Can A Frenchie Enjoy An Upstate New York Getaway?

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It’s that time of the year when summer comes and I feel like escaping to all these cool places that are technically close to New York but that I either A) Cannot afford, B) Don’t have enough vacation for or C) All of the above.  So this year looks like there won’t be any Charleston, New Orleans, or Savannah…#FirstWorldProblems

Here I am again, trying to find a last minute weekend get away near New York that is not the Hamptons or another hype destination that involves paying the same amount as a trip abroad to stay at a crowded beach and run into my coworkers. I had heard of the Catskill Mountains many times before and decided to give it a try.

After 3 years in New York City, I had never been on an upstate vacation until last weekend. As a Frenchie who grew up in Provence, I know that I am hard to please when it comes to exploring a new place. But not “American hard to please”…”French hard to please.” This means that I don’t care if the place I’m going to doesn’t have a King Size bed, air conditioning, or someone to cook and clean. I just want things to be authentic and have a history. Not cliche at all…right?

When I went to Cape Cod last year, even though the surroundings and nature were beautiful, I was annoyed to find most of the Bed & Breakfasts and restaurants by busy intersections. Unfortunately I have come to realize that this is most of the USA. Americans like to keep things convenient while Europeans find beauty in run down paths leading to absolutely nowhere. The house we rented in the Catskill Mountains did end up facing a road, which was once again hard to swallow for my French self. Why would anyone want that as a view when you have acres of forests and hills all around?

I knew I had to leave my “Euro woes” behind if I was going to enjoy my stay in the Catskill. After looking around, I realized that all the other houses were built the same way. I guess there’s something reassuring about being able to see what’s going on outside of your house for Americans, while Europeans value the privacy of their home above all. Our road was so quiet anyway, we could actually hear the peaceful sound of the stream running near by…so I got over myself.

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The Catskill Mountains definitely felt like a true getaway although it’s only a 2 hour drive from the City. I hiked for hours, jumped in a beautiful swimming hole, chased waterfalls, admired breathtaking views from a reservoir, made friends with deers, and spent a few hours doing absolutely nothing, which is so underrated in New York.

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Frenchies like me might be disappointed by the man-built sites while going to the Catskill Mountains or probably anywhere else upstate New York: don’t expect century-old churches in small mountain villages or restaurants hidden in the woods. But once you made your peace with it, the nature is worth the trip.

 

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3 Tips To Survive Food In New York & America

DON’T be spontaneous and go to a random restaurant…Yelp or Google it before

14 Restaurant Horror Stories That'll Make You Want To Order Takeout

I (unfortunately) speak from experience. There is nothing more amazing than discovering a cute little restaurant while out and about and leaving with a smile on your face and a new favorite place.  It recently happened to me in Lisbon, I was too hungry to make my way to the restaurant I had in mind, and didn’t have Wifi to check reviews. I ended up eating the best cod quiche in the world. While this would be a common story anywhere else, I would consider it a miracle in New York, and the USA in general. The only few times I trusted my instinct to pick a random spot turned out to be a disaster. Don’t be fooled by candle-lit restaurants or French/Italian sounding menus…some places in the City spend more time “fluffing up” than in the kitchen. If you need to eat and don’t have Internet access, do yourself a favor and avoid restaurants with photos of the food on their menus (eeew,) or even worse, fake food displays outside. These are kind of “universal tips” but they will keep you away from tourist traps. Another way to make sure you eat the best that New York has to offer is to know your neighborhoods. You have better chances to find a good restaurant where New Yorkers go out, like in the East Village, Lower East Side, Nolita, or Williamsburg than in touristy areas such as Times Square, Little Italy, or the Upper East Side.

DON’T be cheap with food…Buy quality products, your body and wallet will thank you later

If there is one thing that all New Yorkers and tourists can agree on, it’s that eating in New York ain’t cheap. Whether you are dining out or grocery shopping, it seems like feeding yourself is a luxury. When you are new to the City, it’s very tempting to adopt a low-cost mentality because prices get so overwhelming. As an exchange student, I used to either buy enough stuff to cook a basic pasta dish, order Chinese at home, or eat cheap Mexican food while out. But I was doing it all wrong! Even with those sad options, most of my money went towards eating, not to mention the 5 kilos (10 pounds) that I gained in 7 months. The bottom line is that food is expensive in New York, good or bad. So if you are going to eat – and frankly, you should – just spend it on good stuff! Yes, organic vegetables and antibiotic-free meat is overpriced, but think of it as an investment. Money you spend on healthy food is money you save on a gym membership, stupid diet products, and eventually…doctor’s appointments. Most importantly, things will actually HAVE a taste.

