Sunday Stills: Embrace (Plus, A Brief history of NYC That You Never Knew)

The NYC skyline

Welcome to Terri’s Photo Challenge: Sunday Stills! This weeks them is Embrace.

I embraced New York City, my home for the past 20 years! In this post I will tell you briefly an important story of NYC that you never knew!


At one time, New York City consisted only of Manhattan island. Brooklyn was its own city too, but it was much smaller than it is today. Queens was made of many separate towns.

The old railway tracks by the river

Ferries brought merchandise to the water fronts where the merchandise was transferred to trains.

So How And Why Did All Of The Towns And Cities Unite?

Brooklyn was incorporating many of the surrounding towns and growing fast. However, Chicago was growing very fast and was in a position of becoming the largest city in the United States. This meant that the largest corporations might move to Chicago, causing a collapse in New York City real estate prices.

The NYC skyline

The decision to incorporate into New York City was left to a vote by all of the surrounding towns and cities. The results were so close, but after millions of Brooklyn votes were counted, the yes vote won… by just 277! If Brooklyn hadn’t recently incorporated the neighboring towns of Bushwick and Williamsburg, the results would have been very different, since people in these two towns voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming part of NYC. Some people stilll call this The Great Mistake of 1898! Only the town of Yonkers voted no, and it remains its own town, just north of the Bronx.

We went to the Long Island City waterfront on Friday night to take photos for this post 😉 Of course, Long Island City was its own city, although it’s now part of Queens.

The Bowery Boys do a fun podcast about New York City, full of interesting facts and highly entertaining stories!

Upcoming Themes

May 20 Recreational
May 27 Aroma

¡Órale! Gourmet Taqueria Close To NYC

In the mood for Mexican food while in New Jersey, Yelp led us to Órale Mexican Kitchen. There were several taquerias with great reviews but the photos made Órale the first choice.

Note: if you are in Manhattan, Jersey City is a two-minute ride under the river on the PATH train ($2.75). It leaves from Oculus Center, by One World Trade.


We parked and passed another taqueria and thought, if Órale looks disappointing, we can check out this one, but right away we had a good feeling from the artwork on the restaurant facade. Inside the place was buzzing with activity. The restaurant walls are brick and filled with colorful and fun Mexican death-themed graffiti art.

The restaurant pays attention to detail along every wall and in every corner. Beautiful, sculptured melted wax.

I always like to wash my hands after touching the menu and before touching any food. These people didn’t forget any attention to detail in the bathroom.


The waiter brought us tortilla chips and guacamole, but also three of their own sauces, in bottles. Two were spicy (very!) and one not so much.


CrIspy Halibut, Maggi, Lime, Naked Guacamole, Chipotle Aioli, Corn Tortillas

I was very happy with the presentation of these beautiful crispy halibut tacos (with maggie, lime, guacamole and chipotle aioli) but these five savory, gourmet tacos cost $23! You won’t be dining here every day, but it’s a wonderful treat… sometimes… and it doesn’t lower my opinion of the restaurant. If you come on a Tuesday and are willing to pay in cash, they charge half price!

My husband ordered the carnitas tacos: Braised crisp pork belly, marinated red onions, salsa verde and cilantro, at $17! The place to save money would be the delicious desserts. They are expensive, too, but they are huge!

Órale Mexican Kitchen isn’t cheap, but it’s special. I can prepare an ordinary meal myself. I love to cook, though, so I always try to taste every ingredient used and then copy the recipe. I’ll be making the chipotle salsa and I’ll let you know how it comes out! 😉 But apart from that, I prefer to dine out less frequently but in better places.

The New Jersey tram (light rail) system connects several nearby New Jersey cities.

While you are in Jersey City, enjoy the stunning New York City skyline at the riverfront, just a 10-minute walk from Órale Mexican Kitchen. As you walk there, you’ll pass the tram (really, light rail) that connects several New Jersey towns. The difference between a tram and a light rail is the speed. You find trams within a city.


We will be going back, and probably soon. On the last Sunday of every month, you can enjoy mariachi music. Choose a favorite before you go (Qué Bonita Es Mi Tierra, Cuando Salga La Luna) and be ready to request it!

Are you prepared for the worst???

What would happen if your wallet and your phone were stolen while you were traveling?

NYC & The New Age of Bicycle Power

Instantly-recognizable blue bicycles are all over the city. They all have the Citibank logo on them, since Citibank runs the rent-a-bike program. Find one, take one and return it anywhere the bicycles are stationed in the city. The best part is the affordable pricing:

How Much Does This Cost?

