Double Espresso Con Panna

I kindly asked strangers in NYC to take some photos of me; they kindly obliged.
I kindly asked strangers in NYC to take some photos of me; they kindly obliged.

*Written on March 10*

Here I am, back at the writing, or pencil pushing as I like to call it. Of course once again, I wait until my visit to the big apple to get back to the blog. With every trip that I make, I am satisfied. Not just to New York, but in general, my journeys give me a sense of fulfillment that the great state of Rhode Island just can’t give me. No shade to my state, which in my opinion, is lovely; but sometimes, you need that time to miss places where you’re comfortable and familiar, like home.

I’m excited to be here in New York City as the quintessential travel junkie that I am. I’ve spent the day fairly serendipitously, and if I may, I’d like to commend myself being savvy with the pockets. I caught the 6:15 a.m. Megabus from Providence. With the recent daylight saving’s time, a piece of the morning has been stolen to provide us with longer days. So there I was, running down Canal St. in what was actually Providence’s five o’ clock in the morning state of mind. There wasn’t much sound around… just the rumbling of Amtrak’s train tracks and the scuffling of my boots as I ran for the bus in what is still an icy city. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I was running at all. I suppose I’m so used to running late that it was only natural that when I saw the bus sitting dormant on the street, that I would take hike as I do often in my commutes whether by public transit, on foot, or in my tiny compact car. I spent most of the long but most indefinitely cheap ride sleep. Soundlessly, which is unlike this woman’s roaring snore. Admittedly, it’s bad.

Having arrived to New York, almost five hours later after a stop and go trip to the city, I maintained focused on my first mission — to Ground Zero. I’ve taken both selfish and selfless trips to NYC, catering to my own by giving myself what I’m notorious for – “me” days – where I kind of just pick up and go – and others, where I make the trip to the city as the bag lady that I am, with a birthday outfit packed ready to celebrate a friend. Back again, I wanted to do something different, something that I thought I should have done sooner – to visit the 9/11 Memorial. I took Subway 1 down toward South Ferry St. and made my way off my cart on Rector St. which took me a block away from what used to be the big apple’s twin towers or World Trade Center. Now, the financial district is still under construction but in the midst oft loud chaos of rebuilding what was an infamous symbol of New York’s glory, but you can also find a reflective area in tribute to the lives lost on September 11, 2001. Like many, I still remember where I was that very day.

Following my time at One World Trade, I enjoyed the rest of the City trying things like Chicken and Waffles in the Lower East Side, catching up on a couple of chapters of one of my new reads in a café, and taking a double espresso shot with whip cream or con panna in SoHo. As my afternoon closed on me, I made my way to the Empire State building for an exclusive event with the URI Alumni Association. It was my first time in the building that is known to hover NYC’s fellow skyscrapers.I joined other professionals on the 22nd floor for a tour of the LinkedIn offices and meet-and-greet with other alumni. It was certainly enjoyable and worth the trip. Reuniting with a friend or mentee was certainly a highlight. There’s something incredible about people going their own way yet meeting again only to recognize that they have grown together. Although there was time apart, experiences were still shared, and progress still continued.

I’ve learned this is natural in life – in relationships and in lessons. Must we be so stubborn about progress? We should remember to take time, walk away from those things of which we hope for, only with trust, knowing that when we return, an experience will have been made, and progress will have occurred

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Just A Thought

Currently thinking about what life would be like if we were granted the red easy button. Rather for the purpose of making things elementary, but with aims of withdrawal. Simply put, to be the delete button to life that we’ve all been waiting for. This is no somber dear diary entry or letter of concern. It’s more of a call to my own self to embrace this desire of selfishness that I’ve certainly ignored for long. There’s only so much that one can do and give in this world and I rarely preach a practice that ceases kind intentions because the same are not returned. However, I am writing in a moment where I am assessing my own burdens and wonder when and why they have become my own, when in reality the rooted issues are from others. God bless the people who can endure such heaviness while maintaining a divine poise. I’ve walked that walk many times before but weary is the soul and empty is the heart. It is not a blameless affliction. Condemnation lies in my very own hands and makes strides in my mind. Moments filled with thoughts, beliefs, just down right senseless convincing that change is possible. Trust me, this is no question to my faith, my gift of faith — but it is a concern to the very hope that I’ve held onto for years. Hope that has compelled me to an unruly confidence, a matter of persuasion, and an interest in the new. Hope is good, it brings life and light, but is hope beyond the self in good health? Just a thought.

The City And Dream That Deserved A Chance

A candid at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I wasn't ready, but I still love it.
A candid at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I wasn’t ready, but I still love it.

