1st Trip to New York City

I have a lot to blog about from the last couple of weeks, but since this trip is freshest in my memory, I figured I’d better write it down before I forget! Bill still had to remind me of some of the details. Warning… I put the whole trip into one post, this it’s LONG!

Our trip to New York was planned somewhat last-minute. Bill had a meeting he had to attend in late April that was postponed until the 9am on Monday, May 13th. So he would have to either spend all day Mother’s Day flying to New York or take a red-eye flight and try his best to stay awake through his morning meetings. I wasn’t happy with either option and I didn’t want to spend Mother’s Day without Bill. A couple of weeks before I asked if Bill could take a that Friday off so we could spend the weekend together in New York. The planets aligned properly and we were able to use a voucher to get a large percentage of our hotel room paid for. Woo hoo!

It had been about five years since I was last in New York City. The trip five years ago was a super quick day-trip that I took with Patrick to take photos for a book I was illustrating. Before that was my very first trip to New York that we took just after James and Kristen got married. That was ten years ago!

Tommy and I had spent the previous week in Newark, so flying out of the Bay Area gave us a few more flight options that flying out of SLC; where there is only one flight to JFK. Thursday evening we boarded our red-eye flight from OAK to JFK. We were a little nervous about Tommy’s first red-eye flight. We borrowed an iPad from Dad just in case too. He did great. He was antsy in the beginning, but he finally fell asleep about one hour into the flight on my lap. Once I was able to move him to the middle seat, he slept most of the way. Bill got a little sleep too. Me, not so much. I just can’t really get any sleep on airplanes.

Passed out on Mommy’s lap.


Hello jetBlue!

We arrived to JFK about 6am, got our bags and grabbed a taxi into Manhattan. We were very lucky that our hotel let us check-in so early so we could crash for a few hours. Otherwise it would have been a loooong wait until check-in time at 3pm with no place for Tommy to nap. All three of us crashed for a good five hours. It was very nice.

We had no plans on this trip except to visit Central Park a bit (a place neither Bill or I had ever explored) and to make sure to stop at a handful of restaurants. That was it. So, once the three of us were rested, we set off. Our hotel was at 51st and Lexington, and right next to a subway stop. It was quite convenient. Our first priority, a slice of pizza. Bill did a quick search on his phone and it brought us to Pizza by Cer Té where the three of us shared two slices.

One was a traditional Margherita pizza, the second was topped with mozzarella, parmesan and an onion confit. Both were delicious. Tommy liked them too.

This is how we navigated Manhattan without bringing a stroller. Both Bill and I really dislike traveling with a stroller, especially though airports and we didn’t want to deal with one on the subway. So we took turns wearing him on our backs. Yes, he’s getting heavy. Yes, both of our bodies were hurting at the end of each day. But it allowed Tommy to see what we were seeing at a higher vantage point than from a stroller. And sometimes he just walked with us, holding our hands. For us, this was easier than bringing a stroller.

From there we walked uptown a bit and ended up at the bottom east corner of Central Park. We did some people watching at Grand Army Plaza.

The Plaza… can we stay there next time??

We walked into Central Park, through the Zoo and down the Mall to the Bethesda Fountain. It was kind of fun to walk through parts of the park we both recognized from films.

We were trying to get him to take a nice photo, when he noticed money in the water.

Goofing off with Mommy.

Look Daddy, ducks!!

I thought his shirt was appropriate for the city.

Pretty light through the trees.

We walked up to 72nd and Amsterdam in the Upper West Side where Bill and I each had a Gray’s Papaya hot dog (my first!!), a papaya drink and some pineapple juice. Sooooo delicious.

Right next to Gray’s Papaya was a food truck selling Tawainese pot stickers. We picked up some pork dumplings from A-Pou’s Taste (Bill tells me the translation is “Grandma’s Taste”) and sat down on a park bench in a tiny sliver of a park called Sherman Square. It sits in the middle of a really busy intersection between Amsterdam and Broadway. Tommy ate most of the dumplings while he oohed and aahed the fire trucks, police cars, ambulances and random construction vehicles that passed.

These were really delicious. Or as Tommy would say, “Yum! Lishus!” Bill and I both cracked up at the tiny zip top baggie for the sauce.

From there we waked down to Columbus Circle where we picked up a vanilla cone covered in cookie crumbs from a Mr. Softee truck. Yum!

From Columbus Circle we continued on down to Times Square. As expected it was very busy. We sat for a little while on the tiered steps they have installed there and did some people watching.

Tommy was fading fast snuggled on Bill’s back. When he was sound asleep, we transferred the carrier to me, so he could sleep better. When he’s on Bill’s back, his head has a tendency to tip back.

