July 17-24, 2009
Patty, Sam, Ellie and Flora take in the Big Apple.
Though we live in a heavenly diverse city, Bangkok traffic is usually hell on wheels except on Sundays and public holidays. Today, my SLK's 4 cylinder 2 liter engine gobbled petrol at a rate of 20.9 liters per 100 kilometers; that works out to be 11.3 MPG (US). And, that's about what I get driving the S600 in Fort Lauderdale. The cost of petrol in Bangkok is about 35 baht per liter or about $4+ per US gallon.
Last Thursday I had dinner at Circle. Tonight I ordered the same three courses for home delivery. Using ChefXP (an Internet delivery service), these same courses arrive by motorcycle within 20 minutes of my hitting the 'send' button. Though the presentation was different the taste was the same.
Patty's reflections on their Big Apple trip.
With an early morning start, we all headed to SeaTac airport for the start of our much needed vacation. The flight to New York was fast and painless. Flying has really become more interesting back in coach ... pay for each checked bag, cash pay for coach cuisine, and abolishment of hot towel service.
Once in beautiful Newark we collected our bags and headed for the taxi stand. As we were four travelers, on most occasions Sam was the lucky one to ride shotgun. Our first taxi experience was commanded by a very pleasant driver from Egypt. He could not believe his misfortune that we were his fare. "I hate driving into the city on Friday night." Thankfully he snapped out of his funk and took the scenic Tony Soprano route. He said this would save time and in the blink of an eye we were in the Lincoln tunnel headed for Midtown Manhattan. We arrived at The London New York which was to be our address for the next 5 nights and 6 days. We were spirited to our 30th floor sweet suite and quickly changed to get out on the town. The temperature was a pleasant 80 degrees with limited humidity ...
Since Flora had not eaten since somewhere over Lake Erie, it was important for us to replenish our tanks. Our bell hop suggested a pizza spot at the Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway. We skibbled to said restaurant and then embarked upon a journey down Broadway to Times Square. We were greeted with ample crowds, hucksters for bus tours, eye pleasing neon, and the splendid odors of push cart cuisine. I think Flora got at least one shoulder ride so that she could rise above the madness. A couple of hours later we found ourselves back in the hotel planning our first full day. Flora and Ellie rearranged the mini bar so that we could keep cold the fresh fruit we picked up earlier in the evening ... more on 21st century mini bar technology later. Good night.
Glorious room service coffee to start the day and a trip to the fabulous hotel work out facilities on floor 4. Kids get up. Skies are blue. We headed straight for the Plaza to say hello to Eloise. There she was where we had last seen her 20 years ago tucked into a back corridor. I asked Eloise if Trader Vic's was still doing a brisk business but she was mum.
Le Park Meridian was our breakfast destination. I had made online reservations at 11:00 the previous night for Norma's. I just love the internet. This restaurant had been recommended by a friend back in Seattle and it did not disappoint. Norma's benedict was fantabulous. Oh, and if you go there be sure to stop in the bathrooms where they have a new hand dryer from Dyson industries. Of course we all know the drill for using a standard hand dryer. Rub hands under warm blowing air for two minutes and then wipe hands on pants to dry. Well, the Dyson is a sort of wind tunnel. You lower your hands into the device and force of wind that hits them is like a passing freight train. Then you slowly remove your hands and voila, dry hands. This takes about 8 seconds to accomplish. I'll check if they have a home model.
Flora wanted FAO Schwartz but a wrong turn took us to St. Patrick's and then the Top of the Rock. With clear skies awaiting us on the observation deck we had beautiful 360 degree views of Manhattan. With my hand held monicle/telescope I was able to spy the long lines at the Empire State building.
We slalomed back up 5th to FAO Schwartz and the ever-cool Apple Store. Flora got her life like stuffed Rotweiler and Ellie got her Harry Potter wire rimmed glasses. Across the street we ventured into Central Park and slowly made our way to see the Central Park Roller Skaters with DJ thumping sounds. I just love this city ...
Hotel London provided ample time and space for recharging before we ventured out for our first subway ride. We descended beneath the streets of New York and made our way onto the subway platform. The train arrived and we got on ... simple. All we had to do was get off at our destination of choice and walk through Gramercy Park and then arrive at dinner. However, our train stopped in a station and was not going anywhere. An announcement was made by some tinny voice that was not decipherable to my untrained ear. But, when 75% of the trains occupants ran for the exits of the train and scampered onto another train I figured this was what we should do as well. When the doors closed and the now clear announcement said "welcome to the Coney Island Express" We started to get a little nervous. As the subway train started to pick up speed and accelerate through stop after stop I really wondered what had I done? All this worry of course was for nought as we stopped at Union Square and were treated to a talented entertainer who was letting loose on his electric violin.
