Monday, December 31, 2007

Farewell 2007!

In about 7 hours we say goodbye to another year… and what a crazy roller coaster of a year it has been!

I said goodbye to New York, packed my bags and moved to Paris with the intent of staying here forever… what I learned is that I’m a New Yorker through and through and no other city in the world, no matter how fabulous and fun, can compare to home... New York is magic. Paris will always have a special place in my heart and I’m so glad I came here to experience this. In 20 years I’ll be sitting in my home in New York, telling my kids about the year I moved to Paris on a whim and all the incredible experiences I had there. But I know now that my life is New York—friends, family, annoying subway riders, congestion and dirty streets, the homeless guy who lives on my front stoop, falafels at 4am on Houston, coffee cart vendors… I miss it all. I had to leave it to find out that New York is my heartbeat.

I fell in love! 25 years of life, countless assholes, nice boring guys, broken hearts and dry spells under my belt. Always looking for that great storybook romance and never finding it. And then I come to Paris determined to spend a year dedicated to myself—having nothing more to do with men then the occasional casual fling here and there. And what happens? A month after I arrive, someone walks into my life and completely turns my world upside down and makes me feel something so different and new. It’s scary and exciting and wonderful and awful at the same time—who would have thought I’d have to travel 3,600 miles to experience this?

I’ve seen more of the world in 4 months abroad than I ever have in my entire life. 2007 is the year that brought me to Africa for the first time—AFRICA! How insane is that? Next stop will be a proper tour through black Africa though… but all in due time.

I learned that living in a foreign country is HARD. And I have a much greater respect for people like my mom/aunts/uncles, or anyone who left their home behind to make a new path in a strange place where they don't know the language, customs or a single soul... its not easy.

There were so many weddings and births this year! Its so exciting when a friend gets married or has a baby and you get a new addition to your extended family… especially those friends whom you braved freshman year of college with, lived with in the ghettos of Brooklyn, bitched over work with, made it through 9/11 with, daydreamed about the future with... we’re really growing up!

Tonight I'll ring in ’08 at a small gathering at a French friend’s loft in the center of Paris with stunning views of the city as our backdrop. Then I’ll meet friends in Bastille to dance until the sun comes up… and B finally gets back on the 2nd so we'll have our own private belated Christmas/New Year's celebration then :o)

I hope your 2007 brought you everything you hoped for. And even if some things were left unfulfilled or some things just went to sh*t, God does have a plan and the world always works exactly the way it’s supposed to. Some things take a longer time to come to fruition and some things are best not receiving at all in order to make way for something bigger and better later on. So the good and the bad—it’s really all been worth it in the end.

I miss and love you all. Champagne toast: Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2008!

~~~~~~~~~
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas in the French countryside

I spent Christmas in Chateau du Loire, a small town 2 ½ hours from Paris in the middle of the Loire Valley which is a few minutes from Tours (home of the famous bike race). My friend Anne-Cécile invited me to a Christmas day dinner at her parents house in the country and I was to arrive at 11am so that we could go bike riding to see the chateau’s that the area is famous for before dinner which would begin around 2pm. So the night before I’m trying to be responsible and get my fashion story for the magazine finished before the holidays. I was up till 4:30am working on it—despite the fact that I had to catch the 8am train to the Loire Valley. Needless to say, I overslept and missed the 8am train so I had to take the 10am which got me into Loire around 1:30pm… SOO bummed out.

Anne-Cécile grew up in a big old country house with lots of big rooms with high ceilings, exposed brick and wooden beams. There’s a beautiful garden and lake in her backyard. There were about 10 people present, all aunts/uncles/cousins of Anne-Cécile’s. None of whom spoke much English. But the interesting thing was, I met her cousin Sophie who, as it turns out, lives on 10th Street and 1st Avenue in New York! She works at an art gallery on the UES but because of visa issues was back in France for a couple months. She'll be returning to New York after New Years. It’s funny that we literally lived 3 blocks away from each other, go to the same neighborhood bars and restaurants (as we discovered) and probably passed each other on the street numerous times, but we end up meeting randomly on Christmas day in the middle of the French countryside. We’re planning to meet up when I get to the city next month.

As for the food—so delicious! We ate ricotta cheese stuffed mushrooms, foie gras, roasted turkey, potatoes, veggies, a special chocolate holiday cake and coffee. And of course, tons of bottles of wine and champagne to go along with every course. We had to leave to go back to the city right after dinner and I was sad to go. It was such a nice day and I was really bummed about not being able to see the Loire Valley. But her family invited me to come back in the spring to really see the beauty of the region. Apparently Anne-Cécile usually comes up with her friends from the city to BBQ, ride bikes, swim in the lake and just do nothing for the weekend. Can’t wait!

Oh, and Grapes called me that night around 11pm to see if I wanted to join him for drinks at Buddha Bar... would have been fun but I was leaving for Tunisia early the next morning and I didn’t want to have another oversleeping disaster so I declined…

Here are some pics of the Loire Valley... I wish I had taken a picture of the house, its so quintessential French, its adorable—but I totally forgot.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A day trip to Normandy

On Monday I randomly decided to take a day trip outside of Paris since I’ve never seen the rest of the country. I had just purchased the 12-25 youth SNCF (France’s version of Amtrak) discount card so I wanted to put it to good use… and since I just learned I have two whole weeks to amuse myself, I decided to spend a day in Rouen, the capital of the Normandy region. I took the 8am train up there and arrived around 9:30am.

I walked from the train station into the city center and stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. Following that, I decided to check out the Joan of Arc Museum. One thing the city is famous for is that it’s the place where Joan of Arc was tried, imprisoned and ultimately burned at the stake. The museum is at the back of a tiny little shop selling touristy knickknacks. I bought my ticket and the lady told me to open the heavy wooden door and go downstairs to enter the museum which is in the windowless basement. It was creepy, especially considering that I was the only person down there but I remained calm enough as I looked at the little action figure sized models of the scenes of Joan of Arc’s early life. Once I finished that room, I climbed the stairs to the second floor… I turned the corner and came face-to-face with life size Joan of Arc mannequins depicting scenes of the end of her life—the trial, being wounded in war, praying in her cell, at the stake, etc. It was literally the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life! Imagine being all alone in a small, dark, silent room surrounded by dozens of very real looking figures illuminated in various stages of torture. It looked like any second the mannequins would come to life and kill me! So I literally turned and ran out of the room, my heart pounding. Unfortunately, to get to the exit you had to walk through the entire museum but there was no way I was going back there so I jumped over the security rope and ran out the front emergency exit door and out into the street. There wasn’t even a soul in the shop… I don’t know what they want people to take away from their visit to the museum, but if their goal is scaring the sh*t out of people, they’ve succeeded brilliantly!

