writings

an email to a friend [part two] re: snacks in Paris

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in the second email to a pal [first one re: drinks], I share my Paris snack spots.

I hope someday, you can try them as well.

mmm.

[email begins]

okay…

what to eat:

macarons: Laduree off of the Champ Elysees. hands-down. might be a line, but you have to try [pistachio being the best.]

ice cream: okay – this is a must. right behind the Notre Dame and over the bridge, you’ll find this place – Le Flore en I’lle. amazing for sitting and people watching, but even more amazing for their ice cream. now, don’t order anything fancy, just a few scoops of vanilla, an espresso and a few chocolate truffles [see photo above]. you’ll die. I die. I’m dying while writing this. 

croissants: best thing you’ll ever eat. so simple, but so amazing. [let me know where you’re staying and I can tell you the best places in the area]

foie gras: Comptoir de la Gastronomie. the best – hands down. near the Lourve.

cheese: you all seem like you know good cheese and in Paris, the choices are infinite, but… you have to, at least once, go for a few faves: 1] ask any cheesemaker for a ‘double creme’ – something foul, stinky, terrible. pair this with a nice rouquefort and something mild [even a brie or something light] and you’re in business.

with the above cheese, you have to grab a jar of rillette. the cheese shop should have plenty. some of this, some grapes, a fresh baguette and a bottle of rose and find a park. so jealous.

cassoulet – this is a funny one. with all of the things you have to eat, I’d buy some in one of these tins and bring it home. surprisingly good, and gets the nod from even the most pretentious of Parisians. you can find them anywhere.

crepes you can find anywhere… but if you want to be very, very local, find a place that does galettes. hard to say where in Paris, as it’s a Normandy dish. but if you do, order it with ham/cheese, pair with a proper cider and you’ll be so happy.

now… my favorite thing. the reason I always put on weight in France… saucisson. [sorry for all of the wiki links] best thing ever. find a butcher, ask for his saucisson especial. stay between the 4 and 6 Euro range and you’ll be good. look for a dark red, less fat [still need some] and smell. they’ll let you sample it before you buy. put on a baguette with cheese or just snack on it alllll day.

ratatouille can be made here at home. you can miss it.

… I could go on-and-on, but these are your basics. the big thing is that you don’t have to go all haute cuisine. French food, as it’s base, comes from a love of home cooking and the fancy stuff rarely stands up to a meal you could get in a quiet little bistro. the more I know about where you’ll be, the more I can send you to different places. but plan on a lot of picnics in the park – Siene in view – with a handful of cheese, meat, grapes, bread and wine.

am so jealous! have fun.

-a

[email ends]

an email to a friend [part one] re: bars in Paris

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you might find this helpful.

or maybe not.

but here’s where I like to drink in Paris.

[email begins]

oh god… this one could go on forever. I’ll try and keep it short/manageable.

first things first, my two favorite bars and ones you have to visit. at least one of them… it’ll bring me great joy to know I passed them along to a friend.

the first is called Le Tambour. don’t be put off by any of the negative reviews about this place, it’s verrrrrrrry Parisian, which means the waiter will be a dick to those who he needs to be a dick to. you guys will be fine. I always forget his name, but if you sit outside [you must], he’s bald. and funny. at night, it’s a gorgeous setting, with decent food [not spectacular, but decent. which in Paris is still impressive] – go for the French Onion soup, but stay away from the charcuterie platter [it lacks]… but then, as the night goes later, it gets more and more interesting. it never closes, never stops serving drinks and is the best spot for late night people watching [and in a safe neighborhood].

my second favorite – Bar Ourcq [above, pictured] is a hike, but so, so pretty and if it were central, would be the BEST bar in Paris. it’s a South of France bar, which means very nice people, GORGEOUS funky design and amazing drinks. but what you do is grab one in a plastic cup and then walk across the street to where all the old fellas will be drinking their Pastis and playing petanque. photo attached – it’s a very pretty neighborhood and a place most won’t ever get to see.

my third favorite is a wonderful little place in BoBo [your daughter will probably be shopping in this area anyway] called Chez Prune. if you can get there right around 2p, it’s right out of the Paris of our dreams. small, dark wood, outdoor tables next to the water, amazing. food is okay, a coffee or Campari is better. 

next – something in the Latin Quarter/St. Germain [remember the book I begged you to read?! this is where Larry lived.]. you HAVE to sit where Papa Hemingway sat at Cafe de Flore and have a drink. never mind the crowd, it’s one of those thing you gotta do ’cause his ghost still walks around there, grumpy as hell. it’s a staple of French and tourist alike and simply has to be done. has to.

