Monday, December 5, 2011

Puerto Rico


My friend CS and I decided to go on one last quick escape to the sun before Winter really sets in the City.

A few months ago, I had hoped to go to Patagonia at this time of the year to do some glacier trekking but with my green card in progress, I realized that it was going to be difficult for me to know when I would be able to leave the US without setting the process back a few months. We racked our brains trying to think of places we still wanted to visit in the US and while we came up with a few, none of them got us really excited until we both realized that Puerto Rico is a US territory.

With a great mix of beaches, rain forest and city, it was the perfect choice for us.

We started by spending a couple of days in Vieques, a tiny island just off the mainland which is reached by a small plane. I love flying and even more so in propeller planes where they have to weight you, as well as your luggage, and you are sitting literally next to the pilot.

Vieques was beautiful and quiet. We hired a jeep and after a rather hairy bit of off-road driving, we were rewarded by reaching its most eastern beach, the deserted and stunning Playa Plata. Without a doubt, the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.

Always up for adventure, we signed up to go night kayaking in the bioluminescent bay.

It's difficult to explain the experience and I couldn't take any pictures but imagine kayaking in complete darkness, bar from the eery light of the millions of stars, on perfectly still water. Unique organisms live in the bay and essentially light up a bright, fluorescent green when disturbed, say by the paddles or a fish swimming.

The effect is almost supernatural and incredibly impressive. You can even scoop water in your hands and see the the tiny green lights ripple off your skin as you let the water out.

Swimming once used to be allowed in the bay but has been forbidden since earlier this year following a shark attack. I must admit that the protection of a flimsy plastic kayak alone didn't seem much to me but I managed to put my fears aside during this incredible experience.

We then spent a couple of days in Old San Juan, a stunning walled City and UNESCO protected site with its multicolored architecture and latin atmosphere. Everywhere the friendliness of people stunned us (perhaps we really are jaded New Yorkers after all) and the food was amazing.

We ended our trip in the heart of the mountains and forest, in Casa Grande, a remote tree-house type hotel, with no cell phone reception. We did drive around and visited one of Puerto Rico's famous caves but really spent most of the time completely relaxing and reading books (I am hooked on "The Hunger Games"!).

While the cold has yet to descend on New York, I now feel fully prepared for it - armed with a tan, fully rested but also knowing that I will be off again in a couple of weeks time to spend Christmas with my family back in France. I. Can't. Wait.





Friday, November 25, 2011

Crash Course City

I am always honored when approached by an individual or a company asking for my thoughts on relocating to New York.

It has been one of the most life-forming experience of my life and I am always happy to share my perspective - as I did in this interview with Crash Course City.

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Meet Stephanie, a marketing director from France, who relocated from London to New York in 2007.
Why did you move to your new city?
I was working for a major financial services company in London when a promotion opportunity came up in their New York head offices and I jumped at the chance!
I fell head over heels in love with NYC after my first visit in 1999 and it had been a dream of mine ever since to live here one day.
What do you like best about living in New York?
Convenience is the first thing that comes to mind. I realized early on that I could happily live my life without going further than five blocks either way of my apartment, if I chose to do so. Everything is at your finger tips here.
The relentless energy of the City is also a big pull.  There is always something to do – museum exhibits, festivals, fairs, concerts, operas, plays, outdoor movies, courses, sailing, kayaking, cycling… the list is endless.
What was the easiest part of your relocation?
I would say the actual relocation itself – my company organized and paid for my move and professional packers took care of everything. Therefore this was by far the easiest move I have done in my life from a logistics perspective.
What was the hardest part of your relocation?
Realizing upon my arrival that I only knew two people in the city, and not very well. I went from having a large circle of friends in London to having to build new friendships from scratch.
New York is a transient City with many people relocating here from various parts of the country and the world, so making friends is not hard but it definitely takes time of course.
I am happy to say four years on, I now have an extended but close circle of friends that I can honestly call family.

How would you describe your relocation experience?

For the first couple of years, it was definitely a mixture of ups and downs as I adjusted to the crazy pace of the city. I made new friends but also “lost” some who moved away and I faced cultural challenges in my professional and personal life.
But, I also consider these two years to be the most formative of my life and wouldn’t change them for the world.
I see my relocation as a success – I am very happy in New York, more in love with it than ever and still constantly trying to make the most of the amazing opportunity I was given.

Can you share 3 tips for someone making the same move?
  1. In order to speed up the “making friends” process, try to find people in your current circle of friends who may have friends already based here.
  2. Get to know your way around the city as soon as possible. The grid system makes it easy to navigate and I would suggest that you go exploring with a map at first and eventually you will be able to walk around all the neighbourhoods without it. New York can feel intimidating at first so knowing your way around can make it feel less so.
  3. When the city feels too noisy, too fast, too hot, too cold, and it will, – don’t hesitate to go away for a weekend. Explore upstate New York for a bit of countryside relief; catch some rays in Florida in the depth of winter, cool off on one of the many beaches in the summer.
Most New Yorkers have a love/hate relationship with their City. As a newcomer, don’t be surprised if after the heady first month or so, you start to notice the grimier aspects of it, perhaps start to feel homesick and regret your decision to move. A quick escape from New York is the best way to come back and enjoy it even more.
But I definitely recommend sticking with it and developing strategies to deal with some of its more challenging aspects. The reward at the end - which is to live in perhaps the most exciting city in the world - is more than worth it.

Thanksgiving

As I have said every single year since I have been here, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite American holiday.

I love that it is all about good food, good wine and family. Or as in my case, my adopted family of friends.

Each year, the cast of characters changes slightly as some friends have left New York while new ones have arrived. But every time, I can't help but feeling very thankful indeed to be surrounded by amazing friends.

