That’s Sceaux French!

Parc de Sceaux

For classic French gardens without the usual crowds, head south to Parc de Sceaux. Designed by the father of the jardin à la française, André Le Notre, Sceaux offers a more peaceful alternative to the grandeur of Versailles. On a sunny day, you can bike or jog or simply take a nap on the grass. Feel free to picnic on the steps of the Château de Sceaux, which was once home to Louis XIV’s finance minister.

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To get here from Paris:

  • Take the RER B (South) direction Massy Palaiseau to Parc de Sceaux

 

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5 Things I Learned at the Salon de l’Agriculture

The Salon de l’Agriculture is Paris’ annual extravaganza hosted at the one-and-only Porte de Versailles. It’s something like a cross between Epcot and a petting zoo. You can eat and drink your way around the world in the company of France’s finest – that includes livestock AND politicians. I’ve attended the Salon the past couple of years, and here are a few of the things that I’ve observed:

1. There are nearly as many regional variances of French cows as there are types of cheeses.

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Fun fact: French cows go “meuh!”

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2. The Salon de l’Agriculture is THE place to be if you’re an homme politique.

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Yes, that really is the president of the Republic. Kinda blurry, but Hollande’s got places to be!

3. Free samples: the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

In one afternoon alone, I sampled heart and kidney, strawberry milk, coconut ice cream, and rhum agricole.

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Mmm kidneys (they’re better than they sound)

4. Watching life happen in front of your eyes is a pretty beautiful thing.

I watched these chicks hatch from their eggs and take their first steps on this Earth. In the globalized world of agribusiness, it’s so easy to forget where our food comes from. The good thing about the Salon de l’Agriculture is that it connects consumers to the source. Now I know what farm-to-table really means!

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Look at those newborn baby chicks!

5. The world is large, and there is so much left to explore.

The Salon de l’Agriculture exposed me to so many different sights and sounds and flavors and smells. I left with the desire to drink Ti’ Punch on a beach in Guadeloupe. To hunt for white truffles in Tuscany. To visit the region that produces Reblochon (one of my favorite French cheeses).

Food and culture are so intwined. What we eat reflects our values, our way of life. There is nothing I enjoy more than trying whatever each type of cuisine has to offer – both at home and abroad.

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The infamous Ti’ Punch (don’t drink it too fast – it’s about 50% alcohol!!!)
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Tahitian man candy – I mean dancers
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Colorful Moroccan pastries
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Gettin’ spicy

Prague: Off the Beaten Path

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For my first venture into Eastern Europe, I couldn’t have picked a better city. Prague is rich in both culture and history. Once governed by Bohemian kings, followed by the Nazis and the Soviet Union in more recent decades, the city is now the crowning glory of the Czech Republic.

Although I was freezing more than half the time, Prague was absolutely breathtaking under a blanket of snow. Czech cuisine, with its hearty soups and meat dishes, was all I needed to warm after a day spent in the cold. I enjoyed the main sites: Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle. However, I found that the best things Prague had to offer were off the beaten path.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1.The Spanish Synagogue

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2. The View from Vyšehrad

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3. Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul

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For when you get hungry:

Buyer beware:
In Prague, you pay in Czech crowns and everything is cheap compared to other European cities. However, be careful where you withdraw your money. Some ATMs suggest that you withdraw values with an added zero at the end. For those of us who aren’t used to the currency, you can end up withdrawing 10x more than your intended amount. You can always change the cash back to your regular currency, but you’ll end up losing some money with the exchange rate (something we learned the hard way).

 

The Other America

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There’s an America that we’re not part of. A nation that hears liberty where we hear hate. Maybe we, too, were blinded. Deaf to the layman’s sermon. Too proud, too naive, to have seen this coming.

Two countries damned by padded pockets, damned by frenzy: a plague upon both your houses.

It’s an age-old story, the taking back. From the tired, the poor. From the huddled masses. It’s their story too. Did they already forget?

A sinking boat once took sail on the wings of my mother. Once weary, once penniless. Behold the power of dreaming.

