Going “Down the Shore”

When I started this blog, I was living in Paris and posted pretty regularly. Eventually, I posted less often, but for all these years I’ve kept up my goal to post at least once a month, save for once. There were times it was on the last day of the month (and then often again within a few days because one post creates momentum). I knew that if I didn’t have this concrete benchmark, I would likely fall off the wagon. And that’s what’s happened! I have not posted here all autumn.

Tonight I opened up my laptop to write, and I realized that I had written the post below on August 4th! So a few days before the start of winter, here is an account from the dog days of summer.


The first summer after I returned from France several years ago, I concentrated on learning my responsibilities at my new job and generally enjoyed a wealth of outdoor activities in New York City. Since then, every summer I have used the majority of my year’s vacation days on a trip abroad for two plus weeks. Theoretically, I see the value in taking a day off to rest and relax, but after getting to travelling all the time in Europe, I felt the need to accumulate my days in the States in order to be able to leave it—for a short bit.

This summer, of course, was different due to Covid. No international travel. At the beginning of summer, I thought that maybe eventually I’d do a road trip domestically, but that has not happened. What that means, however, is that I suddenly for the first time have all these vacation days that I am not using in one swoop. And I am discovering the joy in taking a day off here and there.

The first day I took off since January was in the beginning of June. A friend and I took a virtual trip to Italy, which is a story for another day. In mid-June I took a Wednesday off for my mom’s birthday, which I had not done before.

The past few Fridays, beau (who is not French but I will refer to him thus, as it comes naturally to me) and I have headed down to the beach, which we have taken to pairing with a hike beforehand. I now understand the appeal of taking an extra day off without jetting or bussing off to a destination for a few nights. It’s relaxed. In general, I am a night packer because I like to have everything prepared the day before a long trip, but now I can pull out my big sturdy tote bag the morning of and easily toss in a towel, suntan lotion, herbal bug repellent, water, and snacks. There was a time I thought I wasn’t a “beach person,” but these quarantine times have expanded my definition of myself, for the better. I like taking out one of my two bathing suits every week.

No dogs and kites.

Sunset

Sunset in summer in Paris was late, at 9 or 10 sometimes. On nice days, I stay out as long as possible (I think this comes from growing up in a place where the cold months outnumber the warm). However, in Paris if I aimed to be outside as long as it was light outside, it meant that I went home quite late.

It’s like that in other parts of the world too, of course, even in my own country, like in Chicago. Paris was the first time I had lived somewhere where the sun set so late, though, and so the first summer I was there, I was surprised. It was easy to lose track of time in the evening. Not for too long, though—I could always count on the guard at Luxembourg Gardens to jolt me out of my reverie with a whistle blow and a bellowed “Ferrrrrrmature!”

100_6231

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, 9:15pm

via Photo Challenge: Rise/Set

City Citrouilles

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this nice fall display outside a New York City residence.101_1416

Granted, it was behind bars.101_1415

The building’s ground floor dipped slightly below sidewalk level, so these bars prevented pedestrians from falling into the shallow canyon created.

Small square footage doesn’t stop city residents from festiveness.

Christmas Market-ing is not an Obsession

My first winter in Paris, I made it my mission to visit as many of the Christmas markets in the city as possible. They ranged from the most frequented one on the Champs-Elysées to the tiny bundle of stands in front of the Bercy 2 mall. I went to most of them, and the funny thing is that they all have similar products—delicate cut-out Christmas cards, big chocolate-covered marshmallows sold by the piece, painted ornaments, scarves fluffy and fine, mulled wine, churros. Each one has its own atmosphere, however, which is why I enjoyed walking through all of them. In my travels with friends, I also saw the marchés de Noël in Strasbourg, Lille, Marseille, and Nice.

What I almost forgot is that my love of Christmas markets was born in New York. During my first year of work after college, in December I walked through the Christmas market near my office almost every day during lunch break. Even on the very cold days, I ducked out for a few minutes for a quick walk past the stands selling jewelry, spices, puppets, and chocolate.

The markets in Manhattan were and still are located at Bryant Park, Grand Central Station, Union Square, and Columbus Circle. All are outdoors except Grand Central’s. This year I noticed a small line of stands forming a new (to me) holiday market in Times Square (there’s room for a market on the crowded sidewalks of Times Square, you ask? Yes, I was amazed too. This city can squeeze in skyscrapers in small spaces).

It wasn’t until spending a few years in France and then coming back to the States that I realized that New York actually has “holiday” markets, not “Christmas” markets. This is not to say that they’re less Christmassy than France’s marchés de Noël, they’re just more politically correct. Their signs call them holiday markets and holiday fairs. Which is funny, because all the pine and red and white stripes clearly point to a specific holiday.

140.christmasmarketsny.a140.christmasmarketsny.b140.christmasmarketsny.c140.christmasmarketsny.d140.christmasmarketsny.e140.christmasmarketsny.f

Happy Holidays!

Fallin’

Fall: a season that I built up every year that I was in France. Not because it is my favorite season there—that would be summer—but because I missed the autumn of my native Northeastern United States. Changing red and yellow leaves, pumpkins, apple cider and doughnuts, Halloween decorations.

This year for the first time in a little while, I walked through those crispy leaves and rolling acorns.

130.fall.2015aI looked up at these leaves and in my mind’s eye they transformed into butterflies flitting up a tree.

130.fall.2015b 130.fall.2015c 130.fall.2015d 130.fall.2015e 130.fall.2015f 130.fall.2015g 130.fall.2015hHappy Halloween!