This year was no different. CS & PF hosted dinner at their place, a wonderful apartment on the ground floor of a walkup, in a quiet street in our Upper West Side neighborhood. To say that the food was sublime is an understatement - they made the most delicious turkey with all the trimmings and DF & JW brought homemade green bean casserole and roasted veggies. I made Oreo truffles and brought a selection of cheese.

We spent the entire afternoon eating, drinking and chatting. Heaven.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fall



Nothing I can say describes the incredible beauty of Fall in the City better than this picture taken in my neighborhood ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ella Lounge

Comedy clubs have always made me nervous.

I always fear that somehow I'm going to be singled out from the crowd and made fun of, or worse be pulled onto the stage!

But I was going through a bit of a tough time and so when my friend CP, who I hadn't seen in a while, invited me to a comedy show at Ella Lounge, I decided to ignore my fears and just go.

Ella is actually your run-of-the-mill lounge in the East Village but on Tuesday nights, Seth Herzog (who is currently the warm-up act on the Jimmy Fallon show) hosts his own comedy night in the dimly lit basement, which sits probably no more than 20 people although that night a good 60 of us crammed into the small space.

While Seth is the main act (and regularly brings his mum on stage for added comedy value), he also invites a great mix of established and new comedians to perform. And, as CP had told me, sometimes brings one of his celebrity friends as MCs.

I must admit that when Justin Long turned out to be the MC that night, I was more than a little excited. The club is so small that he was just a few feet away from us and he was just as charming, down to earth and damn right adorable as his on-screen persona.

With a cover charge of just $5, celebrity MC or not, it is more than worth it and a great way to spend a winter's Tuesday night!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thank You

RIP Steve Jobs.

My Macbook, iPod, iPhone and iPad have all made my life easier and dare I say, better.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Flower district

To say that one can never fully know all of what New York has to offer is an understatement.

Just when I felt I had almost gotten there, it managed to surprise me and bring me back to reality - there are still so many things I have yet to experience here. And long may it be this way!

My sister and I stumbled upon the Flower District in Chelsea on our way to brunch with friends. It is located on just one block of 28th Street, between 6th & 7th. But in that small stretch of pavement, you feel transported to another universe - one filled with flowers, shrubs and even palm trees as all the flower shops display their wares right there on the street.

I have no idea why they are all concentrated on this particular block - some of them have clearly been there for a long time. Laurie & I loved the feeling of being in a open-air greenhouse, almost forgetting the noise and bustle of the City, while we strolled in a forest of green.

US Open

Going to the US Open has long been on my list of things to do in New York.

With the Boy being borderline obsessed with the sport (and practicing it himself), I finally got to tick it off the bucket list.

We took a day off to see some of the pre-tournament qualifying games and also got some tickets to the men's quarter finals which we took my sister to.

Going to Flushing Meadows is a bit of a trek (for a Manhattanite at least) but well worth it. If you don't mind huge crowds, the atmosphere is electric and for me, catching a glimpse of the glittering Empire State Building in the distance while in the Arthur Ashe stadium, made it an unmissable New York experience.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Montreal

My sister is visiting me for a couple of weeks again - an annual tradition that I hope never dies.

In between making the most out of New York and enjoying a few new experiences (more on that in later posts), we escaped for a few days to Montreal.

I fell in love with the place. It's the perfect mix of small town atmosphere - easily negotiable on foot or bike, with small cobbled streets and tiny cafes - but with big city amenities such as wonderful restaurants and world class museums. It also manages to strike an intriguing balance between European and American sensibilities - one that actually works.

In fact, I loved that people there switched mid-sentence from French to English and back again, without an ounce of self-consciousness. Very much like me when I talk to my sister (who speaks both languages too) and so I finally felt like I wasn't such an oddity after all!

As a quick jaunt from New York (less than 2 hours by plane), I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene

I didn't take the threats of Hurricane Irene seriously at all until Saturday morning. The Boy had stayed over and it was my turn to go and get us coffee from Starbucks. 

I walked to my local one to find that it was closed. Undeterred, I walked to the next one to find it shut too. As far as I am concerned, no Starbucks means "the end of the world as I know it" ... hence when I started to panic.

I went home, empty handed, to find the Boy ready to leave my place as the MTA was about to shut down all public transport and his brother had to be evacuated from Long Island and stay with him in the Bronx.

We both set off on our own grocery missions. Me to Gristedes for ham, bread, cans of tuna and inexplicably (although it seemed like a good idea at the time) a jar of artichoke hearts. Him to Fairway for his favorite roast chicken and a baguette (who's the French one in this relationship?!). I also made a pit stop at the liquor store which had the longest queue of all. I felt an extra pang of love for my fellow New Yorkers then - we may have been facing an indefinite blackout but none of us were prepared to do it sober and conscious :)

After the Boy left, I met with a bunch of my friends for a boozy brunch that lasted until the evening, while the rain poured outside. CS and I had already agreed that she would stay with me for the weekend so we went home and pooled our "groceries" together which by this point included what I had bought earlier and her snazzy selection of cheese and biscuits, as well as no less than six bottles of wine between the two of us.

We woke up the next day hungover but surprised to find a clear sky and a gentle breeze sweeping the Upper West Side. We managed to find the only bar/restaurant open that day in our neighborhood and met some more friends for yet another long brunch with bottomless Mimosas.

Many areas of New York State were badly affected by the storm and I hope that everything will be repaired soon. But I can't help but being amused by the reaction of people in the City. I have since read that during this whole experience, Whole Foods had sold out of organic hummus first or other "luxury" products, before any of the other life saving things people might need.  Manhattanites (me included) can be so out of touch with reality sometimes!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Boy

By now, you must have noticed how much I have mentioned the Boy in my posts as we have been spending so much time together.