In the Other America, we were taught a different meaning of Greatness.

xx

S. Bansil

 

3 Travel Bloggers You Should be Following (if you aren’t already)

WordPress, it’s been a while. Life is hectic, busy, and beautiful. Life makes it extremely difficult to find the time to write. As I put some of my own personal projects to the side, let me shine the light on some bloggers who have inspired me to (perhaps) one day, start a travel blog of my own.

1. Shut Up and Go

Damon and Jo make traveling seem affordable, accessible, and real. Stop dreaming – just get out there and explore! Their blog and Youtube Channel features practical tips ranging from how to order coffee in another country and how to book cheap flights. I personally get a kick out of their French vocab videos. Damon and Jo are a dynamic duo with infectious energy. Check them out even if travel isn’t currently on your radar because they’re sure to make you laugh.

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2. Lost In Cheeseland

Lindsey Tramuta, a Paris-based food & travel writer (and an alumni of my study abroad program!) should be an inspiration to us all. She makes me want to try all the coffee shops, sample all the pâtisseries, and freelance my way to fame. I periodically stalk her Insta (@LostNCheeseland) for recommendations the next time I find myself in Paris. Lindsey, please teach me how to have a life like yours.

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3. The Pin the Map Project

Founded by Nicky Vargas, the Pin the Map project transports you all over the world. The blog features ideas for destinations, solo and budget travel tips, as well as insight into the art of travel blogging. All explorers should make the Pin the Map Project their first stop on their to-do list – because a bit of planning makes for an unforgettable adventure.

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With YouTube and Instagram and all the information in the world at your fingertips, traveling has never been more accessible (nor has it been more shareable). Travel blogs exist to share stories, as well as to encourage people to share their own.

If these bloggers have taught me anything, it’s that wanderlust doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. There’s an entire world out there. Don’t just sit there. Explore.

 

 

On listening to Across the Universe on the 7:34 train to New York after Brexit

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“Nothing’s gonna change my world”

In a world that feels
as though it’s on a collision course
For, well,
Something.
Maybe there’s a brighter horizon somewhere beyond the river
Maybe there’s just impending doom
Nothing to do but masturbate meditate
Come to work late
The city swallows you up,
Spits you out
The sea flows from Midtown
Without a doubt
And you always find your way home

photo credit: King’s Cross by Sunrise via photopin (license)

NYC – CDG, W/ LOVE

I never thought I’d be one of those college kids who comes back from studying abroad a pretentious asshole. Now that I’m well-travelled and on my way to complete bilingualism, I can look upon my native land with a fresh pair of eyes and say: Europe changed me.

I’ve been home for three weeks now and I can hear myself saying things like “I can’t drink American coffee anymore” or “American guys don’t do it for me.” Now when I look around, I notice for the first time the obvious differences in fashion tastes and social norms – even perceptions of average weight and how different they are compared to other countries.

I call my poor Frenchman, who often stays awake until the wee hours of the morning (Paris time). We can only Skype right after I get home from work. When I speak to him, I sometimes struggle with phrases that just a few weeks ago came to me so easily. Then when I hang up, I have to catch myself from responding in French to my English-speaking family.

On the plane home from Paris, I read with a heavy heart In Other Woods by Jhumpa Lahiri. I found it incredibly fitting: my Paris was her Rome. I read the English translation, as she had written it entirely in Italian. She describes her struggles with learning the language, the passionate love affair she had with its linguistic complexities. She found the struggle rewarding – something I could certainly relate to.

In the process of language learning, she speaks of exile – the feeling of being alienated from both Italian and English. There are times now that I construct my English sentences the way a French person might have directly translated, and vice versa. I remember a time when fluency in any language other than English seemed like a daunting prospect. When Paris was no more than an unattainable pipe dream.

I’ve lived in the shadow of New York for most of my life. After having lived in Paris for more than four months, it feels more like home than New York ever has. In the mornings I still struggle with my commute into Manhattan. I long for the Paris metro for all if its deficiencies, because those same deficiencies have become so familiar to me.