Day Pass: $12 with unlimited 30-minute rides in a 24-hour period

3-Day Pass: $24 with unlimited 30-minute rides in a 72-hour period

Annual Membership: $163/year with unlimited 45-minute rides.

Actually, New York is a latecomer to bike sharing. A bike sharing program actually began in 1965. Paris’ program began in 2007.

In 2007 in NYC, the idea wouldn’t have been possible. My husband, a native New Yorker, remembers the days of bicycle messengers swerving in and out of traffic. Now the wide avenues have been given dedicated bicycle lanes, and so the Citi Bike program could finally launch in 2013.


Take a look at the station map from a web browser with this link, or better, download the app on your phone so you can easily find the station with your GPS. The station map will show you how many bicycles are available at each location.


If you would just like to sightsee but aren’t sure where to ride, Citibike has a list of suggested routes. If you plan ahead, this could be a good way to mix a ride with a must-see sightseeing route.

Read more about it here: If you do decide to try this out, make sure to download the app to your phone so you can make an easy and secure payment: Google Play Store | Apple App Store

Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa

The Iconic New Yorker Hotel

The New Yorker Hotel is iconic, partly for its name, partly for its Art-Deco design, and mostly for its colorful history of famous athletes, performers and politicians who passed through since it opened on January 2, 1930.


The hotel dedicates a section of the lower level to this history. You’ll spend about half hour reading the framed newspaper clippings, browsing the plaques and looking at the entire corner dedicated to the genius inventor Nikola Tesla.

The music that plays in the background was recorded in the Hotel’s Terrace Room, which was originally broadcast by CBS radio, and during WWII, to overseas troops.

Why is Nikola Tesla honored at the New Yorker Hotel?

The Nikola Tesla corner

Tesla lived in the hotel for the final ten years of his life. One day he put the Do Not Disturb on the door. Two days later, the maid found him dead in his room.

Personal Connection (Kind of)

It turns out that my husband’s great aunt worked in the New Yorker Hotel as a cashier and even knew Nikola Tesla, although only on a business level.

Technology & The New Yorker Hotel


The hotel is famous for always having been on the cutting edge of technology.
– 1930: Every room had a radio;
– 1948: The hotel bragged that there were more TVs than in any other building in the world;


The New Yorker Hotel is located three long city blocks from the Empire State Building. At one time, you could walk to it through an underground tunnel.

Who exactly are these famous people who have passed through the New Yorker Hotel?

– Baseball players: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays;
– Boxer Mohammad Ali;
– Politicians: Robert Kennedy, FDR Jr.

[This post was inspired by Bojana | Blogging With Bojana]

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Boutiques & Eateries, Industrial Design, Google and Oreos? WHAT???

Chelsea Market is an arcade of boutique stores and unique eateries with an industrial-themed look, located on the entire city block between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues. I’ve visited many times and I am always fascinated by the hard granite, rustic metal and worn brick look of the place.

What is the story behind Chelsea Market?

In the 1890s baking companies occupied this space, which consisted of 19 different buildings at the time. The space has now been transformed into just one building.

In 1898, several of the larger ones merged into the National Biscuit Company, better known as Nabisco. It was here, back in 1912, that the Oreo cookie was invented.


Nabisco left in 1958 and the space remained mostly empty over the years. In the 1990s, a new owner developed these empty buildings, connecting them into just one.


When you walk through the Chelsea Market arcade of stores, you are immediately charmed by the granite benches, industrial ceiling fans, exposed elevator shafts (no longer in service, of course), plaques, antique ads painted on the faded brick walls, historic artifacts preserved in glass cases. It makes the place look like they pretty much left it as it was… but don’t be fooled. Chelsea Market is that way by design. Still, these touches make Chelsea Market very enjoyable to walk through, and it maintains the feel of the history of the Chelsea neighborhood.


On the upper floors are television studios like Food Network,, music producers and YouTube offices.

What is Chelsea Market’s Future?

Google is currently in contract to buy Chelsea Market. The deal is expected to finalize in April 2018. They already own the 1932 Art-Deco building across the street, a building that occupies the entire city block and has more floor space than Apple’s brand new headquarters in California.


Why are they buying Chelsea Market? We’ll have to wait and see…

Best Taqueria in NYC

Los Tacos No. 1 is our favorite taqueria in the city. My former students from Sonora, Mexico, Valeria and Evguenin, once told me before class that they had the best tacos since Mexico and then told us it was the taqueria at Chelsea Market.


