Saturday, August 31, 2013

lunch in copenhagen

My apologies these posts have been all over the place lately; that's where my heads at, too. I wish I could help it. And I still need more time to mull over the conference in Malmö. Speaking of though... did I ever tell you how it came to be? It was rather serendipitous. I stumbled upon a tweet, inquired about streaming presentations by email, learned student tickets were available, heard my school would help, and found a fab Paris-Copenhagen roundtrip flight deal. At that point, everything was dependent on whether I could find a CouchSurfing host accept my request for four nights. Liselott did. I basked in my luck for four days straight.
And it was with that, that I decided to venture into Copenhagen before my flight home. My logic: I'd already seen most of Malmö, I'd never been to Denmark, and the metro connected the airport to the city. Plus, a girl's gotta have lunch. At the conference, I'd taken a poll on possible destinations. Nyhavn Harbor won. Thought touristy, this old sailors' quarters promised to offer a colorful stroll and tasty (albeit expensive) lunch. As I ascended from the metro, I also discovered an antique market in the construction-ridden square.
It was touristy, too much for my liking, but I did appreciate such a quintessentially Copenhagen sight. I also hadn't done any research as per usual, and was grateful to find a lunchtime restaurant with Danish diners. It served Italian cuisine with Scandinavian flavors. My apologies for not recalling the name! I so enjoyed my smørrebrod (open-faced sandwich): lightly toasted rye, crisp lettuce, salmon whipped with ricotta cheese, garnished with dill and capers. Just, yum. Innovation at its best before flying back to a nostalgic Paris.

P.S. It was one year ago today that I moved to the City of Lights.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

how I felt

I recently downloaded Season 2 of Girls. This has been a long time coming. When I moved home before Paris and watched the first season marathon-style on my parents' television, I fell in love with the  "groundbreaking" show. So much so, that in my Global Audiences class, I focused on it as the topic of my final paper. As I concluded: "If Sex and the City 'enables the complicit critique that is considered to be characteristic of postmodernism (Feuer 1995; Klein 2000; Lash 1990),' (Arthurs 92), Girls brazenly displays it; thus creating a space of discussion where men and women of all ages have found a place to critique society and their own lives."
In the clip above (Episode 5, Season 2), my couple-of-weeks-ago feelings were too similar to Hannah's. Of course, in my case, I was sitting at a Parisian brasserie with Lorelei and rosé instead of a lying in a handsome doctor's Brooklyn bed. Personal details to come.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

sweden's third city

I had a good feeling about Malmö, the Swedish city that sounds so “Scandi” (according to friends like Anna) yet hadn’t existed to me before I stumbled across the Media Evolution conference that was to be held there. My late night experience reinforced this optimism; as did Liselott(CouchSurfing host)'s morning apologies for only having muesli and milk for breakfast—my Parisian standard, her suggestion that we meet for dinner on Thursday evening at the city’s annual festival, and her Friday night invite to the city's chocolate factory turned microbrewery. I got a good sense of it too from intermingling with media and academic professionals from the area. But I’m not reflecting on the conference, not yet. Today, I’d just like to share a glimpse of Sweden’s third largest city that’s still small enough to be digested in a 4-day visit. I walked to and from the Slagthuset (an atmospheric former slaughterhouse, it's possible) each morning and evening to make sure I saw as much as possible. And I can’t imagine not knowing (and loving) it now.
By the way, I’m not one for souvenirs, but couldn’t resist buying my mom (the woman who ultimately gave me the courage to make this trip possible) traditional Swedish licorice … salted. It’s a thing. Also, I totally loved being introduced to Say Lou Lou’s music.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

welcome to malmö

My plane touched down in Copenhagen Airport at 11:21pm. I rushed towards the train and, somehow, successfully bought tickets, read the timetable, and ended up on the correct platform. It was barely a 20-minute ride to Malmö. Once at the Central Station, I found the bus stop and was able to catch the #4 just as I confirmed what direction I needed to go in. It was midnight by now. As I paid close attention to the stops, listening to the distinct Swedish pronunciations, I texted my CouchSurfing host, Liselott. "On the bus now ... could you tell me which way to walk from Kronsprinsen?" No answer. Ten minutes later, I descended from the bus. Still no answer.

I had no idea where I was.
There was a hotdog stand miraculously open at 12:15am on a Wednesday morning. I was greeted with a hej (sounds like "hey) as I approached. Responding politely in English, I pointed to the address I'd scribbled down and asked if he could point me in the right direction. It sounded familiar. He parlayed the question to an old man who'd come up behind me. Together, they gathered, I had to walk back past the bus stop and make a left. Then a group of younger adults chimed in (a line had formed by now), adding that the street would be on my first or second right after the original directions. I thanked everyone and scurried along with my suitcase.