… now, as stated, I could go on-and-on and once I know which arr. you’re staying in, I can offer up a few more hints. 

that being said, there is no better place to sit and sip than on the banks of the Siene, looking up and out at the Notre Dame. grab a bottle of something [it’s allowed] and take in that gorgeous church. the more rosé you have, the more things get slightly blurred and it all turns into a Monet.

some stand out buys:

– a rosé [as mentioned] from the South of France. any kind will do.

– a Fernet after any meal.

– any punchy read from the Languedoc region. they’re doing some amazing things down there.

– absinthe. if you’re going to dare it, do it right at La Fee Verte. they’ll take it easy on you. other places it’s not to be trusted [fake]. 

– beer. skip it. you’re in France.

– white wine – a Sancerre from the Loire Valley. delish. 

… right, think that’s it for drinks. 

shall get back to you soon-ish on snacks.

do you know your dates yet? 

-a

[email ends]

[second email re: snacks]

scams #1 – gypsy babies

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look, I got nothin’ against the Roma.

in fact, not too long ago, I even wrote an article about their plight here in the US for National Geographic.

and would love to, someday, spend time with them.

[for a decent read, try ‘Bury Me Standing‘.]

allll that being said – they do like to steal. and I have had a few run ins.

usually they’re just kids, but back in 2000, whilst in Poland, I witnessed the greatest pickpocket-ing maneuver I’ve ever seen.

group of Roma women walk up, some holding babies. one Roma sees her mark and walks up and basically throws her child into the unsuspecting arms of the tourist. with arms holding the baby, the kids quickly go behind him/her and take their wallet/camera. and then, out of instinct, the mark gives the baby back quickly and takes off towards the kids.

best scam ever? you bet. it preys on good human nature:

no one would not secure a child being handed to them.

no one would take off running with a baby in their arms.

no one would hold a baby hostage until his/her things were brought back.

so… long story short – when in Poland, or when around gypsies holding children, either run away, prepare to be thieved, or have a very, very tough skin and let the child fall.

up to you.

best bar in Amsterdam

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I write for a living [well… kind of], so you’ll forgive the lack of a 3-part setup here.

all I want to say is this bar – Cafe Hoppe – is the best bar in Amsterdam. and you go to Amsterdam, you’d be sore if you missed it.

it’s split into two, one for the more respectable patrons, and through an almost-secret wall, is a proper Dutch ‘brown bar‘, where the drinkers drink. good beer, boisterous crowd and none of this coffeeshop bullshit.

there… that’s kind of like 3 parts.

the 17th hour

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I really need to leave a review on Amazon for this sleep mask:

“Fits snug, but not too tight.”

“Cool and lightweight.”

“Filters out everything from the outside…  including that of a policeman’s flashlight.”

It started 17 hours prior – 17 hours into a 33 hour bus ride. From the border town of Arica down to Santiago. 33 hours of bus travel. [I’ll go ahead and let that sink in for a second to justify the next sentence…]

Which is why I washed two $0.15 Valium down with a bottle of wine.

Now, you go ahead and think what you will, but consider this: I was about to spend more time on one bus ride then you do sitting at your desk for an entire week.

So yes, I wanted to self-medicate and sleep as much as I could.

Which worked, until I was shaken [shook?] awake by a Chilean policeman hovering over me, asking very loud questions in very rapid Spanish.

In my haze, all I could understand was the word bolso [bag] and a string of numbers.

I could also make out that there was no one else on the bus.

Just me and a pissed-off policeman with a lot of questions about a bag and some digits.

Still stoned and slightly drunk, I told him I didn’t speak much Spanish, so he took me by the arm and led me outside – outside where every single other person on the bus were standing in line, flanked by 4 armed policemen, and all of them staring at me.

A policewoman was waved over and began speaking to me in English.

“Is your bag number 3566?” – referring to the receipt they give you when checking your luggage – a security procedure that up until 2 minutes ago I found comforting.

“I’m not sure what the number is.” I told her.

“Can you describe your bag, please?”

“Yes. It’s a medium sized NorthFace bag. With wheels.”

This seemed to be the answer she was looking for. “Follow me, please”.

She led me past 6 more armed guards, three with dogs, to a large van – white almost-Paddy Wagon-type vehicle, but with 6 individual holding cells and a table at the back… set up exactly like this.

floorplanBIG

[Now, it should be mentioned out that in normal state of mind, I’d be shitting myself at this point, but you have to remember: I had just been woken up, and had both a bottle of wine and 20mg of diazepam in me. It was honestly dream-like. Dream-like until…]

She ushered me to the table in the back of the van and it was then when everything became a quickly-sobering reality, as out on the table was my big bag of coca leaves. The one I bought in Peru, the one I even posted the day before.

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Now, enter my frightened-confusion. Coca leaves were legal in Chile – I had both Google’d it beforehand and had bought a smaller bag in Arica [Chile] that very morning – so I knew it wasn’t a crime.

