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Paradisus Punta Cana

When you enter Paradisus Punta Cana Resort through its serene tropical entrance, you immediately feel a sense of calm as you wander through the natural foliage and fish ponds towards the canopied beds in the common area. The resort has a very Zen like feeling in its initial impression, but the entrance eventually opens to a very lush tropical setting.



Only a short 30 minute cab ride from the airport, Paradisus Punta Cana has countless options to fit the needs of any honeymoon, wedding, family reunion, or corporate retreat. The property boasts 896 rooms in various styles, twelve restaurants, seven different pools, and an expansive white sand beach. The Reserve section of the property offers visitors more privacy than other areas. Containing only 132 rooms, The Reserve has private pools for adults and children. It also has restaurants that are exclusive to travelers who opt to stay there. It is the perfect way to enjoy the entire resort, but still be able to retreat back to a quieter area for relaxing.



The resort also offers a lot in the way of nightlife. The resort has nine different bars, nightly entertainment, and a casino.




Activities abound at Paradisus Punta Cana! The resort offers water sports including snorkeling, diving (for certified divers), windsurfing, kayaking, and a catamaran for sailing. If fun on land is more your speed, the resort has four tennis courts, three paddle ball courts, a rock climbing wall, batting cages, and volleyball courts. Horseback riding and golf (at Cocotal Golf) are available for additional charges as well.



After so much fun in the sun, you may find yourself needing to relax from your vacation. There’s no better way to do so than to relax at the resorts Yhi Spa. They offer a long list of services as well as a fitness center for use anytime. There’s also a kids “mini spa” where they can get pampered as well.



Paradisus Punta Cana has something for everyone and every occasion. It is perfect for large groups of people with varying needs and travel expectations. The resort is beautiful, and the staff is attentive to the needs of the guests. The Shady Umbrella would love to help you find your place in the shade, so contact us with any of your travel needs.

Happy Travels,
Kristin

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Zoetry Aqua

Zoetry Aqua in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic offers the perfect balance of seclusion and luxury at their 51 room thatched roof resort. I have found in the past that there are usually compromises made when selecting a resort…we found none when it came to Zoetry. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, the rooms are lovely, and the staff as attentive as you will find. At Zoetry Agua you will find pools woven throughout the grounds and along the pathway to the beach offering it’s guests the opportunity to find the perfect spot to relax. The property is large enough, and the rooms few enough that you can let mind relax in your own private oasis. 

The focus of Zoetry seems to be health and spa, but if that’s not your thing there is still plenty to take in and enjoy.  The resort offers a full service spa, three restaurants, a coffee shop, and several bars. Activities like scuba, cigar rolling, kayaking, horseback riding and yoga are also offered outdoors and on the beach.

Zoetry is perfect for couples looking for luxurious quiet, honeymooners that want to loose themselves in eachother, and it provides an intimate setting for destination weddings.  




The rooms at Zoetry are very peaceful and lavish. They have a very therapeutic feel because of the hardwoods and stone flooring, comfortable bedding, and open layouts. Modern conveniences abound also such as air conditioning, free wifi, and satellite tv should you need it.




The resort is located about an hour outside of the Punta Cana airport by taxi, but there is also a helicopter transport option if you want to make a “baller”esque entrance into paradise.



The food at Zoetry is all very well prepared. There are several different restaurants to choose from as well as room service in the morning and late night. The resort has dishes prepared for the health conscious and for those who didn’t go on vacation to start dieting. All the food is made to order, except on Friday nights there is a expansive buffet at the beach bbq. The grilled spiny lobster is a treat, so don’t hesitate to go a little nuts.





Two peacocks named Paco and Pica roam the grounds at their leisure and can often be seen outside of your room or while dining. You may end up with a visitor from time to time.
 


Zoetry off
ers destination wedding packages for the couple who wants to get away with their family and friends for their special day. There is an outdoor pavilion for services and private restaurants available for memorable receptions. Susana, Zoetry’s wedding coordinator, takes the utmost care in providing a beautiful outcome to your day. 









Zoetry is the perfect fit for many travelers ideal vacation…The Shady Umbrella would love to help you find your place in the shade.

