Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 by the numbers

I do not like odd numbers, like, at all... so you can imagine my disdain dissatisfaction with bidding adieu to 2012 in order to ring in 2013. Boo, thirteen. In order to distract myself from the inevitable new year ;) I've decided to (once again) reflect on the take-aways from this past year...
Ten outstanding eateries recommended: Le Colonial for French-Vietnamese, Maya for modern Mexican, Barboncino for Brooklyn pizza, Kaia Wine Bar for South African, Chiboust for Mediterranean, Lava at the Blue Lagoon for sophisticated Icelandic, L'Auberge Rouge for traditional French, Le Negus for Ethiopian, Semilla for neo-French market-driven bistro fare, Le Camion Qui Fume for American burgers & fries. Bon appétit!
Nine reminders (of many) of how blessed I am to have true friendships. When I spent another Valentine's Day single, I reveled it in with four Valentines. When I sought nostalgia, college friends welcomed me back with open arms. When I was anxious about leaving New York, Catherine and Nihara met me for seafood (and shots). When I needed to get out of the house, Debra and others invited me for concrete and greenery. When my 4th of July plans fell through, Leslie and Amanda provided last-minute memories. When I had doubts about making new friends, these ladies reminded me about serendipitous community. When I was frustrated about a boy, Elaine made the evening more bubbly. When I was terrified to say goodbye, my favorite Oklahoman surprised me with a spontaneous visit and Stephanie and more reminded me I'll always have a home to come back to. Now, there are even more amies to keep me company whenever I feel home sick.
Eight healthy decisions made. While it may seem as though the focus on personal health has been put on the back-burner (in favor of more wine and beer), I've actually grown into a more balanced life than I've ever lived before. By gaining perspective on my worries, I've been able to sleep more soundly. By celebrating other's accomplishments, I found enough trust in myself to take a chance on bigger intellectual pursuits. By recognizing the healing powers of the great outdoors, I've turned to walks in the park no matter where I am as a physical and emotional therapy of sorts. Through mindful recognition of prejudice and discrimination, I've prioritized simply being kinder. By eliminating vacation guilt, I traveled abroad by myself for the first time, and appreciated it in every way possible. By listening to my body, I incorporated more meat into my diet. By visiting a Buddhist monestary, I found spiritual peace at especially emotional time. And in incorporating American habits into my French lifestyle, I found a healthful, pleasurable equilibrium (while losing weight).
Seven noteworthy brunches enjoyed in New York. One of the many things I love about Catherine (a sorority sister, friend from college, and former New York City roommate) is her ability to host a perfect brunch. She couldn't possibly do so every weekend though :) so I had the pleasure of finding my favorite neighborhood brunch spots, in addition to exploring more located in the East Village, on the Lower East Side, and at South Street Seaport. I was even able to discover a great place for Friday brunch that's vegan, too.
Six flights climbed to my new home. As expected, carving out a new life in Paris was challenging. Though less gritty than New York, she's one intimidating place. All at once I was living alone for the first time with a full graduate course load, practically no kitchen, and a very limited budget. Yet once I settled in, I found myself geeking out with homework and spending my free time wandering through the city and enjoying the nightlife. Then a few hiccups of homesickness hit with tragedy at home. Thankfully, in the midst of it all, I regained my footing. Great weeks and even better weekends passed quickly. I miss it even while home for the holidays. From now on I can say with certainty: Paris is always a good idea. Two weeks until I'm back!
Five weekend getaways made in the company of friends: Katie, Anna and I roadtripped to the Berkshires; Anna hosted Leslie, Shayne, Sofia and I at her family's home in Long Pond; Stephanie and I visited friends in Boston; Rachael, Lorelei, myself, and more networked in London; and Lara and I escaped to a festive Prague.
Four trips taken with family. About a month following my family's New Year in Mexico (and my mom's 50th birthday), my great-grandmother passed. It was sad, as expected, but it was also heartwarming to see family members come together from near and far. My cousin and I became even closer. My grandmother introduced me to Colombia. Once reunited with the French exchange student I'd hosted who I consider a sister, we spent my fall break in Brittany. And although my immediate family faced a challenging few months, we managed to vacation in in Virginia last summer and had our most harmonious Christmas holiday this year.
Three reasons to really "get fancy". Although the Romeo & Juliet Masquerade Ball was intended for young patrons of the New York City Ballet, my college roommate turned grant writer generously invited myself and Elaine. An East River boat cruise was the best way to kick off summer. Even though I don't exactly love throwing nor hosting parties, my Bon Voyage was and always will be an unforgettable night. Oh là là.
Two visitors hosted in Paris. My mom, sister, and I celebrated a Parisian Thanksgiving, took a magical tour of the city in rain, enjoyed real Italian pasta (much to Deanna's delight), had an elegant brunch and not-so-elegant laundry day, spent a cultural 24-hours with Marie, dined in courses while savoring views, and got one last glimpse of Paris from Montmartre. It was so wonderful to introduce them to my new home.
One heartbreak recovered from with grace. It certainly took long enough! With a leap of faith I mustered together all my strength to finally break those lines of communication. I went on a few first dates, had a couple flirty encounters, and then took a break all together because I knew I needed to. I fell for someone else a few months later. I guess I needed to know that I could in order for the real thing to be possible again.
Looking back on the culmination of a year is a satisfying exercise. So many things can happen to us in 12 months, and often do; and yet I feel as though my most tremendous moments have been those in which I've taken an active role in making happen. I've worked hard to be living in Paris, studying for a masters degree, improving my French, and embracing another cultural experience. The new friends and romance are just a few of countless benefits to having made today that someday. Amazing, isn't it? And yet, as a result, l admit I'm intimidated by the year to come. How will I manage to grow even more--personally and professionally--while eating well, traveling often, and spending quality time with the people who matter most... again? Honestly, I don't know. What I do know is that 2013 is going to bring more of the unknown than ever before. So! Tomorrow I will celebrate an excellent year, hope for the best in the year to come, and most importantly, embrace the possibilities, each and every one of 'em. Wishing you the happiest and healthiest odd New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

