Paris By Numbers

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Last winter I spent a week in Paris with my husband that I’d planned months in advance. Each meal was chosen with care, and we found ourselves running from one side of Paris to another like the proverbial chickens without heads, and it was cold and rainy. I vowed that the next time I returned, I would do it differently; I would use math. Since I’m a writer and not a STEM girl when I say math, I mean numbers; specifically arrondissement or “districts.” I culled together all of my favorite “eating, drinking, shopping and seeing” lists from over the years and created a Google document to use as a roadmap so that I wouldn’t miss something fabulous just around the corner (a dreaded fear). I have to say, it worked like a charm, and I will continue to build on it and take it with me when I return in May with my daughters for Mother’s Day, and their first trip to Paris.

The trip began with a semi-stalker moment. One of my favorite bloggers, Sara Lieberman, is a NYC expat living her dream in Paris and writing about it. Her newsletter, Overthinking It is fabulous and one I look forward to reading when it arrives in my inbox on a bi-weekly basis. Many of my past Google searches about all things Paris have her name on the by-line, and now I understand why – she is a FONT of knowledge. More on Sara and her many talents in next week’s blog. Sara suggested we meet for wine at La Cave du Paul Bert. I have to thank my friend Syd for the personal introduction!

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

This is a picture of the special ladies that shared my week. Kylie (on the left) was in Paris working on the branding of her frozen yogurt shops, California Bliss , which help to fund her non-profit Global Glow an incredible organization that helps young girls in 27 countries around the world (and my school in the Bronx, The Bronx Academy of Letters) to find their voice and tell their stories. And Lisa, Efrot and I were there to eat and shop and TALK. We all accomplished what we set out to do!

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We ate at L’ami Jean Bistrot Belhara Les Philosophes Cafe Charlot Bofinger Ellsworth and La Societe where we were joined by Candice Kumai, a food and wellness influencer with a HUGE following.  We had yummy margaritas at Candelaria the speakeasy in the non-descript taco shop (thank you Tori B for the great rec).

And we sang into the wee Paris hours at Aux Trois Mailletz a past favorite from Maria. We took advantage of the twice-yearly sales, where almost everything was 50% off, (see Google doc mentioned above for names) and spent our last day together combing the stalls of the Vanves Flea Market.

This buyer’s paradise has always been on my Paris To Do list, but I was never able to get there. I’m thrilled with all my purchases, especially my new coupe glassware that I’ll use to make my current cocktail, the French 75 (thank you Jacqueline) and my cool coasters, from 1924 that say Liberte*Egalite*Fraternite.

There is no place like NYC, but Paris is my happy place. Every time I leave, I can’t wait until I can return. A tout de suite!

Amusez-vous soyez audacieux!

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Diner en Blanc – C’est Incroyable!

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Sitting at lunch on August 23rd in the lobby of The Study at University City, my phone alarm informed me I was 60 seconds from go time. I stopped Child #4 mid-sentence and logged in to the Diner en Blanc website waitlist link, swiping and typing as fast as my fingers allowed. No one I knew had ever been to this event before, and I couldn’t even remember where I read about it to get on the waitlist in the first place, but if there was going to be an all-white pop-up dinner party in NYC in September for thousands of people, I wanted in.

I’m pretty sure I let out a hoot, or clapped or did something that made my daughter’s eyes roll to the top of her head, but when I successfully secured a table for two to the event, I was pretty ecstatic. I’d read that it takes years sometimes to get off the waitlist. When I explained to Tom where we were going, I’d say his elation factor was slightly lower down on the scale – somewhere around indifferent and unimpressed.

I spent the next month on and off planning for the event – this was not going to be an easy one to pull off. We were assigned a meeting place on Delancey Street on Monday, September 17th at 4:30 and we were to bring a specific size folding table, two white chairs, white linens for the table and creative white table decor, dinner for two with plates, champagne flutes and silverware (all non-plastic and all white). And, of course, we were to dress in white from head to foot.  We were not allowed to bring alcohol and had to pre-order bottles of wine and champagne that would be waiting for us.