So after that little excitement, I went to the Joan of Arc church across the courtyard (which was built on the site where she was burned at the stake) and listened to the morning mass for a few minutes. Then I walked over to the Notre Dame cathedral and took a tour of that area. Apparently, this was Monet’s favorite subject to paint and the cathedral was also featured in a novel by Flaubert. They were having a Christmas market in the square so I stopped a bought a glass of the popular holiday drink vin chaud (hot wine, it was gross) before heading off to Musée des beaux-arts to look at the artwork for an hour or so.

There's a small shopping area, so of course I did a bit of shopping before grabbing a bite for lunch. Rouen is a small, quaint little town and I quickly realized that there isn’t much to do. By 4:30pm I had seen everything so I decided to take the next train back to Paris instead of leaving at 7pm as I originally planned. It was a nice day… if a bit uneventful. Rouen is absolutely gorgeous though and it was really nice to finally see another part of France.

(Pics: City Center Square, Joan of Arc Church, Notre Dame Cathedral, street shots)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Countdown...

10 more days till B gets back to Paris... its has seriously been the longest two weeks EVER! I hate it. It's funny because about a week before he left, I was talking to my friend Eva about not being sure how I felt about him, how (as much as I liked him) he wasn't really my type and I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a realationship anyway. That was at the time that Grapes had entered the picture and I was kinda on the fence about whether or not I was missing out on meeting other people. And she said to me: "When he leaves on this vacation and you guys are separated for a month, you'll know get your answer. Either you'll realize there's nothing there or find out how much you really care about him". I got my answer alright! And honestly, I didn't think it would be this. Very surprising but... I think I may be in love folks! Crazy, I know...

One thing I must note... I just got an email from him letting me know that he made it to LA ok (from Mexico-- see pic below) and the kicker is, he signed his email:

i miss you stacy.
lots of love.
b

Love?? we email all the time and he's NEVER written that before... what does that mean?! lol, I know, I know. I need to stop, I'm being such a girl. And I'm looking into this way too much aren't I?

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm going to Africa!

I just bought a plane ticket to Tozeur, Tunisia! I just found out that I have the next two weeks off of work (yes, my boss gave me no warning about this until YESTERDAY!) and was pretty bummed out that I didn’t know sooner so I could have planned a vacation that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg… or gone home and seen you folks. I happened to be talking to a girlfriend about it this morning and she suggested I checkout lastminute.fr to see if they had a cheap package… and the first interesting destination on the list was Tunisia (350€ all inclusive) so I just booked it. Yes, totally random, I know—I did check to make sure there weren’t any travel advisories, health crises or visa requirements first though :o)

So I leave next Wednesday for 4 days and will be staying in this cute little hotel in the middle of the desert... well it looks cute in the pictures anyway (see below). Its sunny and nearly 70 degrees there so all I’m thinking about is lying out by the pool, reading, shopping in the little village and most importantly, riding a camel through the Sahara!

I have no idea what time I’m leaving, which airport I’m flying out of, how I’m getting to the hotel, what I’ll do once I’m there, nothing… um ok… I may have gone insane…

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shelby & Vanessa in Paris

Vanessa and Shelby came to Paris last week to visit for a few days. I absolutely adore these girls… I like to pick on Shelby and just drive her to exasperation; meanwhile Vanessa just shakes her head and laughs. It’s fun :o)

Wednesday was low-key, dinner at my local hangout L’Autre Café and drinks on rue Oberkampf.

On Thursday night, we started the night with dinner at Chez Justine. Grapes happened to call to see what I was up to so I invited him to join us… all very innocent of course. He’s insane and managed to dig himself into a hole a million times talking about politics, cultural differences, gender differences… so we had a great time with him. Afterward, Grapes left and we went to meet up with Eva & Julien to check out their friend perform at a bar nearby. Then we went to a party in Bastille called ‘From Brooklyn to Paris’. The most absurd thing ever: a random New York DJ spinning old-school (?) hip-hop for a bunch of French folks who think they’re Williamsburg hipsters. The party was in an old graffiti covered warehouse-type space and they put up a big projection screen to rotate a slideshow of “New York City”—which really was just shots of the run-down, graffiti and trash filled ghettos—that’s NYC in their eyes. But the contrast of American hip hop culture mixed with the scooter helmets that were scattered all over the place was a riot—they may be New Yorker wannabes, but its still France after all!

On Friday night we hit up Favela Chic for dinner… it’s a Brazilian spot and the food was really good. Shelby’s friend Nicole and her boyfriend met us there (they’re currently starring in a show about the life of Josephine Baker, pretty cool) and we all headed out around midnight when the crazy party people started making their way in. Nicole suggested we try Impala, an African restaurant/lounge on the Champs Elysees. It turned out to be a really great spot… you walk in and immediately feel like you’ve stepped into a different era. Its dark, hot, sexy, there are tropical plants all over, the waiters are all tall, dark, handsome, well-dressed Africans—and the music makes you feel like you’re been transported to an exclusive bar on some fancy resort in the middle of Africa. I loved it.

The thing that made me laugh though was that everyone in the place was white (keeping with the fancy resort theme I guess!), there were maybe 4 other black people there besides us. Eventually we had to get up and start dancing—we were the only people dancing but there’s something about a congo beat, you just can’t sit still for too long. Then Joseph, who’s a professional tap dancer, put on his tap shoes and started this freestyle tap dance, it was pretty hot. And the DJ indulged me for about 30 minutes and played my commercial pop favs—JT, Beyonce. We left around 3am, grabbed crepes from a nearby deli and made our way home. Shelby had a 5am flight back to Italy the next morning, so it was just Vanessa and I for the next couple of days.

