Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Suffering is optional.

Jim Rohn famously said that we're the average of the five people we spend the most time with. With that said, I've been surrounding myself with people who I look up to socially and physically in regards to fitness.

So I've been doing my best to stay healthy these past few months and in doing so I've picked up running.

I've always been predisposed to hate running. I have flat feet and so for the longest time I've only run indoors on a treadmill. Lately though, I've taken to running outdoors. Partly because it doesn't require me to pay for a gym membership and partly because it can be done anywhere, but mostly because I wanted to challenge myself more physically.

My siblings have been a large influence in this; both of my brothers are avid runners these days. My family overall is extremely health conscious.

I've gotten to the point where I can run longer distances comfortably. And with that I've developed a newborn confidence in myself and in my body. It's incredible to witness how the human body can adjust slowly to endure more physical stress. My body always feels sluggish when I start to run but once I reach the halfway point of my run, something always changes. In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami writes about the importance of having a mantra while you're running. One that he's particularly fond of is "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." That one resonated with me.

The Berkeley Half Marathon is in the beginning of November this year. I still haven't paid for my registration, but I'm building up the courage to soon!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Succulent.

I purchased this succulent on my way back from brunch at Guerilla Cafe last weekend. I've passed that particular florist for the past 8 years and had never stepped inside until then. I like the flowers that bloom from it--adding a bit of whimsy. In any case, I love having some green in my apartment. It sure does liven up the space.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Manhattan Beach.

I've always liked the idea of setting rituals and traditions. When you're working at a desk job, time tends to slip right out of your hands. It's becoming harder for me to remember the way I've felt during certain events in my life in the past, so I think establishing certain rituals really adds meaning to my life. Life goes on, indifferent to your troubles or moments of joy. Rituals act as a form of punctuation.

So naturally when I got the chance to go home for July 4th weekend I specifically asked to visit Manhattan Beach. It's become something of my own summer ritual with my brother. We had a sangria-filled lunch at Simmzy's and wandered along the pier afterwards. The perfect way to kick off the long weekend if you ask me.

Mansur Gavriel.

What is it with women and their handbags? I am obsessed with them. I feel frivolous for writing about this, but it's pretty much impossible to overstate the significance of the handbag as an accessory. It's more than just a repository for daily essentials--it makes a statement and in a sense becomes an extension of yourself. It creates a first impression and projects an image.

This thing of beauty above is the latest thing to have captured my eye. I am completely enamored. I received a tote bag from Mansur Gavriel as a birthday gift last year, and have been following the dynamic duo behind the label ever since. They blew up overnight and have covered in countless fashion publications. They are incredibly responsive on social media as well and have done gangbusters in turning instagram followers into rabid brand ambassadors--including myself. Look at me, I'm writing about them! 

In any case, it's really tough to snag a bag these days. They opened their website to orders and sold out almost immediately. I am particularly in love with with their mini bucket bags right now, but will have to be content with admiring on social media for now. 

Mini Bucket Bag (Black Flamma)

Thursday, July 10, 2014


We debated for a long time between visiting Giverny or Versailles. I went through an obsessive Monet phase when I was 10-13 so I pushed for Giverny in the end and I'm so glad I did! The day we went was on yet another strike day for the TGV, so the train situation was a bit tricky but we made it in the end. It's an easy 45 minute train ride outside Paris. Once you get out of the station, you take a shuttle to the gardens and to Monet's home!

I can hardly believe the photo I took above is actually real. Walking through the gardens was incredibly surreal after spending most of my life thinking of Monet in a more abstract sense. It pretty much looks like the painting itself in person. If you love flowers, then visiting Giverny is an absolute must. The gardens were absolutely exploding with flowers. Summer is the perfect time of year to come, but be ready for the crowds and the heat!

