Governor’s Island

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New Yorkers: you only have until the end of the month to head out to Governor’s Island and find out what the hype is all about.

Governor’s Island, located 8 minutes by ferry from the southern tip of Manhattan, has been going through major transformation. The island, which in the past has been everything from a wartime fortress (successful in warding off British attack in 1812), a coast guard headquarter station, and a prison, is now a destination for fun and relaxation.

With some 30 acres of parks, bike paths and even a hammock grove (seriously the best things ever!), the island is a popular weekend destination. When I went for the first time last weekend I was blown away by the amount of activities available. When first walking off the ferry, many people flocked to the beach inspired bar area where there is apparently an outdoor concert area. Events and concerts are scheduled here throughout the summer and last weekend was no exception as I overheard a Sublime cover band while in line for my ferry back to Manhattan.

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Bikes seem to be the preferred mode of transportation on the island. Many visitors rented tandems and surrey cycles directly off the island while others brought their bikes on the ferry with them from Manhattan and Brooklyn (no extra charge from the $2 round trip fare). The island is larger than I expected so a bike will definitely be included on my future excursions.

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A short walk from the ferry will put you directly in front of a castle. Castle Williams to be exact. This fortress was where I spent my time…I know, I know. I’m such a nerd. I signed up for a free tour (available every hour) which takes you through the four levels and up onto the roof for an awesome view (the first picture in this post is from the roof).

Castle Williams was built in the 1800s to protect Manhattan from invasions by the British. The invasion never happened, and maybe it was due to the threat posed by this sandstone structure which had 13 casements that could each hold 26 cannons. That’s pretty intense and not something I would want to sail past as the British (not to mention this was only one fort out of the defense system in place around Manhattan.)

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After this cultural enlightenment, I wandered toward the hammocks and plopped myself down for over an hour of reading and snoozing. Seriously, I need to speak to the person involved in deciding to put hammocks on Governor’s Island. It is pure genius.

If you’re in the New York area between May and September, I suggest packing a picnic (or some cash for the food trucks) and buy a ferry ticket for an afternoon on Governor’s Island.

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Central Park Wheels

This weekend my sister came up to New York City for a visit. We both have done so many of the tourist attractions throughout the years and decided that it was time to do something new and different.

My first idea was a horse and carriage ride. The week before she visited, Central Park was extra inviting with the snow covered trees, icy ponds and freezing temperatures. I was dreaming up hot chocolate and blankets. However this particular weekend greeted us with a winter heat-wave of sorts and the carriage ride seemed less attractive as we saw the melting snow mixed with horse poo.

We settled on a less conventional route: a bike ride. I am talking about a tandem bike ride to be exact. It was down-right hilarious. I literally couldn’t stop laughing during the first few minutes (and each time after we took pit-stops and worked to get back on the bike, moving in unison.)  It was a rocky start, especially because the breaks were less than effective and we didn’t even have a bell….but once we got the hang of it (and once I learned that slacking off with pedaling in the back messes up the pilot up front) we were pros.

I would recommend it as the best way to see the park in its entirety while also being able to chat with your copilot. What a great memory on a beautiful day.

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Shelter Pizza in BK

A couple months ago I had a work event in Brooklyn. We chose a brand new space for the event, and by brand new I  mean not yet opened for business. In fact, a mere hour after our company’s brunch, the bar was to officially begin making their pizza and empanadas menus for the public.  Quite an ambitious undertaking but it was in fact pulled off.

The space in which this bar/pizza joint is housed is absolutely beautiful. Sliding barn doors open to a massive area where original wooden beams run along the ceiling and a lodge-like atmosphere is effortlessly achieved by way of rustic moose heads, stump chairs and fireplaces. Despite the cozy winter decor, it felt open and airy on that warm and sunny afternoon of the event.