On Saturday, Vanessa took me to Le Rhumerie, a West Indian restaurant in Saint Germain des Pres. The best rum drinks you’ve ever had and the food was delicious—fritters, fried plantains, paté.... I think we were going for the island vibe this weekend :o)

Speaking of which… Vanessa is headed to Puerto Rico for a week… about 10 of her friends rented a house on the beach and they’ll be ringing in the New Year sipping piña colada’s under the hot Caribbean sun. And Miss Shelby is off on a fabulous vacay with her hubby Nicco to the Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa… yes, we are all ridiculously jealous.

Here are some pics from their visit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sometimes the French need a good cursing out…

Every month or so I buy “credits” to add to my pre-paid cell phone. You go to any Tabac (the equivalent of a bodega—they sell cigarettes, lotto tickets, calling cards, candy, etc) and buy coupons in any denomination (from 5€-120€) that have a 9-digit code on it which you type into your phone to recharge your minutes. Last week I bought a 95€ coupon from a new place near my apartment. When I got home, I tried to enter in the code but kept getting a message saying the code was invalid. After trying it a few times, the system locked me out. Annoying but I didn’t think much of it.

I went to the SFR store (my carrier) the next day on my lunch break and they unlocked my phone and attempted to enter the coupon code for me. It didn’t work for him either so he called and found out that the coupon that I purchased on DECEMBER 5th had already been used on NOVEMBER 30th! SFR told me there was nothing they could do and I would have to go back to the Tabac to get this straightened out. I asked him to write me a note explaining the situation in French and include his name and store phone number so I wouldn’t have any problems when I got to the Tabac.

So I get to the Tabac, handed the store owner the note and explained the situation. She immediately says, “That’s impossible”. She calls SFR and although I didn’t understand everything, I caught a few phrases like, ‘American… she doesn’t understand’, ‘her phone is broken, that’s the real problem’. She hangs up and tells me that SFR said there was a fraud situation for all 95€ coupons sold, someone had hacked in online and stolen the codes. She said there was nothing she could do but SFR said if I went back to their store they would just charge my cell over the phone without a coupon. There was an SFR store a few blocks away and she wrote a note for me to take with me to the store explaining the situation.

So I get to SFR and the guy who helped me was the biggest DICK. He looked at the note and simply said, “This is a lie. There’s no fraud situation going on with recharge coupons” and dismissed me. I tried to explain and ask what I should do nexy but he literally ignored me. I got so frustrated I called out, “This is ridiculous! Does anyone speak English here?!” A nice American man came over and said, “What’s going on?” I explained the situation, which he relayed to the guy who said, “I know what she’s saying but it’s not true. She got ripped off at the Tabac—they just printed duplicate coupons, it happens all the time. Next time she needs to buy a coupon from an SFR boutique only”. Oh, hell no!

So I walk back to the Tabac—by this time it’s nearly 6pm and I’ve been dealing with this ridiculous situation for 5 hours. Needless to say, I’m PISSED. I get there and waited calmly enough till it was my turn at the counter. When I got to the register, the woman asked, “So what happened? Did they charge your phone?”

Me: “No, they said you sold me a bad coupon”
Lady: “It’s not a bad coupon! You saw it come out of the machine. SFR is lying to you”
Me: “No. YOU’RE lying to me. You sold me a bad coupon. Now you have two options: #1, you give me a new recharge coupon. Or #2, you give me my 95€ back”
Lady: “SFR is crazy, they lie all the time. I told you there’s nothing I can do, you have to take it up with them. I’m sorry. Excuse me”. She tries to take the next customer behind me but I’m like, ‘Fu*k that, I’m not going anywhere!’
Me (raising my voice): “NO! You listen to me. I bought this coupon at your store. You cheated me and sold me a fake coupon. Now you better give me a real coupon or give me my money. It's very simple: money or new coupon. That’s it. Or we can call the police because I’m not leaving!”

By this time, the after work crowd had arrived and the line is literally out the door. Everyone is silent and staring at us. Now, I didn’t want to get loud and ghetto, but the dumb bit*h thought she was dealing with some stupid American hick from Podunk, Iowa (no offence to Iowans)… I’m a New Yorker! We do not play that sh*t. I don’t care if I don’t speak your damn language… the word “police” is the same in French, you get my point.

So I’m yelling at her in my broken French in front of her customers, announcing to the entire store that she’s a thief and she ripped me off. She looks a bit taken aback and frantically starts jabbing at her register and says, “Look! I can’t do anything. SFR froze my access to the coupons because of the fraud!” And as she’s trying to prove her fake point, a new recharge coupon prints out of the machine. She looks at me and says, “Oh… uh… well. That’s so bizarre. They told me on the phone that I can’t sell these coupons anymore…” Bizarre my ass! I literally snatched the coupon out of her hand (didn’t move out of line either, the customers can wait) and tested the coupon. It worked. I gave her the meanest look I could muster, turned and started to walk out of the store. And you know what that bit*h had the nerve to say to me?! “Wait, what about my 95€ for the coupon? Now I lost that money”. I turned back to her, threw the coupon on the counter and said, “I just lost an entire day of work dealing with this. I don’t care about your money. Call SFR and ask them to give you your money back” and I walked out. And as I was squeezing my way out the door, a man in line said to me, “I love your cute accent”. FU*K YOU! Do I look like someone you want to speak to right now?!

That day was so unreal. It pissed me off that this woman seriously thought she could take advantage of me and I wouldn’t do anything about it! WTF?! But I'm very proud of myself for solving this problem all by myself! I'd thought about returning to the Tabac with a French friend the next day, but I was just angry, I was not waiting any longer! I may speak French like a 5-year-old, but don’t try to screw me over… I’m not stupid. Go me! :o)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why MTV?!

Just received this from Cathy…
http://perezhilton.com/?p=10337

Its so insane!! That was the thing that drove me INSANE about MTV… everyone was a freelancer. And unless you were the VP of a department, you have no chance of becoming a “permanent employee”. Even though when you came onboard, they definitely lead you to believe that it's only a matter of time before you switch. Seriously, I’d say abut 80% of their workforce is freelance—which means no benefits, no days off, no health insurance, nothing! It is really ridiculous how cheap they are, considering this is a multi-million (billion?) dollar company!
