Maman, Papa, I don’t want to leave Paris

And so it begins…the countdown to my departure.

I feel like I want to savor every moment of Paris. I am progressively saying, “À bientôt” to the City of Lights and “Can’t wait” to get back to my life in the Midwest. Paris, a city that has worked its way into my heart, yet has managed to anger me the most. From the bustling métro rides to my strolls along Le Marais or Montmartre (two of my favorite neighborhoods, the latter I’m proud to call my own), I have to admit: I have fallen in love with Paris.

Take a left turn to take the métro? Run into a fabulous festival. Walk alongside la Seine? Fall in love with the beautiful sunset and have a little apéro. Forget to say Bonjour to the waitress? She’ll forget about you. Take your time taking out your Navigo Pass? Prepare yourself for the dirty looks, sighs and groans of Parisians

Paris is a contradiction, but it’s my contradiction and I love it so much.

Je ne veux pas quitter Paris, mais I have to…I’ll no longer speak Franglais with my expat friends or French on a daily basis. I’ll go back to an Anglophone world with no surprise expos, concerts or bisous avant de partir. The pains au chocolat and cheap wine will be limited [guys, Two-Buck-Chuck doesn’t count]. The sense of adventure will be gone from my Madisonian routine, but hélas, that’s the way it has to be.

Time has flown by, but I cherish every single moment I have spent here.

Living in Paris, even for such a short amount of time, has been an incredible and unforgettable adventure. I have a sense of melancholia and nostalgia that is endearingly inexplicable, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Paris, unlike other major cities I have lived in or visited, has worked its way into my heart and has produced the most complicated of emotions within me–emotions that I am unable to adequately describe in English.

Maman, Papa, je ne veux pas quitter Paris, mais I’ll be back !

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Paris, I Love You, but…

Despite having been here for a couple of weeks, I feel like I have spent a lifetime in Paris.

I thought that the constant stimuli of the city was bringing me down, but I am slowly coming off the hump of being here. Paris is an amazing city. I love getting lost in the city. I love finding the cemetery where Alexandre Dumas and François Truffaut were buried as I finish off the crêpe from that little hole in the wall of Montmartre.

I love having great research days and feeling fortunate enough to dig into “Classified” documents from World War II. I love ordering a café from the Madame near the métro stop by the National Archives. I love being mistaken for a local and, hopefully, directing tourists to the right métro stop.

Enfin, I love all the things I get to experience in the city, but…there’s a part of me that feels uneasy in the city. A part of me that prefers to stay in with a giant mug of coffee while I read a giant book (which is frankly impossible because my roommates don’t even own a coffee maker of any kind). A (big) part of me enjoys having a routine, checking books out at the Madison Public Library (whose security is frankly a joke compared to the National Library in France), and writing my dissertation at Stone Creek Coffee.

I love Paris, but I love regularity. However, I’m open to Paris in ways that I didn’t think were possible: making tons of new French and American friends, ordering a Ricard at the old café in Pigalle, celebrating the World Cup (on a gagné !), and watching the Bastille Day fireworks by the Eiffel Tower.

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Paris…a week later

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.” Victor Hugo*

Ah, Paris…Victor Hugo does a wonderful job describing precisely how I feel about being in Paris. It’s only been a week since I got to Paris yet it feels like years. This city is a contradiction: radical beauty and sublime history engaging with terrible smells and unashamed disputes on the metro.

I cannot help to be amazed, surprised, and confused at this marvelous city. I am frankly never bored. There is so much to do and I’ve slowly gotten used to the hype of the city. I no longer need google maps to help me take the metro or to find out which route is better for work. I no longer get lost in a sea of unknown brands at the grocery store. I now get lost in the city and I enjoy it.

However, I keep thinking of this quote by Georg Simmel: “The psychological basis of the metropolitan type of individuality consists in the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli.”

Paris is the city that never sleeps, not New York City (sorry, New Yorkers!). There is always something to do. I am never bored. I am constantly being stimulated by motorcycles driving down the boulevard, live music on my street, people-watching from my apartment balcony, watching football matches with mes potes, drinking French rosé by the Seine and simply talking about the wonders (and downfalls) of Paris over some falafel.

I love this stimuli, but I hate it too…and, just like that, I am a living contradiction just like my Paris.

*Qui regarde au fond de Paris a le vertige. Rien de plus fantastique, rien de plus tragique, rien de plus superbe.

The Art of Flâne(use)rie

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l’ourlet;

“À une passante”, Charles Baudelaire*

We all know this love story: Girl meets city. Girl falls in love with City. The End.