DON’T rush while grocery shopping…take time to read labels 

Now you understand that when it comes to eating right in the City, you need to know your New York restaurants and accept to buy quality products. But what does quality even mean in a country where food regulation is so loose? Shopping at Fairway, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s doesn’t necessarily guarantee getting good stuff. You have to learn how to spot the “fake” shit. While a package that reads “All Natural” in France is likely to be so, you should assume that it’s the opposite here in America. Organic labels tell me a products is not as bad as the rest, but the best quality indicator is always the ingredient list. You can have something organic with high-fructose corn syrup or canola oil in it, which, by the way, are my two worst American enemies. They don’t make life easy because they are literally EVERYWHERE. Just to give you a quick example, Coke in Europe has real cane sugar, whereas it’s high fructose corn syrup here in the US. It’s one of the many things I grew up with and still have at home but not in America. I’m not a scientist, but I know that there is no reason why we should use artificial crap like corn syrup instead of sugar and canola instead of olive oil other than economic profit. If you can avoid these two things and make sure to buy at least some organic food (especially animal products like meat, eggs and dairy,) you can survive American food!

 

What have been your challenges with food in New York or the US?

 

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New York Trend Alerts – Spring 2015

Movie Theaters: OUT/ Museums: IN

Oscar season has passed, winter is officially over, and “HBO Now” is finally available, so why would New Yorkers want to pay 15 dollars to pile up in the dark? If you’re not convinced, just google “NYC movie theater bed bugs” and that should do it. Between the new cultural attractions and upcoming exhibits, ain’t nobody got time for movies, unless they are playing in outdoor parks of course. The new Chelsea location of the Whitney Museum just opened, and we can’t wait for the Hudson Yard Culture Shed to arrive in 2018. The High Line will be connecting the two centers for the perfect cultural stroll. In the meantime, The Met is hosting a Van Gogh exhibit this May and the Moma is currently showing Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, an artistic look at the mass movement of African-Americans from South to North that marked the 20th century. Y’all gonna learn today!

Apple Watch: OUT / Ringly: IN

I personally don’t think the Apple Watch was ever “in” but it’s now officially dead – sorry Karl and Queen Bee, maybe it wouldn’t be if we could all get the same custom-made (and free) gold Apple Watch. The New York-based jewelry brand Ringly came up with a much better concept: a tech accessory that will allow you to live in the moment instead of being a slave to your messages and emails. Ringly is the perfect combo for people who do suffer from FOMO but choose to enjoy life. The smart ring is connected to an app allowing you to filter all your notifications. The cute device will change color or vibrate only for things you want to know about. That way, you won’t reach for your phone unless it’s for something important. Hopefully they come up with a design for men soon!

Ringly is available on ShopBop & Bloomingdale’s

Soul Cycle: OUT / Walking: IN

Don’t get me wrong, New Yorkers are still addicted to Soul Cycling. But the fascinating practice of biking in a candle-lit room to a Beyonce/Lady Gaga/90s playlist has already made it to France, which tells me it will soon make it everywhere else, which also tells me that New Yorkers will soon be over it. While waiting for the next crazy work out to take over, walking is making a huge come back. This is mostly thanks to technology: the newest smartphones or wristbands allowing to convert steps into burnt calories motivate people to walk more. Many New York offices started hosting “Walking Challenges” and reward the most active employees on a weekly or monthly basis. Plus, recent studies have shown that “sitting is the new smoking.” We are basically wasting years of our lives and ruining our bodies because…shocking…we weren’t made to stay at a desk all day! So this Spring, ditch the Soul Cycle studio and save $40 for a free walk in Central Park.

Fancy Restaurants: OUT / Fun food districts: IN

If there is one trend in New York that will never go away, it’s food. We will always be foodies and do ridiculous things to try the newest places like waiting in line for two hours or hopping a ferry, a bus and a train to taste the latest treat. But it feels like New Yorkers are no longer down with paying the price of a plane ticket for a fancy yet non-filling meal. Upscale “food districts” seem to be the new hype and a good alternative to boogie restaurants. In the past few months, Gotham Market, City Kitchen and Le District opened in Manhattan, following the foot steps of the successful Eataly and Brookfield Place. Smorgasburg remains a Spring & Summer all time favorite, with an open-air flea market and beautiful view on top of an amazing selection of food vendors. Bon appetit !