Haha, kinda wish I were around for the walk-out. Sounds fun!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mark Your Calendars! I’m Coming Home!!

I finally bought my plane ticket to come home next month, I’m SOO psyched! I’m flying in and out of DC—you know Mom Dukes would be PISSED if I didn’t make this trip seem as though it was about her :o)

I arrive in DC on January 26th at 6:47pm
I leave for Paris on February 10th at 6:55pm

But no worries, I’ll be heading up to New York to visit all you folks for a whole week! Right now, I’m thinking I’ll arrive in New York at noon on Wednesday January 30th and will head back to DC around 5pm on Wednesday February 6th (the trusty Chinatown bus schedule you know… oh how I’ve missed you Eastern Shuttle!). That gives me 8 days in DC too!

Let’s start planning drink nights, dinner nights, football viewing days, lunches… since I've seen some of you, you've gotten engaged, married, had a baby... there's so much to catch up on!

Can’t wait to see you all! You have no idea how much I’ve missed you! xo

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Une nuit de vin

Went to Grapes’s wine tasting class last Wed night. I sent him an email the week before saying that my friend Ali and I wanted to take his wine tasting class sometime and he wrote back saying that he was going to England for a few days and would be back the following week. So we settled on Wednesday night—a 5-7pm wine tasting followed by dinner at one of his favorite local restaurants.

I was at lunch with B the day before and he asked if I wanted to meet up on Wed night. I told him I couldn’t because I was taking a wine tasting course and his face literally fell. He was like, “With that guy?” And of course I’m trying to play it all innocent, I just look at him confusedly and ask, “What guy?” And he’s like, “The guy from the bar on Thanksgiving” And I’m like, “Oh… right. Um, yeah” And he says, “I don’t like that guy—he was trying to play me [or something along those lines—more French though]. I saw how he was looking at you”. Now I thought the little outburst of jealousy was kinda cute but considering that I wasn’t completely innocent here I figured I should try to put him at ease. So I just explained that I was just going for the wine tasting and that I was going to bring some other girlfriends along so it wasn’t like Grapes was going to try anything, and if he did, I wasn’t at all interested—I did leave out the part about dinner though… probably TMI anyway.

Anyway, Wednesday rolls around and Ali, Sofia and I head over to Grape’s place for the wine tasting. He lives about 2 blocks away from me in a really nice, huge loft. The wine tastings take place in the living area and a door in the back leads to his bedroom and bathroom. We arrived about 10 minutes late and there were 6 other people there for the class, 3 couples—2 from South Carolina and 1 from Australia. It was a 65€ course (he didn’t charge us) and we got to sample 7 different types of wines and champagne.

Afterward, the four of us went to a really cute, very French restaurant next door. Grapes ordered a few bottles of wine and we spent the next 3 hours talking and eating… it was a lot of fun. Then he took us to this trendy club called Favela Chic (on Wed night it has more of a lounge-y vibe) and we hung out there till around 2:30am… finally Grapes and I left (Ali and Sofia were meeting friends at a Latin club in Bastille) and walked home together. Before I went off in the direction of my apartment, Grapes asked for my number and said that he would give me a call to meet up again sometime. It was actually a really fun night—Grapes is quite the entertainer, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

During dinner we started a discussion about relationships. Someone brought up B and Grapes was saying things like, “You shouldn’t be with him. I can tell he’s not the kind of guy for you. You’re too good for him. You can’t really like him. You guys should break up, just be friends. You’re missing out on getting to know other guys who would be better for you”. I just thought it was funny, like why would he be trying to convince me to break up with my boyfriend… and secondly, he doesn’t even know me. Where he got all these ideas about who I should and shouldn’t be with—or got the audacity to imply that I should be with him—is beyond me. Then around 10pm, B sent me a text message asking, ‘So… how was the wine?’ and when Grapes saw me looking at my phone he was like, “Who are you texting? Your boyfriend? Don’t write him back”. But the thing is, I realized that night how much I really like B. Grapes is hilarious and smart and successful and cultured and cute… and definitely much more my type. But he’s not B. And at the end of the day, B is the guy I want to be with. So as great as Grapes is and as much fun as I think we would have if we got together, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be—right now, I’m all about Mr. B :o)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Paris Weekend with Galen...

By the way, my good friend Galen came to town from New York over Thanksgiving weekend... just a random trip since he's never been to Paris before. He spent most of his time exploring the city on his own, meeting people and partying. But we hung out one day/night (Saturday)... went to dinner at a cute, very French restaurant in Bastille, then went to my Swedish friend Carl's apt and hung out with his cute Swedish friends, then we all went to this crazy club near Grand Boulevard till 5:30am... LONG night... Bruno was there too which was cute. The only straight boy amongst a room full of gay boys-- he was a trouper though! Anyway, we had a blast. Here are some pics from the weeekend...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Art of Yoga

Recently, I decided that I needed to get myself centered… in New York, I was used to regular chiropractic, masseuse and acupuncture sessions and I’ve really been missing that therapeutic routine. Coupled with the stress of living in a foreign country, being robbed and facing near homelessness, I was in a desperate need of a way to physically and mentally de-stress here in Paris. So on Sunday I came across the website of a Yoga center near my apartment. Now I’ve taken tons of yoga classes so I wasn’t expecting anything too different. Granted, I haven’t worked out in months, but yoga was never something terribly strenuous or difficult for me so I walked into the studio super cocky about the session.

Folks, yoga kicked my ass last night.