While I initially called this whole thing "The Great Dating Experiment", I no longer feel (and have not for a while now) that it is an experiment at all. It did start out as a concerted effort to let someone in, even just a little bit. It was about me trying to trust a man for a change after being hurt so badly a couple of years ago. It was about giving a chance to someone lovely, very interesting, available and who seemed to want to get to know me. And I guess it was also about giving myself a chance to be happy.

But we are past that point. The Boy simply has never let me down, a fact that continues to surprise and amaze me. Of course, we have only been together for three months, it is still very early days and neither of us knows where it's heading but we are enjoying the present. But it feels real.

After 5 years of being "technically" single but tangled up in dysfunctional trysts, I didn't think I was actually capable of being in a normal, straight forward relationship again. With all the good things and not so good things that come with it.

I promise that I will never become a smug "coupled up" person. I have too much life experience to ever take it for granted or expect that it will last forever. I also would never jeopardize the wonderful friendships I have here. My priority is to ensure that I spend as much time as I always have done with my adopted family, the dear friends who are the bedrock of my life, while still nurturing my burgeoning relationship with the Boy. Of course something had to give and so between my friends, the Boy and the gym, I'm afraid the gym had to go! Tough choice but someone had to make it ;-)

Right now I just feel incredibly lucky that I am able to balance everything and get the best of both worlds. To have met someone who likes adventures (cultural, intellectual, physical) as much as I do, someone who is not threatened by my ambition or thirst for life, who does not want to change my life but adds to it, is a wonderful icing on top of what was a pretty tasty cake in the first place!

But (and there is always a "but" in this crazy City) nothing is ever as straight forward as it seems. I remember writing a while ago that everyone here is slightly damaged and it remains a true statement - between his emotional baggage and mine, things are not always easy. But it's worth it. And regardless of what happens, I hope I will never regret trying.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sporty Sunday


In keeping with my role as official Social Director to my group of friends, I bought tickets for a kayaking excursion on the Delaware river, followed by a wine tour, a little while ago through one of the many deals site I subscribe to. I figured that one can't really go wrong with kayaking and wine tasting in the same day and managed to rope in the Boy along with my friends CT and PF in to do it with me.


We all turned up at 11am in Hells Kitchen on Sunday, where the pick up point was, ready for action. I had bought 2 separate pairs of tickets but quickly realized that things might not quite go according to plan when the organizers said they only had me down for 1 pair. 


Regardless, the four of us got on the bus, along with around 40 other people. After we were told that the bus journey would take 2.5 hours and that they would probably not get us back into the City until 10pm (at which point I regretted being there in the first place!), the organizers approached us and said that unfortunately they couldn't accommodate the extra two people they hadn't accounted for. As CT & PF left the bus, the Boy and I looked at each other and both realized that we didn't want to be there unless they were ... and followed them out.


A little disappointed that we didn't go on our planned adventure (but secretly pleased that we wouldn't have to suffer through 5 hours of a coach journey in total), we quickly hatched another plan. 


We hired bikes from a spot just beside the Intrepid and set off north, cycling along the wonderfully appointed bike path all the way to the George Washington bridge at the most northern point of the island.


I couldn't recommend this ride more. While it feels very busy until you hit the mid-90s, after that point the bike path is pretty much clear and the scenery is wonderful. As you cycle past 110th street, the surroundings are much more wild and less city-like and we felt like we were truly out of the City. Entire families were out having elaborate and festive barbecues, the heady smell of grilled meat tantalizing our taste buds as we whizzed past them.


We sat for a while in a shaded area once we reached the bridge, admiring the City skyline in the distance on one side and the majestic bridge on the other. 


After cycling back down to our neighborhood, there was no better way to end such a great day than with a couple of drinks at the Boat Basin while watching the final of the Women's Football World Cup.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Governors Island

Governors Island is a just tiny patch of land located between the most southern tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but in the Summer it becomes a hive of activity.

The island was mostly used for military purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries - and still houses many former barracks - but it was fully converted into a public park in 2010.

Bike paths have been built and it hosts a myriad of food events, concerts and exhibits throughout the Summer - you can see the full schedule here. Free ferries leave for the island every hour during the week and every 30 minutes at the weekends and it takes less than 10 minutes to get there.

I first went there for Meatopia last year and returned last Sunday when the Boy and I went to a BBQ, Blues and Beer festival there for the afternoon. You can't really go wrong with these three things put together and we spent hours nibbling on pulled pork, mini burgers and hot dogs while chilling out and enjoying the laid back atmosphere.

I highly recommend visiting Governors Island as a cheap and very easy way to get that "out of the City" feeling if only for a day!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Welcome

I organized a little Welcome Party for my friend JW last night, who just arrived from London on a 6-month global rotation program that our company facilitates. Needless to say that he is beyond excited at the opportunity to live here and all our mutual friends and I are determined to help him make the most of the experience.

For his first big night out in the City, I wanted him to experience quintessential New York. I wanted us to go a place where he will not be able to take his eyes away from the view and pinch himself that he is here, that it is real. And what is better than cocktails at Ink48 with its sweeping panorama of the Midtown skyscrapers to send a tingle of excitement down your spine.

While much fun was had by our raucous group of ten people, the evening was a little bittersweet as well however. As JW arrives, my close friends ES and KM are gearing up to leave the City later this summer (one back to London, the other to DC) further illustrating the transient nature of this place.

I am used to this, having already "lost" a few friends who after 2, 4 or 10 years felt burnt out and needed a slower pace of life. But for every person that left, someone else arrived. Ah, the great revolving doors of New York City ...