Happy Travels,

Kristin

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The Flowertown Festival, Check It Out March 26th-28th!

Looking for something to do this weekend? 

In historic Summerville, SC over March 26th-28th, the
Summerville Family YMCA  hosts The Flowertown Festival!  This annual event is in its 38th year, and is not to be missed!  The festival brings together over 200 arts and crafts vendors in Azalea Park, while local restaurants show off delicious bites in the Taste of Summerville!  Many area businesses contribute by showcasing their goods in booths lining Main Street. There’s also a children’s jubilee area that has activities and rides for your little ones!

Thanks to all the YMCA staff for your hard work to put on this community building event!

See y’all there this weekend!

Kristin and Jason


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Our Middleton Place Experience…

    This past weekend Kristin and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary.  Knowing that wood was the proper gift to be given on a fifth wedding anniversary, I decided to put my own twist on the occasion by taking her to the woods at Middleton Place Plantation

Right…

Ok, Ok….in reality, I thought of this on the way there after Kristin told me about wood being the traditional gift for five years.  Pretty nimble with my words if you ask me, but she didn’t buy it for a second…I did plan something special though, so I have that going for me.

    At any rate, The Inn at Middleton Place had a fantastic two day “Winter Getaway” package that we took advantage of.  It included two nights at the inn, dinner at the restaurant one night, wine and chocolate covered strawberries for the room, and free roam of the grounds.  We decided to make a weekend of it and not leave the grounds for the two days.  
    
    We arrived in the afternoon and checked in with the desk to receive our vouchers and keys.  The property is gated for security at night, which is nice since it is so secluded.  We opted for a Riverview room, which is middle of the road as far as accommodations at the Inn go.  The room was very cozy and comfortable, but wasn’t extremely lavish like we assumed it would be.  However, it did offer beautiful views of the Ashley River and the oak trees outside through a wall made completely of windows covered in plantation shutters.  The room was very much like staying in a cabin in the woods, which is fitting for the surroundings.  A wood burning fireplace was the perfect accessory to the room, but unfortunately the available wood was pretty damp from recent rain and snow.  I pulled out my very best boy scout style skills to no avail.  I could only manage a slow smoky smolder in the fire place.  Kristin thought it was hilarious that I couldn’t get the fire blazing.  In hindsight, I should have realized that I was fighting a losing battle with the wet wood, but I am stubborn…




    Since, we never left the grounds during our stay we had many opportunities to try a variety of dishes from the restaurant.  Standouts on the menu included the seared sea scallops, grilled new york strip, and a peppered yellow fin steak that was a special.  Other mentionables were the she crab soup and shrimp and grits.  All of the food was very well prepared and tasty.  Nothing really wowed us, but overall everything was very good.  The service staff were all very friendly and attentive to our needs.  Unfortunately, due to operator error on my part the food pictures were lost…on the upside we have many others to share of the grounds.

  

     The Plantation as a whole was gorgeous even in the middle of winter.  The gardens and immediate property surrounding the House Museum were ryed and were very green and lush.  The outlying areas were brown with dormant centipede grass, which has it’s own beauty when properly maintained and weeded.  The House Museum was beautiful, and contains many Middleton family heirlooms and priceless antiques.  Many beautiful paintings are on the walls also.  I am nowhere near a history buff, but I found the guided tour to be very informative and entertaining.  It is definitely worth taking.




    The stableyards have also been preserved, and give a glimpse of what many of the slaves did day-to-day on the plantation.  There are many people employed in this are to reenact and explain their duties and the significance of them during the time period.  Everything is very tastefully done with respect to the heritage of all involved.  The stableyards are also home to many animals that I considered unusual like peacocks, water buffaloes, and guinea hogs.  There are also chickens and horses roaming about. 






    A few things that we didn’t do, but would have if it had been warmer included kayak rentals and biking at the Outdoor Center.  There is also an Equestrian Center if you are into horses or the riding of them.  Also on the property are a garden market and museum gift shop that offer snacks and gifts to remember your trip.



    All in all, we had a very nice time.  It was very relaxing, and informative.  There is just so much history to the family and grounds that you really have to be there to take it all in and appreciate it’s significance.  If you’d like to visit Middleton Place, we’d be happy to help you with your arrangements!