First of all, let me preface this by saying that this was a BIRKRAM yoga class… meaning it was 90 minutes of 110 degree heat with 50% humidity in a small studio packed with people. I didn’t think too much about it honestly—even though I’ve never taken a Birkram yoga class. I just figured I may as well get the added benefit of the sauna-like heat— probably good for the skin :o)

Anyway, it started out fine. There are 26 postures that you go through and we repeat each one twice. As soon as I walked in I started sweating, but up until about the last leg of the stretches, I was doing ok. At the end of the class, a handful of people were still lying out on the floor recuperating, but the only thing I was thinking of was getting out of that hot smelly room. So I jumped up, rushed into the fitting room, threw on my coat and left. As I was walking to the subway, I started to feel a little queasy but I assumed I just needed to walk it off. Then as I was standing on the platform waiting for the train, it got worse… I was feeling beyond nauseous. But I didn’t want to leave the station b/c the train was arriving in 2 minutes and I would have to wait another 10 mins for the next one. So I discretely threw up in the trash can and got on the train, praying that I wouldn’t get sick again during the ride (a few of you will remember last St. Patty’s day… my experiences with public transit embarrassment). Thankfully I made it. But I pretty much threw up every 20 steps until I reached my apartment. And I was sick pretty much the entire night…

My hat goes off to anyone who does Birkram yoga… it is NOT easy. I’ve had some serious workout sessions, but this was beyond. Naturally, I have to go back and do it again. There is no way I’m letting a little heat and stretching get the best of me! We’ll see how Round 2 goes…

Monday, December 3, 2007

Heartache or Freedom?

I’m so sad… my boyfriend is leaving Paris for an entire month this Friday! First he goes to Mexico for 2 weeks to see some friends. Then he goes to LA to see his older brother who is married to an American woman and just had a baby girl a couple months ago. His parents are flying out to LA too and they’re spending the holidays together in the States… he won’t be back till the beginning of January. It’s actually pretty funny that I even feel this way… I never knew I would like someone so much in such a short amount of time—well, in a non-dysfunctional way in any case (Lord knows if he had treated me like sh*t I would have been in head-over-heels in loe from day 1). But I’m REALLY going to miss B… its not even like we hang out every day, maybe 3-5 times a week, but knowing that I wont be able to see him for an entire month is so depressing. I’m just so used to meeting up for a drink or dinner, hearing his voice, hanging out at his apt… We’ve been talking about how much we’ll miss each other and how we’ll be sure to call/write while he’s away. And he said if he had known me before he bought his plane tickets, he wouldn’t have taken such a long trip… ah well, I will survive! And I guess this will be a test to see how we really feel about each other.

::sigh:: let’s hope I stay out of trouble!! :o)

(I kid, I kid…)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Hills...

I just got a new gig as the Paris correspondent for a fashion magazine based in Florida. I randomly came across an ad for a start-up magazine looking for a freelance writer, applied and got the job. They’re aspiring to be the next Glamour or Vogue… right. But my first article will appear in the April 2008 issue which is pretty exciting. I’ve never had a real byline before :o)

At this very moment I should be hanging out in Le Marais, getting inspiration and working on my first story. My editor is super excited about it—when I told her I wanted to write about the underground fashion scene in Paris she was like, “That’s a fantastic idea! Run with it! I can’t wait to read your article!” Sure, me too. If I could just get around to finally starting to write the damn thing… its due in 2 weeks. And what am I doing today instead? Spending the day catching up on The Hills online…

::sigh:: where is my motivation? But spending the afternoon wrapped up in the Audrina and JustinBobby drama is just too much fun :o)

Tomorrow I’ll start the article… honestly…

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanksgiving Cookie Run

Last Sunday night, my friend Ye-Jee organized her Annual Thanksgiving Cookie Run—finally, my first shot at the humanitarian bit of my Parisian adventure. An organization came up with the fantastic idea of spreading a bit of Thanksgiving love to the homeless community via cookies—it was something she took part in while she was in the States and decided to re-create it here in Paris. A bunch of us met at her apartment to bake the cookies and write cute little notes like “Jesus Loves You” or “Bon Courage” to put inside of the bags… since we spent most of our time joking and being silly, it took us 4 hours to make about 50 bags of cookies. Finally, around 8pm, we set out on the streets of Paris looking for homeless people to deliver the cookies to and decided to walk under the bridges along the Seine.

This is literally the underbelly of Paris, not the part of town people normally see/imagine. And I must admit, I was a bit scared. It was like something out of a horror movie where you’re screaming at the screen, “Don’t go down there, stupid! The monster is waiting for you down there!” But its real life. It takes a bit of maneuvering to get down there, and once you do, there is an entire community of homeless people who make their life under the bridges. There are hundreds of tents lined up, dozens of bonfires and people sitting around trying to stay alive and just make the most out of the hand that they were dealt. For the most part, everyone we met was really nice and extremely grateful. Many people asked, “But why? Why are you doing this?” and it broke my heart. These are the forgotten and it’s so sad to realize that there can come a point in your life when no one notices or cares about you anymore—where you are genuinely shocked at a simple, kind gesture.

There was one man that I’ll never forget. He had built himself a nice (if you can call it that) little home out of planks of wood and aluminum—outfitted with a tent, table, candle, a couple chairs and a radio. When we offered him the cookies, he invited us to peek inside to look around. So for about 15 minutes we sat inside his home and listened to his story. Turns out he is an immigrant from Morocco who moved to Paris about 20 years ago for work, after he got out of the war. He was plagued by a long-term injury and eventually lost his job as a taxi driver. At that point, his wife was the only one bringing home any income but they were still able to just get by. But 10 years ago she died and since he had the handicap, he was unable to get work (and being an immigrant, unable to collect disability) and lost his apartment—that’s when he moved onto the streets. He’s been living under the Seine ever since. He could have been my father, uncle, neighbor—he was such a nice, decent man who just had a string of bad luck (he told us he was never involved in alcohol or drugs) that landed him where he was—it could have happened to anyone. When we were leaving he said to us, “It’s so nice to see young people doing stuff like this. It makes me think that there’s some hope left in this world”.

It was an amazing night. Encounters like this make me so unbelievably grateful for what I have. I guess that’s the purpose of the Cookie Run taking place during Thanksgiving—not only are you doing a kindness for someone else on a significant day (something that seems so minuscule to one means so much to another), but its also giving us the opportunity to remember that no matter how bad our lives may seem at times, we have so much to be thankful for. I have wonderful friends and family and I know without question that there would always be someone I could turn to if I ever [God forbid] hit rock bottom. It seems hard to believe, but some people just don’t have that support system, they have no one to turn to but themselves. And what human being can survive on their own?