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 4th Weekend

I spent the holiday weekend in the Hamptons and I feel that the girls and I have settled into a soothing and deliciously predictable routine out there. 

As usual, we enjoyed ES's beautiful house, frolicked in the pool, sunbathed and indulged in far too many BBC cocktails at Cyril's.

I have finally come to terms with my love/hate relationship with the Hamptons. There are too many things I love about it to stop me from going back a few times this summer - namely the beauty of the surroundings, the quietness and the feeling that we are a million miles away for the bustling City.

What I hadn't planned on was a spectacular ending to such a great weekend. As we were riding the train back to the City early in the afternoon on July 4th, one of the girls said that she was going to watch the fireworks later that night on one of her friends' boat and invited us to join them. While we were all beyond exhausted, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

We arrived at Penn Station at 5.30 p.m. and by 6.30 p.m., we were boarding the 28 foot boat, laden with nibbles we got from Whole Foods on the way and wine.

The boat traffic on the Hudson was unbelievable and we even witnessed a couple of minor accidents but the view you get from the middle of the river is absolutely breathtaking. It is by far the best view point, especially since you can also admire the distinctive Manhattan skyline so well at the same time.

I had to pinch myself more than once that I was really living this ... that I was really lucky enough to experience this ... that I was there. If this doesn't further cement my passionate love affair with New York, I don't know what does.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blue Note

My favourite jazz vocalist of all times, little Jimmy Scott, performed at the Blue Note Jazz Club in the West Village last week and I got tickets for me and the Boy as soon as I learnt about it.

Jimmy Scott has an incredibly unique voice and a lovely personality - the kind that makes you want to hug him and never let go. But at 86 years old, he performs less than a handful of times a year unfortunately.

I first saw him in London and since I have moved to New York, I have made a point of seeing him every single time he has come to the City (only once a year) - twice at the Dizzy's Club in Columbus Circle and once at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.

I had never been to Blue Note before and must admit that I was a little disappointed. The club clearly needs a make-over. What I like about jazz clubs is that they are usually small, intimate and frankly quite romantic with plenty of dark nooks that couples can snuggle into while enjoying the performance. But Blue Note (while being small), did not feel intimate at all and the fact that most tables are communal was neither romantic or practical. It also felt like a bit of a tourist trap, which I guess is to be expected as it is probably the most famous jazz joint in the City.

If I was to recommend some good jazz venues, I would go with Dizzy's (for the panorama alone), as well as Smoke, a tiny brick-walled club on 105th and Broadway.

But regardless of the venue, Jimmy delivered an amazing, emotional and almost heart-breaking (as he now so frail) performance that had me close to tears. I will continue to see him every year, for as long as he can perform - he is now in a wheelchair, so I'm afraid it may not be that much longer unfortunately.

And the Boy passed a big test by enjoying it as much a I did!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Perfect Weekend


The weekend I just had made me realize even more that leaving New York, if I ever had to do so, would be the hardest thing in the world.

I met up with my friend JC and his crew for brunch at Da Silvano in the West Village on Saturday. It's a famous Italian institution and fantastic for people watching, especially when one of the people we spotted was (the frankly stunning) Tyson Beckford

He was parking his Ducati motorbike when I recognized him and let out an excited squeal. The other girls and I then went onto full swooning mode and KO and DT, being much braver than I am, got their picture taken with him. We spent hours basking in the sun there, getting slowly tipsy from the huge bottle of Rose we had ordered and sharing piles of delicious food.

In the evening, and after some much needed down time at home to recover from the day drinking, I met my girls ES and CS at Ink48, the rooftop bar of the namesake hotel in Hell's Kitchen. It affords one of the most stunning views of the Midtown skyscraper jungle I have ever seen. We drank a couple of Mojitos while updating each other on boy-related news and I truly felt like I was living in an episode of Sex and The City. Even more so as I hopped into a cab at the end of the night to go and meet the Boy.

"The Great Dating Experiment" is going very well and the Boy and I spent all of Sunday together as well. Enjoying an alfresco brunch at my old favourite Ocean Grill. Spending a few hours at the Natural History Museum and getting spooked (as always!) by the whale and giant squid exhibit. Grabbing a coffee at Joe's, a lovely neighborhood joint that makes one of the best coffees in the City before going back to mine to snuggle down and watch a few episodes of "America - The story of us", a great multi-part documentary spanning 400 years of American history he thought I might enjoy (and I did). 

A picture perfect weekend in every single way. And I wouldn't trade that for the world. I am exactly where I should be right now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"New" York

I am dating someone. As in "hanging out, going to the movies, holding hands while walking down the street" kind of dating. Normal dating I guess. But for me an incredibly foreign concept in New York where the relationships I've had here have been (by choice) either fleeting or very complicated.


I am calling it "The Great Dating Experiment" - I have no idea how long it will last before my commitment phobia kicks in but I am enjoying the ride for now. Besides, he's single, smart, nice and very laid back - key attributes I have never found bundled up into one man in this City before (the single part is usually missing)!

One of the good things about "The Great Dating Experiment" is that I am going to completely new places that I wouldn't have otherwise discovered. While I enjoy being the social organizer in my group of friends, there is something wonderful about being taken somewhere you haven't chosen.

Yesterday, we walked almost the entire length of Manhattan, grabbing lunch in Chelsea, exploring the newly opened extension of the High Line and drinking a beer at the food trucks spot that has opened underneath it. We then made a quick pit stop at the public basketball court on West 4th to watch guys play a game of 21 (he already knows that basketball is the way to my heart!).

Afterwards, he took me to Fat Black Pussycat in the West Village. The outside appearance of the bar would have normally guaranteed that I wouldn't go in but I was surprised to find, as he guided me towards the back of the bar, a really cool swanky lounge with a rather gothic decor playing the kind of tunes that had us hitting Shazam on our Iphones constantly.