We’re used to hearing the narrative of the City as a character. From Carrie Bradshaw to the amazing cross-dressing George Sand, women  have been falling in love with cities for centuries. What is so appealing about the city though? What makes us indulge in the fantasy of living in a giant organism full of displaced peoples trying to “find themselves”?

This is fascinating to me from the female point of view. Women have been drawn to walking the city, so much that they’ve done the impossible to do it: dress like a man, leave your husband and family (George Sand, again). All’s end that ends well, right?

Perhaps not.

The noun, flâneuse (f), and its masculine form, flâneur, come from the verb, flâner, which is cognate with the Old Norse, flana, which means to act rashly. What is a flâneur/flâneuse and why are we, as humans, so invested in the art of flâne(use)rie ?

Flâneur can simply be translated as “stroller”, but can mean someone who wanders the city aimlessly, observing, and not being observed. Perhaps this is why it’s difficult to ascertain the flâneuse within this context. Women are observed on the street. Cat-called. Humiliated. Harassed.

Paris is perhaps the queen city of flâneuserie, but it’s virtually impossible to not be noticed by men. With the French #MeToo hashtag, #BalanceTonPorc, which places blame on the aggressors rather than the victim, it is quite difficult to stroll the streets of Paris. I try to lose myself in the city, frowning, hoping to not be noticed by the passers-by, yet…it happens.

Bringing back Baudelaire’s male gaze onto the female passante, he reduces the flâneuse to the admiration of her body.^

How can I master the art of flâneuserie when I am a woman myself?

By the Seine, on the rues of Paris, down the streets of Montmartre, it does not matter, the flâneuse is not invisible, but rather seen.

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*The deafening road around me roared.
Tall, slim, in deep mourning, making majestic grief,
A woman passed, lifting and swinging
With a pompous gesture the ornamental hem of her garment (1974, Wagner)

^Some critics argue that Charles Baudelaire’s poems should not be reduced to his misogyny (*roll-eyes*), but rather his views on individualism. I want to make it clear though, he was a misogynist.

**I recommend Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the city in Paris, New York, Tokyo,  Venice, and London. (I’d skip over the entire Tokyo chapter, for a number of reasons)

 

Lost in Paris: the art of getting lost

Coucou from Paris !

As I had mentioned before, I will be living in Paris for the Summer, which is fantastic and a dream come true, etc etc etc….BUT dang it, it is a hard city to get accustomed to!

It took me three hours to get from Charles de Gaulle to my apartment. After taking a well-deserved nap after a sleepless night, I started thinking about the art of getting lost. In the Catalan-French film, L’auberge espagnole, Xavier is in Barcelona for the first time with his luggage feeling lost and insecure. He says, “Quand on arrive dans une ville, on voit des rues en perspective des suites des bâtiments vides de sens…tout est inconnu, vierge.” [When we arrive in a city, we see streets in perspective of buildings empty of meaning…everything is unknown, virginal].

This short part of the film always always reminds me of life in a new city. Everything can be disorienting and bizarre. Even though Xavier knows the Spanish language (even though Catalonia’s official language is technically Catalan) and has a map that is supposed to guide him, he still manages to get lost. My biggest desire is always to find something to hold onto–something that feels familiar and not uncanny. Nonetheless, it is incredibly difficult to not get lost. It just happens to you. Oh, you were supposed to head west on Boulevard de Clichy, not east. Suddenly, the mind plays tricks on you spatially (regardless of how good you are at directions) and you find yourself in between two other fellow American tourists,  who are trying to find Moulin Rouge, trying to figure out where west is.

This feeling isn’t exclusive to Paris. I’ve felt this way in the many cities I’ve encountered: New York, Rio de Janeiro, San Juan and Madison (the latter two I live/have lived in for years too]. My first time driving in San Juan with my roommate turned out to be a two hour drive around the city trying to find this little bar that ended up being a block and a half away from our apartment. When I first moved to Madison, I went for a walk trying to find James Madison Park and I ended up in a crazy intersection facing Lake Monona instead of Lake Mendota. It happens, but then, magically, you figure out how to take public transportation. You figure out that the 14 in Rio is full of gatunes (thieves), so you try to avoid it. You realize that Lower Manhattan isn’t really that complicated to figure out even though it frankly feels that way after spending most of your time in Upper Manhattan.

My trick is to accept getting lost as a part of your experience in a new city. It’s not [as] tragic if you planned for it..or at least that’s what I tell myself!

