Abroad @ Home – My Top 20 List for NYC this Summer

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Summer in the City + List making.  Could there be a better combination for a type-A adventurer like me?

The inspiration for this comes from one of my best friends who publishes an annual list of the 100 things he’d like to do in NYC each summer  (Follow his adventures  here).   Given that the recovery from spinal surgery  will somewhat truncate my summer in the city, 100 items seemed too ambitious, so I decided on a Top 20.

Shakespeare in the Park (photo credit: NYHabitat)

In no particular order:

Do
Governor’s Island (did summer 2014)
Brooklyn Flea

Moondance at Hudson River Park

MoMA PS1: Warm Up
MoMA – Rain Room
The Met – Punk Costume Exhibit
Sleep No More
Imran Qureshi installation on Met Roofdeck

X Shakespeare in the Park X

Eat
L’artusi

Hester Nights at the Eventi Hotel

DiFara’s 

Cronuts @ Dominique Ansel Bakery

ABC Kitchen
Smorgasburg

Drink
Select Summer Fridays at Le Bain
Gallow Green Roofbar at the McKittrick Hotel
La Birreria Roof Bar at Eataly

The Dead Rabbit

Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club

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Traveling vs. Taking a Vacation: “The Art of Relaxation”

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Conde Nast Traveler’s June Edition has a piece by one of my all-time favorite writers, Nicole Krauss, discussing how she and her husband (acclaimed writer Jonathan Safran Foer) decided – after taking their children on trips to the Atacama Desert in Chile, Sarajevo, and even the Arctic (in utero) – to take a beach vacation to Turks & Caicos.

My favorite thought of the day on the difference between ” traveling, or even taking a trip” and “vacation.”

“I’d always been set against beach vacations; they seemed indulgent, lazy, and uneducational. Now it dawned on me that they were all of those things, attractively so; that a vacation was something entirely different from traveling, or even taking a trip, which is what I had been doing all these years, first on my own, and then with my family. Traveling has always been about throwing myself into the unknown—an expansive intake of experience, a bracing and heightened exposure. At the bottom of my wanderlust is the hope that, freed of the ordinary, alert and alive to even the tiniest things, what I find in that other place will be revelatory enough to change me. But vacation—that was something else entirely. To want only to rest and recuperate, to be removed from it all, to enjoy oneself effortlessly—was that really too much to ask?”

Photo from one of my most incredible adventures in Ethiopia with my dear friend Allison Shigo, Founder of Healing Hands of Joy

Full Article:  “Stranger in Paradise: The Art of Relaxation in Turks and Caicos” 

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June 24, 2013 · 2:33 pm

Stockholm Stopover

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On our travels from Denmark to Iceland, we had a short stopover in Sweden, which, despite uncooperative weather (blustery rains from start to stop), we really enjoyed.

We began by visiting the Vasa Museum, which houses the eponymous Viking warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628.  Located on the island of Djurgarden (Stockholm is comprised of 14 islands), we then took the ferry to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old city, and one of the world’s best-preserved medieval towns.  Gamla Stan also is home to many of Stockholms best cafes and restaurants  – and more importantly, the majority of the handful of restaurants open on a Sunday evening.

From Gamla Stan, we took the T-Bana metro back to Normalm, where we were staying, stopping at Icebar at the Icehotel/Nordic Sea Hotel along the way.  Despite the kitsch, the atmosphere was fun and the drinks were cold (vodka + lingonberry juice, anyone?).  With the summer sun, it was still light out when we left, creating the illusion our one Stockholm day was not as brief as it really was.

Where to eat:  We loved Kryp In in Gamla Stan.  Housed in a cozy space in Gamlsa Stan, this top rated restaurant serves beautifully presented traditional Swedish food, such as baked smoked salmon, dill potatoes, and bleek roe.

Where to stay: I’d aim for the neighborhoods of Normalm or Gamla Stan to be centrally located near the city’s top sites.

Ice Bar

Ice Bar

Ice Bar

Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan

Stockholm, Sweden

Amusement Park on Djursgarden overlooking Gamla Stan

Vasa Museum, Stockholm

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Food, food, and more food: 2 Days in Copenhagen, Denmark

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It is said that it’s difficult to have a bad meal in Copenhagen, Scandinavia’s culinary capital.  Having spent the past 2 days eating our way from site to site in the Danish city, we would resoundingly agree.  From open-face smorrebrod sandwiches to the confectionary shops found on nearly every street, we loved every bite.

