Category Archives: Travel

10 Reasons to Kiss and Make Up with NYC

A view of the city from the Empire State Building

Well, it had to happen sometime… it was just a matter of when. After more than 6 years of bliss, I’m having my first fight with New York City. We are just not getting along this week. I’m blaming it on the poor timing of terrible weather — back to back days of sweltering heat after spending a week up north with beautiful weather hasn’t exactly given me the chance to cool down (literally). It’s no secret that this city can be tough to live in. It keeps running at warp speed, whether you have the energy to keep up with it or not! In an attempt to kiss and make up, here is a list of great reasons why New York is totally worth it.

  1. The people. Endless types of people! If you can’t think of anything else to do in New York, you are guaranteed great people-watching — any day.
  2. The green spaces. As much as people may complain about the lack of nature on the grid, you can’t argue with the fact that it is pretty easy to get to a green space from pretty much anywhere in the city. I can practically roll out my front door and into Central Park, but there are plenty of smaller parks to chill out in too!
  3. The food. I don’t know if another place exists where food is not only so diverse, but so accessible all the time. Feel like eating Thai food for dinner and then French pastries for dessert? Chances are those two menu items are within walking distance of each other. Don’t even feel like leaving your apartment? Order it in.
  4. Free creative vibes! All it takes is a quick walk down the street to be inspired by something. You’ll always find an inspiring piece of street art, a crazy outfit, or a totally bizarre street performer to get your own creative gears turning.
  5. Easy day trips. Sometimes finding the balance while living in the city is leaving it once in a while. Two of my favorite day trips are to Governor’s Island (totally free!) and to Long Beach. If you need a (cheap) weekend getaway, buses leave frequently for Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Boston.

Magnolias at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

6. Amazing shopping. You don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money to get some really good shopping in, and the sales at boutiques and department stores are fantastic if you keep an eye out for them. I also love those stores that have quirky things you probably can’t find anywhere else in the country. Some of my favorites are Pearl River Market for cheap home goods, and Kiosk for the most random assortment of gadgets and gifts from all around the world.
7. The best public transportation. Even though commuters may complain about the subways and buses, you have to admit that our system is pretty darn good. It’s relatively inexpensive, runs all the time, and covers a lot of ground. All in all, I’m impressed
8. Easy to make friends. New York might not always be associated with the words “friendly” or “welcoming,” but if you want to make friends here, it isn’t too difficult. I know so many people (myself included!) who have made friends out of people who they met on a night out, in a Meetup group, on an intramural sports team, or through a language exchange website. If you have an interest, there is a good chance that someone else shares it and would love to have someone to share it with!
9. Easy to be alone. There are definitely days when you just want to tune out and be by yourself — a difficult task, one would think, in a city of more than 8 million people. But it’s really not. Pop in your headphones, head to your favorite park or neighborhood, and just get lost in the crowd. It’s easier than you think!
10. Being a New Yorker. For every time that someone has shoved past me on the sidewalk or let a door slam in my face, there are twice as many times that a total stranger has offered to help me with a heavy suitcase on the subway stairs or even held their umbrella over my head when I forgot mine at home as we crossed the street together (yes, this really happened and I have seen it happen to others as well!). These little mutual understandings of community are really what binds this city together, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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July 9, 2012 · 6:00 am

Settling In

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in our new place for nearly a month now. On one hand, there are boxes yet to be unpacked, walls waiting for a fresh coat of paint and furniture to be purchased. On the other, it is really starting to feel like home. One of the biggest thrills of finally living with my guy is that I have a dinner date every night, even when “dinner” is just a simple bowl of pasta with lemon sauce.

We were also fortunate to have taken a vacation last week. The cost of moving into a new place was a bit prohibitive when it came to vacation planning, but I couldn’t be happier that we spent the entire week in New England with our families. It isn’t often that we get to just hang out with our parents and siblings (or cousin and niece, for that matter!), so a week of quality time together in addition to some absolutely beautiful weather was just what we needed.

A luna moth — one of the many companions you’ll find in rural New Hampshire

The breathtaking view of a harbor in Maine

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Les Portes de Paris

It’s been about 5 months since I came back from my trip to France, and I’m definitely experiencing a bit of travel withdrawal at the moment. I don’t know what it is exactly, but sometimes I have those days where the air temperature is just right or the sunlight is hitting the city in such a way that I’m instantly whisked back to a past trip. Subsequently, I become quite “away-sick” for places I’ve been to and loved. Last week, I found myself daydreaming about the streets of Paris and the beautiful and mysterious wooden doors that dot les rues.

These huge wooden doors are pretty common to see as entrances to apartments and businesses, and they usually open up into a courtyard. I remember being really excited on my first trip to Paris as a middle school-er to see doors like this propped open — it was as though I was being given an exclusive peek into the real lives of Parisians. I must confess that ten years later, when my friend and I rented a Paris apartment, I was just as enthused over having our very own wooden apartment doors to come home to at night as I was back then. The apartment certainly wasn’t glamorous, but closing the doors behind us as we stepped into the courtyard, I couldn’t help but feel like I was on the other side of the mystery I’d been so captivated by as a kid!

{Images (top to bottom): 1, 2, 3, 4}

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The Foreign Fourth

Happy Fourth of July weekend! I hope that everyone has a little time off to relax, spend time with family and friends, and maybe have some good barbecue. I’m still not sure what this holiday weekend will entail for me… I’ll just be happy to hang out with my boyfriend and be able to enjoy a little good weather (fingers crossed!).