Angelina | 1er

There are some reliable chains that you can count on when traveling through Paris. Paul was my favorite place to grab a quick bite and of course the above, Angelina. We went to the one next to the Tuileries. Between the two of us we just had the breakfast which included four croissants and two pieces of bread with an assortment of jams to share between two people. Andrew tried their famous hot chocolate--which was delicious but a bit too heavy after the first few minutes. I had orange juice and coffee. All in all, a comparable experience to brunch at Ladurée and surprisingly filling too! The macarons were really good but I'm still ever faithful to Chantal Guillon macarons in Hayes Valley!

226 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
Concorde/Madeleine, 1er

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Les Cocottes | 7ème

Our first dinner in Paris was in the 7ème arrondisement at Les Cocottes. We wanted to eat nearby the Eiffel Tower so that we could walk over afterwards to see the lights turn on and sparkle.

This was a really modern establishment compared to all of the other places we had eaten in France at that point. It's run by Christian Constant, who is something like the head judge of the French version of Top Chef. There was swag from his cookbooks behind the bar of the restaurant which made me a little weary. But, all in all it was a wonderful experience--and a really American one at that.

We didn't have to ask for une carafe d'eau; it came automatically. That was the most common mistake I made while traveling--failing to specify what kind of water I wanted. We ended up paying for bottled water needlessly on several occasions. The waiters also come back to check on you and ask how you're doing which is basically unheard of in most French restaurants.

We shared the foie gras to start with. I had the beef bavette for my main dish (pictured above) and it was delicious! Very tender...although it wasn't hot enough in my opinion. For dessert we shared the creme brulee, pretty conventional but it was really well done.

This was a really easy dinner night--no waiting for a table or dealing with grumpy waiters muttering putains under their breath. We walked in around 6 PM (which is extremely early for dinner in France) and were seated immediately at the bar. I'd easily recommend it to another friend.

135 rue Saint Dominique
75007 Paris
Tour Eiffel/Champ de Mars, 7ème

Paris, at last.

We left Lyon and its oppressive heat and escaped to Paris via the TGV. I visited Paris for the first time back in March for a weekend when I was in London for work. But here's the thing--I didn't love it the first time.

Paris might not be for everyone, but for nearly half of my life I was a staunch Francophile. I took French language classes for 8 years, read Le Clézio, studied French culture, became deeply fixated by its immigration problems, their penchant for les gréves and complaining for the sake of complaining. I loved all things French yet had never gone until this past year.

Perhaps it was too much of my idealization of France clashing with the realities of arriving for the first time as an American. Heck, it was my first time out of the country back in March as an adult. Needless to say, I felt like an outsider. Despite all its charms, Paris greeted me with indifference in the end. This time around, I ended my two week vacation in Paris. There's always a comfort in returning to a place even if it spit you out the first time around. We were elated to just have been out of Lyon. We were beginning to go a little stir crazy, especially because of the heat wave.

This time around, Paris revealed herself to me for the first time ever. I fell in love with how beautiful it was. The light truly is different. But I had amazing experiences as well. The food this time around was far better than the first. The people were not quite as friendly as the Spanish, but welcoming still.

When we got off the train, it was pouring. We checked into our hotel looking like wet dogs, but were elated nonetheless. Promptly after cleaning ourselves up, the sun came out and we went outside for a stroll. We walked from our hotel near Sacré Coeur over to the Tuileries and just walked and walked. We stopped by the Eiffel Tower and snapped photos before heading over to Les Cocottes for an early dinner. After dinner we just kept...walking and talking. Walking and talking.


"...I fell in love with Paris. Paris--and this is the tricky thing--though it is always and indubitably itself, is also in its nature a difficult city to love for itself alone. What truly makes Paris beautiful is the intermingling of the monumental and the personal, the abstract and the footsore particular, it and you. A city of vast and impersonal set piece architecture, it is also a city of the small and intricate, improvised experience." ~ Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Beaujolais & Perouges

If you're ever in Lyon, you must make it out to wine country. It's an easy thirty minute drive out of the city. We booked a small tour in advance so we could avoid the hassle of renting and driving a car in a foreign country. If Lyon has one thing over all of the other cities we visited, it is the wine. We did a wine tasting at Dominique Guillard's winery and it was amazing. Everything was delicious. I especially liked the gamay rosé and some of the lighter reds that were perfect for drinking on hotter summer days. Each bottle was only 5 EUROS. I wanted to walk away with an entire crate full, but you can only drink so much wine between two people. We ended up choosing to drink in moderation and purchased two bottles.