New York City – home of the Empire State Building, the grounds of the Yankee hat that Jay-Z ‘made more famous than a Yankee can,’ the port of Carrie Bradshaw and friends’ Sex And The City; all of this and more, in the five boroughs of people, places, and things, that makes what is supposed to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. I say supposed to, because for me, New York City has always been the place that you either love or hate, and I’ve always taken on the latter view. Despite my enthusiasm for excursions and exploring cities, NYC has never been at the top of my travel junkie bucket list, but I’m finally recognizing why that is.

Most of my experiences with The City have been in the midst of the absolutely overwhelming blocks of 42nd Street. Sure, I can appreciate the glitz and glamour of the billboards near Fashion Avenue, standing just as tall as the Providence skyline, paying homage to the material world — but I never found appreciation in the swarm of people and always felt a sense of gluttonous aesthetics. However, I realized that overall, I hadn’t even had a real bite into the Big Apple. All of what I had known about The City had been a collection of my ignorance and outlier experiences. Thankfully, with time to humble myself, a wonderful friend to show me hospitality just minutes away in Jersey, and a much needed excursion, I have finally given New York City the chance it’s never had.

My visits to NY have always followed the routine of visiting the ridiculously overrated tourist areas like Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, and the Empire State Building. And let me add, there’s nothing wrong with tourist areas. Trust me, in most of the places that I visit, I am the ultimate tourist. Yet, all in all, I believe some of the best moments of a journey derive from the simple pleasures of the most authentic places like the hidden café that I’m sitting in right now in Brooklyn. And as I think back on most of the places that I’ve been, my favorite memories always begin and end in the most unconventional places like the sublime Red Rock Canyon miles outside of Vegas’ wild strip, or the bashful beaches of Milwaukee undertaken by their infamous beer and cheese, and even the evanescent corroding basement music venue that I found in Paris.

I am blessed to have traveled and hope in a few years will be said to many places. I remember dreaming of a life like this as a little girl; wanting to escape the few square miles of my family’s naturally poor but rich in spirit lifestyle in Providence. I never thought my grandparents imprisoned my siblings and I to the streets of South Side and I know if they could have given us more, we would have had it at their first chance. My grandmother reminds me of she and my grandfather’s dreams to move to Los Angeles later in life. But they deferred that dream to salvage the structure of what a family should be. What could have been destroyed by my parents’ then and now forgiven abandonment, addiction, and recreational relationship with the 80s delivery of carnage in the urban community, was mended by the forever grateful selflessness of my dear grandparents. It warms my heart and almost brings me to tears every time I really think about it. They pushed pause on their dreams so that my sister and brothers could push play on ours. And now, in my own mini-vacation, I can even meddle with my imagination and think on those things that gives my dreams a chance.

My appetite for traveling has only grown and so has the passion in my dreams. And moments like this, where I can rest my keyboard on my lap, have a cup of mocha or black tea at hand, and enjoy writing is absolutely therapeutic. On the Surface literally and figuratively (shout outs to one of Microsoft), I don’t stop at just writing. I am always thinking, always reflecting; engaging in a means of reflection that sometimes doesn’t shine or release itself the way it should in our most common quarters. It’s a God-given antidote that I cherish and make a priority in my life. It’s my own personal time to awaken the creative inertia that I have inside of me – and what better place to do it than New York City.

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The super cool café where I did some writing today.
The super cool café where I did some writing today.
The view of The City's skyline from BK.
The view of The City’s skyline from BK.

Au Revoir Paris, Hello Beautiful!

The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night!
The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night!

Wednesday was quite a passionate day for me. I spent the night prior rolling my clothes and packing again to reorganize for my check in at a bed and breakfast that I rented for my final days in Paris. I would be leaving the lovely Chartres for Paris’ roaring city center near l’Opera. I would bother the tellers at the Ticket Information of Chartres one more time with my poor French and leave my RER travels behind me. We boarded the train on voie 1B and as the SNCF train glided us northbound toward Paris, I took advantage of a must needed nap after a late night of re-packing.

When we arrived at Montparnasse we did our best to pull my luggage through the swarm of people in the city. We bought our day passes through le Vente Information for only 6€80 and took le metro toward l’Opera. Surprisingly, Paris’ metro isn’t as handicapped friendly as one would think, so we continuously pulled my luggage up flights of stairs following exit signs that read Sortie.

With the help of Google maps, we found my stay, which was only three blocks away from the beautiful Opera building. My host welcomed me to cinqeme, or the fifth floor and I checked into my cozy B&B. I would miss the company in Marco’s petit appartement, but I wanted to be closer to the city during my last days of travel. After settling in we set out our itinerary. I wanted to see le Tour Eiffel, but the rain was upon us. But, today was the day, I told myself. I would put on my hat and bring an umbrella for the le rue.