Nine out of every ten adults here rides a bicycle, making this walkable city also one of the most green in the world.  In just two days, we saw most of the city’s  notable sites.  I should note Copenhagen’s famous architecture  – with the contemporary settled in next to the Renaissance and Rococo.   Highlights include the colorful houses along the Nyhavn quay, the late-Baroque Amalienborg Castle, and Henning Larsson’s Opera House.

Other highlights of our walking tours include seeing the Little Mermaid Statue, dining in the trendy neighborhood of Vesterbro, meandering through the controversial semi-autonomous free-zone of Christiana (photos not allowed!), strolling down Stroget – Europe’s longest pedestrian only street, and exploring Tivoli – the world’s oldest amusement park.

When to go:  Summer months –the weather is at its warmest (we had beautiful 70 degree days), and the summer sun doesn’t set until nearly 10PM.

Where to stay:  We used airbnb and found an amazing apartment centrally located in Vesterbro – in walking distance of all of our top destinations.

Where to eat: Madklubben Vesterbro for a trendy build-your-own meal experience,  Kanal Cafeen or Hallernes Smorrebrod (in Torvehallen artisinal food market) for the best open-faced sandwiches, La Glace for decadent pastries.  Oh, and Noma, the restaurant that replaced El Bulli as the S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant (reservations need to be made months in advance).

bikes everywhere!

Tivoli

Tivoli

3 Types of Herring: Mustard Herring, Wasabi Herring, and Herring Salad, served on Scandinavian rye

Town Hall

Guerilla Marketing!

King’s Gardens

Rosenborg Palace

View of the Marble Church from the Opera House

Hans Larsson’s Opera House

Exiting Christiana and re-entering the EU and all its laws…

Street art in Christiana

Christiana: No hardcore drugs, weapons, or violence…everything else is game

Entering Christiana

Our Savior’s Church

Thorvaldsen’s Museum

Smorrebrod!

Copenhagen Sunset

Nyhavn

Marmokirken marble church

Late-Baroque Amalienborg Castle

Amalienborg Castle Royal Guards

the park near the Citadel

charming Copenhagen

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May Travel Booked!

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After days of deliberation, we finally booked our May post-graduation trip!  A big thank you to everyone who helped and shared ideas and itineraries on facebook, via email, and here on the blog.  All of our in-country activities are still tentative, so please keep sending suggestions if you have them!

 

Scandinavia + Iceland, May 2013

May 23:  Depart from NYC

May 24:  Arrive & Explore Copenhagen, Denmark

May 25: Copenhagen, Denmark

May 26: Stockholm, Sweden

May 27: morning: Stockholm, Sweden, afternoon: Reykjavik, Iceland

May 28: Golden Circle, Iceland

May 29: TBD Iceland

May 30: Fly back to NYC

Scandinavia + Iceland Trip May 2013

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Crowdsourcing Scandinavia – Itinerary Help!

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For our week of travel in May, after much debate about traveling to Ecuador, Costa Rica & Belize, The Balkans we have tentatively decided on a Scandinavia + Iceland combination (flying into either Copenhagen, Stockholm or Helsinki and out of Reykjavik)…but we need help figuring out where to go:

What are the best cities/places to visit in Scandinavia??

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Where should we visit??

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Where should I go next??

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I know, I know – I am far behind on my posting, having neglected Hong Kong for the past month.  Work with me here and let’s  pretend that my “busy” MBA schedule has kept me occupied.

Looking at my schedule the next month, I realize that I have about 8 days after graduation and before a friend’s wedding in Connecticut.

Of course, the first thing that pops into my mind is: can I fit in one more trip?  One more destination?  Where should I go?

Criteria:

  • Someplace I’ve never been 
  • Someplace that is within an 8 hour flight of New York
  • Someplace to which flights won’t cost an arm and a leg at the end of May (which eliminates much of Europe)

So far, the locations that are top of mind are:

  • Iceland
  • Scandinavia (some combination of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland)
  • Bosnia via Zagreb, Croatia

Thoughts?  Where should I go next?

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What the Passover Seder Can Offer to the Korean Conflict

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It is cold night in the Berkshires, but I am enjoying the warmth of family and friends in my parents’ home.  I am in Massachusetts and it is March 2013 – but merely observing the ongoing events, we could be anywhere in the world at any point in time.  This uniformity and timelessness is one of my favorite aspects of the Passover seder, the Jewish ritual meal that celebrates the Biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt in specific – and freedom in general.