I was recently thinking about the summer when I spent the holiday overseas in Tokyo — of course July 4th is just any other day in Japan, and I remember awkwardly wishing the other Americans I knew a happy fourth and then carrying on with our day by eating udon and toasting with a Sapporo. I’m quite the sucker for fireworks though, which was the one thing that was really missing that year. Coincidentally, the family I was staying with brought me to the famed Yokohama fireworks display just a few weeks later, which filled the void a little bit! As you can see, it is essentially the same picnic-style setup, but I would say that seeing everyone dressed up in their summer kimonos (yukata) was just as much fun as actually watching the fireworks!

Have you ever spent the Fourth of July abroad, or will you this year?

(Top Photo Credit: Koen BL via Flickr)

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Macaron Class at La Cuisine Paris

My biggest goal for my trip to France was to take a macaron class in Paris. Not only do I jump at any opportunity to use a real kitchen with tons of counter space, but I also wanted to learn some new tricks for making my favorite dessert. I definitely have experience in making these guys, but I believe that you can always learn something new. I ended up going with a class at La Cuisine Paris, and it was the perfect way to round out my vacation. The class was just two hours long, so it didn’t take away too much time from sightseeing, but I learned so many new things about making macarons that are (dare I say?) rivals to those at Ladurée!

Our instructor Guillemette was really helpful and funny — the class was very hands-on, so we really got the chance to do everything from making the macaron batter to piping it and filling the cookies! We made two flavors: white chocolate raspberry and lemon. I was a little hesitant because I don’t love white chocolate, but with the raspberry mixed in it was absolutely delicious!

After our macarons were baked and cooled slightly, we took to our pastry bags and started filling them. I was really impressed by how glossy and puffy they came out using Guillemette’s method. When I’ve made them differently in the past, they have been a little flatter and they brown quickly in the oven. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Lyon and bid farewell to the lovely kitchen at La Cuisine Paris. Unfortunately my friend and I were running a bit late, and we actually had to run to the train. Note to self: macarons are too fragile to run with. Don’t worry though, they still tasted amazing and we still ate ALL of them!

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3 great designers to shop in Paris

Shopping in Paris wasn’t quite as much fun as it should have been — the exchange rate is pretty terrible right now, so it’s tough to part with your Euros when you think about how much it is in U.S. dollars. Regardless, I had a lot of fun checking out all of the French designers that our stores don’t carry. I ended up coming home with one lovely dress as a souvenir of my visit, but I definitely had to restrain myself from buying more!

Claudie PierlotThis designer really has the Parisian chic thing going on. Every piece I saw looked beautifully tailored, really unique, but classic enough that wearing them was effortless. Their spring/summer collection has a lot of pieces done in the star print that you see on the blazer — I tried on an adorable silk zip-front dress in the same pattern that was perfectly flowy and whimsical!

MajeAs far as I can tell, Maje is super-popular in France. There are a pretty good number of boutiques around Paris, and the line was carried at both Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, two of their biggest department stores. Maje is definitely for the fun girl who likes her clothing to be a little flirtatious. I saw such pretty asymmetric silk dresses, flashy blazers with sequined arms, and these fun red trousers in the collection. They also have a really cool blog called Un Air de Maje that will make you love them even more!

EtamI’m not sure if I would call Etam so much of a “designer” as a “brand.” There are Etam shops all over France and other parts of Europe, but the ones I really liked were their lingerie shops. The underthings and pajamas that they carry are very affordable, and we also saw some adorable bathing suits at the shop as well. I fell in love with the cotton pajama set on the left, but I sadly left without it. Maybe next time!

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Paris, je t’aime

I’m back, mes amis, after a fantastic week of dining, shopping, and hanging out in France. The week definitely went by way too fast, but I was happy to be able to visit with some friends who I don’t get to see very often and practice my French (I’m more than just a little rusty, malheureusement).

After I took a little time to practice yoga in front of the Eiffel Tower (just kidding… I saw someone else bridging for a photo op, so naturally I had to do it too), I got to the important part of the trip: eating. And lots. Our first stop was to the famous Ladurée for an afternoon snack of macarons. As you probably have figured out by now, macarons are sort of my thing, so I was pretty thrilled to sample some from the place credited with inventing them. The flavors I tried were (clockwise, from top left) Red current-Violet, Green Apple, Chocolate-Lime, and Salted Caramel with Fleur de Sel. Yum.

The most fun place that I ate was at Fauchon, a trendy epicerie/restaurant/cafe. I first heard about this place from Gala Darling’s post about it, and I knew that I needed to stop by. There are actually two buildings, both located on Place de la Madeleine in the 8th arrondissement. One houses a shop with all kinds of lovely jams, spices, oils, and packaged chocolates and cookies. There is also a restaurant upstairs, which I didn’t eat at since I happened to be on my own that day. The second building has all kinds of pastries, and also has a more casual à la carte dining area. I chose an amazing shrimp, spinach, avocado and green apple salad along with a big ol’ mug of café au lait. This place is not inexpensive, even for lunch, but it was totally worth it. I also picked up some lemon olive oil and a jar of strawberry-rose jam, labeled “Love Preserve”. Apparently there used to be a Fauchon location in New York, but it closed! What a bummer. You can still buy a limited selection of their products online here.

I have so many more fun things to share about my trip, but I’ll need to save them for the next few days as I re-enter the “real world” and try not to dream about Paris at my desk. Le sigh!

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