Psalms 30:12: ...that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We're Back!

Phew! Crisis averted... the blog is back up and running :o)
Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fried Chicken

So I’m part of this group called FRIED CHIKEN CHIKEN CHIKEN (my member name is east village chiken chow-down fashionista). My friend Ye-Jee (supreme fried chiken dancer and crumb eater) started it after a fabulous evening we spent at KFC in Chatêlet about a month ago. The five of us must have spent 4 hours at KFC, savoring our bucket, being silly and talking about our love of fried chicken (amongst other things, we're not that boring). Then we looked around and noticed that every single person in the place was Black, Spanish, Arab or Asian.

Now yall know I hate to be ignorant and perpetuate a stereotype, but it just happens to be SO true in France. KFC isn’t a popular fast-food chain but for a certain group of Parisians, KFC is high up on the list of dining options. And since there are only like three of them in the whole city, they’re always packed—it’s like a party in there every day. We decided that we wanted to embrace the KFC culture so Ye-Jee started a group on Facebook for everyone who loves fried chicken and is proud of it… its ridiculous but absolutely hilarious!

The group met at KFC last night… two buckets of chicken later (about 4 liters of soda, 20 pieces of chicken, 20 wings and 8 bags of fries) we finally called it a night. We had an absolute blast (tried to follow the chicken eating etiquette: no talking while eating, sharing the good pieces, etc) but we may have chicken’d ourselves out... we ended up giving the leftovers to a homeless guy on the street corner. Anyway, here are some pics!

Dismissed

So I just about got myself kicked out of my French Phonetics course… thankfully, I put on a good “I’m sorry, please forgive me” face so the professor let me stay (under the condition that I don’t miss one more class for the rest of the semester… that’ll be a bit of a challenge), but it was really close!

Basically, this phonetics course meets every other week—for one hour a day, ever day. There’s been 3 weeks of courses and so far, I’ve only made it there 1 full week. But I have good excuses! The first week I missed the last 2 days because I went to Amsterdam for my birthday. The next week I had to deal with my visa—I spent 2 days at the Préfecture, waiting in line for 6-8 hours a day so that I could finally get the stupid slip of paper that allows me to stay in the country legally. And the following week I went to Barcelona for my business trip. See? Totally not my fault.

So on Monday, the professor approached me as we were leaving the classroom to head to the language lab, looked me up and down and said, “Who are you?” Now there’s something about teachers in France—they are total bitches, extremely rude and SO scary! I froze. She basically went off on me, saying that I haven’t showed up for weeks so I obviously don’t want to be there. And then she just said, “Au revoir!” and dismissed me with a wave of her hand. I hurried after her to try to explain in my broken French and begged her to let me stay.

The next day was the same thing—I was on pins & needles, wondering if she would ask what I was doing there and kick me out. When I didn’t know the answer to a question she would say, “Well if you showed up for class you would know”, she asked for proof from my job for my absence, and she wanted to call my other professor to find out if I’d been slacking in my Grammar course as well (I haven’t been). Finally today, three days later, she smiled at me as she was leaving class at said, “A demain, Stacy?” (See you tomorrow). “Bien sur!
I think she was happy because today, every time she called on me, I knew all the answers :o)

It’s the first time I’ve walked out of class and felt like, ‘Ok, I’m not getting deported’. Thank God! If she really kicked me out I would lose my visa. Umm, yeah… it probably would be a good idea to actually start attending class, right?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I organized Thanksgiving dinner for a group of friends in Paris last night. Being one of my favorite holidays, I couldn’t let it go by uncelebrated! Initially, I had hoped to have a nice, home-cooked Thanksgiving at someone’s apartment but once I found out that the cheapest turkey cost 16€/kilo, I decided to scrap that idea.

I made a reservation at an American diner in the Latin Quarter called Breakfast in America but since we couldn’t get in until 10pm, we decided to start the night off with drinks at an English pub down the street at 7:30pm. But just me and 3 girlfriends met up for happy hour since everyone else was still finishing up work and such. The restaurant had a 4-course Thanksgiving dinner special for 29€― an aperitif (glass of kir), pumpkin soup (which they ran out of, jerks! We had walnut salad instead, it was delic), the main course (turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and string beans) and dessert (apple pie). Surprisingly, everything was delicious! I was expecting it to be bland, the turkey to be dry or the food to taste vaguely French—but not at all! If I closed my eyes, I could almost pretend I was back in the States.

Out of the 8 of us, only 3 of us were Americans so we explained to everyone the meaning and significance of Thanksgiving. Then we all went around the table saying what we’re thankful for and then we prayed before digging in. It was a great night! And it was B’s first Thanksgiving so it was really cute to see him really getting into it—at first he thought he wouldn’t like it (he has reservations about American cuisine, so French) but he thought the food was yummy and he had a great time.

Afterwards, the boys went home and the girls went to a karaoke bar around the corner to sing cheesy American songs until 3am with a bunch of drunken French people. It was a great Thanksgiving. I would have loved to be able to spend it with my friends and family back home, but since that was out of the question, this was a pretty nice compromise. There’s a lot of things to be thankful for this year (being in Paris, good health, my new apartment, etc)—one of which being new friends in a foreign country.

Ok, I left one thing out…. there was this guy at the pub we went to for pre-drinks—I can’t think of a good name for him so I’ll call him Grapes b/c he’s a sommelier. He was with a co-worker and they came over to us and said, “We noticed you guys are Americans and just wanted to wish you Happy Thanksgiving”. We ended up talking with them for about an hour and it turns out that he lives and works in my new neighborhood. At one point, he turned to me and said, “I don’t want to come off as sleazy, but can I take you out to dinner sometime? Since you’re new to the neighborhood… but only if you’re fun! I don’t want to go out with a boring girl” (joking). And I said, “Of course I’m fun, I’m a New Yorker!” He was absolutely hilarious so I agreed. About that time, B shows up and for some reason I felt a little… I don’t know, disappointed? Grapes and B were chatting for a bit and Grapes asked how the two of us got together… awkward. Anyway, before we left the pub, B went to the bathroom and Grapes slipped me his business card and told me to call him. And now I cannot stop thinking about him! This is sooo bad; I’m an awful person… what is my problem?! :o(


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another business trip

Just remembered that I forgot to mention my business trip to Barcelona… I guess that’s because it actually turned out to be pretty uneventful! I flew out last Tuesday and stayed through Saturday afternoon. It was basically 4 days of my trying to throw some BS together for the marketing presentation my boss decided that I was going to give, and running around the hotel getting things organized.

