Place Settings #41: May 18, 2014

AlyxFood

Eat: A big plate of sliced meats, cheeses, butter, and fruit from Café Anna Blume in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg. As much as I am a fan of an espresso and a pain au chocolat in the morning, I think German breakfasts are my favorite. They are basically the equivalent of grazing on a bunch of different things from a well-stocked refrigerator, which is my preferred way of eating.

Drink: A warm cup of coffee under an umbrella on a chilly, rainy, German morning. (more…)

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Read Up: Berlin Blogs

Berlin Blogs

As I mentioned on Sunday, I’m heading to Berlin this weekend for a quick visit. I’ve never been to Berlin before, so I’ve been consulting my friends, speed-reading travel guides in bookstores, and of course browsing Berlin’s corner of the internet. During the course of my research, I’ve stumbled across some fantastic Berlin-based blogs that I wanted to share with all of you. Some of them are literally about the things to do, see, and eat in Berlin, but some are just lovely blogs that capture that Berlin je ne sais quoi. So whether you are planning a trip to Germany’s trendiest city or not, these links are worth a click. Bonus: they are all written in English.

Stil in Berlin is run primarily by Mary Sherpe, a contributing writer and photographer for Vogue Germany, and has a little bit of everything. Shopping, eating, and sightseeing guides (I found this blog while searching for Berlin coffee spots), art reviews, street fashion, and more. The photography and design is beautiful and it’s been the perfect starting point for my research. If you’re heading to Berlin, I recommend checking out the many guides on the website. Even if you aren’t, a quick browse through this blog (although it won’t be quick — I get sucked in and read page after page) will give you a lovely glimpse of the city.

I was immediately drawn to Berlin Reified‘s title — who wouldn’t be? It’s creator is Sylee Gore, who was born in Mumbai and grew up in the United States before moving to Berlin in 2000. The blog is a perfect mix of Berlin recommendations and beautiful lifestyle photos. Each post reads like a mini personal essay that includes a bit of Sylee’s life and an interesting Berlin spot or two. This blog makes for a wonderful read no matter where you are.

Überlin‘s creators, Zoë and James, packed up their London life several years ago and moved to Berlin (Randomly picking up and moving to another country? Sounds like something I’d do…), where they now maintain a gorgeous blog. Überlin also has a little bit of everything for all kinds of readers. Some posts are Berlin-specific, like their food and drink section or their recommendations for things to do around the city. Other posts will appeal to everyone, like “Music Mondays” and their thoughts on living an expat life. And with archives going back to 2010, it’s easy to spend an afternoon reading post after post.

I can feel a Best Wishes from Berlin addiction coming on. Jessica Jungbauer started Best Wishes in 2010 to document the lives of creative people living in Berlin. It’s now a magazine as well and there are Best Wishes from Amsterdam, Oslo, London, San Francisco, Melbourne, and Minneapolis. The short profiles on the website include recommendations for places to go and things to see in Berlin, but it’s also fascinating to learn about all these creative people and the projects on which they are currently working. Some of the subjects are expats living in Berlin and I love discovering which expat experiences we have in common and which are specific to Paris/Berlin.

Unlike Berlin City Guide is definitely oriented towards people living in or visiting Berlin, as it has comprehensive coverage of restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries, hotels, and other adventures (Unlike covers a host of other cities all over the world as well). It’s a bit overwhelming if you are like me and don’t know the city at all, but the great photographs and seemingly endless supply of information make it a great trip-planning resource. In fact, this website alone makes me wish I were going for much longer!

I hope this was interesting for you, even if Germany isn’t on your horizon. The first four of these websites have permanent spots in my RSS reader (Unlike Berlin is safely stowed in my “Berlin” Evernote folder in case I ever go back and need more tour guide-like information again). I’m even more excited for my Berlin getaway after scrolling through these blogs. Do you have any Berlin recommendations (online or in real life)?

Loire Valley #5: On the way home

A few weeks ago, I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (last one!). Hope you enjoy!

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We’re finally at the end of the trip.

I. Tours Cathedral

Tours is the biggest city in the part of the Valley where we were staying and while we didn’t spend much time there, we did pop into town to see the cathedral. It’s not as big as Chartres, but it’s still quite impressive. Tours also took almost 400 years to build, compared to Chartres’s 55 years, to put Chartres in perspective. As a result, there are many different architectural styles visible in the building. Obviously the dominant style is Gothic, but some of the buttresses are Romanesque and the tops of the towers are early Renaissance.  (more…)

Place Settings #40: May 11, 2014

Place Settings #40

Eat: A kiwi, some sliced mango, and spicy mashed avocado on Krisprolls. A very satisfying breakfast after doing one of Tone It Up‘s HIIT workouts. My friend Dani (check out her great health and fitness blog Eat, Sweat, Smile) has been a big fan of Tone It Up for years and I’ve jumped on the bandwagon since a knee injury has been keeping me from running.

Drink: Red Rose tea, almond milk, honey. I actually don’t even have any coffee in the apartment right now, can you believe it? I have, however, been frequenting KB Cafeshop the past few weeks for my fix of filter coffee, reclaimed wood tables, and bespectacled, Macbook-toting café-mates.

Read: I started French classes on Monday, so I’ve been devoting a lot of my reading time to studying. It might seem strange that I’m only just starting French classes after four months of living here, but it’s because I spent the first several months learning a lot just by listing and running errands (I started from basically zero French). To study, I’ve been reviewing our textbook and making flashcards on these handy Muji Key Ring Memo Blocks.