I believe Bill is posting the photo below to his Facebook page in this shot.

While he slept, Bill and I walked to Rockefeller Plaza.

We stopped at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and shared a very expensive smoked salmon sandwich on a croissant and one mini macaron. Both were amazing. Tommy woke up as we were getting ready to leave Rockefeller Center, so we made a point to walk around the Lego store that’s there. He thought it was pretty cool.

One the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a food cart selling Halal food and picked up some dinner to eat at the hotel. We did grilled lamb chops with pita and a fried fish fillet with rice. Both were really delicious! Tommy really loved the fish.

Bill and I were both really sore after so much walking. We didn’t realize just how much walking we did until tonight when we mapped it out. Google Maps said we walked 5.4 miles in a giant circle… and that’s if we walked straight along the streets, there was some meandering in there. Check it out!

Then we all crashed for the night!


Saturday morning we all slept in. I don’t think we left the hotel until after 11am.

From our 17th floor window, we could look down and see a FDNY fire station and a NYPD precinct was right next door. This caused all sorts of excitement for Tommy as there were often police cars and fire trucks parked right on the street.

When we headed out Saturday morning, we walked past the fire station’s open garage and oogled the fire trucks. As we were about to leave, we heard a bell chime and four firefighters got geared up and loaded into the truck. Tommy was gabbing about something as we watched this, but neither Bill or I could figure out what he was saying in his uber-excited voice. He got frustrated and broke down in tears. As the fire truck was about to pull out of the garage with its lights on, one firefighter walked over and gave Tommy an official FDNY coloring book. His tears immediately ceased and his whole vacation was complete. We finally figured out that he’d wanted us to watch the fire truck from the other side of the driveway where we’d be closer to the truck. Oh well, with his new coloring book in hand, he quickly forgot what he’d been upset about.

We hit up the subway and headed south toward Union Square. This was Tommy’s first ride on any kind of public transportation (aside from airport shuttles). The sound of an arriving train scared him, but he still thought it was awesome. At Union Square there was a big farmer’s market and LOTS of people watching.

We walked to the East Village to a place I have wanted to try ever since Anthony Bourdain visited on his new show The Layover. Bill was lucky enough to go here a few months ago. It’s called Baohaus and they serve “sandwiches” made with Tawainese steamed buns, aka bao.

The three of us shared four different bao: Chairman Bao (braised pork belly), Haus Bao (braised beef cheek), Uncle Jesse (fried tofu) and a Birdhaus Bao (fried chicken).

Left: beef cheek. Right: fried tofu

Left: fried chicken. Right: pork belly

All four were SO delicious. My favorite was the beef cheek, Tommy’s favorite was the chicken, Bill’s favorite was the pork belly. I thought the pork belly was delicious too, they managed to keep the meat and the fat super tender, you barely have to chew! But I’m just not a huge fan of all the fat. Bill loved it so much he ordered another one as we were leaving.

Mmmmmm bao.

Around the corner from Baohaus was another place Bill really wanted to take me.

The Momofuku Milk Bar was where Bill tasted what’s called a cereal milk milkshake. He thought it was amazing and I was excited to try it! It’s flavored like the milk that’s left over in your cereal bowl. It was okay. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t all that thrilled with it. To me it tasted like the milk leftover from a bowl of Corn Flakes or some other bland cereal. I might have liked it more if it was a bit sweeter, but I don’t know. I’ll be happy to go back and try some of their other items though. They have a blueberry miso milkshake that sounded really interesting.

Tommy really liked the milkshake!!

From there were stumbled upon a street faire that had three or four blocks of 2nd Ave closed to traffic. I bought myself a little necklace and we shared a cup of $1 lemonade. We stopped at a placed called Pommes Frites and picked up some frites to snack on while we walked. They were good, but nothing to rave a ton about, especially for their price.

The next place we stopped was on a recommendation from one of Bill’s co-workers, and it happened to be close to where we were. Max Brenner’s.

She recommended getting a cup of hot cocoa and the chocolate pizza, so we did just that. Hot cocoa was one of the last things I wanted to eat given the temp was in the 80s and we’d been walking around all day. But it was absolutely delicious.

The pizza was delicious too, topped with dark chocolate, white chocolate and crushed, toasted hazelnuts. But it was just too much to eat. So we took the rest with us and headed back to the hotel where all three of us napped.

After our nap, we met up with my cousins Brad and Silvia at Les Halles (a French steakhouse) for dinner.