 

 

Perfect New York City Trip

Last year, I went to a wedding on the East Coast and decided to make a fun trip out of it: wedding, Atlantic City, and the Big Apple.

After the wedding, my cousin Kim and I decided to drive down from Edison to Atlantic City in New Jersey. We spent quality cousin time together, we gambled, had nice dinners, and explored the AC Boardwalk. However, the New York City trip was amazing because I just traveled solo and planned out the perfect 36 hours in the city.

Day 1 (Evening)

7:00 pm: Kim drove me to the city and I got settled in the tiniest hotel room ever on the Upper West Side.

7:30 pm: We went for a quick stroll to Central Park with iced tea and coffee in our hands. The weather was gorgeous!  We took pictures in front of the Museum of Natural History and recapped our weekend in Atlantic City (people can get a little crazy down there).

Cousin Trip

8:00 pm: We decided to be adventurous and have delicious vegan food at Peacefood Café on 460 Amsterdam Ave. I had the vegan chili and the fluffy quinoa salad.

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8:45 pm: We kept walking up Amsterdam and stopped at Treat House for dessert. It was awesome and they had a lot of different types of marshmallow treats.

9:00 pm: My cousin drove back to her home outside the city and I spent the night doing some work for the Summer job I had at the time and anxiously waiting for my perfect NYC day.

Day 2:

8:00 am: I walked down to Zabar’s (amazing Kosher food!)  on Broadway and 80th to pick up a quick bagel and fresh coffee togo. Then, I moved over two blocks west to Riverside Park for some light reading, dog watching, and looking out at the Hudson River. I read some Madame Bovary in French and was ready to seize the day.

coffee and bagels NYC

8:30 am: I headed over to Central Park West from Broadway to 72nd and saw the Dakota Building, where John Lennon used to live, but unfortunately it was under construction. Then, I listened in on a German tour group at Strawberry Fields.

strawberry fields nyc

Afterwards, I walked over to the Friends fountain, but as many of you know they didn’t actually film the opening credits there, but rather on a set in LA. Still, it was awesome.

9:00 am: MET Time! Little known fact for non locals, the Metropolitan Art Museum is donation-based meaning…that it is basically F R E E. However, I still made a small donation because I felt bad. They had Anna Wintour’s China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition, which was fantastic!

Anna Wintour exhibition

 

10:45 am: After over a good hour and a half at the museum, I headed outside and sat on the steps of the MET with some iced tea in my hand. It was fantastic. Then I wandered off to the streets of the Upper East Side to take the subway on 86th and Lexington. Fun fact: I accidentally took the subway uptown instead of downtown, which was annoying but a good experience in itself.

11:30 am: I made a quick stop at Grand Central Station to meet Kim because we were meeting my other cousin, Chris, for lunch. Grand Central is such a beautiful place (and free to just wander around there) right in the middle of the City so if you’re around Times Square make sure to make a pit stop there as well as the New York Public Library.  After that, we took the subway down to Chelsea for lunch.

Grand Central Station

12:15 pm: My cousin Chris took us out to lunch at this amazing restaurant right off the Meatpacking Industry near where he works. We went to The Standard Grill on 843 Washington St and had an amazing lunch with homemade sorbet for dessert. Afterwards, we headed up to the High Line Park. This amazing new park has amazing views, great designs, and cool little funky shops. Since it was built recently,  it wasn’t packed with tourists at all.

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2:00 pm: Kim and I took the subway back Midtown and hung around Times Square, got some macaroons at Ladurée and hung around the 30 Rock area. We also stopped at the New York Public Library and had coffee in Bryant Park. It was amazing!

4:00 pm: I took the subway back to my temporary home and got ready for dinner with my college roommate who works as a fashion designer in the city.

5:30 pm: We decided to head over a couple of blocks up to the Columbia campus area. We found this nice, underrated rooftop bar/restaurant called The Heights. We had some of their amazing burritos and enjoyed the view of uptown NYC.

7:00 pm: We moved the party to Refinery Rooftop Midtown. The space was amazing with a good wine selection. After a long night, we called it a day and Ubered home.

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Day 3:

8:00 am: Before checking out of my beautiful, tiny hotel room, I headed over to Café Lalo for some croissants, éclairs au chocolat, and coffee. Their coffee was amazing and gave me the energy for another great NYC day.

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9:15 am: I made a pit stop at The Strand Bookstore to pick up some nice limited edition Shakespeare comedies. This is a great store and I would definitely recommend it to anyone near this touristy area.