Walking down that main street in the dark of night, I was touched by the crowd-sourced kindness. The dim storefronts were charming. It felt safe. Suddenly, someone called out in front of me. "It's right here! This is the street." I cautiously approached him and realized it was the old man from the hotdog stand. He must've mentioned it to his wife when he'd gotten back into the car with their midnight snacks and kept an eye out for the street sign on their drive home. Thanking him, I felt guilty for having been alarmed.

I called Liselott timidly while standing in front of her apartment building. She awoke on the third ring and graciously ran down to let me in. She was unnecessarily apologetic about having missed my text earlier. "Please don't apologize, I'm sorry to wake you up!" I recounted the anecdote above while she welcomed me. Gosh, I thought, Swedes are as nice as everyone told me they'd be.


The rest of my experience in Malmö was just as incredible. I arrived back in Paris yesterday absolutely exhausted, and at the same time, bursting with excitement. Each person I had the pleasure of listening to at the Media Evolution Conference and/or chatting with before, during, after has had such an impressive impact on me. I feel so thoroughly lucky for these past few days, and after I've had a chance to let it soak in, I promise to tell you all about it. I should probably try to catch up on life in the mean time :). For any new readers, here's some more details about me. Otherwise, please enjoy video archives of the presentations.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

la vérité

Paris and I have spent most of the summer fighting; not in the dramatic blowout kind of way, but rather in passive-aggressive tiffs.
I was so eager to return to New York when I did in June. I was ready to speak a language fluently and without an accent, be surrounded by the majority of everyone I know and love, and spend my days in the familiar ways of home. I embraced those rushed, two and a half weeks with the social busyness that I’d been missing. Everything was the same but different, as expected.
In Syracuse and in New York City, two places which I’d once lived, I stayed in hotels. I played tour guide with nostalgic wisdom instead of current knowledge. I voluntarily spent more time in Midtown Manhattan than I otherwise would have, noticing sights I used to rush past without a second glance—the New York Public Library, the International Center of Photography, The Edison Hotel.
Then, I dove head first into a new daily grind in Paris. I became overwhelmed with finishing school, and moving apartments, and transitioning from a grad student life shared with a handful of American expats to the life of a Parisian intern, adjusting to a foreign work environment and a smaller friend group (being that so many fellow grad students have since returned to the States). In so many ways, it’s been even more challenging than the stressful academics parts of pursuing a master’s abroad.
And yet, I realize it’s not entirely this beautiful city’s fault. The month began so well, but it was last weekend that truly proved it to me--what with a successful surprise birthday party, a friendly Cinema en Plein Air picnic, and an unexpected phone call from home. When I take a deep breath and enjoy it, life in Paris is more full than I ever could have imagined. Thank god for taking chances.
Such are the ebbs and flows of being an expat, I suppose. Realizing it’s been a year since your Bon Voyage party in New York and falling more and more in love on each stroll through your new Parisian neighborhood just encourages the articulation of feeling.
I like to think it's still okay to be a little restless, to seek even more fulfillment in a sea of happy imperfections though. That's probably why I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Media Evolution conference. From tonight on, I'll be spending my week getting reinvigorated with inspiration in Malmö, Sweden. I'm excited to share my experience with you when I get back.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

his belated surprise

My beau will turn 26 on Monday, and I love birthdays. So you can imagine my disappointment with his "nothing" response when, a month ago, I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate. He hasn't recognized the annual occasion in more than a decade.
I offered to take him out to dinner at the Italian restaurant I'd told him so much about as a compromise. He's loves pasta almost as much as my sister does, so I knew he'd accept. Since they only serve dinner Thursday through Saturday though, I had to settle on reservations for Friday (yesterday) at 8pm. And a few days later, he told me it was bad luck to celebrate a birthday before the actual birthday, at least in Germany. "Fine," I replied, "it'll be an extremely belated 25th then." His follow-up: "it's about time."
Last night, we dined at Olio Pane Vino. We ordered a bottle of fantastically crisp white wine and shared an appetizer of fresh mozzarella with grilled vegetables to start. Of the three pâtes du jour, we chose the linguine with garlic, oil, spicy red pepper for me and the penne with pesto for him. Afterwards, though we were comfortably satisfied, we decided to split a birthday dessert. Our tiramisu (apparently I can't get enough) was honestly only one degree less delicious than the one we'd enjoyed in Rome.
The night would have ended there had Lara not texted me to invite us to stop by her bar for a birthday shot. And who could refuse such a generous offer? It was a beautiful night to walk through central Paris (note the plage below) for a digestif.
But Lara hadn't texted me. She's still in the South of France with family. Instead, I'd made arrangements with my boyfriend's brother to round up a few friends from work. I asked Amy and Lorelei to join, too. And they awaited our arrival al fresco at The Long Hop.
Surprises are my favorite. Joyeux anniversaire, ma chou!
P.S. The photo above was most definitely posed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