Shelby flew out to meet me and we went to a few restaurants, I got to do a tiny bit of shopping at Topshop (which is definitely not as good as the ones in London) and we went to one nightspot. But we didn’t really get to party—and from what I’ve always heard Barcelona is THE city for nightlife. Totally missed it. I ended up getting really sick and spending the majority of the trip working or in bed… how exciting. And poor Shelby had to spend most of her vacation in the hotel… I felt really bad, sorry Shelby!

There were a bunch of hot hotel workers to ogle though—it seemed like every person who worked at that hotel was beautiful, particularly the doormen :o)

Oh well, there’s always next time! We’re thinking of spending Christmas in Morocco…

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I found an apartment!

FINALLY!!!

About a month ago, I put an ad up on Craigslist asking if anyone had an apartment or even a share that I could go into, but got no decent offers. Then it comes down to 9 days before I’m scheduled to move out of my crackden and I had no clue what I was going to do. B offered to let me stay in his apartment while he’s on holiday in LA for a month but I really wanted to find my own place. But every apartment I went to see (and I saw TONS) was horrendous, overpriced, an outright scam, in a bad neighborhood or simply asked for more paperwork than I could provide. So a few days ago, on a whim, I decided to repost my Craigslist ad to see if anything bit. I immediately got an email from an American couple saying they had something I might be interested in. I went to see it today and it’s perfect! Nothing fancy, but it’s my own place, in my price range and the owners are super nice—they didn’t ask for references, paperwork, a security deposit or anything—just a mutual understanding (and a receipt! I’m not stupid) that I’m their tenant and am allowed to stay in the apartment through September 2008—at least.

It’s a cute little studio in the 11th arrondissement in Paris. It’s tiny, but it’s fully-furnished and includes free WiFi and phone calls to the US. The neighborhood is in what has become a “trendy” part of town—a bunch of nightspots opened up on rue Oberkampf in the last few years and my apartment is about a block away. But it’s on a [relatively] quiet side street and is close to about 4 different metro lines—you New Yorkers know how important that is! I’ve swapped police raids and donner kebab stands in the ghetto for a neighborhood of French cafés and cute bars.

God honestly comes through every single time. Even when you’re down to the wire and don’t know how things could possibly come together, the key is to continue to have faith that He will work it out because He ALWAYS does. 9 days before I'm essentially homeless AND on the day before Thanksgiving—He has a sense of humour! I am feeling so blessed right now :o)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! You’re welcome to come visit me in my new home anytime!

Le Gréve - Part 2

I've been in Paris for less than 3 months and am already having to brave my 2nd transit strike. So far we're at Day 8 and counting... with no end in sight. And to make matters worse, there are hundreds of people taking to the streets to strike AGAINST the strike, which is causing more congestion and traffic delays! lol, why can't the French get it together??

Monday, November 19, 2007

A weekend in Tuscany

After the iPod fiasco, I left Paris to spend a weekend with Shelby in Italy. It couldn’t have come at a better time… I honestly just wanted a nice, calm weekend where I could relax and forget about all the crazy drama in Paris.

Nicco and Shelby picked me up from the airport in Pisa on Friday night and we went to dinner at the cutest, most authentic, hole-in-the-wall Italian place about 20 minutes outside of Florence—the owner was a friend of Nicco’s. I had a pizza with buffalo mozzarella cheese, prosciutto and tomatoes and I swear to you, it may have been the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life—it literally brought tears to my eyes! I don’t know what it is about Italy, but they have the best food in the world! Even at crappy little tourist spots (this place most certainly was not), you’ll get good food—I hate to admit it, but that’s not the case in France. I think French cuisine is more of an acquired taste, and often times it can be hit or miss. Maybe because French food is more complicated, whereas Italian food basically boils down to bread, cheese, olive oil and meat :o)

After dinner, we went to a Bitty Mclean concert at a club in Florence. Now I'm not being ignorant, I understand that the reggae culture is not a genre to be adopted solely by black folks, but it never fails to amaze me to see hundreds of white, non-American people—rocking the dreadlocks, wearing their Bob Marley t-shirts, smoking a joint and really getting down at a reggae concert in the middle of Italy. Blew my mind… I’m a dork and never heard of Bitty Mclean but he put on a good show. And aside from the strange Ethiopian guy who tried to accost me (thanks for saving me Nicco!), it was a lot of fun.

Saturday was spent wandering Florence… Shelby and I had breakfast (and the best cappuccino ever), did a bit of shopping, had some delicious, cheap gelato, drank a few glasses of wine at a bar and sat under the Tuscan sun admiring the view of Florence. That night Shelby cooked dinner at her cute apartment. I must say, at first I was a bit sceptical about her cooking ability… I mean, Shelby doesn’t exactly strike you as the domestic sort. But she surprised me! She was in the kitchen for like 2 hours cooking this mushroom and cheese quiche thing and a meat roll thing and preparing appetizers (lol, this isn’t sounding very appetizing is it? Sorry, I forget the names!), and we had a bottle of wine—all delicious. Good job Shelby!