What I hadn’t considered was that I was holding more coca leaves than a normal people could consume in a month… or – better yet – enough to make around a decent haul of actual narcotics, as each leaf possesses 0.5% of cocaine. Meaning, I had enough to manufacture 2 grams of cocaine. But again… it was legal.

“These are yours?” she asked.

“They are”, I said, but holding my ground, added “but I bought it in Arica… In the market. It’s illegal?”.

“In Arica, a small amount is legal, yes” she said, picking up the large bag as a preface to her next point. “But it is not allowed in this area of the country… and this is very much coca.”

I said nothing. To hold me under a “Coca leaves are not legal in certain parts of the country” is something that I knew wouldn’t hold up – or at least have me thrown in one of those menacing-looking cells.

But her next question could.

“Are you carrying any other things?”

“Other things?”

“Marijuana. Drugs. Anything like that?”

“No” I laughed – a forced laugh that sounded more like a cough. “Just my tea.”

“Then may I have your permission to search your bags?”

“Of course”.

Now – up until now, I was cool. I knew I had technically done nothing wrong and if I had, they’d have already have me handcuffed…

But then I remembered the Valium.

See, Valium is legal in South America, just as it is legal in the States… with a prescription.

I didn’t have a prescription.

I had just somehow talked a pharmacist in Peru to sell me 4. And if they found that used pack, my The obscene amount of coca leaves is just for my obscene love of coca tea! argument wouldn’t hold up.

And so, they began taking everything out of both bags – opening whatever could be opened, inspecting everything that could be inspected. It might have been 10 minutes, it might have been 30. All I could do was try to look tired and bored and not-guilty [forced yawns, forced smiles as the officers peering into the van, stretching, etc.], while at the same time, wonder what-in-the-fuck-I-did-I-do-with-those-Valium-wrappers?!

She finished looking through everything and almost-apologetically tried to put it all back.

“I am sorry this had to be done” she said.

“It’s okay. No problem.” Quietly congratulating myself on absentmindedly being the best pill-packaging hider ever.

“But I must take this”, she said, holding my beloved bag of coca tea.

“I understand”.

I packed everything up and walked out of the Paddy Wagon to the scornful stares of the entire bus who had been standing out in the freezing cold the entire time this was all going on. We piled back in and I collapsed into my chair – the severity of what could-have happened finally sinking in.

I’ll sleep good tonight, I told myself, quietly celebrating not being imprisoned.

A celebration that lasted about 4 seconds until I rested my arm on the window.

A window that pinched my elbow when I rested it there.

Because a tiny sharp silver package was resting on the window sill.

A tiny sharp silver package that – had the police searched my seat, as opposed to my bag, would have had me most likely thrown in jail.

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And as it turned out, I wouldn’t sleep too well that night…

Not well at all.

 

snacks – tim tam’s [australia]

lemme tell you something about Tim Tams:

they’re delicious.

a common comparison – to the untrained palate – would be to Keebler’s Fudge Crackers, but that’s wrong. it’s so, so wrong. I’m not even going to link to those, because it’s wrong.

what Tim Tams are are delicious. they’re malted [not only graham] crackers [called ‘biscuits’ in Australia, but that’s stupid], with chocolate filling and then – at the very end of the process, covered once more in chocolate.

but that’s a lot like every other cookie treat we have in America, you might say. and you’re right. we are America. and we do have everything. and we’ll also take whatever you do and do it 33% bigger/better/faster. so I’m sure you can find a more better treat out there.

but here’s where Tim Tams win.

The Tim Tam Slam. and I hate capitalizing shit. so that should tell you something.

what is The Slam?

I feel the need to show you. to embed a video I didn’t take.

[although, now that I’m writing, I should’ve. but I didn’t. because I ate all of these the first day. they were mailed to me by Taryn. thanks, Taryn.]

people get ready.

it’s Natalie Imbruglia with a snack. oh my.

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newsboy.

there is really no exact point of this post – except that I’ve been slack in writing.

as many of you could tell, this site [and my blog] got hacked a few weeks ago. we’ve been frantically trying to fix it, but with me being in LA, OK and now NYC, it’s been hard to find time to sit down and make the calls – calls to very smart people who are [once again] helping me out of a bind. it’s almost fixed, the audio players ain’t playin’, but you can still download the shows.

what else – well, my sister got engaged to one of my best friends. more on that in a bit. another friend got married and I shot a little video for him. you may or may not care about that – I’m just riffing here.

and – oh yeah – National Geographic called. they actually called a few months back, while I was down to $300 in Buenos Aires, which made me chuckle a bit. but now it’s official, and I leave for a 6-week trip on Monday. crazy, ain’t it? it makes me chuckle even more. this is it – as high as you can go. getting a call from them. to be one of their travelers. hope you follow the adventure, as it’s shaping up to be one.

what else, what else – oh yeah, soon [as in, within the next month], I think I’m going to make this site free. I’m all about doing things backwards, you see. a week ago, I lost a writing gig – one that accounted for 1/2 of my little income per month. but then – a day later – I sat around a pals house and watched she and a few others toast a friend of theirs that had been taken from them too early. and that got me thinking – what the fuck am I doing, charging people to see my stuff? yes – it’s to pay for it’s building, for which I am still paying for. but that’s no way to go about life. and just ’cause some person, some kid, has no money, they shouldn’t be kept from seeing my lucky life. so yeah – I’ll email you all about that, but it feels like the right thing to do.