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Last week as the temperatures began to drop significantly, I was excited to return to this Brooklyn bar for yet another industry event. This time the focus was whiskey and with the massive barn doors shutting out the cold air, we all cozied up and I imagined being at a ski lodge with delicious pizzas.

Check out Shelter in Williamsburg, BK if you are in the area. Winter or summer, this place has a lot to offer (food, cocktails and of course ambiance).

 

 

A Movie under the stars

Have you ever been on a date in Central Park?  Isn’t it a typical dream date destination?  Like the Eiffel Tower….ok I might have taken that too far.

There is, none the less, this fantastical feeling about New York and Central Park.  The horse and buggy rides (is carriage ride more romantic?), a lazy hot summer day picnicking in the lawn or just sitting by the Alice and Wonderland statue.  It’s like a dream.  I imagine that these feelings manifest themselves in my mind because of Hollywood’s influence.  So many movies use Central Park in a pivotal movie moment.

Speaking of movies, how about a drive-in movie?  Dream date destination? Romantic?  I think it is!  Again, the movies and TV come into play here.  I think of Sandy and Danny (Grease reference) smouching in the backseat when I hear drive-in theater.  It’s that element of bad-ass winning me over here.  The park has charm but a drive-in movie has sex appeal.

So what happens when we eliminate the car, add French people and place it all in Central Park?  Well folks, let’s just say my Friday night involved just that.  Don’t get any ideas…I was not on a romantic date.  I was however watching a French movie under the stars, on a blanket in Central Park.  It was just like the movies 😉

Friday night the popular summer attraction, Films on the Green, kicked-off in Central Park.  The series of free outdoor French movies (with english subtitles bien sûre) has been successful for the past five years.  Organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and NYC Parks, it is a fun event for anyone passing through the city during June and July.

I made my way to Central Park as dusk began to fall.  Unfortunately, the rain clouds were also falling.  Although the weather was “up in the air” people still made it to the lawn with blankets, wine, sweatshirts and umbrellas (just in case).

After a brief word from the coordinator (who gave a valiant effort at a few French phrases), the film began promptly at 8:30pm.  The movie, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (OSS 117: le Caire Nid d’Espions), was a James Bond meets The Pink Panther style comedy by Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius.  It was very French; Duh!  No, but seriously, French movies are a lot different from American flicks.  For one, story lines are a bit disorganized and jokes are more slap-stick in French movies.  French movies almost feel indie in a way because the mega Hollywood movie houses are not crafting specific outcomes to achieve desired ratings.  That is not to say French directors have no interest in good press.  It just doesn’t seem to drive such cookie-cutter creations as I tend to notice in America.

The James Bond satire was funny (I definitely laughed out loud) and clever.  The characters’  personalities were the driving factors keeping me interested (oh and Jean Dujardin himself of course) rather than an intensely twisted plot.  There were no crazy surprises and everything was rather elementary but I enjoyed my evening.  Good film or not, going to these outdoor screenings is a treat and fun summer experience that I recommend.  It brings you back to the days of drive-ins and dating, and who doesn’t like to feel a bit French every once in a while.

Are we ready to bare it all? Should we be?

What exactly constitutes indecent exposure?  No shirt, No shoes, No service; we all know that. But when the weather warms up, things come off and people tend to push the limits with what is acceptable attire.  How much is too much?

Apparently in New York there is no way of knowing.  You really never know what you may find.  Just the other day I saw a lady walking down Broadway with blue lipstick and painted lines on her face.  Maybe she was an actor off to a gig, I don’t know, but nobody budged.  New Yorkers are immune to crazy.  They eat crazy for dinner.