The first agenda item of the day was to take the M to the 16th arrondisement, in which a friend suggested had the best views of le Eiffel. After pushing through the doors of the metro we walked up toward the Trocadéro and I gazed ahead at a much closer peek of the beautiful structure, this time being blocked by pillars of the Trocadéro. When the pedestrian signal gave us our right to way, we continued walking behind the building and ahead of me was what I was finally waiting for. Very light rain joined us for the viewing and I was astounded by the moment. Solicitors tried to interject the incredulity, ‘un euro’ they repeated, shaking their souvenir towers in hand, ‘no, merci’, I declared.

I looked ahead and I could not move my face from the stunning view. I could have stood there for hours, in the rain, just staring at the Eiffel Tower’s beauty. I politely demanded a miniature photoshoot and made sure to capture the moment as best as I could. Although this was not Marco’s first time seeing the tower, here we were, just a couple of kids from Rhode Island checking out one of the most remarkable structures in the world. As we walked down the hill, I could feel the command of the tower all around me. Next, we would head to le Louvre to enjoy the artistic culture that France provides.

We were escorted into the museum by descending through pyramids outside of the palace and I was overwhelmed with the crowd of people. I was reminded of every big city’s department stores as the holiday season approaches. There were hundreds of people mazing around the four floor gallery. I was given a Plan Map and I knew it would take me hours to accomplish even a bit of the work in le Louvre. I decided to begin my journey with the History of le Louvre, which was fascinating, as it originally constructed as the home to royalty before it became one of the prestigious museums in the world.

We walked through room after room exhibitions on Ancient Egyptian and Greek-Roman Sculpture work. I saw the Venus De Milo in person which is absolutely incredible when one takes just a few steps away from it. I listened to my audio guide which was set up with savvy on the newest Nintendo 3D’s and I was enlightened to the founding of the Venus De Milo. It’s a story of serendipity and treasured finds; the artist is still unknown to this day. Two hours of gallery viewing had passed us by and Marco would be catching the train back to Chartres soon. Before we would depart ways until he returns to the states in May, I promised that I would treat him to some sweets, on me, for his hospitality.

With such short time, I expedited my visit in le musée and headed to the most notable piece of work in le Louvre, that being the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Our feet took on the rhythm of a metropolitan people through the Italian Portrait section of le Louvre and we found ourselves in room six which withheld the beauty. A large amount of people congregated around the painting, which is actually very small in person. I slowly walked up to the work and I could feel heat begin to rise inside of me. I was overcome with an emotional warmth. As I fought the passion, I pondered on why I did not feel the same during my visit to le Eiffel. When I viewed the tower, I experienced nothing but cheerfulness and utter joy. Yet, during my five minutes with the most historical portrait in the world, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and then it finally hit me, I was in Paris.

Almost two weeks ago, when my trip across the Atlantic began to arrive, I remember being continuously asked, can you believe it? Even when I arrived, others reminded me through emails and Facebook messages, that I made it. But, even with the deep immersion that I had taken into the Francophone culture, it did not hit me until I saw that painting. I cannot emphasize how significant this experience was to me, especially in considering my past. As I stared at the expression that Da Vinci depicts, I reminisced on my time as a child, growing up in a big family where the stereotypes of poverty were commonplace and inevitable. Although we were blessed enough to never have to beg, I wonder how a woman like me, growing up in such circumstances, could have held on to such a dream. At what point, did I say, this is something that can happen, and will happen!

I left le Louvre satisfied, even though after almost 2.5 hours, I probably did not see even half of the actual museum. Marco found us a café on Yelp called Anticafe, which offered such a great vibe and unlimited coffee, hot chocolate, desserts, and bread for only €4/heure. The seating was limited, as this place seemed like a go to for the young professional, but we were able to place stools in the corner high rise table and enjoy the café. I thanked Marco for hosting me and joining me on my travels. I honestly expressed appreciation for his patience with me, especially since travel buddies can sometimes cause agitation. “Pas De Souci,” he said, don’t worry. We laughed at our time together and as the clock continued to tick it was time for him to blaze toward the Montparnasse station for the train back to Chartres. I practiced my two French kisses on the check and made sure to leave him with a big American hug.