chez gladines

I'm fascinated by the Basque region. Mostly because it's at the intersection of French and Spanish culture, and having studied both languages, I think it'd be amazing to experience what that's like. It's also one of the few regions of France I have yet to visit. Following Lindsey's tweets from her Basque vacation reminded me of this fact... and I've never been more sure of wanting to change it soon. It also reminded me I have to share my taste of Basque cuisine with you! Chez Gladines is an experience worth sharing.
The first thing to know: they don't take reservations. The restaurant is bustling with neighborhood locals and bobos "in the know" so expect to wait a bit. My beau and I each had a glass of rioja at the bar while they cleared our table for two; which turned out to be two narrow places facing each other at a long communal table. The ambiance was anything but romantic, yet it was a welcome change from the usual; convivial, incredibly laid back, and quite loud. We conversed with our neighbors on either side.
And the food is cheap! By Parisian standards, at least. Hearty, too. We first shared an appetizer of patates au jambon de pays (iPhone-pictured above--I would've hardly had the space to take a real photo had I had my camera with me) that surely could have been a meal for one. I then enjoyed a humongous bowl of salad made less healthy better with fried potatoes, cheese, eggs, and lardons (bacon), while he dug into a specialty of Poulet Basquaise. Neither of us could fathom ending with dessert.
We left full and in an even better moods than when we'd came. Chez Gladines is just that kind of place. If you're dining in Paris on a budget (with cash to spare--they don't take credit cards) and craving a simple French meal beyond the classics we know and love, please try it for yourself. As the weather transitions from summer's heat waves into autumn's cool breezes, I know I'm hoping for round two. Fingers crossed I'll have the opportunity to enjoy the cuisine du Sud-Ouest in the region itself someday as well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

how to be less perfect

Do you want to know something kind of embarrassing? Ren (from Even Stevens) used to be my role model. Ignoring the fact that she's not a real person, I was so in awe of how put together, accomplished, and ambitious she was (for an 8th-grader). I hoped to be as perfect. So I was, or I tried to be. I was what Psychology Today called as a "maldaptive perfectionist." In the words of Charlotte Williams, PhD, lead researcher on this study, "These types of perfectionists like to present a flawless image void of imperfections, so they conceal any personal information that may put them in a negative light." I promise it's less dishonest than it sounds.
I simply sought to be conscientiousness with others and adopted high standards for myself. It wasn't really until my first heartbreak that I allowed myself to "just be", wounded and tenacious, only human. The experience taught me to accept my feelings as they are and forgive myself for any expectations otherwise. Yet I still find myself struggling with this. I still have trouble not always striving to do and be better, which often means failing to appreciate the authentic goodness of now. So the other day, when I received the following in my inbox, I welcomed it with open arms. I'm surely not the only one dealing with this... right?
No more "supposed tos," OK, Danielle?
You're not supposed to work harder, look better, sleep less, sell more, run faster, talk slower, be happier, stay longer, leave earlier, cook, clean, negotiate, settle, start, stop, move, try, win, shake, rattle or roll.

Other people made all that up.

I love you the way you are,
The Universe
Photo from my trip home, of the Tappen Zee Bridge.

Monday, August 12, 2013

weekend en français

C’est le week-end. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over how often modern English words are Frenchified :)  start-up, Facebook, marketing; all three words of which I used to explain my internship to my French family yesterday. The key to pronouncing them correctly is reading the word in English, but saying it with a French accent. My French is improving so much, ha. Anyway, about this weekend...
Mine began immediately after work with a 4-hour long happy hour avec Amy at La Maison. The following day, I met up with my beau and his friend for some sightseeing in Montmartre (they'd already wandered through the center of Paris). Then an early dinner at Les Puces des Batignolles, coffee at my apartment, craft beers by the Seine, cocktails at Red House and dancing at Ballroom. Phew!
Sunday was my favorite though. Marie’s grandmother hosted a belated 25th birthday lunch for her in Fontainebleau, which made for an absolutely delightful afternoon of sunshine, champagne, three French courses, white and red wine, her mom’s amazing tiramisu, coffee… and blowing bubbles in the garden. Twenty-five = mature, obviously. Hope you had a bon week-end, too!

