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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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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