…always a good idea.

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Oh Paris. You’ve captured my heart one too many times but always at different capacities.

This time, activities included…Wandering the streets without a destination. Checking out some trending coffee shops* (courtesy of Ms. Lost in Cheeseland). Sitting at cafés for hours to people watch with an espresso and a rosé. Eating macaroons. Falling in love with Le Marais. Seeing old friends. Meeting new friends. Not going to any museums. Gazing at my favorite Sacre Coeur from the window of a friend’s apartment (evidence above). Capturing the many images of graffiti on my Instagram. Discovering Le Canal Saint-Martin.

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*Foundation Café and Telescope are two trendy, english-speaking coffee shops brewing up delicious jo.

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Filling My Soul With That Which Was Missing

IMG_7449It’s been over two weeks since I was on VACATION!!!!

It really feels like only yesterday. I miss it so much. The first week back was extremely difficult to even get into the swing of life here in New York City. Post vacation depression. Does that happen to you too? Sometimes I even have it when I leave my friends after spending a weekend together in DC or something similar.

IMG_4512In any case, the details of my trip are missing from this blog. I began my adventure in Burgundy (my home away from home) for about five days.  I snuggled with the kids, ate and drank on the terrace for hours, drove through the quaint wine town of Beaune and the surrounding vineyards and even stopped for coffee at my favorite café in Dijon. It was a brilliant mix of activities that filled my heart with what I was missing for the past  four years since living there.

I even had the opportunity to visit the vineyards of one of the wine makers that I now represent in New York City. Emmanuel Giboulot makes very distinct natural wine and it was exciting for me to see each specific parcel. Emmanuel was just getting back from vacation when we met in his cellar on the outskirts of Beaune. After tasting some new vintages and seeing the new label design (which I am so excited about), we took his truck up into the vineyards. This perspective, actually seeing each parcel, is helpful as I share his wines with sommeliers domestically. I can now see where the wine I am selling has come from and the actual terroir and agricultural characteristics. As much as I love drinking wine, being within the rows of hanging grapes is what I love even more. It invigorates me, especially in France while speaking French 🙂

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After the Côte d’Or I took the train north to Paris. I’ll recap next.

Summer Concert Series (Fête de la Musique)

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Fête de la musique was something I never knew existed before living in France. People made a big deal of the annual first day of summer music celebration in Dijon. There were concerts set up around the city and promotion weeks in advance. Because of this I assumed it was a French thing, but in fact it is celebrated worldwide.

This past year I celebrated in a French spirit.  As part of Central Park’s SummerStage festival, the French Embassy sponsored two popular French singers to perform for a packed crowd of Francophiles and native Frenchmen alike.

The afternoon began with Émilie Simon and ended with the eccentric M. I honestly had never heard either of them, but was able to convince my equally as French obsessed sister to join me on this musical journey.

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Walking up to the grounds and hearing all of the French-speaking was enough to make me pleased with our decision to attend. Of course the music was good too, if VERY French in style (if you are American and have lived in France or have listened to French pop I think you get what I’m saying). All in all, I loved every minute.M wears extreme costumes, sings with an alluring falsetto and knows how to rock it out on guitar all night long. Apparently the band was cut from the sound system at some point in the night but he continued to play with an enthusiastic crowd singing along (we left before this but my French colleague was there and reported back).

It was so fun to do something a bit different and support music!

travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

I’m going on vacation to France and couldn’t be more pumped. I might not exactly have the funds for a trip across the Atlantic, but I stand firm behind the title of this post. That’s what credit cards are for anyways, right?

I am the absolute worst at planning, so I haven’t really done that yet, but at least the flight is booked. The trip began as a focus on Normandy, the area of France that I’ve yet to visit. Then it shifted to a beach trip to Saint Tropez and now I am not even sure I’ll go beyond visiting my Burgundy home and Paris (duh).  Honestly I am not upset if it turns into a trip of visiting old friends and returning to my favorite spots, but I hope to at least do a bit of exploring and find some new gems.