Happy Travels,

Kristin and Jason






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Valentine’s Day Ideas Around Charleston, SC

    Valentine’s Day is coming up soon and to kick off our “Raised on Salt Air” series we’re going to give  you some romantic spots to take that special someone around Charleston, SC!

Places to Stay


Woodlands Resort & Inn

We have stayed at the Woodlands a couple times, once on our wedding night before we flew to Jamaica and on an anniversary.  The grounds and rooms at the inn are beautiful.  The staff went above and beyond what we expected even in a five star hotel.  The Woodlands is located in Summerville, SC which is only about 25 minutes outside of Charleston.  It is the only hotel in the state to have a five star rating in both lodging and dining. 


The Vendue Inn

We stayed here on an anniversary also.  The Vendue Inn has a unique personality.  It is very beautiful, and offers guests many different common areas to enjoy like a music room and a reading room.  There are also two very good restaurants on the grounds, The Library and Rooftop.  The Library offers traditional southern cuisine, while the Rooftop offers great appetizers, views of the city and harbor, and live music.  I think younger couples would enjoy The Vendue Inn very much because of it’s many options.


The Planter’s Inn

The Planter’s Inn is in the running for our anniversary this year.  We have dined there, and it was outstanding.  However, I wouldn’t feel right writing a review, so this is how they describe themselves…”Nestled in the heart of the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina, the hotel dazzles guests with sumptuous detail. Take a soak in a whirlpool tub, enjoy a glass of wine, or simply sink into the exquisite handmade bed. Enjoy a glass of sparkling champagne or cool refreshing iced tea on the piazza overlooking the Garden Courtyard, or on a balcony overlooking the history of Charleston, SC. You will feel both revived and indulged at Planters Inn!” -plantersinn.com


Places to Eat

Peninsula Grill

The Peninsula Grill is a four star restaurant located inside of The Planter’s Inn.  The restaurant is very elegant and open, but not at all pretentious.  It is actually a little loud inside as guests pour through bottles of wine and cocktails.  However, the food is outstanding.  It is one of our favorite places to eat in Charleston because of the light atmosphere and quality of the food. Try the Lobster “3 Way”.

The Dining Room at Woodlands Inn

The Dining Room at Woodlands Inn is a five star restaurant located in the Woodlands Resort & Inn.  The food is inventive and creative.  We have eaten the a few times, and have never seen the same menu twice.  The chef is always changing the menu to keep things fresh.  The dining room itself is very beautiful and intimate. 

Charleston Grill

The Charleston Grill is located inside of Charleston Place Hotel.  The restaurant offers traditional cuisine with a nod to invention.  Every time that we have been it has been excellent.  There is typically live jazz being played inside to accompany your experience.  The dining room is very open and beautiful. 


After Dinner Sights

Waterfront park


Within walking distance of all of the hotels and restaurants mentioned, Water Front Park offers beautiful views of the harbor and surrounding areas.  There are many swings and benches to sit and admire the view or just spend time with each other.  A stroll through the park is a great way to end a romantic evening.

The Battery


The Battery offers beautiful sunset views of the harbor.  It is also across the street from many gorgeous historic Charleston homes, and White Point Gardens which has many large oak trees and civil war monuments.  It is also a nice place to stroll through and just be together.

Just Take It All In

I think a lot of us take for granted just how beautiful Charleston is at night.  Just taking a walk down East Bay or King Street at night is great.  There are many places that you can duck into for a night cap if you choose.


We hope this has helped you with your Valentine’s Day plans around the Lowcountry! 

Kristin and Jason

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Check out our Favorite Spots around Charleston in the series “Raised on Salt Air”

    Through all of our travels, what Kristin and I always love the most about a trip is pulling into our driveway here in Charleston, SC.  Don’t get me wrong, we love seeing new places and meeting new faces, but there is just something about Charleston. 
    We were both fortunate enough to grow up here, and find employment in our married life together that allowed us to stay.  We’ve been sharing some tips and tales about our travels around the globe, and we are going to continue to do so.  In addition, we are going to start telling y’all about what we love most about our hometown and life in the southeast.  We’ve been coming to your hometowns on vacation, but we think you might like to check out ours too!  So keep and eye out for a new series on the blog called “Raised on Salt Air”.  In it we’re going to be sharing our favorite spots on land and water, some awesome food, and anything else we think you might be in to through video and written stories. 

