Musings About Living Behind a Stunning Door

What are the people like who live in the old mansions overlooking the Seine? Do they still appreciate their view? Or do they take it for granted after so many picture-perfect sunsets? Do they know they’re living some sort of fairytale; up there in those classically Parisian Haussmann-style mansions, whose full-length windows with ornately carved boarders have balconies that would be envious everywhere, but are especially special on the Ile Saint-Louis, a little luxury island in the middle of the Seine, in the middle of Paris?

Does living in a building that beautiful ever get old?

I Feel Like Even I Could Be a Great Painter Here

I’m not sure I have the words to describe Giverny. It’s a Monet painting come to life; which is fitting, considering it was Monet’s home. Claude Monet and his family settled in Giverny in 1883, and he set to work bringing his vision to life. There are two parts to Monet’s gardens: the flower garden in front of the house called Clos Normand, and the Japanese-inspired water garden on the other side of the road. You can also explore the house, to see where the artist lived. Monet spent about 40 years here, building, planning, and perfecting his gardens. O, and painting them of course.

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It’s an easy hour-ish trip from Paris to Vernon. Then I took an adorably touristy little train through the town. Dumb? Yes. But it was a good way to see some really, really old Norman architecture. Obviously being THE gardens used as inspiration for THE water lilies, Giverny is a very popular destination.

I walked around the Clos Normand first. At first glance it was a sort of visual shock – in the best possible way. The garden is sort of beautifully organized chaos. Nothing is overly manicured; it’s a planned sort of wildness. Walking through the garden was like walking through a forest of color. When the wind blows the right way the air is a beautiful blend of scents.

July in France is probably the peak-est of peak travel times. It was so beautiful I didn’t even mind the crowds. I’m sure being there alone, surrounded by peaceful solitude and every kind of flower you can think of is something akin to a religious experience. But my fellow floral worshippers didn’t bother me. Yes-kind strangers, I will share this paradise with you…and the bees of course.

After wandering through Monet’s house, I took the underpass to the other side of the road for the main event, what everyone comes to see: THE WATER LILIES. It wasn’t water lily season, but it’s still a beautiful sight. After waving hello to the cows grazing on the other side of the fence, I walked along a path that takes you around the pond. The pond is lined with flowers and bushes, and those weepy trees (like green curtains of leaves). A man in a tiny rowboat was skimming pond scum. He’s famous now because he’s in at least 100 people’s photos from the day. I’m sure it’s not an easy job, and might not be very glamorous, but gliding across that pond with his skimmer, looked like a very peaceful way to spend an afternoon.

Standing in that garden, absorbing the beauty of the famed water lily pond, I thought in a place like that, maybe anyone can be a great painter. Maybe all the rest of us ordinary people need are better inspiration.

I Have This Thing With Doors

First thing’s first, Merriam-Webster has this to say about doors:
/dôr/
1. A usually swinging or sliding barrier by which an entry is closed and opened
2. A means of access or participation
The first known use of the word door is from the 12th century.
Door in Finnish: ovi
In French: la porte
In German: tur
In Hungarian: ajtó
In Icelandic: dyrnar
In Japanese: doa
In Mongolian: khaalaga
In Russian: dver
In Thai: pratu
In Turkish: kapi

I have this thing with doors. I can’t exactly tell you what it is about doors that has me captivated. I could say something about doors being a metaphor for looking into the soul. “Doorway to the soul,” isn’t that the saying? That’s crap (mostly). Sometimes I do wonder what it’s like to live behind an elaborate door. What kinds of people live behind those doors? Do people choose their homes in part based on the door? Are you more interesting for living behind an epic door?

Mostly though, it’s just the doors themselves that draw me in. Walking down the street you might see a dozen ordinary doors, but then one stops you in your tracks (or maybe it’s just me who randomly stops to look at doors). That one quirky, old, vibrant, intricate door that stands out among the regular, ordinary, and mundane. And it’s not just the old doors that are exciting and eye-catching. It’s the brightly painted ones, the ones with fun graffiti, the ones with unique door knobs or wreaths. And sometimes it’s not the door at all. Sometimes, the doorway makes up for an otherwise ordinary door.