For one I now have a few more wine connections and plan to visit the domaines if possible. I’ll keep you all posted if that happens. I have also been connected to some under the radar wine bars and restaurants in Paris, and I am very excited to review them.

Until my trip at the end of the month I’ll be counting down the days by drinking Burgundy and day dreaming of being surrounded by the French language 24/7.

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La Paulée New York

Last week I had the opportunity to experience Burgundy in New York City. No, not this fall’s fashionable color; I’m talking about Burgundy, France – the heart of Pinot Noir and my home away from home. La Paulée is a traditional celebration for the end-of-harvest in Burgundy. It has a long history in Meursault specifically, but I can tell you from experience, that many towns and villages still have “paulée” parties when the grape picking is finished.  The two Paulées I have been to in France featured friends gathered around long tables filled with food and many bottles of wine. Everyone laughed, drank and sang songs (like this one of course) until the wee hours of the morning.

Daniel Johnnes, wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, author, and importer has done so much to further the understanding and appreciation of Burgundy (wine and culture) in the United States. In particular, he founded La Paulée in 2000, an annual event that alternates between NYC and San Francisco every year. The biggest names in Burgundy winemaking, along with some rising stars, come to the States to celebrate the new vintages and, as is true in Burgundy, bring people together in a casual, fun atmosphere of food and wine. This year, I got to experience what I love about France in my new home of NYC.

My ticket into the rather prestigious event was actually thanks to my stint as an Au Pair, and not my current job in the wine industry – oddly enough. The winemaker who hired me as a nanny for his children in 2010, is one of the selected wine makers involved in the event each year. I was so excited to see him and his friends whom I had spent so much time with during my year in France. After catching up with them in between actual tasting sessions, I made sure to do my own share of wine tasting; how could I pass up drinking some of the best Pinot Noirs? The best part of my short time at the event was a casual run-in with Aubert de Villaine, winemaker from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, one of the most famous and sought-after wine producers in Burgundy. As I stood next to this man who I knew “looked so familiar,” I just couldn’t put my finger on who he was. I was mid-conversation with Erwan Faiveley from Domaine Faiveley, when Aubert came up next to me. Nonchalantly, Erwan said hello to him, poured him some wine and continued talking to me. I looked up (Mr. Villaine is tall) and remember thinking that I recognized this man for his dark, very particular, eyebrows. I knew I should have know who he was, and I didn’t want to stupidly introduce myself, so I just smiled and moved along my way. It was only when I returned to work and “googled” him (my answer to any and everything) that I realized who I had been standing next to.

Even if I didn’t get a chance to attend the gala dinner, and even if I didn’t know who Aubert de Villaine was, it was such a great experience to spend time in the same room as these great wine producers of Burgundy. Even more important for me, it was special to visit with my French family! As I continue my career in this amazing industry of wine, I know that my relationships with these people will continue to grow, and my world will continue to shrink – in a good way.

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Heart ache

So many times, I find myself stumbling (perhaps sometimes intentionally) upon French things.  Just 13 months spent living in that country but I have such an intense attachment to it none the less.  Most of the time these French encounters are as simple as passing a couple walking past me speaking French.  And sometimes, as I said, I seek these things out on my own.  These Frenchisms often come in the form of traveling to the Upper East side for an authentic café, spending $15 on French Vogue (yes, I did that), getting lost in a French movie or just listening to Edith Piaf.  Tonight it unexpectedly came by watching one of my favorite shows, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation.  The episode I came across was when Anthony went to Burgundy.  My old stomping grounds.  I will confess that I felt the need to cry while watching.  There was an intense ache in my heart as I watched him drive Le Route Des Grands Crus,  listened to him sing the typical Burgundy drinking songs, and of course see him eat the aliments and drink the wine of the region.  There was one part in particular which struck me.  Anthony went to a butcher shop in Auxerre and his “guide” described it as a common place to catch the town gossip.  He also mentioned how the butcher remembered what everyone ordered and would bill customers at the end of the week instead of at each visit.  This reminded me of the butcher shop I used to frequent in Nuits St George.  The woman who worked there was definitely the one who knew the town happenings (and a what she didn’t know she quickly found out) and she would often just mark down my order “for next time” if I didnt have money on me.  Why can’t everything here be traditional and relaxed like in France?