We hope you like it!

Jason and Kristin



The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC

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All-Inclusive vs. Pay As You Go

    A lot of people seem to struggle with whether to go all-inclusive when they go on vacation.  I am no different, so I am not going to tell you which one you need to pick.  Instead, let’s list reasons to choose both.  That way you can decide what kind of trip you want to go on…


All-Inclusive

Romance
Need a little quality time with your special someone?  All-inclusive trips allow you to focus on nothing but each other.  I wouldn’t recommend anything different for a honeymoon.  Waking up in each others arms and not having to focus on any details of the day is wonderful.  Many resorts cater to couples…


No Unexpected Costs

Once you pay your total balance you are done.  All of your food and alcohol have been taken care of.  Most resorts even include activities like snorkeling, sailing, biking, shuttle buses, and glass bottom boat rides in the bill.  You may have to pay for some spa treatments out of pocket, but that’s about it.

Decisions? ummm, yeah…not for me…
Sure, there are some things that will require your attention, real hard hitting questions like, “Would you like another (insert drink of choice here)?” or “Would you prefer your meal brought down to the beach?”  Nothing life altering though….

Big Appetites
Are you a foodie or a big eater?  Like variety?  You can eat at as many places as you want within the confines of your resort.  If you like what you had, but are still hungry then order it again.  Most resorts offer many different styles of food and dining atmospheres.  You are not limited to a buffet line every night. 

Travel with Less Cash
If you have already paid the bulk of your trip expenses, then you don’t have to have a fat wallet with you everyday.  Just pack some local currency for souvenirs and a debit/credit card and hop on the plane.

Big Family
If you have a larger family or children of varying ages an all-inclusive family resort may be for you also.  Most resorts offer many activities with experienced guides.  Staffed security guards ensure safety within the properties also.  You will feel better about letting the kids go do different things if they are limited to the confines of the resort. 

Pro Tip: Many All-Inclusives are offering huge discounts right now, take advantage while the deals last!



Pay As You Go

Are you an Explorer?
If you like getting out and exploring then pay as you go is for you.  You choose your destinations and set the itinerary. 

No Limitations
You can stay in a different town every night if you choose.  Check out the countryside and local eateries at your leisure.  If you don’t like the hotel or resort you’re at, then go to another one…

Lower Initial Costs
You may end up spending more than all-inclusive, you may end up spending less.  It’s up to you and your budget. 

Check Out the Local Hot Spots
Get out there and do what the locals do.  White sand and blue water are at every tropical destination on the globe.  Local flavor and culture are what changes from country to country.  Go be a part of it!

Hate Touristy Spots?
Braid your hair pretty lady? I was asked that 1,267 times in the Bahamas…At first it was charming, by the fifth time in three steps onto the beach they might as well have been telemarketers, except you can’t just let the phone ring until they hang up…I know they are just trying to earn a living, but wow.  Go find your secluded, private spot with just the people that you want to see there.

Be More Spontaneous
There is nothing to keep you at the resort like prepaid meals and activities.  You will be free to take off on an unscheduled excursion.  


    When choosing between all-inclusive and pay as you go, it really depends on what kind of experience you want to have. If you are leaning towards all-inclusive, I would recommend couples seeking romance to consider Sandals or Couples resorts.  Families should check out Beaches or Breezes.  While pleasure seeking singles may want to bare it all at Hedonism or party until dawn at Club Med.   I hope this has helped you make your decision.  We are happy to help you with your arrangements whatever route you choose. 

Happy Travels!

Kristin and Jason





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Sights and the City

    On our first day in New York City, we took a walking tour of the financial district.  The tour was hosted by the Downtown Alliance. It was led by a guide from Big Onion Tours and was free (except for tipping the guide).  We assumed that the tour would be about how the stock market and banking system works.  I would be completely bored, while Jason, who likes trading, would be pumped up.  Instead we were told about the early history of New York, and the significance of the architecture and statues.  It was awesome, and revealed a rich history of the city that we wouldn’t have know otherwise.  The tour took us down Wall Street, past Trinity Church, through the landmarked buildings, and past the iconic “charging bull”.