Friday, August 9, 2013

the friendliest and unfriendliest

The other day, I stumbled upon a CN Traveler slideshow of the "friendliest" and "unfriendliest" cities in the world. To me, it's *BS. The accompanying article admits unfriendly "is a tough word to define," but I'd also argue that it's a deceiving description. Places aren't inherently unfriendly, people can be; and it's absolutely absurd to limit the entire population of a city--big or small--to one negative characteristic. Although I understand trying to visit places you expect to feel comfortable in (for the enjoyment of your travel experience, if nothing else), I also think it's important to realize that perceptions are hardly reflections of reality. End rant.
Please note that my anger above is a reflection of overwhelmingly positive experiences in unfamiliar cities. As much as I realize I'm lucky for having had them, I'm also aware that I'm not the only person in the universe to be treated with kindness and respect in various parts of the world. Good people exist everywhere, but not every city has such a grand artistic and gastronomic history (like that of Paris) to overcome the stereotypes placed upon them. Let's explore more, judge less :) and have wonderful weekends, deal?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

expat reflections

When I picked him up from LaGuardia Airport on the morning of June 21st, I was excited. It would be his first time in New York, and I got to be the one to show him around! I love forcing inspiring people to fall in love with places I live or have lived. It's a gift. He was over the moon, too. "NYPD!" he exclaimed as we entered the Van Wyck Expressway. I couldn't help but laugh.
I only realized how cool it was to grow up thirty minutes from Manhattan when I went away to college and met other Americans who couldn't go to the city whenever they wanted and didn't go at least a dozen times a year. Then I was exposed to what "being from New York" meant on the global scale, and let me tell you, the cool factor reaches a whole 'nother level. I don't mind it.
For instance, while interviewing at PageYourself, I briefed them on what brought me to Paris in the first place: I wanted to study global communications and I wanted to get out of New York, preferably by way of an ocean. My now-boss chuckled in response. "Parisians are dying to be in New York." And it's true. This is one of countless examples.
So, I obviously brought my German to the quintessential New York sights he's seen photos of his entire life. But I also wanted him to see my city, the people I spent my time with, the spots I frequented; and beyond that, to get to know my "thirty minutes from Manhattan" home. We climbed the stairs to the Kensico Dam, went to lunch at Playland, spent an afternoon in the Westchester Mall, and when we got home, my mom had made us a classic family dinner: spaghetti and meatballs, steamed broccoli, garlic bread.
In between getting all sentimental about how much I love where I come from and how much I love that he loved it, too, it was fun to ask him what stood out to him as being different, American, or New York:
  1. Tattoos. I hadn't noticed it, but yeah, I guess biker dudes and wanna-be rock stars are less prevalent in Europe.
  2. Great service. Waiters who take our order upon seating? Free coffee refills? Quickly cleared and cleaned tables? "Yes, sweetheart, we aren't in France anymore. Don't forget the tip."
  3. Ice water. According to him, water is simply too cold to drink when you fill it to the brim with ice. Plus, more ice means less water. My mother's opposing argument: lukewarm is not refreshing and water glasses get refilled. (See above).
  4. Obesity. He didn't outrightly tell me this one, I had to ask. And I did. Because even I was taken aback. It makes me sad to think of what a mess our food system is and the detrimental effects its having on not just small town USA but the world
  5. Yoga pants. Though he goes to the gym, he'd never consider his workout clothes everyday-appropriate. Welcome to 'merica? We have to counteract the previous observation somehow. (Whereas in Paris, I was painfully aware of Sunday's outfit).
  6. Friendliness. My German boyfriend was born and raised in Berlin, so he's a city kid. Strangers generally keep to themselves in cities--no passing "howdy" or "good mornings"--but somehow, we managed to encounter the exceptions. We had random conversations each time we road the elevator in Syracuse. And in Manhattan, on our way to my aunt's apartment, we were stopped by a woman who's question about where we'd gotten such a beautiful bouquet ("thanks for having us for dinner" flowers) led to a casual invite to her 60th birthday party. She was mostly kidding, but it was sweet.
  7. Exposed fire escapes. He didn't mention them as "so American" until our Lower East Side afternoon. Safety looks good.
  8. Air conditioning, everywhere. An idea worth spreading, that's all I have to say! The canicule may have gotten to me...
By the way, if you're wondering what inspired this post: this article + Parisian tour plans for my boyfriend's best friend from home.