Michael Kors: OUT / Backpacks: IN

Has New York’s favorite handbag brand gone out of style? Michael Kors’ shares are down 37%, and it looks like the designer is victim of its own success; now that everyone wears the famous purses, watches and accessories, why would people be willing to pay a premium price? For shopaholics and early adopters, it’s time for a new brand. Until fashion gurus announce the “new Michael Kors,” another trend has made its way to the accessories department: welcome back…to the backpack! The 90s have been invading our closets for a quite a while now, and it wouldn’t be a true revival without the iconic backpack. I knew that the Brooklyn’s hipsters had never really forgotten about it, but it’s now spreading everywhere, from corporate offices to Manhattan nightclubs. So don’t be afraid to embrace the nerd in you!

 

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5 Shows That Capture The Real New York

There are many TV shows that are either shot or set in New York, but only a handful are truly New York-centric. Here’s my top 5 of the ones that capture life in the City in the best and realest way possible:

#5 LOUIE

The only reason why “Louie” stands in fifth position is because it’s harder for me to relate to a mid-age divorced father than let’s say, a columnist with a passion for heels and fabulous girlfriends. But that doesn’t take anything away from the genius of Louis CK. The comedian describes the contrasts of life in New York with subtlety and a sharp sense of humor that is reminiscent of Woody Allen: from the low-key downtown artist life to the loneliness and anxiety of the Big City, “Louie” just gets it. I only wish there was as much jazz in the streets of New York as there is in Louie’s head.

#4 GIRLS

Having no idea where you’re going in life is a pretty common feeling for Millennials living in New York…and whining about it at a vegan Brooklyn coffee shop is their local sport. Yes, Hannah is annoying and that’s why “Girls” only gets the fourth position. I mean the girl has a paid writer position at GQ and quits because it’s not intellectually challenging enough for her? I die. But besides the obnoxious elitism of the show, “Girls” does a great job at capturing the mixed experiences of young adults living in New York. From trying to make it as an artist to having your heart treated like “monkey meat,” “Girls” is the first show to reveal the not-so-glamorous side of life in the City as a twenty something girl in a raw, yet hysterical way.

#3 HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA

A show that was cancelled after two seasons as #3, really? Yes, really. Because to this day, no other one did a better job at grasping the vibrant hustling spirit of New York’s youth. Ben and Cam have that cool group of friends you wish you had when you first arrive in the City. They are all fighting not to get sucked in the system and dream of becoming the best version of themselves. They are creative and street smart but get easily distracted by New York’s random adventures and endless parties. “How To Make It In America” is touching because it represents our complex generation: diverse, ambitious but also incredibly lazy and impatient. I’m still hoping for its return one day.

#2 SEX AND THE CITY

Do I even need to explain? “Sex and the City” was the first show to introduce New York as a character as opposed to a place. The City is one of the girls: it has a personality, a voice, a style. It’s magical, cheeky, and fabulous. “Sex and the City” is a  New York institution, restaurants or neighborhoods featured in each season  reflect what was “in” at the time of the episode, but also set the trend IRL. To this day, we still don’t know how Carrie could afford her stunning brownstone apartment and countless Manolo Blanicks by writing this one magazine column, but it doesn’t matter. The ups and downs of single life in New York and most importantly the sacred aspect of female friendship in such a crazy City are the reasons why the show will forever live on.

#1 BROAD CITY

How can I explain the hilarity of Broad City? If you haven’t started following the adventures of Ilana and Abbi, then stop everything that you are doing and turn on Comedy Central. If you have, then you probably screamed “YAS QUEEEEEN!” while discovering my #1. “Broad City” is simply the best show I’ve discovered in a very long time, and my favorite New York-centric show currently on air. “Broad City” is to 2015 what “Sex and the City” was to 2000. It paints a colorful portrait of what young souls in New York are up to these days: carelessly partying, smoking, Tindering, procrastinating, and laughing…a lot. You wanted “Girls” without all the whining? Broad City did it. Ilana and Abbi who both created and star in the show as fictional versions of themselves don’t take anything too seriously which is what makes the show so real and relatable. “Broad City” wasn’t the result of an all-star production team in search of the next big thing in comedy: it comes from the talent, energy and sass of two New York comedians who were trying to prove their parents they were actually working on something. It has that “Started from as a web series now we’re here” liberating format that makes it unique. Now go binge watch the first two seasons!

What are your favorite New York shows?

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15 New York Rookie Mistakes

When you move to a city as effervescent as New York, no one is here to hold your hand and teach you how to belong. Here are a few things to avoid if you want your social life to be on the right track while staying mentally sane:

#1 Go to Times Square

You are only allowed to go to Times Square during the first week of your New York adventure, stare at the overwhelming billboards, realize it sucks, then leave and never come back.

