ChiTown


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Chicago has always intrigued me. Ever since I was younger and my dad came back from business trips with stories about the clean, modern city in the midwest. So some twenty years later I finally got to travel to this city of skyscrapers.

I honestly had no idea it was such a tall city but after an architectural boat tour it was made clear that this city claims some of the tallest buildings in the world (one of which I went to the top of and literally hung off the edge*). To me the best part about Chicago is that it doesn’t feel big. This must be in part because of the wide streets where light passes through the buildings (almost the opposite to Manhattan’s streets). This city, to me, felt cozy and inviting.


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We were able to explore several neighborhoods during the extended weekend. As one would expect, each had a different flare, architecture and people. You could definitely notice the differences, which is something I love about NYC’s various neighborhoods as well.

Although my concrete jungle has water surrounding it, Chicago’s lake felt so much better than the rivers around Manhattan. First of all, it is clean water and you can literally jump in off the Gold Coast walkway. Second, it transcends into the city center making for lovely boat tours and bridge walks through center city.

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Selfishly, this trip was also a chance to check out another city’s “booze scene.”** With the help of colleagues living in the area and social media suggestions, I was able to curate a nice list of bars and restaurants, most of which we ventured to. The highlights included the swanky high-profile Aviary, the amaro selection at Billy Sundays, tacos at Mercadito and the surprising dive-bar we ended up singing karaoke in on the last night.

Chicago, I will return. There is more on my list to explore…

*formerly the Sears Tower

**I did mention I sell alcohol in NYC..right?

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…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.

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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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.

San Francisco

I took a trip to California recently. Flew into San Francisco and stayed in a hostel like I was backpacking through Europe. Hostels are a solo travelers best friend. You get the inside scoop about a city and are always bound to meet the most interesting people. I stayed at Pacific Tradewinds and would recommend it to anyone visiting the area. Lovely people, clean living situation and convenient location in the city and near public transportation.

I explored San Francisco solo by strolling through the mind blowingly extravagant China town down to the harbor where I hung out with the sea lions and saw how close Alcatraz is.  I got breakfast on the very Italian Columbus Avenue and then promptly walked off all of the calories by getting a bit lost walking up a few large hills (an unavoidable part of this city).

When my traveling partner finally arrived, she scooped me from the side of the road and we began our road trip into the country of wine…

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Istanbul

I have never visited Turkey or the magnificence that is Istanbul. It has been on ‘my list’ ever since I lived in France and heard rave reviews from the many travelers with whom I crossed paths. My good friend, Sissy, on the other hand has not only been to Istanbul, she has fallen in love with the place. Sissy is the lead singer of the group Wax Poetic, a band with its roots in Istanbul. Concerts and various recording sessions have many times taken my friend across the Atlantic to a far away land that has since captured her heart. In fact, I remember one of the first times she returned from a trip and the instant excitement I detected in her voice as we rehashed her experiences. The passion she felt for Istanbul was strong and immediate, a connection that I could relate to from my time spent in France. So when Sissy began fervently posting messages about the current revolution happening in Istanbul, I felt for her longing and knew I had to plead with her cause. Instead of me writing a news-like post here, I decided to share with you the emotionally charged, eloquent words of my friend. She has a beautiful story to tell and an important message to pass along. I understand the longing for a foreign country that feels like home, especially in its time of need. My thoughts are with those struggling in Istanbul and I hope yours will be too. Without further ado…

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“I never thought I would get a tattoo. It was all sophomoric flirtation, mostly to make my parents’ hearts race, until just over a month ago. April 30th ended my band Wax Poetic’s third tour in Istanbul, the week devoted to promoting our most recent album release while simultaneously recording new material. Rapturously cycling from sessions at Babajim Studios, performances at Babylon and Nublu, parties at Minimuzikhol, quick naps in Galata and Chingir, our ambitious artistic pursuits had orbited within a five minute radius of Taksim and Gezi Park.

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On the last day, hoping to finally relax with my best Turkish friend Basak and bandmate Brandon, we boarded a boat tour up the Bosporus. However, with each passing neighborhood the seemingly endless sprawl of Istanbul’s population overwhelmed me with awe. Only when circling back to the port did my thoughts shift into focus, finding solace in the overhead view of the Bosporus bridge—its stretch of grandeur from Europe to Asia a worthy reminder of the only naturally occurring transcontinental city. Feeling a second wind, I realized an internal change had occurred on the European side, so pressing that there was no choice or moment but now to document it. Having yet to set foot in Asia, Brandon and I were led by Basak from the spacious tourist boat to a ferry packed with Turks. Danny Garcia, a man hard-pressed for appointments, could fit the three of us in for something small.