 

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This year, the location was Governor’s Island! If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll know it’s one of my favorite places in NYC, and we’ve been many times. It was a real feat to get 6,000 people (and all their stuff) over to the island on ferries before the 7:30 start. Thankfully, our group was in one of the first ferries, and we had plenty of time to set up.

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Around 8 pm, the dinner was officially opened with the traditional wave of the white napkins. There was a fabulous live band, a super fun DJ, entertainers, and even a wedding proposal. Tom and I spent the night meeting lots of new people, walking around and looking at all of the creative costumes and over the top table arrangments, and of course dancing.

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Needless to say, it was a BLAST. Since we went this year, we automatically get invited back next year, and we get to bring FRIENDS. Who’s with me?

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#dinerenblancnyc2019 #deb2019

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

EmptynestNYC Fall Preview!

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What are you watching? Where are you eating? What Broadway show do I have to get tickets to? What about fun fall festivals? 

Do you have any of these questions? If so, I’ve got answers! I love a good fall preview so I thought I’d share all the things I’m so excited about BEFORE I actually do them!

Let’s start with TV…fire up the DVR!

Season premiere dates of my regular favorites that need no explanation:

Grey’s 9/27

Poldark 9/30 

Will and Grace 10/4

The Man in the High Castle 10/5

Madam Secretary 10/7

House of Cards 11/2

               New Shows I’m interested in:

The Romanoffs 10/12 – Stories of people around the world who believe they are descendants of the Russian royal family.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 10/26 – Supernatural television series based on the comic book series of the same name. Starring Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men.

Maniac  09/21 – Mini-series starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux and Sally Field

A Million Little Things 09/26 – A group of friends from Boston who bonded under unexpected circumstances. Some have achieved success, others are struggling in their careers and relationships, but all of them feel stuck in life.

Single Parents 9/26 – Single parents as they lean on each other to help raise their 7-year-old kids and maintain some kind of personal lives outside of parenthood.

And Now the Big Screen

#1 A Star is Born – I don’t care if it’s the 5th remake. Bring on Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa

Green Book (Viggo Mortensen)

Bohemian Rhapsody (Rami Malek)

The Old Man and the Gun (the last film with Robert Redford)

Beautiful Boy (Timothee Chalamet)

First Man (Ryan Gosling)

I see a theme emerging…

Books I Want On My Kindle

Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Transcription (Kate Atkinson)

Melmoth (Sarah Perry)

Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarity)

Lake Success (Gary Shteyngart)

 

Broadway Bound

Tickets I’ve secured: 

The Cher Show

Be More Chill (off Broadway and on Broadway)

The Lehman Trilogy

The Lifespan of a Fact

To Kill A Mockingbird

Ticket’s I’ve yet to buy, but are on my To Do List:

True West with Ethan Hawke

Burn This (Adam Driver and Keri Russell)

I’m Hungry…Where I’ll Be Eating This Fall

Misi (New place in Domino Park by owners of Lilia – already impossible to get in)

Pisellino – Same owners of Via Carota, I Sodi and Buvette

Zauo – Fish for your dinner from a wooden boat in a moat below. You can grill it, tempura fry it or sushi it. I’ve been in Japan. You literally can’t get fresher fish.

Leonti – Famed Philadelphia Chef Adam Leonti’s first NYC spot – Pasta and homemade breads

La Rossa in Soho – Roman style pizza sold by slice and weight

Japan Village (Eataly but for Japanese Food in Industry City)

It’s A Gorgeous Fall Day – What Should I Do?

Why not go to a festival?

San Gennaro in Little Italy until September 23rd. One of the best festivals in town.

Atlantic Antic 9/23 in Brooklyn 

Tribeca TV Festival 9/20-23

Food Film Festival 10/19-22 (all proceeds from Ticket Sales go to the Bronx Academy of Letters in Anthony Bourdain’s name)

Other Fun Fall Activities

The Color Factory 9/13 – 9/30 

Pink: The History of Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color at FIT Museum (until Jan 5th) 

NYC Ballet Fall Season 9/18-10/14 (I’m going on 9/28)

The Vendy Awards on Governor’s Island 9/22 (street vendor awards)

Halloween parade in the West Village 10/31

Open House New York, 10/12–14 that marks your chance to see the inner workings of structures sometimes off-limits. Unusual places like La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal and the super-futuristic looking Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant have been part of past programs.

Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum

Exhibition covering the origins, music and influence of the Velvet Underground, due in the West Village in October

Would love to hear what you’re up to! What am I missing?

Have fun. Be bold.

Go Big Or Go Home.

 

26733587_10155142261446905_7471090933571870444_nNot yet Emptynesters, Craig & Maria Bromley decide not to wait to take their adventure of a lifetime, and instead bring their teenage boys (and tutor) around the world for seven months, hitting five continents and twenty-four countries. 

When I first heard Maria’s plans for this trip we were sitting outside in Bryant Park drinking rose at the end of last summer. I thought she was joking. Or, if not joking, then it was something she was thinking of doing when the kids went off to college. I didn’t think about it again until I saw her Facebook picture below saying they were off for seven months. I should know better when it comes to Maria. She embodies Go Big or Go Home. 26168545_10155099346336905_21023201604634721_n

Maria was good about posting from time to time on Facebook, and she also wrote a few very interesting blog posts. But when she returned home this summer, I needed more info so I went to see her in Hingham, Ma. where she lives when not globetrotting. We sat down over several cocktails and I asked her all my questions. I thought my readers might find this story interesting. I know I did.

Me:

Ok, give me the details.

Maria:

We started our journey in South America.  I wanted to see the “Seven Wonders of the World,” so we started in Peru at Machu Picchu. We spent a month in Peru, then traveled to Argentina and Brazil.  We tried to time our travels based on things like the weather and the special events that were happening.  We planned Carnival in Rio, and Cherry Blossom season in Japan, but other events like Holi festival in India and the World Cup in Croatia were fortuitous. We had planned to go to Africa after South America because Craig wanted to see the “great migration” of wildebeests which was not happening until early June, so we changed our route and went to Dubai after Brazil.  After Dubai, we visited Jordan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. From there it was straight to Tokyo for Sakura and visits with old friends.  From Tokyo, we stopped in Korea and China.  By that time, it was early May, so we headed to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania. We managed to time the great migration so well that the wildebeests trampled past our tent in the Serengeti the last night we were there…literally thousands of them! From there we went to Zanzibar, which always sounded so exotic to me and appropriately, is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury. We left Africa, with African dust on our feet and in our hearts and headed to Europe.  From there we went to Germany and then headed east. We road-tripped through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia.  By this time it was mid-July, and we had enjoyed plenty of “together time” so, we all chose different ways to spend the last two weeks of our adventure, one son went home, Craig and my other son went to Greece, and I went to have some alone time in Slovakia!  We met up in London to celebrate our last night, and all arrived safely home on July 28!

Me: 

My head is spinning from that itinerary. Did you stay in hotels?

Maria:

We stayed in every kind of accommodation you can imagine!  From a treehouse in the Amazon to AirBnB’s, which were already occupied (that’s another story)…to villas on stilts over the ocean, to hotels, to safari tents and friends’ home….you name it we stayed there.

Me: 

What was your motivation to do this? Most people wouldn’t consider doing something like this with their spouse, let alone two teenage boys.

Maria:

The impetus was my husband’s retirement.  He wanted to do something big –  like move the family to Europe – but our teenage sons were less than thrilled with that. I pitched the idea of an “adventure.” We would travel around the world to places we had never been, and when it was over, we could come back to the same home and school that the boys loved. We also felt the timing was good (not that there is ever a perfect time to pull your kids out of school…) but they were in grade 8 & 9, and we knew it wasn’t going to get easier. We wanted to reconnect with them as teenagers and as a family.  We value experiences and felt travel, adventure and family time were the best things that we could offer them.

Me: 

Where did you go that far exceeded your expectations?

