppernoten (Small spiced ginger cookies) and chocolate coins to the kids, as well as threaten to take the bad kids back to spain in a sack. This event usually happens in the middle of November in the Netherlands. After he arrives, children put their shoes out before they go to sleep and sing a Sinterklaas Song. They also leave a carrot in their shoe for Sint's horse. If they have been good, Sint might have come by in the night and left a small present for them. If not, then, nothing.

Oddly enough, when I was in 3rd grade, about 8 years old, I had a teacher named Mrs Rivera. She was originally from the Netherlands, so she taught us about Sinterklaas in class as well as some Dutch songs. We put carrots out for Sint's horse, and in the morning we had peppernoten in the paper shoes we had made the day before. I still remember the song.

We will be arriving back in Amsterdam on December 5th, the day before Sinterklaas. Since we missed Sint's arrival in Amsterdam this year, I thought I would see if we could find a place in New York that celebrates Sinterklaas. Surely in a city of 8.2 million people, someone must celebrate! After some research (Thanks google) I found a town 2 hours outside of NYC that was settled by Dutch colonists in the 1650s and continues to celebrate the Sint tradition with a parade and events every year. They were celebrating Sint's arrival this weekend, which fit well into our schedule! Hotel and rental car booked (not an easy feat on Thanksgiving weekend!) and we were set for a weekend away!.

To prepare for our meeting with Sint, we started to talk to Fletcher about Sint. We watched videos of Sint arriving in Amsterdam, and talked about leaving our shoes out. We bought a carrot for the horse and talked about how Sint brings small gifts to good boys and girls, but nothing for children that misbehave. It's fun to start these traditions and I'm really enjoying the fact that Fletcher is starting to understand these rituals and enjoy them too. I can't wait for Christmas morning! (Though I'm not sure how I will be able to stop him from opening the presents under the tree before the big day!)

Wednesday morning we went back to the Soho Children's museum of the Arts for the Wee Arts drop in session where we painted a bit, played with clay and blocks.

My little Picasso and his car art

Kate and Scout were there for the earlier session, so we crossed paths and agreed to meet at the playground. After they left, Fletcher started to get a bit antsy and ask 'Where Scouty?' So we left the class early and went to the playground. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and Fletcher and Scout had a ball playing on the swings and running around.

Fun with Scout

Thursday was Thanksgiving, a big American holiday, and the official start to the Holiday season. It's a public holiday on Thursday and Friday and a time most people try to spend with their families. In the Netherlands it's not an official holiday, but for about 10 years I've had a dinner on the Saturday following Thanksgiving Thursday to celebrate with my friends. It takes days of preparation, but I enjoy it. In Manhattan, Thanksgiving is associated with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is mostly know for the giant ballons that float down Central park west and 6th avenue. We thought it was something Fletcher might like, so we got up at 6:30am on a beautiful Thursday morning ...

And headed uptown to get a good viewing spot with hundreds of thousands of other people on the parade route.

If you look closely (and with a magnifying glass) you can see a Marching Band in the Parade

We weren't too badly situated considered we arrived around 7:45. People started scouting places at 6:00am!

The parade started at 9:00am at 77th, and we were at 64th (or thereabouts). At about 8:45, Fletcher started getting antsy and kept saying 'Lopen! Lopen! (let's walk! Let's walk!). We managed to corral him until abou 9:15 when the first balloon came by, Hello Kitty on an airplane

We occasionally saw floats and heard marching bands, but the balloons were the easiest to see 
Hello, It's Kermit thee Frog here...
Kung Fu Panda making his way down Central Park West

At about 10:00am, Fletcher started to get antsy again, so we decided to leave. We couldn't see much anyway, but were glad we experienced a taste of it. As we struggled our way through the crowd behind us, we realized that we had a pretty good spot! We went home and watched the parade on TV- much better viewing...though all of the commercialism and lip synching got to be a bit much for me.

We chilled a bit, Maarten made steak quesadillas for lunch and then went to a restaurant called Landmarc for dinner. I booked it based on some reviews that mentioned how family friendly it was. It didn't matter much in the end, since Fletcher fell asleep literally seconds after we walked into the restaurant. Made for a quiet Thanksgiving dinner :)
Contents of Fletcher's pockets on Thanksgiving

The dinner was ok. Instead of a 'Thanksgiving Menu' they had a 'Thanksgiving special', which wasn't traditional enough for me. I will probably make my own turkey dinner this week (on a small scale) to make up for it. The food was good, it just didn't hit the traditional notes I was looking for. Oh well. There's always next year!

Friday morning we got up, packed and, after picking up the rental car, headed up the Hudson river to Kingston for a date with Sinterklaas! It was another beautiful day and we spent the first half of the journey driving along the Hudson River from small town to small town

Hudson River
We even drove through Sleepy Hollow! That meant nothing to Maarten, so I told him about the short story by Washington Irving called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

We arrived at about 4pm in Kingston and checked out the downtown area near the river, then checked into our hotel. They had a pool, so Fletcher and I went swimming and played around for a while, before going back up to get Maarten and heading out for dinner.  A little shopping after dinner (lots of Christmas prezzies purchased!) and then back to the hotel for an early night.

On Saturday, the festivities started around 11:00.  We got into downtown Kingston around 12:00 and headed to the Maritime Museum where Crowns and branches could be decorated for use in the Procession that leads Sinterklaas to the boat in which he departs for Rhinecliff.

After decoration, Fletcher started to have a meltdown because he was hungry, so we grabbed lunch on the Broadway (The main road in that part of town, where the festivites were taking place) and listened to live music while we ate. Then we checked out the other activities. We rode the tram with the Grumpuses (the American, politically correct version of the Zwarte Pieten), who handed out chocolate coins, and had a meet and greet with Sint 

Sint and Grumpuses

And decorated cookies in the antique shop

The decorated cookie

The artist consuming his artwork

It was very local and very lovely. The shops had lots of activities and there was a nice spirit in the tradition. The parade started and we watched the procession head down the street, led by a bagpiper playing Christmas Carols

Birds in flight

Sint at the waterfront

We walked with Sint down to the boat and waved him and his procession off

Sint waving to the Children

Sint's procession

Dag Sint! Tot Volgende Keer (Bye Sint, See you next time!)
We enjoyed the festivities and were glad we made the trip to participate. 

Later that evening we went to Barnes and Noble Books to get some magazines. I was looking at some books when Fletcher ran up to me with a firetruck in his hands and said 'Look Mama! Firetruck! He kept walking past me and said 'Come on, Come on! Lets go to the car.' He was deadly serious. It's hard not to smile in situations like that. 

While we were in Kingston on Saturday, I noticed that there was a firefighters museum about an hour north, which looked pretty kid friendly.  On Sunday we packed up, checked out and drove North to Hudon New York to the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. It was a great museum! Lots of trucks, several of which Fletcher could climb into (Heaven!) 


Outfits to try on, though we had our own on already :), games and activities and videos.
Fletcher in the Driver's seat

There was even an exhibit about the Dutch settlement of the Hudson valley and how the Dutch settlers used 'Bucket Brigades' to put out fires. We spent the weekend honoring Dutchies in America. Like us! (well, 2 of us, anyway!)

Back to New York and back to business. This week, our last, my sister and brother and law are coming to visit, we have continuing adventures with Riley and Tim's birthday dinner!

Until next week!

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