This is another restaurant I have wanted to try for many years. We were seated rather quickly considering it was a Saturday night and Brad and Silvia caught some great parking karma when they arrived from Brooklyn. For an appetizer we shared a country pâté terrine that was delicious. I ordered a roasted duck breast that came with haricots verts, mashed potatoes and a pomegranate reduction sauce. Bill, Brad and Silvia all had different variations on Steak Frites (steak & fries). Bill had a hangar steak that had a shallot sauce. Silvia had a petit filet mignon. For Tommy we ordered the Gratin de Macaroni, which was fancy macaroni and cheese. It was really delicious too with gruyere cheese and a crispy, baked top. It was entirely too dark in the restaurant to even bother taking any photos, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was all delicious and we had a great time. We hadn’t seen Brad and Silvia since last March when we were all in Kauai and it was really wonderful to see them again.

Since Tommy had a super late nap, we figured we were good for a late night. So after dinner Brad took us to his office where he works for MTV. He has an amazing view of Times Square from his office. We snapped some photos and watched all of the people below. Funny enough, we never thought to take any photos of the group of us together.

Pointing out a fire truck and police cars he saw.

We said our goodbyes to Brad and Silvia and walked back to our hotel.

Walking back to the hotel we walked past a pizza place selling slices for $.99. We were full and it was midnight, but it was such a New York thing to do, so we picked up a couple of slices and ate them on our walk back to the hotel. It was delicious!

From Lexington Ave, we had a pretty view of the Chrysler Building all lit up:

And a cool shot of the Chrylser Building again reflected in the building opposite our hotel window:


We had another lovely morning of sleeping in.

Tommy checking out the police cars and fire trucks from our window.

The American flag marks the driveway to the fire station. Next to it is the police precinct. And we think that perfectly clean yellow cab was actually an undercover police car.

We finally left our hotel around 11am and boarded a subway toward the West Village. There was a truffled egg toast with Bill’s name on it.

‘ino is a tiny café and wine bar that we first learned about from my cousin Chris. I kind of expected it to be busy because it was Mother’s Day, but it was apparently a little late for brunch as there were only a couple of customers. We were sat right away. Bill ordered the truffled egg toast and I ordered a panino with scrambled egg, Italian sausage and fontina cheese. We also ordered some fresh OJ. We shared both items with Tommy who enjoyed them both. But I think he liked the panino a little better.

Tommy was still tired and it showed.

After brunch, we took the subway to Canal St. A rare moment where we had a subway car to ourselves. And it was a brand new, clean subway car!

He wanted to make sure Daddy saw a train that was leaving. And the noise of an approaching train was exciting and loud, but scary enough that he needed to hide behind Daddy’s legs.

Once we got to Canal St, we walked around the shops and random vendors selling knockoff designer watches and bags. It cracks me up when a random guy steps in front of you mumbling, “Rolex, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach…” I was actually interested in buying a new purse, but I didn’t see anything I liked. My tastes are a little simpler than the usual styles that the designer brands make. We meandered through Chinatown and found a dim sum restaurant that Bill was looking for. It was a little late for dim sum and I wasn’t really hungry, but Tommy was. So we ordered a pork bun and a dish of rice and stir-fried chicken. Tommy was a happy boy.

While walking around Chinatown, Tommy started to fall asleep again, so we headed back to the hotel. He napped for only an hour and a half so we headed out to our next destination: Eataly. I’m a little ashamed to admit that we were so wowed by this place that neither of us bothered to take any photos. I had never heard of this place, but Bill wanted to go and Brad and Silvia raved about it. Given that Silvia is Italian, that’s a pretty awesome recommendation. It’s a gourmet grocery store, a bar, a fine dining restaurant, a cafe and a food court all thrown together; and everything is Italian. Bill and I could easily spend WAY too much money there. We picked up some prosciutto, some porcetta, fresh mozzarella cheese, a little focaccia and a loaf of sweet lemon brioche. We were on our way to Brooklyn to hang out with Brad and Silvia and we wanted to bring some snacky food to share.

It was a little later than we expected, but we finally made our way to Brooklyn. Because of construction, train service was limited on the weekends and we got stuck about two miles from Brad and Silvia’s apartment. Too far to walk, but since we were right in the Cobble Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, full of restaurants, Brad and Silvia drove to meet us. We ate at a Peruvian restaurant called Coco Roco that was a nice treat. Tommy had fallen asleep as I wore him in the baby carrier and slept completely through dinner. His short nap caught up with him.

Snuggling with Mommy.

After dinner we took a cab to Brad and Silvia’s apartment where we ate our yummies from Eataly and chatted. Their apartment is really wonderful and we had a wonderful time with them. Again, we didn’t take any photos. We were having so much fun hanging out that we didn’t even break out the camera!