My heart is broken over France I believe.  And all I want to do is mend it with a bottle of Burgundy Pinot Noir…

Dijon to Paris

The Dijon portion of my trip was a mix of déja vu, emotion, excitement and relaxation.  It also ended with me frantically trying to find a reason to stay longer (typical behavior).
So I applied to wine school.  I’m serious!  It really wasn’t that insane of an idea because I had wanted to apply last year as well.  So on one of my last days, I pulled an all-nighter to write my CV (resumé) and lettre de motivation in French (not something you should do on jetlag).  I sent all of the necessary information into the school the day before I left for Paris because one of the deadlines was that afternoon.  Unfortunately, my paperwork arrived just a tad too late and now I have to wait until September 1st for the decision of my acceptance.  On verra bien…

So with wine school in the back of my head and my heart yearning to stay poolside with the munchkins, I unwillingly got back on a train and headed to Paris for a few days of me, myself and I.  I had the keys to my friend’s apartment (she and her fiancé were already in Hungary preparing for their wedding day) so it really felt like I was living a Parisian life for those few days.  I walked down random streets, made my way through Montmarte (my favorite area) and even went to a museum exhibit (I’ll tell you about that later).  I ended my France portion of the trip with a Fourth of July dinner with friends, Tony and Florian.  The next morning I woke up and left Paris to take my flight to Budapest for the wedding.  Of course, as I will soon describe to you, nothing is ever easy when I travel…

This has always been a favorite place of mine. My first trip to Paris, I stayed in a hotel near Centre Pompidou.

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Always have to make a stop at Shakespeare and Co bookstore near Notre Dame!

Lazy 4th of July afternoon at les Jardins des Tuileries

Dijon and a Weekend Back on the Vineyard

On arriving to Dijon, and after trying to salvage a double-purchased train ticket, I headed straight to my favorite little Café Dijonais: Bistro Quentin.  When I lived in France, my friends and I always called it “le café rouge” due to its red awning.  This time around, the red awning was still there but the eclectic interior had changed a bit.  None the less, my friend Suzanna and I felt right at home as we enjoyed our afternoon drinks on the terrace.  After catching up with Suzanna, we took a stroll around centre ville.  I love Dijon. It is a small city but has a lot to offer as far as shopping, museums and of course food and wine.  It is in Burgundy after all 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to spend time with Suzanna but also knew that Létizia and the kids were in Dijon for the afternoon.  I was so excited to see the kids, especially the twins because they had gotten so much bigger in the past year.  We planned to meet on the street; I always feel silly when I do that because it’s so movie-like to watch someone come your way.  After getting over the shock of the twins walking and talking, we spent the afternoon shopping and I took over my role of “big sister”/”au pair” tout de suite.  Létizia and I both mentioned later how it had felt like no time had passed.

 

 

I spent that night clubbing with Suzanna and the next few days afterward were for relaxation and memory-making in my small village with my second family.

Nothing could stop me from going to France…not even stairs.

I left NYC and decided to take a new form of public transportation to Newark airport.  I always seem to do this: hurdle a task at the worst moment.  Taking the PATH to the NJ Transit train to the airport shuttle was the cheapest way but also the most exhausting.  Two words: stairs and suitcase.  I got to the subway with little to no issue.  When I got to the PATH stop things began getting complicated.  I walked in the wrong direction five times, each time included a batch of stairs and a new bruise on my leg.  Only once did someone ask me for help and I clearly needed it (The day I left was the day that began the heat wave…I was a sweaty mess.)  I couldn’t seem to find the PATH so I exited the station completely (again with the stairs) and found it across the street.  Once I made it to the train I realized that I could have skipped the last batch of stairs if I had walked under a passage in the metro area…Lesson learned.   So I rode the PATH train to the end of one line, got off and crossed the platform to board another PATH line which took me to Newark Penn Station.  Here the train took me to the airport where I got off, went up the stairs escalator and took the airport tram to my terminal.  The second part was all easy and clearly marked.  A long trip but if you have the time and money is a factor (total was around $9), I recommend it (maybe with less luggage).

