guest post

guest post: paris - new york

  {a French native herself- Lady Liberty}

It’s my home away from home. Whenever I have a few days off, it’s my breath of fresh air. I know it sounds weird – fresh air? In New York? As a random stranger once put it, “Nueva York is… Crazy, man”! My friends have a few days off, they go one of two ways: they go relax (in Thailand, in the South of France), or they go exotic (Tanzania, or Uzbekistan. Journalists are insufferable snobs like that). I go Manhattan. If I’m lucky, once or twice a year. Otherwise, I become my own kind of insufferable: constantly nostalgic and complaining every two minutes that I miss this or that, and why isn’t there any decent pizza in Paris.

I have a visceral attachment to New York, and the reasons keep coming to me in a jumble that’s hard to put into words. First, it’s a place you’ve got to earn. It’s aggressive, it’s uncomfortable, it’s dirty and noisy. It’s not nice; it’s not even pretty; it can be incredibly lonely. Getting to feel at ease in this environment – in fact, feeling at home – takes time and a thick skin. New York is all tough love – it takes from you and only then does it give back.

Second, it’s about freedom and diversity. It’s a cliché: Manhattan as a playground for the dreamers, the ambitious, and a home for the misfits. But it’s still true. Nobody cares where you came from: everyone is from somewhere else; everyone has an accent. For someone who comes from a dual culture like I do, it’s a blessed relief from old identity issues. Nobody cares about your past: the only thing that matters is what you’re doing with your present. It’s wildly liberating. And the result is it encourages you to become yourself – to grow into yourself – in a way nothing else does. Oh, and nobody cares what you’re wearing. That’s something you notice right away coming from Paris: everyone doesn’t look the same, and my god – how refreshing. Parisians have style; we can tie our scarf just so; but we don’t have that – that chutzpah!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a Paris native, and I love my hometown, too. It’s beautiful, it’s refined, and it’s extremely civilized, with top-notch public schools, excellent health care, an unmatched cultural scene, a very high quality of life. It’s a constant delight of the senses – and at CheckYourRoom, we love exploring the highlights. We look for the hidden treasures (there are many) and the Parisian pleasures. But here’s the rub: coming from a place of such patrician good taste and dolce vita ways, New York is an explosion of energy and excess; its grittiness, its youth, sometimes its vulgarity are exhilarating. The Dionysus to our Apollo.

And lastly, there are all the little reasons, the little pleasures that are typical of the city. The cheap champagne cocktails: bellinis, or bubbly with bitters and a sugar cube. Swiping my Metrocard on the subway. Running across the platform to grab the express train when it pulls in at just the right time. Drinking non-French wines: as a principle I never drink French wine when in New York. I go for the Californian, the Chilean. The annoying wait at every good restaurant – and how easy it is to put your name down and go wait at a nearby bar. Pizza by the slice – folding it length-wise and eating while walking. The food carts – how you can get every sort of lunch imaginable from, well, a truck. The casualness – how people walk around in flip-flops, even though the streets are filthy. The cupcake craze – I love the Betty Crocker look, I love the sugar shock. I love the cupcake truck. The Strand bookstore. The children sledding in the parks in January. The madness at Fairway on Sunday evenings. The Hungarian pastry shop uptown and its hot insomniacs with Jesus complexes. The view from Brooklyn. The god-awful hazelnut coffee you can get at random bodegas. Speaking of coffee, those Greek “we are happy to serve you” blue paper cups. The Edward Hoppers at the Whitney. The crowd of beautiful young people on the L train Friday nights – because Williamsburg is where it’s at, today. Tomorrow, it’ll be someplace else. The young and cool will get nudged out, and they’ll go looking for New York somewhere else in New York.
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This post was written by Loulou of CheckYourRoom and CheckYourCity: "Parisian by birth, New Yorker at heart, definite city girl. I can’t tell an oak tree from a birch tree, but I know my way through urban jungles! Journalist, dreamer and thrill-seeker – I love travel, long dinners, moody cities and telling stories..."