We had dinner on Park Avenue at Artisinal which is a very, very good spot to experience meat and cheese. Steak au poivre – yum. We finished dinner at dusk and scored a quick cab ride to Washington Park for more people watching. The kids' dessert meters were nearing a quarter tank so we ventured to the west village to see what was happening. We found lots of action in this area and settled into an Italian cafe/bar. I love a city where children are welcome at the bar. Pastries and whiskey – what a way to end the day.
Sam's journal from the Big Apple continues.
Another beautiful New York morning. Can you ever have enough nice weather? Blue skies and high 70s. Seattle-esque humidity. What is going on here?
We started the day off with a nod to my parent's recommendation. "You have to try Cafe Sabarsky" in the Neue Galerie. A real delightful locaton to satisfy that Teutonic breakfast fix. A skip across museum road (did we just spy the Guggenheim around the corner?) and we were at the Met. No time for that today as the American Museum of Natural History across Central Park was our next stop. Dinosaur bones galore, the African veld frozen in time, and fancy stuffed New York State mammals that looked pret a porte. Ellie and Flora explored the gift shop and walked away with a space shuttle astronaut's favorite food – freeze dried ice cream sandwiches. Delicious. With time slipping away we turned to our Luxe New York guide. How to eat and get to the theatre on time? Why the Boat Basin Cafe of course! A quick peel down W. 79th and we were there. The cafe is strategically located under the Henry Hudson Parkway with Hudson River views. Our waitress assured us that our Carolina barbecue sandwiches would arrive in a New York minute. ... As we waited we enjoyed the turbo winds that whipped up off of the river and through the outdoor seating area. Check please. Taxi. Hell's Kitchen. Broadway!!! Patty and Ellie attended "Hair." It is never too early for a 15 year old to learn about Vietnam and nudity in the park. Flora and I took in "The Lion King" where all of the animals remained fully clothed for the entire performance. After the theatre, our meeting spot was the New York Public Library on 5th. Flora and I were too tired to walk so hired a Pedi-Cab to speed us to the rest of the family. We were all beat and The London was the perfect two hour respite before we ventured out for the evening.
We had heard good things about Rosa Mexicana and their tableside guacamole preparation show. Table for four please. We loved it. With our tanks full we slid underground and took the subway to the Staten Island Ferry. We wanted to take in Lady Liberty without the crowds and the nighttime Manhattan skyline. That is exactly what we did ... there and back again. Subway home please. Today we visited the Upper East side, Central Park, Upper West side, Hell's Kitchen, Theater District, Midtown, Gramercy Park, Battery Park, Staten Island Ferry terminal ... subway. If it were not for Starbucks Pike Place Roast I would have not had the energy to complete this day. Flora the nightowl finally shut down the engines at 12:30 AM.
This morning we started our day off with exercise. Patty did her usual routine in the hotel's workout room while Sam and I went for a run in Central Park. Flora exercised the remote control. Keeping it under a half-hour, we all returned to the hotel room to prepare for a day of long walks and hot cab rides.
"Taxi please" and "Tweet!" went the doorman's whistle as he waved the first taxi up from a line half a block long. We all pile in and head to Patty's "only store I really have to go to while were here", ABC Carpet and Home. We arrive and she heads right in. Sam, Flora and I walk to the farmer's market down the street. Patty joined us there 45 minuets later, empty handed. We then started off towards the one store Flora and I just had to go to, KidRobot. KidRobot is a store that sells little plastic, artistic toys that come in rectangular boxes. Part of the fun of these toys is that you don't know which toy you will find when you open your box. I have a large collection of these at home and was happy to add some more. Flora and I each got 2 toys. The results: A purple bear with a monocle, a small white character called Munny, an Orange octopus with one eye and a Punk Lion. We then walked through Soho to a restaurant called Peanut Butter and Company. *See photo of Patty and Sunbeam Bread, an old Erickson favorite. There we were faced with a menu where everything used peanut butter. Patty got a Peanut Butter BLT, Sam and I got "The Elvis", Peanut Butter, Honey and Banana and Flora got the Peanut Butter with Fluffernutter Sandwich. We needed dessert, so off to the Lower East Side we go! We walked for a long time, peeking into the independent shops and bakeries. We even unknowingly stopped into a famous cupcake shop called Babycakes. Afterwards, Patty recognized it from a food blog she reads. We kept moseying down the quiet streets until we found a bike shop for Sam. From here we hailed a cab and went to the 6th avenue for an Indian dinner. "I loved the Indian Restaurant. They kept on giving us free stuff like, Shirley Temples and Mango ice-cream ... it's complementary!" says Flora.