When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle I felt like I was in a crazy dream (I had moments of déja vu for much of my visit).  As I walked to the baggage claim I could remember doing the same thing a year before.  I had been so nervous! This time, I was not nervous at all; I felt at home!  After a short appel to “my family” in Dijon telling them I had arrived, I took the RER into Paris’ city center.  After I found a bathroom (I had forgotten about paying for public toilets in France), I lugged my suitcase through Les Halles only to realize that I had arrived in France for Les Soldes!! To avoid buying anything I parked myself by the Seine and read my book until I heard from my friend Orsi who was getting off work early.  When she called, I left my little spot under the bridge and again lugged my bag around the cobblestone streets in sweltering heat.  We caught up quickly at a café and then headed back to her apartment in the 18th district of Paris.  On arrival at her beautiful apartment, I was greeted by a spiral staircase. (OH MON DIEU!)  Orsi lived on the last floor…eight or nine twisting flights up.  If you have ever been to France, you may realize the kind of stairs I’m talking about. (By the way this was not my only encounter with these stairs and my large suitcase on this trip)  Despite all of this, it felt great to be with Orsi, speak French and be back in such an amazing city.  Once Tibo (her husband) got off work, we took bikes down from the 18th to meet up with friends and watch the UEFA soccer games. (You all know how much I love those Vélibs and soccer).

The next morning I was supposed to take the train to Dijon, my real home away from home.  I decided to buy my ticket online so that I wouldn’t rush around in la gare.  Of course, my luck, as I typed in my credit card number into the system, the computer went bonkers and I was told the transaction hadn’t gone through.  So I grabbed my things and quickly left the apartment stumbled down the spiral staircase.  I got to the station, bought a ticket and got on my way.  Only later did I finally connect my phone to wifi and realized the mistake I had made.  There in my inbox was the confirmation e-mail for my SNCF ticket. MERDE!  The transaction did in fact go through back at the apartment, which meant that I had bought two tickets for no reason.  I tried pleading for a refund but was told that the only thing I was able to do was write a letter to SNCF.  So very French and so very ineffective!  I still haven’t heard from them…

Independence Day in another country…again

This past weekend was Bastille Day in France.  Otherwise known as Independence Day, the fête is similar to July 4th in the US.  When I was in Paris a few weeks back, I was able to see some of the preparations for the parade that went down the Champs-Elysees.  Coincidentally, last year I also found myself walking by the same large stadium seats because I had been visiting Paris with my friend after a vacation in Italy.  This brings me to my confession: I have spent my country’s Independence Day in a foreign country.  Last year, Italy; this year, France.  Since France’s colors are like ours, red, white and blue, I guess it’s not that big a deal…right?

I spent my Fourth of July this year walking through Paris’ tiny streets, visiting the Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs exhibit and eating dinner with Parisian friends.  The Louis Vuitton exhibit was on my To Do/To See list during my petit séjour.  I suggest it to you too if Paris is in your plans this summer (it runs until September 16th).  It’s located at Musée des Arts Décoratifs and is spans two floors.  The first floor tells the history of LV and his luggage and the second floor is as out-of-the-box as Marc Jacobs himself.  Lights, bags, TV screens, music and voice-over…it’s really fun!

 

 

 

After my visit I took a nap on the chairs near the Tuileries Gardens.  This is one of my favorite places in Paris to do nothing!  I ended my July 4th with good friends for a final dinner in Paris.

America’s 4th in France and France’s 14th in America…this flip-flop is symbolic of my crazy life 🙂