The taqueria is very popular and has since opened Los Mariscos, a seafood taco area, also in Chelsea Market. Your lunch will be healthy, inexpensive and delicious. If you want seafood tacos and your traveling companion wants regular tacos, tell him to meet you in the seating area in Los Mariscos. If you want a beer or other alcoholic drink, buy it in Los Mariscos.

How Much Time Will I Need At Chelsea Market and What Else Is There To Do Around there?

We always bring friends and family to Chelsea Market when they’re visiting, and we always eat at the taqueria. You won’t need too much time at Chelsea Market, maybe about an hour, and you can exit through the 10th Avenue side for Highline Park, the abandoned elevated train that has been converted into a beautiful park above ground. I’ll have a post about Highline Park soon.

A word of warning: Chelsea Market gets very crowded on beautiful days, but I still highly recommend it.

Tap here for directions from wherever you are: Google Maps | Apple Maps

Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa

Photoville: Photojournalism On Social Issues That Need Our Attention

What first impresses you about Photoville, an outdoor photojournalistic exhibitition, are the 55 shipping containers stacked onto two floors, filling up Brooklyn Bridge Park.

They’ll hand you a map when you walk onto the grounds so you can find exactly what you want. It feels like a small town with pedestrian streets between the containers.

So what exactly is there to see at Photoville

This creative venue houses photos of people’s struggles around the world. The photos are often very disturbing, showing the extreme poverty, life in war torn countries, refugee crises and the difficulties that immigrants face in the United States. There’s so much to see that you can’t figure out where to start.



How Much Does It Cost To See Photoville?

Photoville is free! Your map is just one page of the program. The rest of the program is filled with the complete listing of exhibits, workshops, panel discussions and walking tours scheduled day and night over the two weeks.


You won’t be able to see it all, especially not in a single day. There are too many exhibits, and also the ones you see are too draining emotionally. The event stays around for two weeks so you can come back another day.

Here were our two favorite Photoville Exhibitions:

The Bronx Documentary Center‘s Immigrant Stories, created by New York City high school students documenting the stories of their families in photos and captions.

We also enjoyed Carbon’s Casualties: How Climate Change is Updending Life Around the World.


Relax & Socialize

There’s a beer garden, too. When you show proof of age, they will put a wrist ban on you. This allows the vendors to sell you beer or wine. You can sit on the grass and enjoy your drink with one of the best views of New York City while you chat with your friends about the exhibition. If you wait around until the end of the day, you’ll be in the perfect spot for a beautiful sunset.

Sunset in DUMBO Brooklyn 📷 🌅 #brooklynbridgepark #brooklyn #dumbo

A post shared by Aixa (@muchospanish) on

Clean bathrooms

If you’re at Brooklyn Bridge Park, you can tap here for walking directions to the bathrooms (make sure you tap the “walking directions” option on your map).

Bathrooms 1
Apple Maps – or – Google Maps

Bathrooms 2
Apple Maps – or – Google Maps

When Can I See Photoville?

Photoville is an annual event September. If the weather is nice, take the NYC Ferry to the Brooklyn Bridge stop. You can also reach Photoville by bus or subway or walk across the bridge.

Tap here for directions from wherever you are in NYC.
Make sure to tap “transit” for directions by bus or subway.

Apple Maps – or – Google Maps

Planning A Trip to NYC?

I know that many of you spend time planning your trips. If you’re planning to visit NYC in September, add Photoville to your agenda.

My goal at this website is to have an easy way to find seasonal events. Eventually, I’ll be adding a 6-day itinerary to choose from.

Other Things to Do at Brooklyn Bridge Park

If you’re planning to visit Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I recommend even without a visit to Photoville, here are some other things in the area that you are sure to enjoy:

  • A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge;
  • Lunch or dinner at Grimaldi’s or Julianna’s pizza (they are right next to each other): Apple Maps – or – Google Maps
  • Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for dessert: Apple Maps – or – Google Maps
  • Photo ops at City Hall (once you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to the Manhattan side): Apple Maps – or – Google Maps
  • Catch the NYC Ferry for beautiful views of the city and the bridges.

Aixa’s Reading Recommendation

Don’t Let The Extreme NYC Weather Ruin Your Day: Visit The NYC Transit Museum

Don’t Miss Lombardi’s Pizza If You Visit New York

We didn’t know what to expect as we headed to Lombardi’s Pizzeria. Over 5,000 reviews on Yelp and an average 4-star rating gave us hope, but we also read specific reviews like these:

“…they nickel and dimed us over everything. $8 for a cheap house wine, $10 for a pitcher of soda, $4-$6 per topping”


“Don’t settle for Lombardi’s pizza, even if it’s legendary”

It made us worry.