The girl I saw this afternoon, however, was different from most.  It all began in my office actually. My coworker approached me and told me that she had just passed a girl on the street wearing jeans and no top.  I asked the obvious questions: “you mean no bra? No sheer shirt? She was wearing nothing?”  When the answers all pointed to “Yes, this girl was bare breasted, no top in sight,” I was shocked that someone would have the balls to walk around like that.  Then I ventured out of the office and went to the park.  People were lying around, half-naked, trying to capture as much vitamin D as possible.  No harm in that!  Then I noticed everyone starting in one direction with looks of amused disbelief (are you getting that image?).  I turned around to see what the source was and that is when I saw her; jeans, shoes, tote bag, and no top to be found!  Was she trying to form a public opinion about something?  A crazy journalistic scheme?  Honestly, I think she just thought it was OK.  OK to sit there and not have a top on.

Was it? Is it?

our lady is top right.

My sister has a vivid memory of our first trip to France.  It includes breasts;  naturally.  We were living with a family in Provence and spent the afternoon at a rocky, sea urchin infested beach (I am bitter because one of these creatures got stuck in my foot. Story for another post!).  Maybe I was so upset about my foot that I wasnt as affected by the exposed woman on the beach, or maybe it was my inner European/French side taking flight.  Anyhow, my sister remembers a woman who had a tattoo of the sun encircling her nipple.  It was only this past weekend that her “traumatic” event was exposed (pun intended?).  Seeing woman with their breasts bare, even on the beach (sun tatoo or not), was culturally shocking to my sister.  I have to imagine it would be like this for most Americans. We are prudish when it comes to nudity.  Even when the nude are children.  For example, this weekend our neighbors at the shore had their two little girls running around outside, playing games and walking their baby doll in a stroller, stark naked.  Not the usual bottoms-only beach attire that kids sometimes have, but entirely naked.  I really didn’t think much of it, I actually think that’s part of the beach baby look.  My relatives however, seemed to think it was the most “hippie” thing ever!  “So granola,” they said.

In France, babies and woman wear bottoms-only at the beach while men walk around in tiny Speedos.  Same in Spain and most of Europe I assume, although I have not traveled to all of the world’s beaches (now there is an idea..).  It is an acceptable part of their culture and people don’t gawk at the site of saggy boobs or sunshine tattoos.

I am not saying that “naked lady in the park” should have been exposing her chest to the world, although after some research I have found that it is entirely legal activity.  It does bring up some cultural conversations though.  Maybe we Americans need to relax a bit; loosen up.  After living in Europe, I appreciate America for its ability to harvest our craziest dreams.  On the flip side however, there are so many issues that we are stuck-in-our-ways about.  Drinking age, topless beaches, filtering movies and songs because of content…

Are we uptight?  Is one bare-breasted lady ready to start a revolution? Should we be taking our tops off….ok ok I have gotten a head of myself:)

Only if for a night

Last weekend I went to see Florence and the Machine in concert.  It all went down in Atlantic City, NJ at the Borgata.  It was my first time seeing a show there and I was really impressed.  The acoustics were great and the standing room made for an intimate experience.

My friend Chelsea’s family has a beautiful house in Ocean City where we stayed the night.  On our way down Saturday, we stopped in center city Philadelphia to enjoy the gorgeous weather.  After a nice stroll and yummy food we were Jersey bound, arriving just in time for happy hour margaritas on the deck.

When we arrived in Atlantic City later that evening the sun was setting, making for a great photo.

Then it was time for the concert.  After a less than stellar opening act, Florence came out in a black cape with metallic detailing on the shoulder pads.  As she twirled, jumped and belted her hits, we tried to find the best place to enjoy the show (the beauty of standing room).  Our final choice was right up front and to the side of the stage.  Except for a drunk girl who ran like a maniac through the crowd spilling beer all over us,  our “seats” rocked; room to dance and fully enjoy Florence!

We couldn’t leave the casino without testing our gambling luck.  It’s a good thing that luck was on our side ($7 worth of luck) because the cabs out of AC are a bit pricey.  We managed to barter it down a bit but those drivers really ask a lot for the trip home.