I miss being surrounded by the French language. I miss the lifestyle, the moderation. I miss the novelty of quotidian life that comes with living abroad. I wish I could walk up to a boulangerie during my lunch break, pick up a sandwich or a baguette. I wish I could still eat refined carbs and forget to feel guilty. I miss la pause; stopping for an espresso instead of scarfing down a cappuccino in the street.

I miss beauty for beauty’s sake. Meticulously framed monuments. French gardens and their unrelenting quest for symmetry. I miss the grands boulevards and winding streets. A French fuck-you to utilitarianism; an appreciation for artistry at the price of convenience, those comprehensible grids and numbered streets.

The French language doesn’t quite have a word for homesick. I have to rely on my native tongue to describe how alien I feel. There’s a pang in my stomach for words I have yet to fully master, for a country that does not yet belong to me.

 

Transatlanticism

I hope we stay just as we are at the beginning:

Finding jewel mines in each other’s minds.

Each word a promise;

Each impression a slab of

Semi-precious stone.

 

Six long, consequential hours

How I hope our words won’t sour,

Apples painstakingly picked.

I hope you’ll still remember

The taste of toothpaste on my lips

 

 

I tread your sound waves

Across the ocean,

Broadcasting my prose

To you alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Au revoir, Paris

We’ll always have

Paris

City of second-hand

Smoke-screens

Squares of unknown

Significance

Mark this page

For old time’s sake

You can always

Play it again

-Sam


Author’s note: written as a goodbye both to Paris, the city that has become my home in the past few months; and to Megan, my dear friend who visited me. Paris will always hold a special place in my heart. I will be back here again one day.

À la prochaine.

 

In search of

I am at war with my apartment.
With the leaky faucets and the washing machine.
With the hair strands – a perpetual purgatory.
They fight my merciless vacuum in vain,
Ant trails against the pale tiling.

I am at war with the shower and it’s mismarked knobs and the wailing pipes
and the useless bidet that occupies the corner where a toilet should be.
I am at war with the lopsided bedsheets.
With the Type C sockets.
With the windows that overlook the courtyard
That I have to keep open to air out the humidity.

And then there’s the coffee machine, neglected
With several days’ (months’? years’?)
Worth of stains on the pot lid.
I scrub away the abuse as if I were coming to the aid of a BP-hit duck.
Then I run it several times under the tap in the too-narrow sink.
White again – a rebaptism, if you will.

I’ve lived in places like this before
Apartments that change hands several times a year.
When was the last time someone had lived here long enough to care?

You live somewhere else
A student studio
Fifteen meters squared,
Your aesthetic: blue
Something like a cross between a monk’s cell and a hotel room.
Six-month lease,
What else is there to do but leave those thin white walls bare?

What your apartment lacks in problems mine makes up for in character.
Mismatched patterns
Bleublancrouge
Flowers and flags and postcards from Albuquerque
My proprietor’s tastes are vibrant, eclectic,
But clearly not my own.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now.
People and places with missing pages and hidden histories.
You don’t come into a person’s life on page one
And we are far from virgin territory.

Try not to imagine the girls who came before me.
The other bodies who cried and loved and slept
Also with you,
Under these same sheets.

I’ve agonized in the shadow of comparison
Over a time that I have never known,
A time that is no longer relevant.
BCE – Before Common Era
(Before You Knew Me).

I remember this feeling, my teary confession one of those early nights:
I feel like your apartment.
Another chapter,
Another face for the next girl to excavate.
To be cleared and gutted for the next passing resident
Unlike my apartment, which proudly wears its dilapidated history
Instead: anonymous, nomadic, temporary.

I no longer dwell. Not the way I used to.
Now I look ahead, to a life post-Paris,
To a life in an another city.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, when I say that
We’ll find each other again
Somewhere,
I don’t care where
New York maybe.

Dog-ear this prologue-past.
We’ll be pioneers together,
Leave this fallow land in search of virgin soil.
Together we’ll battle those leaky faucets and wailing pipes
Discover mortgages and diaper rash
And other uncharted territory.