Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Situation

 I had a great time with the girls in AC last weekend.

It was exactly what I needed - away from the unbearable heat of the City for a few days in a place where, despite temperatures reaching 102F on Saturday, laying out in the sun is actually possible due to frequent dips in the pool and where daytime alcohol consumption is not only tolerated but highly encouraged!

But of course Atlantic City lived up to its tacky reputation. I'm not sure that I have ever seen quite so many tattooed bodies in one place before and "tramp stamps" seemed particularly popular. I have nothing against tattoos but most of them were so bad that had I taken pictures of them, I would have been populating the pages of for months to come.

A trip to the ladies room in the club of the Chelsea Hotel was quite an experience as the air was thick with hairspray, cheap perfume and girls were giggling as they shared cubicles in groups of two - something that I haven't seen done since my University days in the UK and a strange custom I don't, and will never, understand.

What I was not expecting however was for it to be a little scary too. On Saturday night, all dressed up and teetering in our high heels, we were determined to venture outside of our hotel for dinner and went hunting for a highly recommended Italian restaurant we read up about, just a block away from the boardwalk. We were stunned to find streets lined with desolated houses and what looked like shacks and started to feel quite unsafe. After being propositioned by a couple of men standing outside a Gentleman's Club, we pretty much ran back to the safety of the boardwalk!

I know that all of the above will make me sound like a snob and maybe that's what I have become but with the right company and a great pool, any city can be the perfect getaway and despite all its shortcomings, that's what AC was to me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Atlantic City!

Well, the "City Fatigue" that I described a few days ago got the better of me and I couldn't even wait until my impending trip to France to get out of New York! So CS, KM and I made the rather last minute decision to go to Atlantic City this weekend.

Based on what I heard about it, if I could describe the worst city in the world for me, Atlantic City would fit that description pretty much perfectly with its plethora of casinos, characterless streets, tacky boardwalk and Jersey Shore cast lookalikes everywhere, complete with fake tan, bulging muscles and brains the size of a (small) pea (I appreciate that this is a vast and probably unfair generalization and I'm sure there are some perfectly normal people there too by the way!).

So why are we going there? It would have never crossed my mind had KM not come up with the idea and she also managed to find the only boutique, non-gaming hotel in AC, The Chelsea, although she really only had me at the words "rooftop pool" and "cocktail service".

I am fully prepared to embrace the tackiness and spend the weekend mostly reading books, swimming and sipping on ice cold Mojitos. Beats a weekend in the stifling heat of the City anyway ;-)

Photo by Ronald C Saari

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

City Fatigue

"New York is a great city to live in if you can afford to get out of it".

I have reached the wall, that point of no return when no matter how much sleep I get. Or how much I try to limit my activities and nights out in an effort to slow down. Or how many extra workouts I do at the gym to "reboot" my brain. I am constantly exhausted. Quite simply burnt out.

This "city fatigue" is something that I have only ever felt in New York, where the pace of the City and of my life in it, can be quite terrifying.

In my first couple of years here, I felt it even more than now, needing to desperately escape the City at least every 6 weeks. I am a little better equipped to deal with its relentless speed now but with my last trip being almost 9 weeks ago now, I am well overdue a break.

And there's no better place in the World for me to get a true break than at my parents in France. I never sleep as well as in my childhood bed. I never feel more relaxed than when I am eating a long and leisurely lunch in the sun with my family. I never feel more at peace with myself than when I am walking in the empty forests surrounding my parents country home.

My flight to Lyon is booked for July 31st.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Play Me

About a month ago, around 60 pianos were randomly installed in public spaces across the five boroughs as part of an interactive art project called "Play Me, I'm Yours" by Luke Jerram in association with the charity Sing For Hope.

I was lucky enough to come across two of them before the project ended - one (pictured here) was near the entrance of the City Hall park, the other was in Dumbo if I remember correctly.

I played the piano for 6 years when I was a child but I was too shy (and far too out of practice) to dare twinkling the keys in such a public forum! Thankfully, plenty of people were not as self-conscious and the pianos were put to good use -  this blog article has some lovely accounts of how people interacted with the pianos - from impromptu group sing-alongs to solitary serenades ...

Monday, July 12, 2010


I went to the inaugural Meatopia festival this weekend with my friend and colleague JR. He invited me after even the most virile of his friends turned down the opportunity to eat meat for an entire Sunday afternoon. I, of course, jumped at the chance.