Walking with me often requires stopping every block or so, or turning around to find I stopped a while back to take a picture and need to catch up. Sorry, not sorry. I have this thing with doors.






Looking like I know where I’m going (sometimes)

Contrary to the title of my blog, I probably am lost, but I’m also exploring. I always find my way eventually, and when it’s actually important I look up directions before I go. But so often, especially when I’m traveling, getting lost is half the fun.

When I was in Seoul I followed something shiny down a side street and ended up drinking dandelion tea in a teahouse that was over 100 years old.
Ever time I stepped foot in the old city in Jerusalem I got lost. EVERY TIME.
On my first day of an internship in 12th grade I got so lost that my mom had no idea where I was when I called asking for help. She had to look at Map Quest. Remember Map Quest? Remember when we didn’t have GPS in our phones? Yes I still get lost sometimes even though I have a smart phone.

Apparently while I was in Paris I looked like I knew where I was going. I also apparently looked Parisian. I was stopped several times by people asking me for directions in French. Yes you read that right, people though I could help them find their way, and IN FRENCH. Ha! Not only did I not understand half of what I was being asked, I usually had no idea where I was let alone how to get to wherever they were trying to go.

Probably the best instance of being asked for directions in French happened in Père Lachaise Cemetery. Bwahahaha. No I do not know where Edith Piaf’s grave is. Every “road” looks the same and I am super turned around and the clanking pipes sounds like people are trying to get out (I think I’ve seen too many zombie/vampire movies).

I always took it as a compliment that dressed in my sweaty, wrinkled, Old Navy outfits, I could pass as Parisian and that I looked like I knew where I was going.

Black and white stripes, that’s a Parisian thing right?

Parisian Wanderings

I spent a week in Paris. Some of the things I did, saw, ate deserve their own stories; but here are just some random bits while I wandered and got very lost (the title of my blog really is an accurate description of my life).

Walking along the Seine, heading towards my evening river cruise:
An older man on a bicycle tried to pick me up. He told me I didn’t look American. He thought I was French or Italian. Thank you?
Of course it was an old man and not one of the hundred attractive, (seemingly) age-appropriate men I’ve seen just in the last 2 days. Of course.

Walking through Les Jardins de Tuileries on my way to Le Louvre:
I walked past old men playing pétanque and people lounging under trees. The sun is shining and the park is full of people enjoying the day. My journey to the museum was delayed. My feet took on a mind of their own and I began following the smell of fresh crepes. I became one of the people happily lounging under a tree, eating perfection on a plate. (And over-priced water because I forgot to specify tap, not bottled…oops. I guess it had to happen at least once.)

Le Lovre:
Did you know that if you stand in front of every piece of art in the Louvre for 2 minutes it would take you 3 months, day and night, to see everything.
Last time I was in Paris I came to the Louvre because I thought how could I not go to the world’s most famous museum on my first ever trip abroad. My plan was to skip it on this trip, the Mona Lisa didn’t impress me.
Then I read about the apartments of Napoleon III (France’s 1st ever elected president, and then he became emperor because he didn’t want to give up his position), tucked away in the oft-overlooked Richelieu wing. Built during the Second Empire between 1852 and 1857, the opulent, Versailles-esque rooms haven’t changed much. Opulent doesn’t really begin to cover this place. It was extravagant, lavish, ostentatious, palatial, and sumptuous too (yes I did look up opulent in a thesaurus, no I don’t fee bad, if you want better writing go elsewhere).
I didn’t make it to Versailles this time around but visiting Napoleon III’s apartments at the Louvre was probably pretty close.