From there, we walked to the Lower East Side and he took me to Karma, a hookah bar in the East Village. While I like to think that I have done a lot of things in my life, smoking hookah has never been one of them. While the place is dark, a little rough around the edges and the service pretty appalling, I loved it because it was so different and the great hip hop anthems loudly blasting also helped.

I feel almost like I am re-discovering New York through the eyes of someone else.

Even after four years here, the City is still full of surprises waiting to be experienced. And I am more open to them than I have been in a long time. Dating included.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hey Sailor!

When the girls and I signed up for an intensive 2-day sailing course with the Manhattan Sailing Club, we knew full well that it was not going to be the usual sailing we all have done in the past in various parts of the world - comfortably sitting on the deck, donning swimsuits and clutching a glass of something bubbly and cold. But we were not prepared by how much hard work and how technical sailing is.

We were brought crashing down to reality on the evening of the induction, when one of the instructors proceeded to talk for over an hour about the rules of sailing, the multitude of obscure names that seem to have been given to every single parts of a boat and the different sailing strategies. It was pretty hard for us to hide the look of bewilderment and slight terror from our faces as we realized that we had far more to learn in just 2 days that we had ever anticipated.

But we still all turned up at the Marina at 9am sharp on Saturday and met our instructor Graham who turned out to be a very laid back British guy. We walked over to the boat each clutching a Starbucks cup to wake our sleepy minds, not really realizing that even getting onto the boat requires two free hands as an amused Graham pointed out to us.

The weather was not great - drizzly and grey - but because the water was relatively calm, we each leant to tack and jibe for about 4 hours, as well as putting up the sails and trimming them. After lunch and about an hour into sailing, the weather took a turn for the worse and a spectacular storm hit us. Graham had to take over navigation as torrential rain poured down on us and the increasingly big waves and the wildly changing winds made it impossible for us learners to control. We heard a voice on the radio screaming that we had to head back now and so we motored back as fast as possible ... arriving back at the dock completely soaking wet, shivering and frankly quite freaked out. Talk about a first sailing experience! Even Graham seemed a little shaken! We all went home and crashed into bed early, completely exhausted.

Our second day was thankfully much less eventful and more relaxing while still being hard work. Sailing on the Hudson is the equivalent of riding a bike on a busy motor-way as we had to navigate through the ferries, cruise ships and tankers much larger than us.

I can't recommend it highly enough though. It's a brilliant but tiring and surprisingly physical experience, with the Manhattan skyline as the most stunning background.

And according to the diplomas we were given for passing the course at the end of the weekend, we should now be all addressed as "Hey Sailor!" :)




Saturday, June 11, 2011

Willie Wall

The girls and I are doing an intensive 2 day sailing course this weekend with the Manhattan Sailing Club, located in the North Cove Marina just outside where I work in the World Financial Center.

The induction took place last night at the The Honorable William Hall Clubhouse and Bar (aka Willie Wall), a floating barge anchored in the middle of the Hudson, near Ellis Island.

This place is one of New York's best kept secret. You don't actually have to be a member of the sailing club to get in. In the summer, specially chartered boats depart the Marina every half an hour from 5.30pm and the fee for non-members is just $10.

It is more than worth it for the incredible views of the Manhattan skyline it affords, as well as the being the perfect vantage point to watch all the sailboats racing each other.

The atmosphere gets pretty lively at the bar, with a lot of Caribbean style music playing. Only limited snacks are available (but they have a liquor license) so my advice is to pack up some yummy food in a hamper and head over there on a hot summer's night to watch the sun set over the City with a glass of chilled Prosecco in hand.

Simply heaven.



Saturday, June 4, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

The much anticipated arrival of warm weather to the City also marks the return of my social organizer status amongst my friends.

At this time of the year, I scour the web in search of fun and different things to do in the City, and with the rise of deals sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, the task has never been easier.

That is how I found out about an organized Scavenger Hunt taking place in Central Park today. I had little idea of what it actually involved but it sounded like something a bit more active than just lying in Sheep Meadows with a picnic.

I roped in the girls and we met up with a much larger group of people than I had anticipated at Cleopatra's Needle, behind the Metropolitan Museum. We had two and a half hours to answer 100 questions and fulfill tasks that had us walking all around the park.

I must admit that we decided pretty early on not to take this seriously unlike a few people who clearly mistook the event for an episode of "The Amazing Race", donning full work out gear and frantically jogging to each location ... much to our amusement. About half way through it, hunger got the better of us and we gave up on the hunt to have a late lunch at Bar Boulud, opposite the Lincoln Center.

But even though we didn't fully take part, we still learnt some fun facts and discovered little spots of the park that we previously hadn't been to, including some perfectly secluded picnic locations in the Ramble.

Next weekend, we are taking a 2-days sailing course with the Manhattan Sailing School - can't wait!

Belvedere Castle

The Public Theater

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hamptons Weekend

I know I said I didn't particularly like the Hamptons when I went last year. Or at least "the scene" that comes with it, which thankfully is easy to avoid.

But let's face it - with my friend ES having free run of her family's five bedroom house in Amagansett for the summer, it's an incredibly easy way for us to escape the City for a few days to a place that scenically appears to be a thousand miles away, which is why a group of six of us happily made the trip there for Memorial Day weekend.