We arrived at Inkstanbul Artcore, and the awning’s bold red and white stripes sent alt-echoes (perhaps intentionally) of the Turkish flag, connecting colors in a constellation along the waterfront. The blue between two continents had allotted us just enough time to decide on “something small”:

Basak suggested “Aşk,” the Turkish word for “love,” embedding the language of the city that now felt like a second home: its sounds, smells, and sights a backdrop in the transfiguration from friendship to family.
Brandon suggested wrist placement, as his first tattoo circles the mark of living, his pulse.
I inserted a treble clef in the place of “ş,” linking the word with why I was in Istanbul in the first place: Ilhan Ersahin was inspired to include me in his band having encountered my life’s devotion to musicality.
Danny’s demeanor was stern, but having impressed upon me the weight of this decision, he led Basak and I to the tattoo room. His tough exterior dissolved as I sat in the chair. After pausing to assure I was calm and ready, he deftly began to tie the principles and letters to one another. His artistry somehow created a font that reflected my person, even having only exchanged a few sentences. A box of newborn kittens were my reward, and while I held one inches from my new ink he shared about his stewardship of the neighborhood strays. It was time for his next customer, so we found a communal cab headed back to Europe.

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From a new vantage point, we closed the circle of the day’s events by crossing the Bosporus Bridge from above. In a similar dance to the nights of my stay in Istanbul, the bridge’s lights began to pulse as sunshine faded to ebony. Our destination was Taksim Square, and upon arrival I asked Basak if I had been there before. “Dozens of times,” she replied, as I noted a budding frenetic energy as the source of its distanced familiarity.

The following morning, I approached the typically accommodating taxi stand with my suitcase but was met instead with empty streets and dozens of patrolling police officers. With no transportation options to the airport, my stay was extended a day because of the national holiday created to control protests. When I was finally able to leave, my thoughts and actions moved past the days in Istanbul, even though my heart had failed to join them. This was all until …
The news of the Turkish Protest Movement leaked into my newsfeed. As a primal reaction I reached out to my family in Istanbul to assure that they were safe. Hearing stories of the police’s revolting brutality, gas infecting the homes of infants and elderly, and the citizens’ (old, young, left, right, gay, straight, secular, religious, radical, indifferent) bravery regardless, I desperately asked if there was anything I could do. Their response: “share share share” …

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151931883177802

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This is why articles, photos, and stories of the Turkish citizen’s brave efforts have overtaken my Facebook and Instagram. The revolution is not being televised in their country, and yet social media has emerged to spread the beauty of their cause and severity of their plight. A formally apolitical citizen, I have been inspired because regardless of creed, party affiliation, age, orientation, sex, nationality, or inherent love of Istanbul, their message is about the essence of Democracy. If you prefer a shopping mall or park, have tattoos or not, the basic rights of respect for peaceful protest, the freedom of expression and the exchange of information, and the duty of government and police to protect and honor its public’s interests are causes any real or Facebook friend of mine should be able to get behind. I am urging you to follow the press on this movement, share this post, share articles and photos, sign petitions- do anything you can to bring awareness to the situation in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is an authoritarian liar, from his suggestion that Twitter is a “menace to society” to his delusion that the thousands crossing the Bosporus Bridge to join the protest were mere hundreds. Let’s show him that his opposition is an uncontrollable number stretching from Europe to Asia to America and back.

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A friend asked today about my tattoo, and I realized its meaning had been given new life beyond my initial intentions.
Basak’s idea has expanded to the principle that care and interest in not only the cultures but also the plight of our brothers and sisters internationally is vital, enriching, and pivotal in understanding the potentially reflective issues occurring domestically. Moving from the debilitating notion of “us” vs. “them, promoting the causes of others, especially as their words and actions assume ours, has the power to affirm an undeniable “we.”
Brandon’s emphasis on the pulse alerts me to how collaborative passions push my heart to beat with intensity. Feeling the heart of this cause in an authenticity that eliminates distance, I will be unable to return to the monotonous cadence of complacency.
My musical and personal efforts moving forward will always be informed by that week in Istanbul and the intense struggle of the studio. Trying take after take in pursuit of artistic perfection, we tirelessly pushed on in a truly taxing labor of love. “Art isn’t easy” Sondheim reminds us. That is why, having completed the session, we all laughed, cried, smiled, and hugged in one of the most profound moments of my life.
Finally love, rooted in music, movements, any source beyond the traditional romantic connotation, can supersede our own or other’s intentions, creating a new breathing force.

