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.


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.


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


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.