CS and I took the train there for the first time and it was an experience in itself. While Penn Station was as busy as usual, the real zoo started when we stopped at Jamaica to take the connecting train to the Hamptons.
Before we realized what was happening, hundreds of people were elbowing their way onto the train while CS and I watched in stupor. This resulted in us not getting a seat and instead spending most of the journey uncomfortably sitting on the stairs.
With magazines and books to kill time, we got to Amagansett in just over two hours. But next time, we will be more ruthless in our determination to find seats, as well as bring snacks and wine as everyone else in the carriage seemed to have done. I would still recommend taking the train over driving there, which in traffic takes at least 4 hours.

Amagansett is probably one of the quieter Hamptons and the scenery is in fact reminiscent of a perfectly English countryside hamlet with a quaint feel, lush green lawns, old trees and colonial houses - some of them of manor/castle proportions of course. With the added benefit of sandy white long beaches being minutes walk away.

The "scene" I dislike so much is really only found in a few hot spots, namely Cyril's, the Talkhouse and the Surf Lodge. If you want to see a lot of trust funds kids, investment bankers guys, and the girls that usually seek them out - then these are the places you should go to. Although I must also say that the atmosphere is always fairly laid back - it is the beach after all - and the Surf Lodge is particularly stunning.

We did go to Cyril's one night, of course. It's hard to understand why this small roadside outdoor bar draws the in-crowd of the Hamptons in such numbers but I can only imagine that they come for the same thing we do - the irresistible, "dessert in a plastic glass", that is the BBC cocktail. Banana Baileys Colada. Surely it must be the only reason why, when the place is at its busiest, people (including us) are happy to be in standing room only at the back bar, right next to the portaloos and the dumpsters! But the BBC really is to die for, and particularly good (and lethal) with a Rum floater on top - three of them should be your limit unless you want to forget small insignificant details like what your name is and where you are staying.

The rest of our time was spent having yummy breakfasts at the Farmers Market, lounging by the pool at the house, grilling the most amazing turkey burgers on the BBQ, having oysters and steamed lobster at Botswick's, doing a spot of shopping in East Hampton and just generally completely relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of the City and enjoying spending time together.

I can't think of anything better than that and will be doing much more of it over the summer!




Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Rapture

Over the past couple of weeks in the US, the media has been full of talks of "The Rapture", otherwise known as the "End of the World" as predicted to happen by some crazy preacher in California on Saturday May 21st at 6pm. 

Some poor soul even spent his life savings buying up billboards in the City to alert us all NYC dwellers of the terrible tragedy ahead. I remember the day they arrived in Times Square as I was there by chance for an appointment in the middle of a Friday afternoon and was taken aback by a convoy of enormous signs going past me announcing that Judgement Day was upon us. Funnily enough, when I mentioned it to my parents in France, they had heard nothing about it so I guess that the "End of the World" news never reaching our folks across the Atlantic was at least consistent with countless movie scenarios where we are always the last one to know :-)

FM was in town that weekend and our friends and I were certainly not going to let a small thing like that get in the way of all the fun we had planned. Anyway, according to the "prophecy", only the chosen ones would be taken to heaven that day, leaving the rest of the world to deal with the aftermath of a giant earthquake and we were all certain that we have been far too naughty in our lives to "deserve" being sent to heaven first ... if ever!

The fun started on Friday night when we went to Pio Pio in Hell's Kitchen to celebrate FM's birthday. What looks like the entrance of a hotel at first glance is actually a Peruvian restaurant spread over two floors, the lower ground one being a large space very modernly decorated. Little did I know that Peruvian cuisine is famed for its ceviches (which I love) and roast chicken (which was amazing). I was concerned our party of 15 was going to be too raucous but it was not the case - Pio Pio is an ideal restaurant for large gatherings and there were at least another 3 birthday parties going on at the same time as ours.

After going bar crawling until the early hours of the morning, it's a small miracle that some of our group made the trek over to Brooklyn for a celebratory "End of the World" BBQ at LJ's by early afternoon the next day. While gorging on homemade hamburgers, yummy side dishes and plenty of wine, someone had the genius idea that we should fashion ourselves some foil hats to ward off Judgement Day. The amount of creativity displayed by all was breathtaking especially as some unusual materials were used in the process (including an inflated condom and some ornamental fruits!?). 

As the weather was clement that day at last, we hung out outside on LJ's street most of the afternoon wearing our hats of course and certainly attracted a lot of attention from the neighbours, much to our (and their) delight and amusement.

At 5.59pm precisely, we took a group picture of us wearing said hats on a bench in the small park right outside LJ's house. At 6pm, we took a picture of just the hats left on the bench, while all loudly cheering and laughing to the point of tears in the background.

I don't normally like making fun of people, especially such a small minority whose beliefs, while clearly quite misguided, bring at least some meaning to their own lives. I can't help but feeling a bit sorry for the thousands or even perhaps millions who were actually preparing themselves for the "End of the World". What are they going to do now?

But while I don't understand them, I must say that for me:  I never thought I would enjoy the end of the world quite so much ... Bring on October!


Oh and it turns out that we were not the only one who had the idea of setting up our own Rapture pictures.



Pre-Rapture


Raptured!




Friday, May 13, 2011

Love & Hate


I really like this post from The Frenemy. I think it really reflects the love/hate relationship that most New Yorkers have with the City.

You can go and read it on her blog here or read below.



When you move to a city, you become meaner. 

You are harder. Less optimistic. Tough. Do not make eye contact with anybody in the subway. Read the book you’re kind of halfway through, listen to the terrible music you hope you’re not playing loud enough to hear. Pretend you’re the kind of person whose feet doesn’t move when the train makes a turn. Don’t look up, just push and shove and move. In the city, you are the most important person you know. Dislike and accept that. Walk that way, walk so fast and eye roll when somebody slow is walking up the stairs as you are trying to switch trains. People will ask you for money on trains, drunk people will piss on themselves, babies will cry and you just have to pretend they are not there. It’s a subway. You don’t know anybody.

