I love hugs. This is one of the little things that I missed when living abroad. In France, I never really got used to giving a kiss on each cheek in greeting or farewell. For one thing, I wasn’t always sure how many to give. In most places, it is two kisses, but I have been kissed three or even four times depending on the region. Some people just touch cheeks together while others give loud, moist kisses. « You don’t give kisses on the cheek right, » I was told by a friend in Burgundy. « You have to make more noise. Don’t just touch cheeks. Give a real kiss, with real noise.» In France, the kiss is apparently an art. Once, we spent New Year’s Eve with friends at a ski lodge and when the clock struck midnight, I had not only to kiss all of our friends, but all of the other people staying at the lodge. That was well over 50 kisses! After so many kisses, all I wanted to do was retreat to the bathroom to wash my face.
I will stick with the hug, this gesture of human warmth. Hugs are great because they are so multipurpose. A hug can mean nice to see you, I’m there for you, congratulations, this is so exciting, see you soon and just about anything else. It is amazing how much can be conveyed with a mere clasping of arms. Now that I am back in a country of hugs, I really appreciate this friendly gesture. I am a fan of the hug.
This morning’s destination : Williamsburg, Brooklyn
We decided to visit the Williamsburg Flea. This colorful flea market is home to food stands, city artists and antique vendors. A lot of the artwork features New York. There was even one artist who draws city scenes on post-its.
Overlooking the water, this flea market offers a beautiful view of Manhattan (see photo). Many people were gathered along the sandy shore and the grass to chat or sunbathe while looking out at the city skyline. As it was very hot, we started with a refreshing glass of cool lemonade followed by a dish of pupusas (see photo). Intrigued by the name, we tried this for the first time and were told that it is a dish from El Salavador consisting of a tortilla like dough stuffed with cheese or meat.
After the flea market, we decided to visit the neighborhood. While strolling casually through the streets of Williamsburg, we made an important discovery, at least for Damien, a cheese shop! Of course we couldn’t resist and found ourselves in front of a large cheese display. The Bedford Cheese Shop offers different products from cheese to jam to chocolate. Everything looked tempting, but I let Damien choose. Not surprisingly, he opted for French cheese and selected a tomme des Pyrénées and a tomme de Levezou. We really enjoyed our time in Williamsburg and finding good cheese was the perfect way to end a pleasant afternoon.
Maybe peanut butter is normal for you, but I’m French and I consider it to be a cultural experience.
After trying some American recipes, bacon chocolate (not so bad) and a bacon macaron (not so great ), this time we went to the Peanut Butter & Co shop. To all my French friends, you too will have to try this. I started with a bacon and peanut butter sandwich. Wow, you need to be really hungry if you get this. The first bite was not so bad, but it was very filling and I only ate half of the sandwich. I saved some room for dessert, a cream cheese, chocolate chip and peanut butter sandwich. I liked this one better. The peanut butter seemed “lighter” thanks to the cream cheese. So I hope that you are hungry now and that you too will try this unique experience in New York City.
Living with someone who didn’t grow up here has allowed me to see New York differently. Sometimes, I feel as if I am seeing it for the first time. « Why are the eggs here white? » (French supermarkets normally offer brown eggs.) “How many feet are there in a meter?» I am supposed to have an explanation for every cultural query, but I don’t always have the answers.
Several years ago, a French friend in New York asked me, « What are those things on the roof? » We were standing by the window and admiring the view. I looked out at the SoHo rooftops, but didn’t see anything in particular. What was my friend talking about? « Right there, on the rooftop, » she insisted. Ok, I saw the roof, but it looked normal to me. There wasn’t anything there. As I was about to tell my friend that it was just a roof , I suddenly understood. She meant the water towers which are situated on many apartment building rooftops (see photo). I had seen them so many times that I didn’t even notice them anymore. The conversation only lasted a few minutes, but I think about it often. It served as a reminder that I could look at something without really seeing it.
This afternoon, we had a glimpse of the history of the Lower East Side starting with a trip to the Museum at Eldrige Street. This museum is actually a renovated synagogue (founded in 1887). We spent a long time admiring the lovely and richly colored stained glass windows (see photo). Today, the synagogue is in Chinatown, but this was once a Jewish neighborhood. Our guide explained that the synagogue was a neighborhood gem. It allowed worshipers to leave behind, for a moment at least, a life of factories and cramped living conditions while providing a beautiful place of peace, reflection and hope.
After Eldridge Street, we headed to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street). This museum offers guided tours of a tenement building. The story of some of the building’s previous tenants is told focusing on the challenges faced by immigrants. I really enjoyed this story telling approach. We tried to imagine what New York would have been like a century ago.
We recently discovered a French bakery in Soho. Why is it so special? It has sparked a new culinary trend. Since we arrived in New York, we keep hearing about the “Cronut”. This cross between a croissant and donut has brought flocks of people to this downtown bakery. While we are not ready to take the plunge and wait for over an hour at 7 in the morning just to get one, we opted instead to try some of the other pastries which we could buy at the reasonable hour of 11 when the Cronutivores have long since retired. Verdict: Very good pastries that remind me of France.