So Why Were We Even Thinking of Eating at Lombardi’s?

In 1887, Gennaro Lombardi, an Italian immigrant from Naples, opened a bakery in New York City’s Little Italy. In 1905, Lombardi began selling pizza to improve sales. Today, the Pizza Hall of Fame recognizes Lombardi’s Pizzeria as being the first pizzeria in the United States.

This customer couldn’t wait to get home 😉

The majority of the customers during our visit was New Yorkers.

America’s first pizza
On their 100 year anniversay in 2005, Lombardi’s sold large pies for 5-cents, the original 1905 price.

The Best Pizza In New York

Despite a couple of poor reviews among its 5,000, the pizzeria ranks no. 6 on Yelp’s list of the best NYC pizza. But New York is very big. So if you’re visiting this section of the city, you would probably narrow your search to this area. That would push Lombardi’s to the no. 1 spot

How Good Is Lombardi’s Pizza?


Heaps of fresh chopped tomatoes with a touch of vinegar and a little salt were served on large wedges of toast with olive oil.


The dough isn’t refined. You can tell by the color of the pizza crust. The tomato sauce was minimal and the mozzarella fresh, with basil leaves and absolutely no grease at all. This felt like olden day pizza, minimalist and healthy.



We had seltzer with blood orange juice mixed in for a healthy break from sugary soft drinks, but the usual Coke and Sprite are on the menu if you really want it.

Everything was tasty and we left feeling good.

The price didn’t make us feel good, though. Our meal for three people, pizza with no extra toppings, three non-alcoholic beverages and an appetizer of bruschetta came to $52! Cash!

New York-Style Pizza

Normally, pizza in New York is very inexpensive, served in large triangular slices for just $2.50/slice. Most people can eat two slices so three people can fill themselves up with three sodas for approximately $20.

In fact, NYC-style pizza by the slice was invented for those who couldn’t afford an entire pie. Pizza today is still sold by the slice. The slices are large so people fold in half.

Final Decision on Lombardi’s Pizza


😋👍 Eat there for the thrill of being a part of history.

😋👍 Eat there for old-style pizza with healthy ingredients and without all the grease you’ll find in more common pizzerias.

☹️👎 Avoid Lombardi’s if you didn’t leave space in your budget.

Would We Return?

We love Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews for the quantity of reviews, but I prefer  restaurant recommendations from people I know. When I began this blog I didn’t think I’d be including restaurants, but a recommendation from someone you know and trust is important.

So yes, we would return to Lombardi’s Pizzeria if we were in the area.

What is your favorite place to eat pizza? Let me know in the comments…

Aixa’s Healthy Dining Recommendations

Healthy Dining In New York

Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa

Grand Central Facts & History Audio Tour: Definitely Worth The $2 In-app Purchase

If you’ve been to New York, you’ve surely walked through the spectacular Grand Central Terminal. We’ve been here hundreds of times, but until we downloaded Atlantis Audio Tours and paid the $2 in-app purchase, we didn’t know what we were missing!

The self-guided walking tour takes you to 17 points both inside and out, revealing the little known details about this busy railroad terminal.

With all the interesting shops and the hustle & bustle of the 750,000 daily commuters who pass you by, it’s easy to love Grand Central, but the facts and history give you an unforgettable appreciation. A lot has happened since this beautiful Beaux Arts structure opened in 1913!

New York City sightseeing will never be the same

Atlantis Audio Tour will show you all around Grand Central, and tell you the secrets that even we New Yorkers don’t know!

One fact we learned: When you walk toward Oyster bar, you’ll see people standing in opposing corners, whispering into the wall. Why? No matter how busy Grand Central is at that moment, they can hear each other’s voices diagonally across the large passageway!

Do you want more facts?

It will cost you the in-app purchase. $2 gets you 17 points both inside and out, revealing the little known details about this busy railroad terminal.

Plenty of facts and history in the Atlantis self-guided audio tour

The app says you will need 1-2 hours to complete the tour. This is just one of nine New York City self-guided audio tours they offer.

Download it here:

Apple App Store or Google Play Store

Nearby Places to Eat 😋

Everyone likes personalized recommendations of places to eat, right?

Here are two places nearby that we like a lot:

Le Pain Quotidien: recommended to us by two Insta-friends, one in Madrid and the other in Mexico City.

Whole Foods Market: This supermarket has a large selection and a great view of Bryant Park in the dining area on the second floor.

Restaurants link to Yelp reviews and menu.

Aixa’s Reading Recommendation 😉

Is NYC Street Food Sanitary???