Sitting outside a café with une piscine du rosé, aka a large glass of rosé with ice. (La piscine is swimming pool in French, which is definitely an accurate description of the size of my glass.):
After too much walking (because I got lost again) I finally found le Canal St Martin. This neighborhood is a good destination if you are looking to get away from the fancy city center, le Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the hoards of tourists. This area is more laid-back than the area around the Seine.
Siting by the canal with a large glass of chilled wine, a pastry, and A Moveable Feast (despite really not being impressed by the book or Hemingway in general), is a perfect Parisian afternoon.

This is how I watched the Bastille Day fireworks:
Sitting on a wall in the Tuileries with the Louvre behind me and the Eiffel Tower straight ahead, with a personal-sized bottle of wine and the best raspberries I have ever eaten.
At 10pm the setting sun turned everything pink. And at 11pm when the sun had finally set, the fireworks were set off from the Eiffel Tower.




Bienvenue à Paris

Everything I read before leaving for my trip said I should watch the sunset from the steps of Sacré-Cœur. Sounded like a perfect way to spend my first evening in Paris. Wander Montmartre (I’m an expert wanderer), find some good food and good wine, check out Sacré-Cœur, sit and watch the sky change colors over the city of lights. Great plan in theory. In practice though, unsuccessful. Taking an overnight flight is a great way to save sightseeing time…if you actually manage to sleep on the plane. If you’re like me and are incapable of sleeping for more than 20 minutes at a time, taking an overnight flight just means you’re tired when you get to your destination.

Did you know that sunset in July in Paris isn’t until at least 9 pm! I learned that nugget when I found myself getting drowsy while the sun was still high in the sky. While there was no way I was going to make it to sunset, incredible views and delectable treats were still had.

The whole of Montmartre is photogenic, and every restaurant/bakery/bistro looked delicious. Choosing lunch was not easy.

Le mur je t’aime. The wall of I love you. Found in an unassuming park in Montmartre, the wall says “I love you” 311 times in 250 languages.
From the website:
“In a world marked by violence and dominated by individualism, walls, like frontiers, are usually made to divide and to separate people and to protect them from one another. On the contrary, Le mur des je t’aime…is a link, a place of reconciliation, a mirror which reflects an image of love and people downtown Paris Montmartre, in France.”

Being my father’s daughter I could not walk past a shop called Grenouilles (frogs in English) without going inside. The frog did not disappoint! I sipped 5 euro wine while listening to a French version of the song Cecilia.

Listen on Youtube while sipping some French wine.

Always climb to the top; even if you have to climb 300 steps up an extremely old, extremely cramped, extremely spirally, spiral staircase. I’ve climbed to the top of a lot of things and have NEVER been disappointed.

Being on a hill, Montmartre offers a great view of the rest of Paris. Climb to the top of Sacré-Cœur, and the view is even better. Haussmann likely destroyed a lot of stunning, unique, old buildings but the ones he put up in their place are very pretty.

I ended my first day in Paris lounging on history (the steps of Sacré-Cœur), a little buzzed from my 4 o’clock wine, listening to the church bells, while gazing at la Tour Eiffel, wearing black and white stripes.
A successful day Jodi, well done.

New Year’s Resolutions..kinda

New year, new me? Unlikely. New year, better me? Yea, I think I can manage that. First up, stop procrastinating on things like writing.

I’ve been sitting on tidbits and half written stories for months. I just never got around to finishing. I’m finally finishing them now. At first I thought, why bother with months-old travel stories; no one wants to read about a trip that happened six months ago. Then I remembered that I started this blog for my own benefit and no one else’s. I should write what I want, when I want, and how I want. I don’t actually care what other people think of my stories or how many people read my blog; this is for me.

So stay tuned…or don’t.
Enjoy…or don’t.

ALLLLLLLL the croissants

French Morning, a site for francophone expats, hosted  an event to find the best croissant in New York City. The price of admission came with a glass of wine and samples of ALL of the croissants. 15 bakeries from across the city were represented as finalists. And of course each had more than one kind to try.

There were plain croissants and chocolate ones of course. There was one with lemon and one with orange. One bakery had a turkey and swiss cheese croissant, and one had pistachios. In case you’re wondering, there is in fact such a thing as too many croissants. You can over dose on butter.