I walked back to l’Opera from the nearby café to get a better feel of the neighborhood. I bought a bottle of Cabernet to join me for the evening and headed back to the B&B. I began to get ready for my evening out. I had no idea what I was going to be doing and where I was going to go, alone for that matter, but I knew I would figure it out. I picked out my outfit and as my painted nails dried, I explored Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Google recommendations of some cool jazz places in Paris. I found one, Le Caveau des Oubliettes in Chatelét. I decided that would be the one. It was free and it included live music.

Since my day pass would not expire until the morning, I took le metro toward Chatelét where the jazz spot was. I walked in and did a general survey of the place. It was laid back, intimately small, and gave a hipster vibe. Before the live music began, I was entertained by two guys visiting from Amsterdam. I was impressed with their talents in the English language and they even amused me with jokes and the like. The music began and I headed downstairs where the show was. Little did I know, it was open mic night, but it was a different kind of open mic. Several talented musicians sat in the room and they would literally play their instruments to a song chosen by the performer.

A woman with curly locks courted us with welcome belting out Stevie Wonder’s “Very Superstitious.” The bass player complimented her perfectly and as all of the instruments came together in harmony, I knew this was the right place. I sat in the back next to a couple that I met at the bar, they were newlyweds from Texas, but I needed to be closer to the music. I needed to feel it! The night continued with classic American jazz and soul and moved onto Francophone artists of which I had no idea. I cheered for each performer with enthusiasm because they deserved it; these people were good. The night progressed and just as the music in the room kept getting better, so did the energy.

I continued enjoying the night and was blown away by one of the female musicians. An older woman, probably in her late 30s took the stage with guitar in hand and microphone ahead of her and regaled us. Her confidence was admirable and I was drawn in by her zest for music. My body language, usually very expressive, must have connected with hers and she invited me to the stage. “You wanna’ come sing with me. There’s something about your energy. Come up, come up!” Wow, how did she even know that I sing? It was crazy. I shook my head no, because I could not believe what was happening. She insisted and I took the stage and harmonized with her for a minute of a song. It was truly one of the coolest moments ever. The night ended sooner than I thought it would and closing came upon us quickly. I woke up the next morning, smiling, still thinking about the evening before and just the amount of fun that I had at Le Caveau des Oubliettes. It was official, I was smitten.

I took my time getting out of bed on Thursday and decided to finish the leftover items on my itinerary. It rained heavily a couple times throughout the day but I was able to get photos of the Arc De Triomphe, Parc de Monceau, and le Moulin Rouge without drops in sight. I had dinner in le Quatier Chisnois and enjoyed Vietnamese in Parisian Chinatown. I thought about how I would spend my last night in Paris but I did not want to make too many plans. As someone who banks on curiosity and inquisition, I recognize the importance in pausing and sulking in the moment. Visions compliment my futuristic strengths but they also cloud the glory of the moment. So as I waited for l’adittion or check in le Madarin de Choisy, I thought about my new found love, in the city of Lights, I decided to end my evening in exactly that, the lights of Paris.

As I’m concluding this post in the Iceland airport, I am entirely thankful. First, grateful that God revealed such an experience to me and allowed it to happen. And then, appreciative of my family and friends who supported me, and especially to Marco who hosted me. And then, grateful to the city of Paris. I’ve met wonderful people and I’ve been to amazing places. Just being here for a short time has reminded me of the world’s beauty and for some reason, has reminded me of my own beauty.

I am an expressionist, addicted to discovery; creative, cheerful, positive, spiritual, amusing, and much more. Paris has reminded me of this and Paris has showed me that this fusion of who I am is beautiful! I rededicate my life to never settling and always believing in myself and my dreams. I recommit my thoughts to ones that speak positivity, not just for myself but for others. I regain my trust in the Lord who is my foundation and strength. And I declare a harmonious balance of confidence and humility that rejects disbelief. I am everything because I am beautiful, and I am beautiful, because I am me. Au Revoir Paris, Hello Beautiful!

See more pictures here.

Prochain Arrêt (Next Stop): Versailles

The incredible gates of Versailles, no filter.
The incredible gates of Versailles, no filter.

This morning, Marco and I departed ways again. While he remained in Chartres to teach students du college (high school) English, it was time for me to take on another part of France. Today I would conquer Versailles, the home of pre-French Victorian history. Versailles, which is about 20 minutes outside of Paris, sits in a town that has no resemblance of prestige and historical monarch presence. Luckily for me, the Versailles train station was also on the same line from Chartres which made my trip extremely easy, or almost. Because I would be traveling during non-peak hours, I was eligible for discounts but had to buy my tickets at the information desk of the station. Marco and I had it all planend out. I would tell the ticket teller, “je voudrais aller-retour a Versailles avec la reduction ving cinq pour les jeunes,” or I will buy the return ticket to Versailles with the 25% off reduction for young people. Parfait, or at least I thought it was.