three days in prague, part 3

Our last day in Prague fell on a Monday. Although we awoke to a bustling little city headed into their last week of work before the holidays, we decided to approach the day with weekend ease since we'd accomplished so much on our first and second day there. In other words, we slept in nice and late.
First up, breakfast. We rounded the corner to Mama Café where we were sure we'd be able to have a small breakfast alongside our morning coffees. As it turns out, the cute little place only served savory lunches and sweet desserts. The Czech lemon cake we opted for was, lucky for us, amazingly light and not too sweet.

Next, museums. After sending out postcards to our family from the beautiful Prague post office, we stopped into the Mucha Museum to marvel in the works of the Czech Art Nouveau artist and the Museum of Communism to learn more about the recent history of the totalitarian regime. I highly recommend both!
Then we made our way through the Old Town Square (again) to walk up Prague's own "Champs d'Elysées", and eventually, wander through the Jewish quarter. It was small but quaint and the six preserved synagogues were beautiful. It also inspired lunch...
After two days of goulash and beer we craved cleaner eats. Dinitz, one of many kosher restaurants in the area fit the bill. We began with an appetizer platter of beef kebab, spring chicken skewers, and falafel with tahini sauce alongside a basket of fresh bread, and then enjoyed huge green salads of our very own.
Afterwards, we hurried back to our apartment to pack up. Just a few hours later we were in Paris, and one day following, we had both arrived in New York. Escaping to Prague gave me the perfect dose of holiday spirit to come home with. And now, even though it's post-holidays, I couldn't appreciate it more.

Friday, December 28, 2012

three days in prague, part 2

Just stopping by for a little blog-reading before New Year's Eve? Here's part 1. As for everyone else...
I woke up so incredibly refreshed on Sunday. For breakfast, Lara and I split an orange juice, an apple, and a pretty pastry we'd accidentally bought the day before--nearly all the Czech we came into contact with spoke English, and well, but there's were a couple of "lost in translation" moments as to be expected.
Afterwards, we picked up Mama Café coffees and headed to the Prague Castle by way of Old Town Square.
We were thrilled that Lucy's tweet ("the weather today seems much more promising") was right on target.
We bought long visit tickets to explore as much as we could have of: St. Vitus Cathedral, 
"The Story of the Prague Castle" exhibition,
the Castle Vineyards, 
[lunch (mixed green salads, goulash, beer, carrot cake) at] Rosenberg Palace,
"The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral" exhibition,
Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower,
and [an unexpected classical music concert at] St. George's Basilica.
Long glorious day, huh? Indeed it was. We stopped into Café Savoy on our walk back to recharge with a glass of Czech wine (for me) and a pot of tea (for Lara). I can't even tell you how stunning the interior of this restored 19th-century Austro-Hungarian café was, especially the neoclassical ceiling.
By the time we got closer to the apartment, we had also worked up an appetite for dinner at Lemon Leaf.
Dinner was good not great, but it was just what we needed to keep us out for a few more hours. Going off of Leslie's bar recommendations, we spent the rest of the night at RedRoom reveling in cocktails made with Czech liquor, an expat-heavy open mic night, and how happy we were that we'd taken the chance to get away. To be continued...