    On day two we found ourselves in a line to board a boat bound for The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  I would suggest purchasing your tickets in advance at Statue Cruises.  You save a lot of time, and you know that your tour time won’t be sold out before you get your tickets.  All of the lines for the boat and the statue have airport style security, so having some coffee in hand won’t hurt.  The ferry takes you to Lady Liberty and Ellis Island before dropping you back off.  Make sure to sit on the starboard side (the right side for you non boaters) of the boat.  You will have a great view of the harbor and the statue as you approach it.  There are audio and self guided tours available for the statue.  Expect a 30 minute wait to get your chance to enter the pedestal and statue.  It is worth it though, as the view is amazing.  Whenever you are ready hop back onto the boat to check out Ellis Island to see the path many immigrants took into the country.







    Later we checked out The Empire State Building.  Expect airport style security here also, but the wait isn’t nearly as long. The elevator to the top is very fast, and has you up to the observation deck in no time.  It is very cold and windy up there, but beautiful.  You can see the entire city! 







    Ground Zero was a very sobering stop on our trip.  There is an unsettling void that is felt around where the towers once stood.  A beautiful memorial is currently being built to forever be a reminder of the loss suffered on September the 11th.  Across the street St.Paul’s church still acts as a shrine to those who were lost that day.  It brought tears to our eyes to read and see all of the letters to loved ones and children’s pictures that were displayed.  Standing there in the midst of where this tragedy occurred is overwhelming.  There is a also preview center there that gives a glimpse of what the memorial will be like when it is complete.

 

 



    Later in the trip the boys took in a Knicks game at historic Madison Square Garden.  While the boys were watching their sports, the girls saw “Chicago” starring Ashlee Simpson-Wentzel on Broadway.  The boys thought that the basketball was awesome, and “Chicago” was great. 





    The last notable was the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes!  I know that it’s past Christmas, but this is worth mentioning.  The show is amazing!  There are amazing props and costumes.  Also, there are several different acts to keep you entertained including 3-D.  They also had a portion dedicated to portraying the biblical Christmas story complete with a live nativity scene.  I thought this was awesome especially in a world that constantly tries to take Christ out of Christmas.







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NYC Shopping, One Gal’s Experience


    I have done some shopping, but I have never come close to dropping.  However, I am pretty sure that your chances increase significantly in New York City.  There is an endless number of stores, and a little something for everyone.  When I travel I have a rule to never shop anywhere that I could visit in Charleston, which helped to cut out a lot of the larger retailers.  I’d like to share a couple of experiences and tips from the trip, so here goes.

    
    
    It’s a little cheesy, but you have to get an “I Love NY” t-shirt!  Sometimes cheesy is a good thing, especially when it only costs you $2.99…that’s right, for less than three American dollars you too can be the proud owner of an “I love NY” shirt.  There’s really nothing more that I can say here, just get one.

    
    
    Now that you have your obligatory t-shirt, we can move forward.  Our first stop was Century 21, not to be confused with the real estate company. Supposedly, this is one of the best shopping stops in NYC.  To me, it sounded like a huge TJ Maxx or Marshalls but with more designer clothing.  My expectations were very high as I held my clutch and ordered Jason to “stretch it out, these bags may get heavy.”  Instead, I only found disappointment inside of the doors.  The store does have a little of everything, but it is so crowded and cluttered that I found it difficult to navigate.  Hordes of shoppers randomly grabbing and invading my “personal shopping bubble” kept me from finding any treasure.  After finally losing hope, I retreated to the center aisle and made my way out.