Maria:

The world is a beautiful place! It’s hard to narrow it down as each place was unique and different. We loved Peru.  It felt very spiritual and magical to visit Machu Picchu. We loved Africa.

We had to be up and out of our tent by 6:30am each morning to track the wildlife.  It was the one place no one complained about having to get up early. Seeing the behavior of the animals in the wild was so special. The alpha male is alive and well in the Serengeti. Finally, Croatia was amazing.  It’s like the “new” Greece…unspoiled and not yet developed. It was the World Cup which brought incredible energy to every place we visited, and my daughter got engaged on this portion of the trip…so it was probably the highlight!

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Me: 

Was there a scary moment on the trip where you questioned your decision to go?

Maria:

I never questioned our decision to go.  It was the best decision we ever made.  But yes, there were scary moments for sure.  When we were several miles up the Amazon river in a little boat, at dusk and the engine cut out…or when we visited a little village and my boys went to see a snake in one of the local’s backyards…and when I went back to check on them they were hanging onto a massive anaconda…or in South Africa when there was a great deal of social unrest and violence very close to us…or when my son was flying home unaccompanied, and his connecting flight was cancelled and he was stranded in Heathrow by himself for over 24 hours…lots of adventure and potential danger but thankfully, nothing too serious.

Me: 

What was the biggest challenge being away for so long?

Maria:

I guess it was ensuring the boys kept up with their schoolwork so they could fit back into their classes when we got home. We left in January, so they completed the first half of the year at their school. For the second half of the year, the school recommended BYU online courses.  We hired a tutor who traveled with us and went through the curriculum with them.

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Me: 

Were there any rituals or protocols you followed on the trip?

Maria: 

Sometimes we had routines, but other times we were very spontaneous.  Most of the trip was planned ahead of time, but we left room for changes.  We tried to have several hours of schoolwork a day, but if for example, we were visiting the Taj Mahal, we would make that part of the schoolwork.

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We tried to balance schoolwork, travel, and fun.  After visiting lots of forts and temples in India, we found a fort that had a zipline running over it which the boys loved. In Dubai, we went indoor skiing at a massive entertainment complex.

Me: What did you learn about yourself? Your marriage? Being a mom?

Maria:

Craig & I learned that we have very complementary skills.  I organized our visas and vaccinations.  He is a big picture guy.  He researched things like the great wildebeest migration and realized we needed to change our itinerary.  I researched Brazil Carnival and knew I wanted to dance in it! I am good at organizational details.  I had to ensure that we had all the paperwork necessary, readily accessible.  When we landed in South Africa, we had to have the original birth certificates for the boys to prove we were their parents, in case of child trafficking.  I was able to pull it out of my file.  I think Craig & I should be contestants on the Amazing Race!

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Me: 

What advice would you give to people considering something like this?

Maria: 

Just Do It!  It may seem overwhelming, but there are ways to surmount any obstacles. For example, we needed dog care during the trip for our two golden retrievers.  My son told me his friend’s parents were renovating their home and needed a place to stay during the exact time we were planning to be away. The universe will provide. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.  Travel is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your children.  EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS.

Me:

In what way do you think the boys are different from this experience and do you think it will be challenging to re-enter life in a small town in America?

Maria:

They’ve already re-entered life here and are VERY happy to be back with their friends.  But I think they were exposed to things outside of their bubble of small town America.  When we lived in Japan, we traveled quite a bit, but they were much younger.  They seem much more aware of things like social inequality after this trip.  We visited favelas in Brazil, slums in Delhi and townships in Africa.  We met people from all walks of life.  We helped out with a video project in which we asked people we met, “what do you need for a happy life?”  “What do you feel is a life with dignity?” We learned that most people really want a good education for their children, a place to call home, and personal safety….things we take for granted here. If we opened the boys’ eyes to the different lifestyles of people around the world, from the Maasai warriors to the children singing in Soweto, and taught them empathy, it will have all been worth it.

Oh, and one more thing. They each only took one bag. That might be the most astonishing part of the entire trip.

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Have fun. Be bold. Like Maria!