Thursday, January 31, 2013

north africa, an introduction

I wrote my first report in 3rd grade. It was on elephants, both kinds, African and Indian, and very well-researched (for my age, ha). My aunt had just gotten back from her honeymoon--Tanzanian safari included--so I was very proud to have real photographs to include. I dreamed of having African photos of my own someday. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the last World Cup (in South Africa) that I was reminded again about the continent which had piqued my interest so early on. The main reason, I believe, is because I didn't grow up knowing nearly anything about it. My New York state education had only provided me with the American story (mostly US-focused) and the World's (European, with a pinch of Asian mention) story. In other words, Africa was just, Africa.
Sad, isn't it? And ridiculous. Honestly, I'd love to visit Tanzania, and South Africa, and Egypt, too; all of which don't nearly have as much in common as we (generalizing, I know) tend to assume. So when Anna and Leslie were in Paris seeking a weekend getaway destination, I was thrilled at the possibility of Marrakech. The price was right, the weather was warmer. We set out for Morocco two Fridays ago.
Upon arriving, we checked into our riad. Then, after leisurely enjoying our first pot of mint tea, we set out for a late lunch in the old city. No easy feat. We wandered to the Koutoubia Minaret, Manera Gardens, Jemaa El-Fna, and surrounding souks next, stopping for an exquisite glass of fresh orange juice along the way. Eventually, we sought shade (and glasses of crisp Moroccan rosé) at Cafe Arabe, before moving on to dine at Villa Rosa. It was certainly one of the fanciest dinners Anna, Leslie, and I shared but it was also one of the best; a medley of Moroccan salads, sweet pigeon pastillas (delicious, I promise), succulent chicken tagine, chocolate mousse, honey fruit skewers, avocado sorbet. 'Twas a lovely first day, and there was so much more to come...

Friday, January 25, 2013

second set of visitors

When you're moving to a city like Paris, everyone is going to visit you. Then, they don't. It's not that these people weren't being genuine in their intentions, nor that they don't want to be (they do--mostly because they miss you, but also because it's "the City of Lights") trouble is, flights are expensive, traveling is expensive, and taking off a sufficient amount of time from work is not always an option. I understand completely.
So when my mom and sister came in November, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It was challenging to juggle grad school with visitors, but giving two of the most important people in my life a glimpse into the life I'd made here was certainly worth it. I savored every moment. It was just what I needed before wrapping up my first semester, taking a weekend getaway to Prague, and heading home before the holidays.
Whereas hosting family is wonderful thing though, hosting friends is another. There's something uniquely special about connections between those with whom you have no true obligation. And for that, I cannot even begin to express to you how thankful I am to have friends who keep in touch, who make it a point to visit.
Anna and Leslie arrived early on Friday afternoon. After meeting them at Gare du Nord, I led them back to my neighborhood where we grabbed a late lunch at L'Auberge Rouge (my favorite) and had front row seats to a car being towed across the street. Then I introduced them to ma chambre de bonne (and the six long flights of stairs it takes to get to it). We took a little while to rest and refresh before heading out again.
That evening, we walked around the 6th, had a cocktail aperitif at Le Pub Saint-Germain, and followed it with galettes and crêpes alongside cups of cider at my now favorite crêperie in Paris.
Fast forward to Monday. They set out for La Cinématique française and Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigrationwhile I began my second semester of grad school. (I'm just excited about this round of classes as I was for the last, by the way... and still a nerd). In between, we met up for "the best" croque madames.
Later that night, I introduced them to the guy I've been dating

In the midst of seamless conversation at my favorite wine bar, Le Garde Robe, we shared two bottles of  wine, a platter of charcuterie, another of cheeses, a beautiful array of vegetables, and a slice of chocolate cake. 
Oh, and he was approved (woo)! 
I had classes Tuesday as well, but only in the morning and early afternoon. Afterwards, I met them at a closed Centre Pompidou (boo) and introduced them to the heaven that is merci. It was especially appreciated in the rain and gloom that is most of Parisian winter weather. For dinner, we planned on the Palais de Tokyo.
Unfortunately, a haute couture party disrupted our plans. Instead, we ended up eating light meals at a random brasserie before heading into my favorite beer bar, La Fine Mousse; it could've been worse :).
Wednesday (my weekday off this semester) began with French breakfasts at my local boulangerie.
Our day continued as follows: a late morning visit to the Musée Carnavalet,
an entertaining and hearty two-course lunch at L'Auberge Flora near the Bastille,
an afternoon of shopping through vintage stores and designer boutiques in the Marais, 
treats to go (a.k.a. the best macarons) at Pierre Hermé in Gallerie Lafayette,
and finally, after our plans were rearranged because of a sensitive stomach and another (!) haute couture party at my favorite Lebanese restaurant, Rimal, an unexpected 12-dish mezze at a discounted price.
Thank you, Anna and Leslie for an absolutely incredible week.
As for everyone else, please stay tuned for a recap of our weekend in Marrakech. It's worth the wait! :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

at home in paris

Gosh, it feels so good to be back. I may have woke up at 5:45am this morning (darn you, jet lag) but I honestly couldn't be happier. Last time, I flew in by way of Iceland entirely unsure of myself, terrified, excited. This time, despite a turbulent flight, I landed with a smile and a sigh. I wasn't thrown off by the onset of everything French; my airport pick-up was thrilled to see me; him and I took the familiar metro to my neighborhood for the first time this year; and finally, with help, I climbed the stairs to ma chambre de bonne. It was exactly as I'd left it. I realized then, more than ever before, how much I'd truly made this place my home.
Since my Saturday morning arrival, I've had copious amounts of noisettes (small espressos topped with steamed milk), tried my best to sleep at appropriate times, and have enjoyed a Parisian salad, take-out sushi, an English breakfast, pain au chocolat, and an impressive trio of Mexican tacos in the company of friends.
Knowing that I already have friends here, good ones and more than one, makes me all the more optimistic about this next year in Paris. I already have a growing list of exhibitions (especially this one) I want to see in addition to restaurants and bars I want to visit. I very much hope to make yoga classes a habit again as well. Also, have I told you how committed I am to improving my French? I'm grateful to have the extra time this semester to do so, most notably during my "ambassador" hours at MAM. Of course, that's when I'm not reading/writing/studying for Brands and BeliefsGlobal Digital CulturesGlobal Audiences in Media & Communications, and Global Advocacy and Public Policy. I'm honestly thoroughly looking forward to the work, all of it. (Please remind me of that when I'm stressing out at the end of the semester, okay?)
And I have even more friends coming soon; my second set of visitors! I'm eager to introduce Anna and Leslie to my life here--including my favorite neighborhood brunch (see photo above)--and travel to Marrakesh for the weekend in between. It'll be my first time in Africa, ever. The excitement is almost too much to handle.
Anyway, I should finish unpacking before I get too carried away :) hope you're beginning your week happily.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

parc monceau, round two

Tomorrow at about this time, I'll be en route to the airport. Destination: Paris. A few days ago I would've told you I was incredibly excited. I already have lunch plans with Edna and Milsters, dinner plans with Rachael and Lorelei, and Anna and Leslie are arriving next Thursday for what is sure to be a spectacular visit (complete with a weekend getaway to Marrakech). Not to mention the fact that a special someone is picking me up from the airport. And yet, there's no place like home; I'll never get any better at goodbyes. Meh. Mixed up feelings aside, my mom's serving a belated Thanksgiving feast tonight, and in two days, I'll have a view like this again: 
Hasta la vista, New York. Parc Monceau and I have a few more seasons to enjoy, whether I like it or not ;).