#2 Buy wine at the grocery store

Europeans easily fall into that trap because at home, we find decent and cheap wine at any supermarket. That’s not the case in New York, so don’t mistake that “Chateau Diana” crap for wine. If you don’t want to be that asshole who brought “wine product” at a dinner party, go to an  actual wine store.

#3 Play It By Ear On New Years Eve

I can only think of three things that are acceptable for New Years Eve in the City: Throw a party at your place, go to a friend’s party, or leave town. But if you absolutely want to go out and spend 10 times the amount you would on a regular night to be with a bunch of tourists, make sure you have a plan and stick to it, which means buy tickets to an event way in advance and don’t even think about bar hopping.

#4 Think Harlem is unsafe

Not only it’s incorrect, but assuming that Harlem is dangerous for anyone other than Black people will make you sound like an ignorant idiot. Get over your century old stereotypes and go explore one of the most vibrant parts of Manhattan (Yes, Harlem is in Manhattan and is not its own borough.)

#5 Skip the air conditioner in the summer

Speaking from experience here. Summer in my uptown apartment without AC was like living in an oven. You can find AC window units for $100 and it will save you a great amount of fans, showers, ice cubes and Ben & Jerry’s.

#6 Assume you can eat the same things here

This is for my fellow international people particularly. Wherever you’re from, food in your home country can’t be as bad as in America. Even if you are already the healthy type, you can’t expect to maintain your weight with the same exact diet you’ve had for years because food is just different here. I had to give up on dessert for lunch after contemplating the damages of my first six months in New York.

#7 Try to get a cab on Halloween

Just like New Years Eve, it’s better to have a plan on Halloween. Know where you’re going and don’t think you can spontaneously crash another club or bar that easily. It’s impossible to find cabs on Halloween and Uber jack up the fares. But it’s actually fun to be on the train with Elsa from Frozen, Jabba The Hut and Beyonce all at once.

#8 Think Brooklyn is cheap

Again, google “gentrification.” Going out in Brooklyn might be a little cheaper than most of Downtown Manhattan, but living in Brooklyn doesn’t necessarily mean affordable rent. If that’s what you’re looking for, just forget about Williamsburg, Dumbo or Brooklyn Heights and prepare yourself to go further away from Manhattan.

#9 Pay to get into a club

This one right here goes out to all my sexy ladies in the club: know your worth! Besides from gay venues, no club owner wants an all-dude type of crowd. Did you know that some New York clubs actually pay women to come and party? Unless you are the only girl with a group of bros, you should always be able to not only get in for free, but have a few drinks on the house while you’re at it. Gentlemen, the struggle is real for you, but remember that small groups always help.

#10 Hope to get authentic Italian food in Little Italy

Just because a restaurant has the kitsch panoply of what Americans think Italy is doesn’t mean you should eat there. This is usually a “tourist trap” alert. Little Italy is like the Disney World of food. The neighborhood does have hidden gems like the amazing Piacere, but you need to step away from the main restaurant row on Mulberry Street. I also love Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar in Nolita and In Vino in Alphabet City. Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is considered the real Little Italy if you feel like exploring other boroughs. Buon appetito!

#11 Underestimate the power of delivery

I’m not sure why I waited 2 years to order groceries from Fairway instead of walking ten blocks to go there and only be able to carry three bags back. But what I know is I am never going back. Food, groceries, dry cleaning…you can get delivered for pretty much anything in New York for the price of the cab ride you would probably end up getting anyway, so enjoy it!

#12 Worry about your appearance

Whether you look particularly slutty to go out on Saturday night or a complete mess in the Starbucks line on Sunday morning, here’s the thing: no one gives a shit! It’s New York, there are fabulous and crazy looking people everywhere so people stopped caring. No one is hear to judge you because everyone is guilty at some point.

#13 Think St Paddy’s Day and Santacon are cool

I don’t want to offend anyone here, but I just think St Patrick’s day and Santacon are the worst. What are we celebrating exactly? Irish people? Drunk Santa? Since when New Yorkers need excuses to go out and party all day? They don’t and can do it on any given day of the year, which is why most of the people out those days are not from the City. Next.

#14 Believe that The Hamptons rock

Will I go to the Hamptons if I was invited to a friends’ house and given a ride there? Absolutely! Do I want to pay the price of a week in Costa Rica to spend a long weekend 3 hours away from New York and run into people from work on the beach? Nope. The Hamptons can be fun if you find a great deal, but don’t forget there are so many other quick get aways from the City including Miami, Charleston, New Orleans or the Caribbeans.