I’ve also been reading about Berlin because I’m going for three days next weekend. Do any of you have Berlin recommendations? So far my schedule includes a bunch of museums and as many coffee shops as possible (The Barn — I’m coming for you).

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

PS Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Loire Valley #4: Loches and Montresor

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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We’re back to the châteaux today with two of my favorite stops: Loches and Montrésor.

I. Loches

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Loches is probably best known as the favorite home of Agnès Sorel, favorite mistress of King Charles VII and Medieval power woman. She died of mercury poisoning (it’s still unknown if it was a murder or an accidental poison — she was taking mercury for a number of health conditions she had) when she was just 27 years old, but she spent her life encouraging Charles VII to become a more active French leader, attending court, and having three children with the king, all of whom he took care of after her death. Her remains have been abused and moved around a lot in the past 500 years, but they are finally back where she wanted them to be, in the St. Ours church at Loches. (more…)

Loire Valley #3: Fauna and Fungi

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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As I continue to bombard you with Loire Valley recaps, I thought we’d take a break from the châteaux in favor of some animals and mushrooms.

I. Zooparc de Beauval

Anyone who knows me also knows that I love zoos. I know I’m not supposed to, or that at the very least I’m supposed to be extremely skeptical of wild animals kept in enclosures for our viewing pleasure, but I can’t help it. So I was very pleased to discover that France’s largest zoo was a mere 20 minutes away from our little moulin. (more…)

Place Settings #39: May 4, 2014

Pace Settings #39

Eat: Strawberries and blood orange chia seed pudding. I was never sure what to do with chia until I had an orange juice chia seed pudding at Kaffee 1668 in Tribeca last year. After some googling, I discovered that you just mix up some chia seeds with a liquid of your choice (fruit juices and milk were the most popular) and leave it in the refrigerator overnight and it turns into a pudding-like texture. I’m actually not a huge pudding fan, but using juice gives it a lighter, fresher texture than milk does. I used blood orange juice, which is why it’s so dark.

Drink: A little bit of coffee and some goji berry juice from The Berry Company that I picked up on a whim during a Carrefour run. Despite the juice’s bright orange color, there’s allegedly no artificial coloring (or preservatives or artificial sweeteners) in it. It was delicious and I drank the whole glass in about two gulps.

Read: Still on Love in the Time of Cholera, and still enjoying it (my progress got delayed by The Borgias, which took up a lot of my relaxation time this week; all three seasons are on Netflix and I stormed through them). So far, it actually most reminds me of Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual, not so much in the specific subject matter, but in how García Márquez and Perec draw their characters. In both books, each character is given not only a personality, but a full and extremely detailed back story. For a while, you think that these backgrounds extremely long tangents, but after a while you realize that these tangents are in fact the meat of the book (ahem, not unlike life, thank you Monsieur Perec). The first quarter of Love in the Time of Cholera moves in a very similar manner, each new story arc being supplanted by another as soon as you think you have settled into it. (more…)

Loire Valley #2: The Châteaux Spectrum

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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I. Cheverny

I told you last time that symmetry would make a comeback, and so, behold: Cheverny, the perfectly symmetrical château. Just take a moment to appreciate how pleasing it is. The inside of the château was very pleasing as well; it felt almost British in style, with many rooms decorated in late-18th/early19th century style. It’s also quite famous as the inspiration for Château de Moulinsart, the fictional residence in Hergé’s Tintin books. It is only surprising to me that Cheverny’s exquisite symmetry hasn’t been the inspiration for many more fictional homes.

Cheverny has a long history of hunting and still keeps a kennel of some fifty hounds. It might have been the rain that day, but they were some of the saddest dogs I have ever seen. They looked perfectly healthy, but also kind of sad and bored. Is that just the life of a hunting dog? (more…)

Loire Valley #1: From Here to There

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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An inalienable right of any city-dweller is getting to say, “It’s so nice to get out of the city” every once in a while.  As much as I enjoy my urban homes on both sides of the Atlantic, quality time with the countryside allows me to appreciate both environments more clearly and more deeply. So while I love Paris, I was also happy to leave it for a short time to soak up the joys of the springtime Loire Valley.

I. Chartres

As you can see from the photo above, we made a quick stop at Chartres on our way out of Paris, a must-see for any gothic cathedral enthusiast. It’s considered one of the — if not the — best examples of gothic architecture; it’s hard to believe that it was constructed in just 55 years when so many other architecturally inferior cathedrals took centuries to build (although to be fair, that was often a funding issue). I’m not religious myself, but I can imagine entering the cathedral in the 13th century and being completely in awe of the church’s power. (more…)

Place Settings #38: April 27, 2014

Place Settings #38

Eat: Red berry granola with almond milk. It took me forever to find fake milk here, but I happened to spot it in the “organic” aisle yesterday.

Drink: Red Rose black tea with honey and almond milk.

Read: I’ve never read anything by Gabriel García Márquez, and his recent passing prompted me to pick up Love in the Time of Cholera, which has been sitting on my Kindle for years. I’m only 5% of the way through, but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m also really impressed with my friend Alice’s emoji-reading skills:

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I’m having a kind of low-key, life administration Sunday, getting back into the flow of regular life after a week of relaxation, eating, and châteaux-trotting in the Loire Valley.

How was your weekend?