All in all a great weekend activity.  Great music, venue and time with friends.

vegan eats

Living in France my diet was very meat heavy.  I went to the butcher about once or twice a week and picked up fresh-cut veal, lamb, steaks and many times things that I did not recognize (just translate tête de veau and get back to me).  My diet was heavy in cheese, wine and red meats but I felt healthier in France than I ever did in America (my theories behind this for a future post).  So when I got back to The States where chicken is the staple on my table, I missed the charcuterie and unprocessed meats I ate overseas.  A bigger shock, however, was getting used to the large vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan culture that has developed in America. 

One of my dearest friends is vegan; Another one vegetarian.  My friends and I often get together over meals so I had to get used to making sure that the places where we meet are sensitive to my friends’ needs.  Whole Foods is an easy choice but a girl can only eat so much quinoa and sprouts in a box.  So we have made sure to do some investigating and take trips to unknown destinations to spice it up a bit.  Major metropolitan areas seem to have an abundance of options available for the food sensitive and since we live just outside of Philadelphia, taking advantage of them is not a problem. 

Since my homecoming, I have experienced some really great restaurants and foods during these girls-night-outs.  Many of them are places I would never have found without my ladies because the cuisine is specifically catered to the vegan culture.  And don’t just think of salads or veggie burgers.  One of my favorite vegan plates was the smoked coconut club at Memphis Taproom.  My favorite part was that the smoked coconut tasted like bacon!  Maybe that grosses some vegans out but for a non-vegan, eating vegan, it was a nice surprise. 

Last weekend the destination was Hip City Veg.  This new hot spot is not only vegan safe but it strives to provide a completely plant-based experience.  From the delivery of food (on a bike) to the packaging of the gigantic burgers (compostable paper), this Rittenhouse Square eatery impressed me by putting its “hippest” foot forward 🙂

And what is dinner without dessert?  My friends and I crave ending a meal on a sweet note.  I am baking challenged, but I know that eggs and milk are important in creating that moist, well-balanced baked good.  If you know anything about the vegan diet, you realize that these ingredients are on the Do Not Consume list.  So when vegan desserts first came to my mind I was nervous that things would crumble apart.  (Remember my experience doing some vegan baking?)  Well this is just not the case.  There are so many alternative ingredients and ways to make finger-lickable treats.  My friend always finds delicious recipes: she is a great baker!  This weekend, after our feast at Hip City, we decided to buy our goodies at a bakery on South Street.  The bakery we chose, which was featured on Cupcake Wars, is worth putting on your list.   

Sweet Freedom Bakery in Philadelphia is gluten-free, vegan and allergy friendly. I suggest getting the huge cookie sandwiches with icing in the middle.

But I am who I am and even if I love eating these new foods and hanging out with my friends while doing it, a slice (or 5) of pizza at the beach is something I just wont be giving up 🙂

“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike”

image from BING search engine

Late last week I was happy to find out that the famous Vélib from Paris is going to be popping up in NYC!  Public bike systems are everywhere in Europe.  Dijon, where I spent most of my time last year, used a system similar to Paris’ sauf le nom (les dijonaises call the bikes Velodi).   

Today I discovered the legitimate site for the New York system that will be put in place this summer.  I am so excited for this to be a part of my city.  Biking is a great way to get from one place to another in a dense city scene.  Whether it’s heading to meet friends at a bar late at night or rushing to work in the morning; biking saves time, is environmentally friendly and is great exercise.  The only concern I have is that here in the Big Apple, drivers are insanely aggressive!  Is there really going to be room for bikes on the road?  I have the feeling that this could be a dangerous commuting option if the proper precautions are not put in place. 

The cities that have successfully achieved bike programs do so because the culture is formed around them.  Take Amsterdam for example.  I learned from this blog that biking takes things to a whole new level in the Netherlands.  “The Netherlands has more bikes than people! The population is 16.7 million people, yet there are 18 million bikes” (Cup of Jo).  Biking is their way of life and takes priority over every other form of transportation.  I don’t see the NYC cabbie giving the right away to a bike…do you?