I learned that the Beaujolais wine isn't aged in oak here. They actually use vines that can go up to 100 years old. It was really interesting to see the flower covered fields that were left out to lay fallow until it was time to replant again. I also learned that the quality of the wine is largely determined by the soil--soil that is best suited when the terrain is very hilly--hence all of the dramatic views as seen below.

The views were incredible. We drove throughout the Beaujolais region and made pitstops in Perouges and Oingt--old towns that contained buildings all made from yellow stones from the quarries in the region. It was cherry season at the time as well. We passed by trees swollen with cherries ready for picking. I wanted to just stick my arm out the window and grab a fist full as we passed by on those rolling hills.

There were a lot of castles in the area as well; many which are still occupied and remain private residences. Doesn't that sound nice? There are of course newer buildings as well, but they must all be painted yellow to follow the regional yellow stone tradition. I thought the funniest bit on the tour was when we learned that in the past, vinters were forced to pay taxes to the churches in the form of wine grapes. Of course, they would only hand over the crap grapes which angered authorities. So they demanded wine next, which produced the same result: crap wine. Eventually, the churches were allowed to determine which time of year and exactly when they could go and choose the grapes themselves. Those tricky vinters, I like them. All in all, I had a blast that day sightseeing and sipping wine with Andrew.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Next stop, Lyon.

Arriving to Lyon was a bit disheartening at first. The side of town we were staying in vaguely recalled Los Angeles with its modern structures and congested roads. But I grew to love Lyon in a way. It was the part of our trip where I started to feel as if I were living in France rather than just passing through on stolen time. Shopping at the open air market for supplies for dinner, browsing aimlessly at Monoprix to escape the heat briefly, and watching dubbed American shows like Friends in the early evening hours. This is what I imagined an alternative life to be like if I were Lyonnais.

We flew into Lyon from Barcelona and took the train to our AIRBNB on Rue Vauban. This was the first time we had ever rented out an entire unit through AIRBNB. The apartment was really quaint and quiet compared to the place we stayed at in Barri Gotic in Barcelona.  A quiet student welcomed us into the apartment with a neat set of directions and a basket of pre-packaged croissants.I let out a sigh of relief when we arrived because it was exactly what we needed at that point. A place to recharge and take it a bit slow, especially since Andrew came down with something of a summer cold. 

With the sweltering heat, we moved a bit more slowly throughout our stay. Days were spent walking rather listlessly across the bridge to the main part of town. This is what I imagined summer to be like for residents--enjoying the sights around as much as possible while bearing with the heat. It would be 90 degrees even after sunset...easily 100 or over at noon.

I liked how carefree everyone seemed around the river. Students would be lounging on the grass amongst friends, half emptied bottles of wine with baguettes and saucisson aplenty. After our dinner at a bouchon (one of many to come), we walked along the Rhone and returned home. The sun doesn't set in the summer easily until past 10 PM. There was an eccentric older man doing his evening exercise. Every time he ran through, the crowd would hilariously (and I hope not mockingly, because that kind of breaks my heart) cheer along like fans at a soccer match. 

In Lyon, we started establishing some rituals. Walking through those quiet streets back to Rue Vauban. Stopping by the little market to buy some fruit or ice cold cans of Coca Cola. Browsing Les Halles de Lyon for groceries. Padding around the apartment barefoot. Watching random segments on the television (like this strangely engrossing French fry documentary) and hastily attempting to translate so Andrew could follow along. I think that's what ultimately made me appreciate Lyon more. Dublin too. It made me nostalgic for the time when we weren't in a long distance relationship. Not to say that Lyon was god awful and that you should never visit. But it just didn't resonate with me as a vacation spot as much as Barcelona and Paris--I guess, for the very reasons I listed above for appreciating it for what it was. In any case, more updates to come.