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Although Erdoğan touts these past few days as the fleeting act of extremists, the realty of my body’s new mark of permanence reveals a message I’ve always understood. Trees and tattoos are interchangeable and perhaps irrelevant parts of our bodies and stories, as causes and crests are a mere impetus in the collaborative reminder that the fight for more will always be worthwhile. We should make every effort to support our relentless Turkish friends (and others in similar turmoil, for that matter) until the love of the life they are demanding becomes an impossible sound to ignore.”

For a moment, I thought I would never make it to Budapest.

It is safe to say that my flight from France to Budapest was less than ideal.  I used Easy Jet Airlines because of the convenience and price, but I think that is the last time I will be using their services (or lack there of).  I arrived at Charles de Gaulle, checked in and was told that I had an overweight bag.  Making a rushed decision, I just paid the fee.  That was a mistake.  It was only after my expensive bag was take to a far away place on  the conveyor belt that I was told my flight was delayed XX hours.  It was only after I was told this that I realized I had a bag in my suitcase that I could have rearranged to make the overweight suitcase weight less.  Hindsight is always 20/20, right?  At this point I was throwing a little pity party and even called home (to the US that is).  I was overly exhausted after pulling an all-nighter to write my wine school application and now I was pissed to be in an airport dropping money on stupid expenses and waiting for an underterminely (that’s a word right?) delayed flight.  To top it off, when we finally did board the plane, we sat and waited for 30 minutes on the tarmac.  We then deboarded the plane because the initial problem was not yet resolved.  It had begun to rain during that 30 minutes, and we were all forced to walk through the pouring rain onto a little bus and then back into the rain and onto a new plane.  Needless to say, we were all a bit ticked off.  Luck for us, (FYI, sarcasm is kicking in) we were given a complmentary 4 euro ticket to use on food/beverage in the airport.  What a blessing! Thanks Easy Jet…not!

On arrival to Budapest I was greeted by my friends Orsi and Bogi.  We had planned to sightsee the afternoon I arrived, but my delay meant we hit the bars instead.  It was great to be with my friends and meet their friends.  We went to some really unique spots that night.  One bar was a completely outdoor area (I failed to mention that it was EXTREMELY hot in Budapest.  The heatwave that hit the east coast at the beginning of July also happened across the Atlantic).  The outdoor bar was filled with old boats and plastic lawn chairs.  A simple wooden bar lined the back and lights were strung from poles throughout.  Very simple and yet very effective.  The place was packed with people.

The next day was my only free full day so Bogi and I went walking around the city in the hot hot sun.  We saw the main sites and then checked into a hostel for the next day’s wedding festivities.  That evening we had an apéro (drinks and snacks) at Tibo’s friends’ apartment.  They stayed in Budapest for a week, making the wedding a vacation.  The windows were open to a wonderful sunset and unique scene.  We made sure not to stay out too late however because the following day’s wedding was sure to be a doozy.

The day of the wedding was hot but by this time we were used to the sweaty mess.  Bogi and I got prepared in stages, taking a few moments between each garment to sit and cool off as best one can with no A/C.  After this slow process, we found shelter in a cool taxi and made our way to the city center.  Orsi was beautiful, the wedding was concise and the reception lasted until 7am.  A little drunk and very sweaty and tired, I made my way to the hostel at 8am for an hour nap and then rushed to the airport for a flight to Ukraine and then NYC.  A whirl wind finish but so many great memories were had.

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…

MDCV

Happy Friday everyone.  It has been a gorgeous afternoon.  I hope the weather cooperates all weekend because I have a baseball game to attend and some major Vitamin D to soak up 🙂 

Here are some random (if not very food-related) notes from my week on the web.

I really love this story about a Prussian baroness and her car.  Lifestyles like hers always seem unreal to me.  Credibility was created when I read that they found a cigarette with a lipstick stain in the car.  Like she just vanished…facinating!

Remember my post about fruit cakes?  Well, I was reading some David Lebovitz the other night and whattaya know…he made a fruit cake. Of course he called it Tu bi’Shvat, a Hebrew word, but it was a fruit cake for sure.  I enjoy David but I’m still not on board with the cake of fruit.  Lets just enjoy some dried fruit and stop putting it in cakes.

Alone time is so great and often overlooked in life.  Make sure to take time for you this weekend.

New restaurant Rosemary’s opens this coming week.  I love that the food from the rooftop garden “gets dropped down to the dining room in a basket on a block and tackle.”  Adding this spot to my list. 

Summer and popsicle. Who doesn’t have a memory involving these two delights? For me, I remember desserts of Dole fruit popsicle as a kid.  My sisters and I would grab a popsicle and run to the swing set in our backyard where we would swing for hours as liquid juice dripped down our hands.  After reading this article I may just have to find a swing set to go with my “adult popsicle” 🙂

Summertime fruit make me so happy