I arrived to le gare de Chartres and recited the plan that Marco and I had developed. The dialogue went well and I knew I was understood clearly when the teller nodded her ahead and said “oui.” My brief celebratory smile was interrupted as the teller continued to speak. She went on and due to my surprise and sudden angst of the conversation diverting from the plan, I could not pick up what she said. Something, something, “dix-sept heures,” oh no, could it be that the train was only leaving at 5 p.m.? We both stared each other in the eye with bewilderment for a few seconds as we were lost for many words, but tried to find the simplest of them. I could feel my uneasiness begin to grow as the line behind me did the same. And then it came together, she referenced the times that I would be eligible for the discount, avant 17h or after 20h. I smiled and reassured her, “d’accord, je sais, je sais, oui,” okay, I know, I know, yes.

We laughed at our short misunderstanding and she stamped my ticket Composte, which gave mon billet credibility and I fleeted toward voie deux, where the train from Chartres to Versailles would take me. I made the adolescent choice to go straightforward to the second level of the train, hoping to experience some kind of juvenile excitement from watching France go by on another level. An older man took the seat beside me and wished my morning well with greetings, “bonjour mademoiselle.” He commented on my phone case of le Tour de Eiffel and I again, did not have many words for a response. He asked if I spoke English. “Oui, je parle anglais, seulement un peu de francais.” He continued to go on about English being the the most beautiful language in the world and challenged me to a conversation in which he would talk in only English and my responses would be in French. He completely confirmed my discovery that many French who know English like to practice their skills. And as I engaged in this strangely spontaneous conversation, I hoped he understood that I shared the same sentiment toward the French language.

On the SNCF toward Montparnasse, I knew that I would depart from the train a couple of stops ahead to get to the noteworthy estate, Versailles. I waited for the signs to read, Prochain Arrêt to brace myself for another independent day in France. I left the train station and my heels created an acoustic echo on the cobblestone road. I decided that the royal glory of Versailles deserved a pair of modest heels. Oh, Versailles, just a couple chateaux, I told myself. I can manage a day in heels in a couple chateaux, no big deal. Little did I know, Versailles is more than just a couple of 18th century mansions, it’s humongous grounds cover more than 6 square miles of royal estates. I walked up to the golden gates of Versailles to buy mon billets to the palace and was welcomed into royal glory.

I was in awe of the beauty of interior design by Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, and other influential residents of the territory. As I glided my fingers on the map that was given to me and allowed my feet to follow, I was taken into an 18th century impression of the life of Kings and Queens. I toured the grand canal, various estates, and the royal castle. During the literally gigantic stretches of land, there were displays that advanced my knowledge of the Francophone institution and monarchy. I learned of Queen Marie Antoinette’s regard as the epitome of a historical icon who endorsed arts and culture. Later beheaded during the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette was considered the ultimate socialite of her time and her many rooms were truly evidence of that.

Finally having walked for almost the entire day, I found rejevunation through my snacks that I bought in London. The remaining Starbursts and pieces of Cadbury Chocolate came in handy as I continued strutting throughout the royal estates. There were several jardines, most of them absolutely beautiful and the embodiment of a landscape architect’s fantasy. Many of the works of Versailles extended for miles, from the largest chateauxs to the tiniest homes. The acre of land was fascinating, just a wonder to see.

After enjoying my final moments with swans at the Grand Canal of Versailles, I headed to a restaurant Brasserie de Musée. I was relieved to learn that my waiter was familiar with English but was also happy that he would share patience with me as I surveyed the menu and ordered my food. “J’ai poulet et vin cabernet vingt cinq,” I’ll have the chicken and a 25 cl cabernet, I said. Pretty good, I thought to myself. Quite confident and quite clear.

With almost two hours to kill before my train would arrive at the Versailles-Chantiers station, I walked up le rue toward the SCNF but would stop at whatever place caught my eye, preferable something pas cher. I found a random bar owned by Spanish men who only knew French and Spanish. I chose to have un chocolate maison par ici, a hot chocolate for here. I let time pass me by appropriately and progressed toward the Versailles-Chantiers station where my morning began.

I felt at ease while waiting for my train. All kinds of people passed me by, most of them speaking French, most of which I had no idea, but for some reason I found comfort in my surroundings. Throughout my trip to the East, I’ve only experienced 4 days in France but since I’ve been here, I’ve been entirely open and ready for whatever comes my way. Today I waited for my train to read prochain arrêt and tomorrow, I’ll do the same for whatever my next stop is.

See more pictures of my trip to Versailles, here.