Feeling a little spent we still decided to take a quick trek to Little Italy. Little Italy is colorful, but not the quaint neighborhood we had anticipated. Loud and tourist full, gift shops poor onto sidewalks and cameras flash everywhere. We decided to head home with the promise of room service for dessert. Another cool subway ride, an hour later we were back in the luxury of our hotel. We ended the night with delicious chocolate mouse. We were all impressed that Chef Gordon Ramsey could fit $35 worth of dessert into a ramekin the size of a ping pong ball ... it was delicious.
Patty winds up the journal.
Today lived up to its status as the penultimate day of the trip. We knew it was now or never, if we were going to make it across the Brooklyn Bridge & explore a new borough. We put on our most comfy footwear (see earlier photos) and headed out the door ... 3 feet to the taxi pool; experienced parenting told us that we would have to save the shoe leather for later.
This NY morning was bright and sunny – perfect for the grand views we were off to enjoy. The taxi dropped us at City Hall, which lies just at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked along the wide, wood-planked promenade of the bridge which stretches across the East River. The views were terrific and the construction of the bridge was amazing.
We arrived in Brooklyn after a 25 min crossing ... a quick pastry for fuel and we hoofed it up to Brooklyn heights, followed by Williamsburg in search of the hip, cool and fabulous. It is easy to see why Brooklyn has a new reputation as a hot spot for good design and notable food. We found both and enjoyed ourselves with street eye candy. Other sweets included artesian ice cream from an upscale ice cream truck.
We made it back to Manhattan by subway in the late afternoon. Quick refresh and out the door to meet our old friend Ken S., from back in Florida days. Ken is a long time New Yorker. At his suggestion we met at the entrance to the Highline Park in the Meat packing district. The Highline is an elevated public space and garden that until recently was an abandoned train track. The park runs a story above street level and travels through the old Nabisco building. The re-development of the space is fabulous ... lots of wild green grasses mixed with outdoor seating/lounge spaces.
Ken took us to a great Italian restaurant and then to the famous Magnolia Cupcake ... only a native can navigate that madness. These are the cupcakes that started the craze! Patrons need to follow a strict order of selection in this postage stamp of a bakery. Ken got us in and out with cakes-to-go. So good! We said our sad good-byes to our friend Ken and subway-ed home for the night.
Our last morning in NYC we did the usual throwing and stuffing of clothes into bags - where to put Flora's 3 foot Rottweiler? – Wanting to make the most of our last 1/2 day, we cabbed up to the Metropolitan Museum to see some of the greatest artwork in the world. It was hard to slow down and enjoy the collections ... textbook paintings and artifacts surrounded us. Flora had a short-ish attention span for the old masters, and as our flight was in the late afternoon, we could not linger. Plus, we had one final NY indulgence on the list. Yes, you know where we are going ... the deli.
The dining was delicious and atmospheric – complete with a cranky, heavily-accented waitress. Sam's corned beef photographed beautifully, so you can see the joy-in-the-mouth we experienced.
We ended our trip with an absolutely harrowing taxi ride to the airport. Our driver had probably just finished smoking crack before we piled in his cab. We had at least 2 close calls at high speeds and were yelled at by one pedestrian and one member of the NYPD foot patrol.
We did not want to end the trip on a low note, so we checked bags and headed for the coffee section of the airport ... a double tall espresso got us in the groove for an Emerald City homecoming. Naturally we were all sad to say goodbye to the Big Apple ... the trip was wonderful and we hope to go back regularly ... that city rocks!
Thai eye test !!!
If you cannot decipher anything, then try pulling the corner of your eyes as if you were Chinese. It works.
Bangkok's Siam Paragon has a wonderful display of antique small cars. Can anyone identify any of these cool old horseless carriages? I think the blue one is a Messerschmidt; the father of a friend of mine in high school bought one when they were first imported into the USA. Anyway, while I looked at the cars Watcharee spent time in the adjacent shops.
PS: My friend, Dan, from Shanghai and Taipei sent these photos of sun watchers.
PPS: Long time readers will remember the Thai Rhat: Thailand's best tabloid when it comes to grief happening to others. The other day it offered a story on murder by electrocution; it seems that the pissed off hubby poked some live wires at wifey and when pops came to the rescue he, too, died ... as did hubby when he tried to pocket the weapon. In Thailand we have 240 current so every outlet in the house has the potential of being a smoking gun.
Last night we had a full moon ... just hours after man landed on it 40 years ago.
Can anyone explain this reflection?
Finally, Watcharee Skypfs with Ta. Both are in their pajamas. Can you guess the time?
Next: Part IV