Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Five days in New York City

Back in DC after five days in NYC. We (my husband and I) have covered a lot of ground by foot in five days. We have lived in Manhattan for three years, until 2010, so we're not tourists nor New Yorkers any more ( :-(( but some strange hybrids who still hate tourists and crowds, but have their favorite places in the city close to those crowds of tourists. Like Union Square or Soho's Broadway.

And NYC at Christmas is really beautiful, with sparkling blue and white trees left and right and Christmas music literary everywhere you go, even on subways and streets.

So, this is, in a nutshell, what we did, and what you should do, if you have good taste, next time you are in NYC.

We love great cappuccinos and lattes so we went to La Colombe in Soho twice in five days. And we stayed with friends in Long Island City, so it was not that close to us. Not only that La Colombe has great espresso, makes great cappuccinos in stylish dark-blue and white cappuccino mugs (very important for the experience of slowly sipping great cappuccino) but also they use organic milk! Score!

The location could not be more perfect, especially at Christmas. It's two blocks away from Broadway, so away from the crowds but close to shopping. If you're a woman or a shopping-loving man, you'll know what I mean.

We also had pizza in L'Asso, a new friendly neighborhood pizza place, which was good, not great.

Guacamole and vegetable quesadillas in Rosa Mexicana in Union Square only for two reasons: I was craving guacamole, and we were in Union Square when I was craving it. They make the best guacamole!

Third Rail coffee close to Washington Square Park was good too.

Cafe Joul on Upper East Side had a mediocre fixed-price brunch--poached eggs with tomato, hollandaise and broccoli was our, probably the wrong choice. I would pass on this one. The location is not interesting either.

The best meal we had this time was in Eataly--mushroom risotto and mushroom-tomato polenta. Both, just, excellent! I love Eataly.

And we saw two movies, when our feet were hurting--The Descendants and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The Descendants was amazing, in fact so good, that I think Clooney will get the Oscar next year.

And Tinker, Tailor, something, was so slow that I wanted to lift my feet on the chair in front and take a nap. Life is unfortunately not long enough for movies like that.

What else?

We did some shopping in Soho and Union Square--Union Square had its annual open Christmas bazaar with original, usually foreign gifts, food and drinks.

We also went to Cafe Falai twice, both times to have bomboloni, Italian, or really, European donuts, with marmalade inside, wrapped in granulated sugar. No resemblance to American, Dunkin donuts, which I loathe and think are made of plastic. No pun intended.

All in all, a very productive visit, so much that I still sleep until 10am (I was waking up at 8am while there).

I guess there's more time for sleeping in DC. But to be honest, I'm glad I'm back. It's just different, living in a city so fun and huge as NYC, and visiting. When you live in it, you're not in any rush to do anything, but when you visit, you feel like you have to get as much as you can out of it, while you can.

And you exhaust yourself...but it's worth it...if you have time to sleep in.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caribbean, where art thou?

I blatantly asked my in-laws if I could use one of their two timeshares. I desperately want to go to Caribbean in January. I love the Caribbean sea and islands and hate winters in DC. Hate them! Then again, I hate winters anywhere. Well, maybe not in Paris. Definitely not in Paris. Sigh.
So, they of course said yes. But easier said than done. Everything is taken! Everything good, that is, everything you could easily reach from DC, such as St. Martin, USVI, Aruba...
Crisis, my respectable behind. In what world crisis did people descend on Caribbean?! Give me a break. I love how American whine to unwhineable stuff.
Actually, I'm an American too. Just half though. One third maybe. And I love to whine.
I'm sure not everyone is doing fine, but isn't that the case at any given time?
So, what's left is Mexico, Cancun. Plenty of Mexico. And some average place in Bahamas. Venezuela (I don't think so.) And Curacao which is wonderful, but there's no direct flight from DC, and the trip lasts eight-nine hours because of the layover. I could be in London by then, and then some.
So, I'm still looking for that perfect, affordable Caribbean vacation in January when I can go to the beach twice a day, and shop during the early afternoon. And eat tons of seafood. Drink Strawberry Daiquiris. And laugh at the forecast at DC.
For a week, at least. But then our whole lives consist of weeks, days, moments.
No, I won't go philosophical on you...yet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Exit

I was invited to an Atlantic magazine's event last night in the Watergate building, The Exit Interview, in honor of the departing British Ambassador.
Usually, I'm invited with a guest to these high-profile Washington events, but this time, it was only me. I was just a tiny bit nervous, but then, I just started talking to everybody, even though I only knew one person (a very busy person) in the room. (So proud :)
It was exactly as I expected--a beautiful room on the 8th floor, waiters with trays of white wine and mineral water (I asked for red, just to be different :) Not really. ), bowls of nuts. Lots of foreign policy people, public diplomacy people, journalists, diplomats. Some women, some young men, lots of balding, gray-haired, middle aged men. This observation comes from someone sitting in the last row, by choice, during the interview, and being shined by lots of heads :)
I met several interesting people, including the British Ambassador briefly, since he was rushing of to some high-profile Christmas party.
Speaking of high-profile Christmas parties, I have one to attend myself, tonight. And I got a dress for it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The art of rewrite

