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!

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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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.

A stroll in the park

This past weekend, new friends in attendance, I explored a bit of the city.  We were blessed with a sunny New York weekend and there is no better way to take advantage of that then to spend it in the great outdoors.  And in NYC this means Central Park!

As we strolled along the paths of the 843 acre park I couldn’t help but think of similar moments I’d had in France.  One of my first weekends I was asked to join some friends for a Sunday afternoon in Dijon.  We would go to the Parc de la Colombière and then a movie (movies were one of a few things open on a Sunday).  I spent a nice afternoon walking and talking with my friends but at the time I remember it all feeling a bit strange.  The concept of walking around a park with no real motive, dressed in normal clothes (not workout clothes) and just meandering around was foreign to me.  My friends and family at home never did such a thing.  I would go for a run or take a walk for exercise but would never call a friend to casually take a walk with me in jeans.

After some months, I adopted many French ideas and habits; taking walks on a Sunday afternoon being one of them.  So when I came to NYC I was excited to see the trend transferred over and Central Park filled with both joggers and wanderers like myself 🙂

Bethesda Terrace Arcade

 Naumburg Bandshell