   

    Our next stop was Tiffany & Co, it was my first time being inside one of their retail stores, but I have a history with them none the less.  You see over the Summer Jason took a trip to Las Vegas with his buddy Joe.  Joe’s fiancé’s parents lived there, and he was asking for her hand in marriage.  Innocent enough right?  That may be, but every gal out there knows that for her man to be turned loose in Sin City for a weekend there must be gifts given.  Jason was specifically told to “bring me back something pretty and platinum”.  Seemed like a fair trade to me.  Instead, I received an In-N-Out Burger t-shirt…colossal failure in the husbandly duties.  Soooo, knowing that you can imagine how excited I was to see Tiffany and Co.!  Finally, Jason could redeem himself in my graces…just how to convince him.  Inside I found something I loved in every case, but I have to hand it to him, he stood his ground.  No little box for me this go round, but there will be others.  A girls got to try right?  


    

    I grew up being a fan of the movie “Big”.  The FAO Schwartz scene in the movie is famous because of the large floor piano inside the store.  When we walked inside we made our way through the thousands of toys and candies to the piano.  A couple of employees have mastered the instrument and routinely play songs.  We stayed for the recurring concert and saw them play chopsticks and even some difficult classical pieces!  Afterward, the children in the crowd  were allowed to play a few notes themselves.  We all felt like kids again as we walked around this enchanting store looking at toys new and old.

FAO Schwartz Piano from The Shady Umbrella on Vimeo.

  
    



 

    Do you remember having a pair of KangaRoos brand shoes as a child?  I never had a pair, but Jason happened upon some that were in adult sizes.  I have never seen him so excited!  Roos have a pouch made into the shoes that you can keep things in.  As a child, Jason would haul around his lunch money in the pouch.  Apparently they are still a fairly popular brand, even though they are new to me.  We found them while trying to find me a pair of rain boots on a very nasty morning.  They were having a huge sale on them, so we each grabbed a pair. I initially bought them to have something to wear in the rain so I wouldn’t ruin my boots, but I have come to really like my lime green Roos.  These are Jason’s. 

    
    
    Before going to New York we heard stories about going over to Canal Street to get unbelievable deals on purses.  I don’t know whether they’re real or just good knock offs…Who knows?  We knew that we wanted to check it out, but didn’t really know what to expect.  Should you ever end up there, here’s the low down.  We had no sooner stepped out of the cab than to have a woman on the corner start questioningly whisper names of high end designers to us.  A little caught off guard we retreated to collect ourselves and have dinner.  There was a lot of suspect behavior happening all around.  Groups of women disappearing behind false doors in the backs of junk stores, whole families hopping into parked cargo vans with perfect strangers, shoppers hurriedly following scouts back to the goods…you get the idea.  Oh, also everyone, and I mean everyone, was toting big black trash bags filled with stuff.  I spoke with a woman with a bag at dinner that was kind enough to explain what to expect.  While we were all a little nervous, this is what we had come for.  Don’t misunderstand, we didn’t feel threatened at all, we just usually don’t spend our weekends ducking in and out of concealed rooms.  The scouts that are stationed on and around the street corners have inventory cards with pictures of what they offer.  They show you what they have, and if you want to see some items then you are escorted to them.  We had one woman actually go and retrieve the items for us on the street, but this was the only one.  She must just be getting her feet wet in the biz, as her competition all had very James Bondesque hidden doors and passages that are hidden behind the facade of  trinket shops.  

    While waiting for some bags to arrive we ran into a cute couple from Savannah, GA who was also waiting.   This helped put my mind at ease, especially when one of the guys asked where Jason was from because he was the only person wearing boat shoes in NYC.  When the goods came back, I checked them out and decided what I wanted.  I would estimate that $35-$45 a bag is about the norm, but deals can be struck on multi item purchases.  Pay in cash, and never take their first offer.  Don’t be afraid to low ball them.  They will only say “no”, then you continue negotiating from there.  We definitely got taken on the first deal by about $35, adrenaline got the best of us on that one.  Live and Learn.  After the first few deals we were becoming more comfortable, and it was even turning into a funny game.   When we went into a dark basement only to find a dad laughing while his wife and daughter picked out their goodies it was hard not to shake our heads in disbelief of what had become normal for the day.  This was by far my favorite experience in NYC.


 




    We also checked out the designers on 5th Avenue.  I think most people have an idea of which retailers line the street, so I will spare you those details.  I will leave you with some pictures of the very elaborate and beautiful window displays along 5th instead. 

Happy New Year!












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