From Cup of Jo blogger Joanna Goddard

The system will be relatively similar to France’s except for payment.   In NYC, the base price will be about $10 with the first 30 minutes free.  In Paris, a Vélib costs a tad more than 1 euro with the first 30 minutes free.  To be honest, I was totally thrown off when I first read the price.  My memory must be foggy (I will say my Parisian bike ride was late on a Samedi soir…) because I don’t remember a fee at all!  I remember using a credit card at the station (in case the bike never found its way back), but I don’t remember a fee.   Of course the site clearly states there is one, so I must have drunk too much wine or something…we all know that never happens in France 😉  In any right, I think $10 is a little pricey.

Another difference between the two programs is that in France you can use your metro pass to get bikes.  Maybe this is something the NYC system will adopt after it gets rolling?  I think it would be a convenient way to market the bikes. 

No matter these little differences between the systems, it is so nice to see some healthy and environmentally friendly choices in America! 

Speaking of Europe, which I constantly am, I am preparing for my summer visit back to France.  I will be spending time back in Burgundy as well as Paris and then I am off to a new territory; Budapest, Hungry for a friend’s wedding.  (Maybe there is a bike system there too…)  I am so excited for everything, especially my friend’s marriage! It is going to be such a magical time 🙂  I am currently shopping for flights home (something I would rather not do) and many have overnight layovers.  I am thinking of taking the trip that stops in Warsaw, Poland.  Does anyone know anything about hostels there or nightlife?  Would it be a good spot to spend the night?  The other option is the Ukraine… Thoughts?

I leave you with a bit of inspiration:

All things piled together, including the unread books on my shelf

It seems typical that everything happens on the same day.  Most days I have little-to-nothing special going on.  Then it seems that the one day I do have one thing planned, it suddenly becomes a mélange à trois and the commitment goes to the one I least prefer.  

I joined a book club at the Alliance Francaise on the upper east side.  When I joined the organization in general, I was really just looking for a way to keep my French speaking up to par.  So I thought that discussing books in French would be a good idea.  So I joined the club.  I even got a deal because my payment gave me the book and not one but three meetings (this book is a long and in-depth one).  Sadly, despite my best efforts, I have yet to attend a meeting and tonight marks the second of three. 

Same type of sob story with another group, Ed2010 (magazine job haven).  I am not a “member” of this one but have been looking forward to networking through the happy hours they organize.  The first one was back in February but I had just moved to the city and felt too overwhelmed to go to a happy hour, alone, ready to network with other editor hopefuls.  So I promised myself that I would go next time.  You should know the rest….”next time” just so happens to be tonight.  The same night as book club.  I briefly planned how I could do both, but then lucky event number three came along and all was lost.

So what is the event that has trumped the rest?  Hostess training!  Yes, a second job is needed and tonight is the beginning of the madness.  Blah!  I really need the job, and the quicker the training is over the better, but I just cannot believe how everything landed on the same night.  Bummer city 😦

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Shakespeare & Co

Shakespeare & Co in Paris

On a positive note, and on a book note, I have been reading some French books.  Although I am not attending the meetings, I still am tying to get through the assigned novel.

At the same time, I am quickly flying through another, easier, French book.  This series, by François Lelord, was first introduced to me while living in France.  My Hungarian friend lent me Le voyage d’Hector ou la recherche du bonheur, which was her first French reading conquest.  So as I was perusing the FIAF library one day, I found Le Nouveau Voyage d’Hector : A la poursuite du temps qui passe Considering I never finished my friend’s book in France, I decided to tackle this one. 

Meanwhile I have not finished a book I began in January.  I received Unbroken for Christmas and although it is interesting, it was not hard for me to put down and forget about.  I became so wrapped up in my French literature challenge that I havent picked it up in months.  I tend to do this, start a book and never finish it.  I am not proud.