#15 Only go out on weekends

You are in the most exciting city in the world. Don’t wait until all the tourists and bridge and tunnels get to New York over the weekend and make the City a mess to experience nightlife. New York isn’t named the City that never sleeps for nothing and there are plenty of ways to have fun on week days too.

 

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Fake It Until You Make It – The New York Way

New York is the kind of place where people say “I’m an actor,” “I’m a model,” or “I’m an artist” like it’s no big deal. If I didn’t know any better, living in the City would make me feel like I’m failing at life. Thankfully for my self-esteem, those surreal introductions are often part of a typical New York game called “Fake It Until You Make It.”

It’s very rare to meet New Yorkers that only do one thing, which is why life in the Big Apple is never boring. Your waitress might be a Broadway singer, your cab driver a business owner or your bartender an art critic. If you met them at a party, they might not even mention the job that pays the bills and keeps them the busiest. Nope, New Yorkers let their dream define them instead.

As much as I admire a good hustlin’ spirit, I am the kind of person who says “I blog,” not “I am a blogger” and I get annoyed at girls claiming to be “in fashion” when they are really just “into” it. In a town where speaking things to their existence is a religion, I’m still unsure whether I despise the bullshitting ways of the”Fake It Until You Make It” mentality or if I simply envy its daring state of mind. Believing that the kind of energy you put out there has a direct influence on the course of your life is the quintessence of the American Dream. New Yorkers may be the best keepers of this philosophy as they apply it to their careers, relationships and life decisions on the daily.

In the City, the act of pursuing a dream makes it a reality, no matter what’s actually in your way. New Yorkers are eternal optimistic people: it’s just a matter of time until you get where you want to be, so you can either dwell on the long road to walk or skip that part and own your dream. Just think about the opportunities that would come along if you said you were who you want to be to random people! Beyond the hustlers themselves, the ones powerful enough to give your dream a shot actually play that game too for a very simple reason: they invented it.

So why not play it? It seems like a no-brainer: besides the few party poopers that think you wouldn’t be serving drinks if you were indeed the next Beyonce, “Fake It Until You Make It” allows you to multiply your chances of making the right connection. I guess my cynical and pessimist European upbringing always comes back to the surface when I’m about to say “I am a creative writer” to strangers at a cocktail party. Instead, I usually end up talking about my twisted relationship with corporate America. Not very glamorous, I know, but at least it’s honest. Or is it?

I guess it really depends on what honesty means. What’s more real and self-defining than the dreams we live to see come true? “Fake It Until You Make It” might just be New Yorkers’ way to achieve life’s greater purpose. After all, don’t we all want to become the person we truly are?

 

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10 Things You Can’t Say Out Loud In New York

New Yorkers are not the judgy type – you could pretty much go out naked in the blizzard currently happening and people wouldn’t even turn their heads – but like everyone else, they have their limits. As a foreigner in the City, I’ve realized that some things are just tabou here.

Thankfully, I can always play the French card: “but, you know where I AM from…” and get out of most situations without being considered a social pariah. To save you from any embarrassment, I compiled a few things that you should never say out loud to a New Yorker unless you are prepared for some major shade throwing:

#1 “I never had a pumpkin spice latte”

Mostly because I’d rather sleep in the morning than wait 20 min on line at Starbucks. Oh and also the ingredients it gives people cancer. Yep, that too.

#2 “I don’t do Instagram”

“But…but…where do you post your pumpkin spice latte pictures?!”

#3 “Fuck Yoga and Soul Cycle!”

No, I don’t enjoy cycling to Taylor Swift’s album nor opening my Chakras to complete strangers.

#4 “Apple picking? No thanks.”

Because being THAT excited about apples, trees or nature in general is a little sad. Although one more year in the concrete jungle and I probably be that person.

#5 “Screw The Hamptons”

Paying the price of an international trip to spend the weekend with the SAME people I see all year and swim in questionable water? Seriously…why?!

#6 “If you can’t walk two blocks in heels, just wear flats”

But please don’t walk to work in sneakers and then change to heels…pick a damn side!

#7 “I love carbs”

It’s fine to be on a diet every once in a while – but don’t pretend you don’t LOVE carbs and that you are not depriving yourself of something truly amazing.

#8 “I don’t have a credit card”

I pay bills and buy stuff with real money that I earn, not the bank’s. Shocking.

#9 “I hate the gym”

I totally understand the reasoning behind people going everyday – but don’t try to make me believe that you enjoy it or that it’s some sort of therapy. I hate it, you hate it, everybody hates it.

#10 “I’m not on the list”

No one is on the list because there is no list. Just be creative and you will get anywhere!

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