On Monday morning, Bill had meetings all day in Long Island City, so Tommy and I had the day to ourselves. I’ll admit, the idea of walking around Manhattan, just Tommy and me, with potentially nowhere to go if he needed a nap or a diaper change, had me stressing. I am not familiar with this city! Since checkout wasn’t until noon, we took our time getting moving in the morning. Tommy didn’t even stir until 11am, so I requested an extra hour before check out so we could really take our time.

Once we got going, we walked around the corner to a bagel shop and picked up breakfast to take with us. We rode the subway a few stops up to 77th St and walked to Central Park. I thought long and hard about spending a little time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I adore that museum and we were right there. But my body was tired of wearing Tommy on my back and I wasn’t 100% sure he’d be interested to see anything there. I didn’t want to spend the money for admission only to have to leave within thirty minutes. Instead we stopped and Tommy played at the first playground we came to. Then we walked to the Alice in Wonderland sculpture (Tommy had no interest). Then on to the Conservatory Water (aka Boat Pond).

There were one or two toy sailboats on the water as we sat on a bench sharing our oat bran bagel with cream cheese while watching people walk by.

His first New York bagel. It didn’t disappoint.

It started to rain a little bit as we sat there. We were under thick enough trees, that we only felt a little mist. When Tommy got bored, we walked up a little ways and it started raining a little harder. We sat on a bench under a group of trees while Tommy watched the squirrels. I didn’t want both of us to get soaked knowing there really wasn’t anywhere we could change clothes, and I didn’t have a change of clothes for me. So we rode a pedicab down 5th Ave to Grand Army Plaza. Tommy thought the “dahn-che taxi” (dahn-che is bicycle in Cantonese) was probably the coolest thing ever. From there we spent the rest of our time at FAO Schwartz. I had never been before and it was pretty awesome. We picked up Logan’s birthday present, a toy for Bill and Tommy was allowed to pick one toy that wasn’t too big for my suitcase. Of ALL of the amazing toys they had there, he picked a City of New York Sanitation Truck.

There was a whole wall of construction vehicles where Tommy spent at least half an hour. They were big and life-like and he was in love. (In case anyone is interested, I added a couple of those construction vehicles to Tommy’s Amazon Wish List). And sadly, Tommy had no interest in playing on the Giant Piano, made famous in the film Big. Boo! Once it was time to go, we tried our best to hail a cab to Long Island City. We hit that sweet spot time of day where most cabbies were ending their shifts. So most cabs that drove past were off duty and not willing to drive us to Long Island. We ended up walking back to our hotel where a hotel employee helped me get a ride. It was a car service rather than a taxi, but the price was right and I was running out of time given that rush hour was starting.

Tommy crashed on my lap during the 20 minute drive in the warm SUV. Once we got there, I hoped he would stay asleep, but Bill’s office is right next to an elevated subway station and two trains were arriving. So, Tommy woke up and yelled in my ears, “Mommy, two trains!!!” Bill gave us a tour of the jetBlue main offices; they moved into the MetLife Building in Long Island City about two months ago. Prior to that, they were in Jamaica. They are really awesome, but I was tired and didn’t take any photos.

We had planned to arrive to the airport early for our 8pm flight so we could explore jetBlue’s Terminal 5 a little bit. This was my first visit since the remodeling. But rush hour threw a wrench in those plans. The car service that Bill called took an hour and 20 minutes to get to us when they told us they’d be there in 30 minutes. We obviously couldn’t wait that long, so after a little less than an hour, we just hailed a yellow taxi. We got to the airport in time, but not really in enough time to do the kind of exploring and photo-taking I wanted. Oh well, it’ll have to wait for another trip. Tommy also fell asleep in the taxi on the way to JFK. So much excitement + no nap made for an exhausted boy.

One cool part about being at the airport, I got to see an Airbus A380 for the first time! It really made the A320 we were about to board look itty bitty.

We got checked in and boarded our flight home. Tommy fell asleep while we were taxiing and slept for a solid two and a half hours. We got home by about 1am and all three of us crashed. Bill and I both freaked out a little bit when Tommy woke up at 6am, seemingly ready to play. Instead he came to bed with us where Tommy and I slept until almost 11am. Sadly, Bill still had to go to work. When he stepped out of the bathroom, this is what we saw:

It was an exhausting trip, but we were truly blessed with gorgeous weather and we all had a wonderful time. I joked that I’m ready to visit another big city asap, while Tommy is still wowed by simple things like fire trucks and construction vehicles. Maybe Chicago?


About wobetxela

Artist, mom, traveler, hiker, babywearer (for as long as they'll let me) and hobbyist photographer.
This entry was posted in Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 1st Trip to New York City

  1. stebow says:

    What a great trip! So good to see Tommy trying new food.

  2. jandsschultz says:

    Great trip.  Tommy will be a real gourmand before age 10.  I think Indianapolis would be a great place to visit.  

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