With all of that out on the table, here I am thinking (or dreaming) of summer and the beach where we all can agree that the best reading gets accomplished.  The summer before moving to France I read finished Eat, Pray, Love (inspiration to jet-set?!) and a few months back I finished Sarah’s Key.  I felt these were quick reads.  I am looking for another up beat, cannot-put-down read.  Vicki from French Essence has a list put together that I may have to check out.  Do you guys have any suggestions?  (No, I do not want to read 50 Shades of Gray.)

MDCV (TGIF in English)

Merci Dieu, C’est Vendredi!  Yes, I have literally translated the phrase TGIF to French.  Although I have never heard des Françaises utter this phrase, I am sure it will have its time.  Eventually.  For now, just my fellow Francophile friend and I are sharing in its creative genius!

Never the less it sure is Friday and what a long-awaited Friday it is.  Does anyone else feel a bit relieved to see the weekend in arm’s reach?  What was it about this week that made it so tiresome and snail-like?!

The weather:  I blame many things on the weather. My mood, my physical aches and pains, my motivation to do anything, my exercise habits… So blaming this half sunny, half gray, mostly wet and extremely chilly week on the fact that I feel as if I have been run over by a bus seems fitting.

The Search:  As I have previously mentioned, I am eyes deep (is that a saying?) in job searching and penny-pinching.  It is exhausting to say the least.  People say that New York can really kick your butt and here I am, mid-rumble, and I believe it’s safe to say that NY is winning. For now…

The Move: I have been waiting since February for my own apartment.  I found the right place, but my timing was wrong.  So I have been doing things the way many NYC newbies do: surfing around.  I like to call it a nomadic lifestyle.  I am lucky because I have so many AWESOME friends and family who have taken me in and made me feel welcome (I didn’t even have to sleep on any couches during my nomadic life).  The wait is over now and Sunday is the day: move-in day.  But have you ever waited for something such a long time that when it finally happens you still feel like you’re supposed to be waiting for it? Just me? Ok, well I feel this week has drug on slower just to spite me and my move-in.

But enough about the week behind us! It is FRIDAY (sorry, it was just too good not to link to that song) and time to look to the weekend ahead 🙂 How wonderful!

Musings to share as you leave the office:

-French Roast coffee has become my favorite. I promise it’s not because of the name (however it is a great coincidence).  Our coffee here in the office is not good.  And that might be an understatement.  Even though I order it, blame is NOT on me–I was told to order it.  I have, however, taken the liberty to change the flavors and French Roast is the newest addition.  It was a good decision if I do say so myself.

-I have found a new Francophile to follow! Check out Vicki’s French life on her blog and in her two books!   http://frenchessence.blogspot.com/

-This bag is my love.  It’s also way out of my league.

Do you all think this one is  a close second? Is it puurrdddy?? Be honest!

-I rewatched “Nine” this week.  I am a fan of the movie for its setting (Italy! sigh), it’s cast (Marion Cotillard AND Kate Hudson.. j’adore) and its musical numbers.  My favorite is, “my husband makes movies.” It’s sad but I still fall in love with it each time I hear it.  If you havent seen the movie “Nine” and enjoy musicals, I suggest renting it this weekend.

-As I mentioned before, I have joined Pinterest after some reevaluation.  I find it less obsessive than friends have claimed but still enjoyable in its own right.  It is definitely a nice way to relax on a lazy Sunday.  Follow me!

-This past week, my search for a waitress job brought me to the East Village’s French lounge, Affaire.  If you’re in the area and desire a French escape just walk in the front door and get swept away! (this is not a sponsorship post but I do think they should hire me now)

-What good is a weekend without home-cooking?  I have been meaning to try this recipe from one of my favorite food blogging couples.  Maybe this weekend the meal will find its way to the table… And why not these cookies for dessert?

Now get off of the internet and enjoy the weekend!  I leave you with a photo that has been saved on my desktop for a year now…there is something about it. What do you think?

À toute

locking legs