10:45 am: I met my college roommate again at her place in Brooklyn Heights. We headed over to the Brooklyn Promenade for a nice stroll under the sun.

11222251_10155980286880261_2390347079001943657_n12:00 pm: Then, we had amazing lobster rolls in DUMBO until it was time to head over to the airport.

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My NYC Trip was an amazing opportunity to catch up with friends and family. I would definitely redo it again and would recommend all of the places I visited to anyone. I will also be posting more Midwest spots to visit from trips I made last year and I will keep writing about the places I will visit this year.

Next Trip: DC! Can’t wait!

PS. This was written under a procrastination caffeine haze!

 

 

The Downward Spiral

As I’ve mentioned before, I made the decision to challenge myself this 2015. What a difficult task!

Throughout the past three and half months, I have decided to cook more international food, play more music, workout activities, calligraphy, square dancing, hot yoga, rediscover my love for photography and too many more things to count! (I will talk more about these activities later on) However, my favorite of these challenges is travel.

love visiting new places, old places, meeting new people, and delving into new environments.

Before Spring Break, I went on a retreat in Northern Wisconsin. Wynncliff Manor is  the perfect location for a getaway.

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Do not be fooled by the barn. This beautiful countryside estate has a beautiful lakeside house, a lodge, a barn AND it’s located in front of the beautiful Lake Michigan.

After a stressful semester, it was the best opportunity to travel with my closest group of friends to this location. We settled down, experienced the retreat, walked on the beach (even though it was freezing) and prayed intensely. Not to mention, I loved exploring around the property. It was incredibly fun and stress-relieving.

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This beautiful staircase always captured my attention. It has been a year since I visited Wynncliff, and it was incredible to be back. Sometimes it strikes me how much things have changed within the span of a year.

At times, the struggles of life carry a heavy weight in our hearts. Things change. We stray away from our original desires and we make new ones. We focus on different pastimes. Friends change. Feelings fade away. We change…and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Somehow, we realize that things change for the best. We change because we grow. We mature. We learn. We fall out of love. We fall in love.

It’s a constant never-ending struggle, but it is one that  challenges life in the best possible way.

Seasons change. The leaves fall, the snow melts, and the arid sun returns.

We should embrace this change. Take a look around and be thankful.

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Chicago Birthday

Hello again!

2015 began with a BANG! In 2014, I made plans to travel more. For my birthday, I wanted to have a weekend getaway. However, traveling usually requires a lot of money. It is insanely difficult to travel on a budget, but not impossible.

Then, I realized: “I moved to the Midwest.” I am literally in the center of so many different states; I can explore and visit so many beautiful places. Where should I go for an entire weekend? How about the Second City: Chicago!

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Although I had visited Chicago numerous times, I had never spent an exorbitant amount of time in the city. My birthday was the perfect opportunity to delve into the metropolitan Illinois area.

Back in December, I talked to my closest friends and planned to have the weekend of a lifetime. Fast-forward to January, five Christ-centered women headed over to the Windy City and formed the friendship of a lifetime.

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It felt entirely surreal. For years, I had been praying for good girlfriends. I had never had much luck in finding friends that I could trust, talk to and have a good old-fashioned time with. Through the years, I have met wonderful women with whom I have had the opportunity to befriend. Nevertheless, something usually went wrong.

Everyday we were able to discuss relevant topics, reference our favorite TV shows or films and basically joke around for an entire weekend. We could talk about significant difficult subjects, personal experiences in our lives and still have a lot of fun.

While we do have a lot in common (our love for Starbucks, Parks and Rec, music), we have the incredible blessing of having a Christ-centered friendship. Sometimes life surprises us in strange ways. When our hope is shaken, people come along and spark our lives. These friendships, strengthened by Jesus, will forever sear our hearts because we found the ones we would like alongside this path called life. And it is truly a joy to walk alongside these wonderful women.

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This was a life-changing weekend, in the best way. Not only did I have the opportunity to visit incredible, beautiful places such as the Sears Tower (Willis Tower), Hancock Tower, Millennium Park and admire beautiful expressionist pieces at  the Art Institute of Chicago, but I also had the chance to ponder about my life.

At a glance, it seemed like everything was taken away from me. Through life’s trials, I learned that I need to Let GO and Let GOD! As Mark Hart said

When God closes a door, don’t try to shove your foot in to stop it. Trust him. Let it close. His Plan is always better.”

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2015 is a year of change, love and friendship.

Chicago was my first stop, but it certainly will not be my last.