Strut down the street briskly when you are only getting a bagel, a slice of pizza, or a gin drink that will take the edge off of being alone all the time.

Dress like an idiot. When you end up in the suburbs or you end up home you think ‘why the fuck am I wearing so much black and where did these accessories come from?’ Take a long shower, eat your first big meal without alcohol in years, and try not to brush anything and everything off your shoulder. Find yourself afraid of trees.

Still, in a city filled with so many people, you must not acknowledge them. This becomes somewhat difficult because there are so many interesting and attractive things, most of them wearing plaid or shorts. Grumble while eating a falafel or some kind of street cart food. When somebody talks to you at a bar, coyly laugh when they are a part of the city you just don’t venture to. Know a lot of people, just barely.

Be afraid of ‘nice guys’ because you are no longer nice. Be afraid of things that last longer than two months. Get nervous whenever you enter some part of the town that ‘that guy you hung out with’ lives. The city is big, but it is small. Never see anybody again, except some kid you went to high school with. They have a new haircut and you kind of brag about your life because you are nervous. Send e-mails to people telling you how excited you are to be in the city. Be terrified of your bank account as you furiously eat money with no utensils. Bury your head in your hands when nobody is looking. Think about how stupid you were in college, abandon those dreams and make new ones. Find fog really romantic. Find employment really romantic. Drink on Tuesday nights. Meet people on those Tuesday nights that you high-five but never get their number. Make friends and never keep them. Take personal days in the tiny kitchen that is filled with jarred spices, condiments, and a bag of chips. Learn about sushi. Have a small circle you already knew before you moved here, the kinds of people you always complain about your love life to. Hold onto and love those people fiercely. Find friends of friends you think are cute, get annoyed that you meet people this way like in high school. Have numbers in your phone that you don’t need. Preface those numbers with ‘that night at (bar).’ Find it impossible to meet anybody until you do.

Roll around with that person in a small room in your overpriced apartment. Feel like this is an accomplishment until you feel restless. Feel like being restless is a thing you should feel. Try to fix it by getting a pet. Dance in a stupid club and tell everybody the next day you can’t believe you danced. Have ‘spots’ you think are ‘the usual’ except the bartenders never remember you. Fall in love with a new kind of ethnic food and fall more in love with brunch than you thought possible. Make connections with dogs on the street. Spend too much time contemplating life on long concrete walks. See the sunrise more than you should. Barely see anybody you like during the day. Get annoyed at couples grocery shopping and miss making out in your basement. Forget to buy paper towels and use napkins to clean the table. Take cabs at 3am. Pretend to clean your apartment, pretend you are going to eventually do laundry.

Meet nice people somewhere you didn’t expect. Have a conversation with somebody you never thought you would meet. Talk to somebody out of the blue. Enjoy these moments of fate immensely. Have more faith in humanity than you did when you lived wherever you came from.

Come home late smelling like smoke. Wonder how that happened, but really you know exactly how that happened. Promise you won’t spend too much money, expect free drinks but really only get shitty weather. Send texts to everybody you miss who is not in town because you are nostalgic for everything. Be single, ‘kind of single’, and ‘sort of single’ for months. Find somebody you like enough to watch movies with. Send bills in late. Revel in the fact that this is what youth is. Barely eat fresh vegetables anymore. Loathe the summer because it is too hot and miss it when it is gone. Get to know yourself and be surprised by it. You’d never bite your nails, you think, until you bite your nails. Forget all the great reasons why you moved here, fall in love with the reasons you didn’t think- cool breezes, car honkings, and knowing how to get places. Revel in being alone, revel in learning a city. Hate every job you have. Hate every bar you go to. Love both of these. Love everything. Have really, really good days. Stare at the city like ‘I got this.’ Swear you will eventually leave.

Then you stare at the skyline. Hate it. Be satisfied.

--------------------------------

My account of my own love/hate relationship with New York back in 2008 still rings true sometimes today ...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring


Spring has finally, finally sprung in the City! I realized it this morning when I woke up to the sounds of the first street fair of the year occupying parts of Broadway, just outside my windows.

It then only seemed natural that we should have our first picnic in Central Park today, along with half of New York's population of course.



Monday, April 11, 2011

Revival?

This winter has been particularly tough on me.

While I didn't entirely go into complete shut down mode (I just can't), every outings required a lot of preparation and willpower in order to face sub-zero celsius temperatures, gail force winds and/or mounds of snow for 5 excruciatingly long months.

I still managed to experience new places around the City.

Most notable amongst them were the amazing food at ABC Kitchen. The cozy atmosphere at Smith & Mills in Tribeca - an old coach-house converted into a diminutive bar. The Ace Hotel bar which is great for pre-dinner drinks and impromptu silly picture-taking sessions in their retro photo booths before grabbing dinner at the Breslin. Oh and of course the live jazz brunch at Fig & Olive in the Meat Packing district.

I also went to a lot of Knicks games and wildly cheered for my beloved boys through the course of them securing a spot in the play-offs for the first time in 7 years. My obsession with the game is now at an all time high and shows no sign of abating. I even paid a lot a money to see them play the Lakers at MSG and even though I was supporting my home team, I literally swooned at how amazing and talented Kobe Bryant is.

I even took a trip out of the island (as I lovingly, yet ironically, call Manhattan) that didn't involve flying when ES, CS, SM and I rented a car and drove up to the Hudson valley for a spot of wine tasting at the Brotherhood Winery, which I highly recommend for the rather eccentric but endearing tour guide, rather than the wine as such.

But regardless of the above, it took no less than 4 trips to sunnier climes in as many months to help me stay somewhat sane - a record, even for me!