On Sunday I took the train to Pisa to visit Lutisha, her hubby Giovanni and her son Marcus Valentino, who has got to be the cutest baby on the face of the earth. I totally forgot to take pics while I was out there, so I stole one off of her MySpace page :o)
Lutisha cooked us lunch (what’s with all my friends turning into chefs lately?) and we spent all afternoon eating, drinking wine, gossiping and reminiscing about our college/NYC days—from life in the dorms, our Backstreet Boys adventures/obsession, our love lives... Five hours later I was on my way back to Paris…

It was the perfect weekend…exactly what I needed. Its nice to see good friends having their own expat experience: Lutisha in Pisa, Shelby in Florence, Zandile in London… each of us New Yorkers in a foreign city, making our own way, having interesting adventures… The thing that struck me the most is that Tuscany is such a contrast from Paris. Paris is very similar to New York in that it’s a loud, fast, sleek, gritty city—of course there’s that European charm and beauty that is particularly unique to France, and it’s a bit culture shock being in Paris, but on the whole, not such a HUGE departure for a New Yorker. On the other hand, Florence is about the size of the Upper West Side, it feels more like living in a quaint village than a cosmopolitan city—life is slow and meditative, all you want to do is eat and drink wine, I love it! And there's something about waking up to the sound of the bells ringing at the Duomo. It got me thinking about my next move… maybe I’ll go to some small retreat in India or someplace so I can get a real unique, reclusive experience. We’ll see!


video

Friday, November 9, 2007

AHHH!!!!

My iPod was stolen today... I was on the metro sitting next to this normal looking Indian man, maybe around 35 years old, heading to the office from school and I quickly pulled my iPod out of my pocket to change songs. On the Parisian metro, there's a loud beep that lets you know the door is going to shut in 2 seconds. Well, as soon as the door beeped, the guy jumped up, snatched my iPod out of my hands and ran off the metro. I didn't even have time to react.

The other Parisians on the train barely bothered to look up. Meanwhile, there were two American tourists in the car and they were just as stunned as I was... they were like, "Oh my God, that guy just stole her iPod!" lol, that part was actually funny... or maybe its sad that Parisians are so used to this happening.

I'm trying to look on the bright side: I should be grateful that all he took was my iPod... he very easily could have snatched my purse instead, my life is in there. But I can't help it! I'm PISSED! Its not the iPod itself, its just all that music I had uploaded, gone... I don't have my computer with me so I can't replace it until I go home in February. Now I just have to listen to my stupid Shuffle with like 30 songs on it... I just don't get it!! Can't a person hold something without having to worry about it getting snatched out of their hands?!

I honestly hate Paris right now... thankfully I'm leaving to visit Shelby in Florence in a couple hours and I can get away from this thieving, crime-ridden freakin city.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

About the French #4

Today I had my first experience with a French gynecologist and it was quite intersting so I thought I’d share. Oh, you boys out there may want to stop reading now…

The doctor's office was located in a posh, residential neighborhood in Paris and once I stepped into the building’s courtyard, I saw 3 identical doors leading to God knows where… no sign, nothing to help me out. So I stood there looking around blankly until a nice lady took pity on me and pointed me to the door that supposedly lead to the doctor’s office.

There was a scroll box next to the door so I found the doctor’s name (or what I guessed was her name, I didn’t really understand it on the phone when I made the appointment), pressed the call button and I was buzzed into an empty room. No receptionist, no front desk, nothing. Just a few couches, a bookshelf, a coffee table and stacks of magazines. I walked up and down the different hallways a few times, sure I’d missed something or was in the wrong place. For a second, I even thought I had gone into someone’s apartment by mistake so I walked outside to check the front door and saw a tiny little plaque that read “Médcin”. So I just took a seat and waited to see what would happen.

Turned out the place is like a one-stop shop—the GYN is the receptionist, the doorperson, the accountant, the nurse and the doctor all rolled into one. Pretty funny…

Five minutes later, she appears out of nowhere and calls my name. She ushers me into her “office” which was simply a room the size of my studio that had a desk and a little alcove area that held the examining table and a bunch of medical machines. After taking a few minutes to ask me the routine questions (which was a bit of a challenge considering she spoke very little English and obviously my French is atrocious), she gets up from her desk, walks over to the little exam area, turns to me and says, “Ok, get undressed over there” pointing to a corner of the room.

Now we all know that in the States the doctor politely leaves the room and gives you 5 long minutes of privacy to get undressed, neatly fold your clothes and hide your underwear, and cover yourself in a nice little modest gown while you sit and wait for her to return and knock on the door to make sure you're "ready & decent". But does that happen in France? Of course not! The GYN just made up the table then stood there waiting for me to finish getting undressed. I hesitated when I got down to my underwear (she couldn’t be expecting me to strip down naked right in front of her?) but she just laughed and said, “No, everything”. At this point, I’m slightly mortified to be walking clear across the room to the table, stark naked in front of a woman I’ve never met before in my life… but the French don’t have the same inhibitions about the naked body that we do in the States so it was just not a big deal.

It really made me realize how prudent Americans are in pretty much every area of our lives (TV, advertising, etc). Even in a big, modern city like New York, a doctor would never expect you to prance around her office nude. Sure, they end up seeing everything anyway, but you always get that paper gown to cover up with so that you can at least PRETEND that you’re holding onto a bit of privacy. Whereas here in France, the thought of covering up in front of your doctor is so ridiculously pointless it doesn’t even cross their mind… so when in France!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Another b-day party...

Last night I went out for drinks to celebrate my birthday with my friends in Paris (a few people from my French class and some other friends) about 15 of us at this cute “trendy” bar in the 2eme called Le Café Noir. The big news was that it was the first night I invited B to hang out with me and my friends… very nerve-wracking! On the one hand, you’re worried that he’ll be weird or dull and your friends won’t like him or won’t be able to understand what you see in him. And on the other hand, you don’t want him to be bored trying to make small talk with a group of strangers for hours... but then you don’t want to seem like you need to be all up in his face, holding his hand every second either… so I figured I’d just let them at it and not worry too much about it…

And he was great and everyone really liked him! Granted, there was the embarrassing moment here and there, like when a friend would come over and say, “Oh Stacy, is this the boyfriend?!” (We never officially said we were boyfriend/girlfriend so it could have been an awkward moment, but he just replied, “That’s me! I’m the boyfriend”). Or when one of my gay boyfriends eyed him up and down and nodded approvingly with a smirk on his face (B just laughed and said, "don't leave me alone with that one"... it was cute).

Some of you will remember a guy that I was semi-head-over-heels for once upon a time… the funny part is everyone who met him immediately thought he was a jerk and I just didn’t understand why they couldn't see what I saw (turns out they were right). But it’s nice to have your friends say nice things about the guy you’re seeing… and to be with someone who makes an effort to get along with your friends :o)