The event assembled some 30 chefs from across the City and beyond with the premise of enjoying multiple tastings of BBQ food on Governors Island, many of the cooking teams roasting whole pigs and lambs right in front of the public.

It was a glorious day for it - hot and sunny but not as humid as the previous few days - and the short trip to the Island from South Ferry was suitably scenic as we slowly sailed away from the gleaming high rises of the Financial district.

The event attracted a very mixed crowd both in terms of age and style. But a love of sustainable, local products and of meat in particular is what united all the revelers. JR and I had opted to get 6 tastings, which turned out to be a fairly decadent choice and we only made it through by taking a break a couple of hours in! Notable highlights included a fantastic grilled bacon roll with pickled green tomatoes from Bobo, smoked duck tacos from Suenos Restaurant, smoky pastrami from Mile End and an incredibly tasty and moist lamb shawarma from Ilili Restaurant.

 In the end, I believe that around 5,000 people came to Governors Island that day for the festival and many queued for long periods of time at some of the most popular stands. If that doesn’t further prove New Yorkers’ enduring love affair for all things food related, I don’t know what does ...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

River Flicks

 I attended my first ever outdoor movie screening in New York last night (if you discount the short documentaries I watched at the Food Film Festival a couple of weeks ago of course). It had long been on my list of things to do and I was very excited at the prospect of going to see the hilariously funny "The Hangover" on the opening night of River Flicks at Pier 54, just off 14th Street and Meat Packing, with a bunch of my friends.

We knew we had to get there early to secure spots as close to the screen as possible so some of us headed off from work at 6pm, stopped at Whole Foods to grab some bread, hummus, salsa, cheese, olives and of course some wine before making our way there.

We arrived at around 7.15pm (the movie didn't start until 8.30pm) and managed to secure a relatively good spot on the Pier where two long sections had been cordoned off to form viewing areas separated in half by a narrow corridor.

As time went on and more and more people arrived, chaos started to ensue. We thought our area was full but were dumbfounded when latecomers managed to literally squeeze themselves in the tiniest of spaces, sitting on other people's blankets in the process. I learned a new thing about New Yorkers' sense of personal space that night. They have none. They almost sat on top of each other, on top of us ... I was literally expecting any random stranger to at some point ask if it was OK to sit on my lap!

Of course sharing such confined space, along with a certain feeling of claustrophobia, comes at other costs. A very affectionate and demonstrative lesbian couple decided to squat the half a meter we had left between us and the people in front and proceeded to give us quite a show during the entire movie - I don't care about their sexual orientation but, straight or gay, but that's just not cool. And another other couple who sat at my feet talked loudly throughout. And I could barely see the screen. And it was 95F. And we were sitting on a blanket barely protecting us from the heat emanating from the asphalt. Not to mention how uncomfortable sitting on the hard ground was in the first place. And all the while we were trying to secretly pour ourselves some wine as drinking is strictly prohibited outdoors (a rule that, unlike in Central Park, was enforced).

All in all though, a very interesting experience and, despite the circumstances, one that I am glad to have ticked off my list and strangely enjoyed - if only for the comedy value of what was going on not only in the movie but also around us! There is something undoubtedly magical about watching a movie under the stars or - as no stars are visible in the New York skies - the gently blinking lights of passing airplanes ...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


When I learned that I would be moving to New York, I remember dreading in advance the bitterly cold winters. I had seen TV News footage of people skiing in Times Square over the years and not being a cold weather person myself, I was not looking forward to that at all.

But what I didn't anticipate was how hot the summers are. In fact, nothing could prepare you for the sweltering heat and humidity apart perhaps from a prolonged acclimatization trip in the Amazonian rain forest! There are some days (like today) when, while the sun is shining invitingly, the 103F temperature and 40% humidity make it impossible to spend more than 15 minutes outside without melting into a pool of sweat.

Subway platforms are the hottest places of all, particularly at the end of the day when the heat has had a chance to accumulate. It is close to unbearable - especially with the addition of the smell of stale air and urine.

As a woman, one pretty much gives up on hair and make up on days like this. My wardrobe has almost completely changed since I moved here and I wear exclusively dresses in the summer as I find that floaty garments in lightweight cotton or silk are most effective against the heat.

Having said all that, I am prepared to deal with the few really hot days that we get every summer because the trade-off is amazing - temperatures start warming up by mid-April and stay that way until late October. As far as I am concerned, this means a summer that spans nearly 6 months and make the July and August heatwaves all worthwhile.