IT’S that time of the year again, when Irish couples, friends and families descend upon New York in their droves for what one woman recently told the Irish Voice is a shopping spree in "Bargain Apple."
Despite the devastating recession in a country that has made international headlines for the financial mess it finds itself in, some Irish people are still finding extra change in their pockets to make a trip to New York for their holiday shopping.
Standing amidst Ralph Lauren shirts and trousers in Macy’s in Herald Square on West 34th Street on a recent Friday were two burly men from Co. Monaghan who were laden down with suitcases and shopping bags.
Deep in conversation, presumably about man related stuff, Peter Drummey and Jason Knightly flushed with embarrassment when the Irish Voice made note of their bulging bags on Friday, November 13.
"Do you really think we could possibly buy all this stuff between us?" said Drummey half defensively.
The two friends were waiting on their wives, who had apparently given them strict instructions "not to budge from that spot" until their return.
Knightly admitted they agreed to watch their wives’ bags as a trade off for a "day free of shopping on Saturday."
"Tomorrow is our day and we plan to go to an Irish bar, watch the Liverpool game and have a few pints," said Knightly, excited with anticipation.
Drummey, a part-time musical director with a local theater in Co. Monaghan, and Knightly, a mechanical engineering teacher, accompany their wives to New York every year. Despite the cutbacks their paychecks have taken they were still determined "not to let the girls down" this year.
Knightly said sacrifices had to be made this year so they could "afford" their annual trip.
"We usually come to New York for a week but this year, mainly because of the price of hotels, we are only here for four days," explained Knightly.
"We also skipped a friend’s wedding in Spain in September so we could pay for this trip."
Drummey, who also purposely missed out on the wedding as well, admitted he and his wife don't "plan to spend" as much this year as previous years.
"Our budget is usually about $3,000 but we've cut that down to $2,000 because we just don't have it this year," he said.
Although not divulging how much money he makes a week, Drummey said his take home pay is considerably lower than it was this time last year, forcing the cuts.
"To be honest, if it wasn't for Sally's good job (his wife works as a therapist) we probably wouldn't be here," he admitted.
The friends, who have known each other for over 10 years, had no idea what their wives had purchased, but knew they weren't done.
"All I know is they keep saying, ‘This is such a bargain, I can't leave it behind,' so when I hear those words I just switch off, hand over the wallet and keep the head down," laughs Knightly.
PEERING at sparkling jewelry was Co. Donegal native Sarah Coll. Coll, a foster mom of two, was in New York to celebrate her 50th birthday.
The birthday girl was joined by her sister-in-law Madge McFadden and her two daughters, Noreen and Agnes.
"I turned 50 this year so we all decided to come to New York to celebrate," Coll told the Irish Voice, while joking that she didn't have any lipstick on for a picture.
Coming to New York is a rare occurrence for Coll. Her last visit was seven years ago and she never envisioned herself back again.
"I was over the moon when the girls organized the trip," said Coll, while eyeing up a bracelet.
Coll admitted the only way she could afford to come back to the Big Apple was because she had dollars tucked away for a number of years.
"My husband and I were supposed to go to San Francisco five years ago but it fell through so I kept all the dollars from then, so that's my spending money," she said.
As for Noreen, an engineer with Donegal County Council, and Agnes, a student, they planned to shop till they dropped.
"We saved for this a long time," admits Agnes, who once lived in New York and hadn't been back since.
The Colls isters were on a mission to buy as much designer labels as possible.
"I just put away a Guess bag and wallet that's $180. At home you’d pay about 200 sterling for the bag alone," said Noreen.
Agnes, nodding her head in agreement, said she would be making a stop at the Tommy Hilfiger section of the store to purchase her designer labels too.
“Again, the price of Tommy Hilfiger here is so much cheaper than home, so that’s where we are heading next,” she said.
Coll and McFadden, although they had a list of presents they planned to purchase, was also looking forward to doing some sightseeing during their five-day vacation.
"We're also going up to Woodlawn (in the Bronx) to visit friends," said Coll.
HONEYMOONERS Andrea Sheehan and Paul O’Shea from Co. Cork were doing the laps of Macy’s on Friday.