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Voting on the best croissant in New York City is no easy feat. They were all soooooo good. Soft, flaky, buttery, and yummy. And the flavored ones all had exactly the right amount. The chocolate ones weren’t too chocolately (I know, how could anything be too chocolatey? But it’s a think sometimes). The orange flavor was not overpowering. All of the croissants I tried were quite perfect. How do you choose?!

I voted for Orwasher’s Bakery. I felt a little bit of family loyalty. My grandmother’s (on my dad’s side) family started a bakery in 1916. Our family wasn’t super close with that part of the family, so I didn’t grow up going to the bakery all the time or anything. The family doesn’t even own the bakery anymore. The new owners kept the name though. But still, I felt a connection. Their croissants were quite delicious anyway.

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After eating what seemed like my weight in croissants, I may need to swear them off for a bit. So worth it though!

What’s next? City’s best bagel? Best black & white cookie in the city? The scrumptious options seem endless!

 

Maybe don’t go to Albany in winter (but do go because it’s lovely)

It’s really cold in Albany in January. And snow.

My friends Heather and Nate moved to Albany. What a great excuse to see a new city and hang with one of my favorite couples.

I think a lot of Long Islanders think of the state of New York in 4 parts:

  1. Long Island
  2. The City
  3. Westchester
  4. And everything else is upstate

Yes, “upstate” refers to a ginormous piece of land. Yes, there’s a lot going on up there. But the general view from down here is that everything north of Westchester is just upstate.

New York City is where the stuff is, where the money is made, and where the people are, (really, so many people). But Albany is where the governing happens. I realize many people already know that, but I’ve met people who don’t know they’re going under water to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan, so I take nothing for granted.

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Albany isn’t as far north as I thought. I am from Long Island and I don’t know much about upstate. It was about 50 when I left the city (as a Long Islander, NYC is just the city). We woke up to snow and temperatures below 30 on Saturday. To be fair, 50 degrees was a fluke and everyone woke up to cold.

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How do you see a city and stay warm at the same time? Drink! I saw quite a bit of the city as we walked from place to place. There’s some beautiful architecture. The state capital and the department of education buildings are beautiful. And then you turn around and find a few buildings that look like they belong in the Soviet Union.

 

The Albany Distilling Company runs tours. If you find yourself in Albany go. The whiskey distilling process is really interesting, and the owner gives a great tour. I feel like I know enough now to start making my own. The distillery’s cats pull double duty as mice catchers and welcome party. And the liquor is really good too!

I don’t like beer. Finding a cidery, (Is that a word? It should be!) is very exciting. Nine Pine Cider Works is so so good. All they serve is hard cider. We had cider flights. 5 tastes of 5 different flavors. Early grey was my favorite, but I also always love lavender.

 

On Sunday Nate and I went to the New York State Museum. So in addition to drinking I learned stuff too. The building is…..kinda awful. It’s a concrete cube-shaped building. Not pretty and classical like the capital and some other buildings. It’s hard to look away though. So ugly it’s cool? There was an exhibit all about women’s suffrage because 2017 is the 100th anniversary of New York giving women the vote. Equality and representation: we’re still fighting for the same things 100 years later.

Albany seems like a cool little city. I’m planning to go back when the weather is nicer to take advantage of all of the beautiful nature up there. Hey Heather and Nate, let’s go hiking and camping!

I’ve been writing, just not here

GoAbroad.com is a website that aims to link travelers to quality, meaningful travel experiences. They provide program ideas and resources to travelers looking for opportunities to study, volunteer, work, adventure, and teach abroad.

Twice a year the lovely people at GoAbroad put on a Writer’s Academy. As a member of the most recent cohort, I’ve been honing my travel writing skills and learning about things like SEO (search engine optimization) and personal branding. My writing assignments have been city guides for those interested in teaching, volunteering, working, and studying abroad in a variety of places.

Check out my guides on the GoAbroad website.