You must be tired of my stories about rewriting stories. But, tis the process.
Last night, I brought my rewrite of the Balkan Voodoo to my writing group, and they, of course, butchered it. But I love them anyway.
Not really. They said that it has improved, but I still need to flush out some aspects of my main characters and her relationship to Voodoo. Of course, I have no idea how to do this. Neither did they.
But it's a valid point, so I came to my "office" i.e. a cafe, ordered a latte and I'm hoping caffeine will help me come up with usable ideas.
It's not easy to achieve perfection. And that's what I'm striving toward. The story is very good as it is. But it can be better.
I guess everything could always be better.
So, instead of perpetually working on one thing, when do you say enough, and move on?
For me, it's usually the third rewrite.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

24-hours in Nis and Belgrade

A friend of mine, let's call her Madam J, is going to Serbia soon. A no, she's not a diplomat nor of Serbian origin, she's just smart and worldly, and can smell fun.
So, she made me think about what I love to do in Belgrade and Nis, when I'm there just for a day or two.
Belgrade. Hmmm. Let's see what comes in mind.
I love the stroll from Slavija to Terazije, and along Knez Mihajlova, of course.
I love stopping at Greenet in Nusiceva street and having a small moka there. (Picture attached)
If I happen to be in Terazije in the evening, Ben Akuba, also on Nusiceva, makes the best cocktails, and it's hidden in an apartment, and looks like something out of a novel, dark, with books on shelves against the walls, and menus with nothing but cocktails.
In Nis, I like the walk along Pobedina street, and stopping for a drink in Kazandzijsko Sokace, or in one of the cafes along Pobedina, or even Costa Coffee on the main square, with a great view of the square and people walking toward and away in every direction.
I love having a cheap but excellent horseback riding lesson in Konjicki Klub Nis, close to Niska Banja, and then going to the Spa in Niska Banja, in Radon hotel, for a jacuzzi and a massage, all very affordable for U.S. standards.
But she'll be there around St. Nikola's Slava. So the best thing to do is to befriend a Serb, and go to as many Slavas as possible.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I have been sick since the ballet performance of the Nutcracker in the Philips Collections last Thursday night (damn it!) While I was sitting in the back, admiring the young dancers' flexibility and balance, and enjoying Tchaikovsky's music, my throat turned dry. I, off course kept drinking water, but couldn't moist it. I woke up with a sore throat, and almost a week later, I can't sleep from cough.
I hate being sick! As if someone likes it.
I blame it on the lack of hygiene in the U.S. culture. People don't wash their hands before they prepare meals, nor before they eat. Some of us didn't grow up that way, and are not immune to everything. Some of us grew up washing our hands before and after EVERY meal. Yes. That was the rule of a first grade book in Former Yugoslavia. It was next to the Cyrillic alphabet.
And (damn it), I was actually, really, saying to myself recently how happy I am for not being sick while everyone around me was sick. I thought it was my vegetarian diet, Yoga, and my cleanliness. Much does that do if you eat out, or at someone's house. And it's hard to give that up.
People, what is the matter with you! Wash your hands! It's the flu season, for God's sake.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stars, dreams, coffee grounds, voodoo, whatever...

I'm sorry for the long hiatus. But my 14-year-old Dalmatian dog died in Serbia, and I didn't feel like anything. The strange thing is that I used him as a model for the dog in my Balkan Voodoo story recently. How weird. Especially since I don't believe in fortunetelling or voodoo of any kind. Or even that the star alignment on the day you were born can determine your life. I believe that you make your own destiny. Still, weird things happen to me, from time to time, to shake me a bit.
For example, I don't believe in dreams predicting your future, but I agree that they can help you read someone's (your) subconsciousness. And I don't know what dreams "mean." But when my uncle was in a hospital in 1997, gravely ill, I dreamed I was riding a beautiful white horse the night before he died. Then the day after I read that a white horse in dream means death.
Scary, right?
Now, I know what you are going to think. I would think the same thing--someone told me that the white horse means death, or I read it somewhere, or I made everything up. But I didn't.
I think that believing your life is predestined is a slippery slope. "Well, I can't change anything, why bother," someone might say, get lazy. I think that if you want to change your life, you usually can. Stars, dreams, coffee grounds, voodoo, whatever. But I have to admit, once in a while, something eerie happens that makes me wonder...just a bit.