I first went to Phoenix AZ for work at the end of January where I was stranded for an extra couple of days because of the crazy snow storms in NYC at the time ... days I of course spent by the pool while working on my laptop.

Followed shortly by a weekend in Miami in February for LJ's annual birthday celebrations where I once again reveled yet laughed at the parallel universe that South Beach is - I still maintain that it is like walking into a "Pimps & Hos" party at any time of the day or night.

In March, the girls and I went to Barbados for 5 days to live it up Caribbean style - it made for an unforgettable trip and tales far too outlandish to publicly share.  I have pretty much been planning my permanent move over there since I got back - something to do with compulsory day time Rum Punch consumption and perhaps also because someone made me appreciate jet skiing more than I ever did before :)

Concluding with my latest escape this past weekend to Treasure Island in Florida to stay with my dear friend FM who lives there. I only booked the flight the week before, on a whim, after spending yet another night at home with my portable heater aimed directly at me in order to stay warm (for context - I have to have an additional heating source because the central heating in my apartment is not enough to keep it above 18C in winter!).

I only spent 48 short hours there but it was worth it. Lying on the beach. Listening to the gentle sounds of waves crashing. Alfresco brunches. Alfresco dinners. Catching up with FM and putting the world to right until the early hours of the morning while sipping wine on her outdoor patio and petting her beautiful Dalmatian dog Bridie.

My next trip, in a week and a half, is not an escape to sunnier climes (although the weather will be pretty nice there by then) but more of an emotional recharge - I am going to my parents for a week to catch up with my family and finally get to meet my adorable niece who was born in January but that I have only seen on Skype. My brother, despite being the youngest one, is the most settled and mature and is now the proud father of a gorgeous baby girl. I thought that I would be fairly blase about the whole thing (as did all my friends and family who know I am not a "baby person") but it turns out that when the brother you utterly adore has an offspring, you fall head over heels in love with his baby too! I really can't wait until the moment I hold her into my arms and see my beloved brother in her, although my entire family tells me that she has my eyes which will no doubt freak me out. And then I want to get 8 hours full sleep for a week. I still have my priorities straight!

The quote that "New York is a great city to live in if you can afford to get out of it" has never felt more true to me until this particularly long and dreary winter, which still feels like it will never end. I know full well how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to travel as much as I do - a luxury that is not available to everyone although my inaptitude for financial planning and desire to live in the present are entirely to blame for it!

But upon my return from France, when the weather should have definitely turned to Spring here too, I should be back to my usual self and hopefully have more to share on this great City than my constant need to escape it!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hibernation

My recent lack of posts is due to the obligatory phenomenon of hibernation that all mammals in New York City experience at this time of the year.

Quite simply, I have felt too cold, too tired and too damn depressed to do anything worth writing about.

Instead I leave you with a couple of pictures from this past weekend when I was in South Beach Miami - the land of sun, sea and sand. An annual and now ritual escape without which I could not even make it through the winter alive.

My next escape from this cold hell is Barbados in less than a month's time. I am counting the days, while struggling to wake up and function as a normal human being every morning.

I don't remember ever being so prone to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) before - I didn't even know what SAD was before I experienced my first winter in New York! Yet I can't quite decide if it's because London doesn't have such distinctive seasons or if it is due to knowing that, while I am trying to cope with a long period of miserable cold weather, a heavenly beach and warm climates are less 3 hours away from me in Florida - so close, yet so far from every day life.

Regardless of the reason or answer, everyone I know here suffers from this "disorder" to various degrees and I can now understand why Groundhog's day is such a big deal and gets massive TV coverage here. If a cute furry animal is telling us that Spring is coming early this year, we all really want to believe it is true and it gives us hope to function one day at a time until it becomes reality.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fun Facts

In Treasure Island, FLA
I'm having a crazy busy time at work right now so blogging is taking a backseat. But we have a team building session next week and I've been asked to give some fun facts about myself which I thought were actually quite fun (usually they are not!) and thought I would share them.

Name two things you consider yourself to be very good at:
I am an expert at making the most elaborate, comprehensive lists (anything from routine to-dos, to packing for a trip, New Years resolution, books I want to read, films I want to watch, recipes I want to try, restaurants I've been to and want to go to, lists I have yet to write, etc.) yet I am also a master of procrastination.

Who was your favorite musical performer or group when you were in High School? 
Michael Jackson - I was a huge fan of his between the age of 12 and 16 and credit him for my early grasp of the English language as I learned (and translated) the lyrics of all of his songs.

Which is the best vacation you ever had? 
My last vacation is always the best one.

What crazy activity would you like to try someday?
 
A zero gravity simulated space flight. I'm a closeted science geek and have always been fascinated by space travel and astronomy (I'm currently reading 'How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming" by Mike Brown - brilliant!) . As I don't think I will ever be able to afford a space flight (when it becomes available), a ride in an airplane for trainee astronauts/adrenaline junkies simulating zero gravity by dropping abruptly would be the next best thing.

Have you ever met a celebrity?  If so, who and how?
Gordon Ramsay - who winked, smiled and said hello to me in the street in London. I was as shocked as I was charmed.

Name one thing that not many people know about you: 
I want to get a small aircraft pilot license. It's a huge time and money commitment but I wanted to be a pilot when I was a child and love nothing more than being up in the air so it's the one thing I hope to tick off my bucket list one day.

If you could smash one thing and one thing only, what would you smash? 
My TV but only during the last presidential elections political debates. Nothing has ever made me want to be violent more than watching and unfortunately hearing Sarah Palin.

What is the name of the best movie you have ever seen? 
The Dead Poets Society. It affected me so much when I first saw it aged 14 that I then vowed never to watch it again as it will never be as good as the first time or more poignant as it was to me as a young teenager.