I’m tired. I’m exhausted. a good exhausted, but still. have you ever been to NYC? oh man – you should. but don’t plan on getting a lot of work done here. no sir-ee. you get NYC done. and NYC does you. but get your homework done first.

that’s it, I think. things are back to almost normal, so have a look around. more vids, photos and writings on the way – podcasts when everything is fixed.

are you liking this? I hope you’re liking this. I’ll like it a whole lot more when it’s free.

bye.

-a

snacks – estancia del puerto [montevideo, uruguay]

I’m not going to fib and convince you I got ‘the plate’ when I was here. Uruguay was at the very end of my trip – a good one, but one that wore me out – and I was left with as much energy as I was money. but a pal suggested I at least visit here to witness ‘the  cook’ in front of a 12′ long grill – work his magic. this is he. all I could scrape together was enough for a chorizo sandwich, but you’ve already heard enough about those. Anthony Bourdain could afford to eat ‘the plate’, [two of them, in fact] and it’s worth a watch just to see everything that comes on it. and that’s what comes on it – everything. all for the low-low price of $80. but it was a marvel to behold, the steaks, pork, chicken, gizzards, peppers, sausages, rump roasts – all perfectly cooked by this man. so if you ever find yourself in Montevideo [pronounced Mon-te-vi-day-o, not Mon-te-vid-ee-o], promenade over to the main market. even if you’re broke.

[time]sharing is caring.

my death will be attributed to ‘idealism’. of the many uncertainties in my life, I can guarantee that one. and that’s fine, there are worse ways to go.

but I have a lot of things, of plans and of thoughts that I can see working.

[take this project, for example… ahem.]

but this recent one seems to make perfect sense.

as I walked in and out of the gorgeous neighborhood of San Telmo, Buenos Aries, I couldn’t help but stop, light a cigarette and look up to the numerous vacant balconies. I live for balconies and in a place like Argentina, so much life happens directly below a balcony. I went broke by refusing to stay in a place – no matter how small, dirty and/or cheap, unless it had a balcony. I have a thing for balconies.

anyway.

lots of places up for sale and rent in B.A. – the market took a nosedive a few years back and what were previously guaranteed return on investments suddenly became burdens. meaning gorgeous places – much like the ones you see her – went hungry.

and so I walked some more and began inquiring to the average price for a 1 bedroom place, with a balcony, in San Telmo.

$1000. which seems about right. you can get a decent place anywhere in the world for a grand. Paris. Berlin. Hawaii. Morocco. etc.

and then I got thinking. thinking about the ridiculous amount of emails I had gotten in B.A. from people who had been/lived in B.A. – ‘I want to go back so bad’ seemed to be the reoccurring thing.

and then I got thinking some more.

why couldn’t we all get back here. once a year. in a place a select few of us called our own?

10 people = $100 a month.

10 people = 1.2 months a year in the place.

no renting it out for others, just our own, with a maid who comes once a week to dust.

I threw this idea out to a few folks – and everyone seemed keen.

so why wouldn’t it work?

why aren’t we doing this in Paris, Berlin, Hawaii and/or Morocco?

I have no money and could afford $100 a month.

talk me through this… why aren’t people doing this more often?

I’m confused.

and a little excited…

thoughts?

street snacks – choripan [argentina]

of all the things I like sharing on this site, this one took the longest to post. a lot of it had to do with it being in Buenos Aires, a town that [as you can read in the post below] grabbed me – like it does so many – and made marks as I tried to go. but this place… this place was special for many a reason:

1. the steaks aren’t as cheap as people say they are. they’re cheap, but not $3 cheap. and I was running out of money.

2. the couple who introduced me to this place also was hesitant, so didn’t give me the address, they gave me the area – to see if I had the chops. little did they know I only have chops for snacks.

3. like I do with so many spots, I revisited here almost daily. for a week.

… now, you might be asking what amazing concoction this hole-in-the-wall [literally] served up. what numerous spices and love and training went into the dish?

very little.

it was chorizo. in bread. with a spoonful of salsa verde.

but it was the best chorizo. in bread. with a spoonful of salsa verde I ever had.

and if you ever get to Buenos Aires, I will – in turn – give you the general area…

to see if you too got the chops.