|Special celebrations call for special drinks, like le Kir Royal…|
A friend commented there was no French twist to last week’s story about New York. My stories ALWAYS have a French twist, she said… Zut. (Rats.) We need to fix this quickly, I say. Cheer up, friend: Plenty of French twists in this story. Plenty of friends, too. Friends, old and new, are what makes a trip special. This New York visit was no exception.
One thing I have learned over the last two years: Friendships born out of blogging are a treat, a gift that keeps giving. Whether we travel near home, or around the world, some of us bloggers will happily grab an opportunity to let go of our cameras and laptops for a few hours, to get out there and meet fellow writers and photographers; wonderful people who take a few hours (or a few days) out of a busy schedule to show us their city. I treasure these encounters, what they teach me about a place, and the resulting friendships.
On my first day in New York, I had a lunch date. A special rendez-vous, with a special lady, M-T. Through her blog, The French Touch and her consulting business, M-Tprovides fashion and lifestyle tips to women who want to define their own style – with a French twist. As soon as I met her, I realized that the lady knows a thing or two about style. In fact, she knows a thing or two about French culture, the Opera, good food, good wine, and the power of a good laugh. M-T was born in the United States (just a few East Coast Falls ago,) but her parents and relatives are French, and she speaks both languages fluently. We kept switching back and forth, since her charming American husband Dan joined us that day. They drove almost two hours from South New Jersey to meet me, and they suggested a popular French brasserie (owned by legendary chef Alain Ducasse,) Benoît. As soon as I stepped in, I felt as if I were in Paris.
For the next three hours, conversation [and French wine] flowed. The food, (typical bistro fare,) was perfectly executed, from les escargots, to le poulet rôti, les moules-frites, and for dessert, a magnificent mille-feuille, big enough to share.
|Le Millefeuille’s traditional “glaçage” (icing) was drawn onto the plate,
instead of on top of the pastry. Oh, la, la!
Talking to M-T felt like talking to an old friend. Her warm personality, and her bonne humeur (cheerfulness) made for a special time in the big city. It was after 4:00pm when M-T and Dan walked me back to my hotel. I was sad to say goodbye, bien sûr, but I know we will see each other again.
A big city like New York can feel anonymous, especially when one travels alone. After my successful encounter with M-T, I was on a roll. I had planned to meet other special ladies on this trip. If you have followed French Girl in Seattle for a while, you may remember the story I wrote about the great artist Josephine Baker. The post remains one of the most popular entries on this blog. Josephine Baker raised a large, international family in a beautiful château in the Dordogne valley, les Milandes. Over twenty five years ago, in New York city, one of her sons, Jean-Claude, opened a restaurant honoring his mother’s memory. I had to reserve a table chez Joséphine and hoped to meet him. Unfortunately, Jean-Claude was away for a few days (even successful restaurateurs need des vacances…) On Sunday night, a cab took me to the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood where my table was waiting. The restaurant felt cozy and intimate. Le cadre was romantic, the decor old Hollywood and glamorous. I loved the live piano player. Josephine was everywhere around me, on the walls, smiling at visitors from old posters and vintage photos, all the way to the bathroom where paper hand towels were embossed with her effigy. Do you collect small souvenirs from your travels, too? I confess to snatching one of the towels and brought it home with me.
I was alone that night, and I had time to observe, and dream. If I closed my eyes, I could picture “La Bakaire” making a grand entrance, blowing a kiss to her son as he stood in front of the bar; acknowledging restaurant patrons, actors from popular Broadway shows; sashaying towards her table, the best in the house, of course, in one of her inimitable sequined dresses; and finally, sitting down, surrounded by admirers and friends, the center of attention, always.
Yes, big cities can feel anonymous. It is natural to search for des repères, familiar sights, points of reference. Oh, yes, I have been here before. I recognize this street. There used to be a bakery here, a French bakery as I recall. French? Oui. To my delight, France is everywhere in New York. All day long, I passed French people on the street. Some were tourists. Couples visiting la Grande Pomme, young families pushing an umbrella stroller, groups of teenagers, enjoying a few hours of freedom before meeting their parents or chaperones back at the hotel. It was good to see that New York still ranks high on my countrymen’s list of favorite cities. I also met local French people. New Yorkers by choice. Thanks to them, their restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, I felt so much closer to France, indulging daily in specialties from the Old Country.
|French restaurants at every street corner (well, almost.)|
|The French boulangerie… New York style…|
|Crêpe au Nutella… How bad can that be?|
|Enjoying a cappuccino and a mille-feuille in a beautiful setting…
Washington Square Park
(my friends at Mille-Feuille bakery use authentic boulangerie paper bags to deliver the goods.)
|The Salted caramel éclair chez Dominique Ansel bakery was simply extraordinaire!|
Maybe that’s why I love New York so much. It is 100% American, the New World; yet the city is proudly diverse and cosmopolitan. It is easy to spot her multicultural heritage in her history, her buildings, her food. And in many [good] ways, New Yorkers remind me of Parisians, a bit rough around the edges, impatient, but deep inside, proud of their city and happy to show her off.