72 hours ago, I was in the DMZ – the North/South Korean Demilitarized Zone – where I visited the Joint Security Area.   Created as a provision of the Korean Armistice Agreement signed in 1953, the DMZ is a neutral enclave for the North Korean (DPRK) and South Korean (ROK) armed forces (joined by both the UN and US Army).

Following a fatal incident in 1976, the Military Demarcation Line was established, shifting the area from “joint” to parallel but separate.  Effectively, the two sides now stand in a 24-hour face-off, each on their side of the uncrossed line.

On the South Korean side stands a row of small “temporary” buildings, with 2 ROK soldiers statue-still in martial arts stances, with eyes covered by sunglasses so as not to provoke a staring contest.   Directly across from them, on a staircase of a more permanent building, stands a North Korean army official, shrouded by the shadows of the doorway, staring at his enemy through binoculars.  Above him, the curtains in the window are half drawn, obscuring a second North Korean officer, clicking away, photographing anyone who steps into his line of vision.

It is both eerie and surreal.

72 hours later, I am sitting at my family’s seder table.  At the beginning of each seder, we read a passage from the book of Exodus, the second book of the bible, which explicitly instructs us as to how we are to retell the story of the Exodus, a critical component of the Passover tradition:

“You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what God did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:8, English Standard version)

The question that begs to be asked is: why are we instructed to change the subject of the exodus story from the Biblical Israelites to a that of  “what God did for me” for an ancient story that is retold each and every year?

By re-appropriating the narrative as a personal retelling of the exodus, we wear our histories as our own, connecting the present to our past.     By going through this motion each and every year, we create a mechanism by which we ensure that the past is bound to the future.

What, then, is the connection to North/South Korea?

It has been argued many times that the creation of separate North and South Koreas, delineated by the 38th parallel, is an arbitrary construction, imposed on a map to separate the 1950s Communist powers of neighboring Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao Zedung’s China in the North with democratic ideals in the South, supported by a United States exhausted from the recent World War.  No differences in ethnicity.  No differences in religion.  No differences in language or culture or history or any of the multitude of factors that underpin most conflicts.  It was a false separation – but one which resulted in a fratricidal war.

Over the last few weeks, I have spoken with a number of Korean friends.  Several told me of their family history, of grandparents from the North, of their grandparents caught in the South on business during the breakout of the war and during the signing of the armistice, of the inability for them to return home after the cease fire.  I learned of family members who were unable to flee to the South, fates unknown, their families unaware to this day if any have survived.

Exactly 60 years after the signing of the armistice, today the two countries are separated by much more than just the 38th parallel – with prosperity in the South in stark contrast to starvation in the North.

Now, two generations later, many young South Koreans are questioning the once indisputable concept of reunification. Support for the national goal of unification, taught in schools from the 5th grade, has been rapidly declining.  According to the Washington Post, “In the 1990s, more than 80 percent of South Korea thought unification was essential, according to government polls. But that number has dropped to 56 percent. About 41 percent of those in their 20s feel that way. Among teens, the figure drops closer to 20 percent.”

Young Koreans are wary of the economic ramifications that the absorption of the ravaged North may have on their country, despite the successful precedent of East & West Germany in 1989.

With Germany as an example of what may be possible, I have asked myself if the challenge transcends the economic to something deeper in the national psyche.

And so, in reading Exodus 13:8 tonight, I began to think about whose narrative South Korea is telling.  Unlike our explicit instructions for Passover, my friends in Seoul tell of the exodus of their ancestors.  Their collective memory excludes them personally – their story is of a past that is becoming increasingly disconnected from their present – and  future.

At the end of each seder, we recite the phrase “next year in Jerusalem,” reflecting and affirming the traditional Jewish longing for a peaceful and Messianic capital – both figuratively and literally.

Perhaps this year, at a seder  in Seoul, someone at this very moment is saying, next year in Pyongyang. 

Peering past the ROK soldiers into North Korea

North Korean side of the JSA

Bridge of No Return

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Eating Live Octopus in Busan, Korea

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For weeks we’ve been told that a mandatory part of our trip would be eating live octopus, Sannakji, in Busan.

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And while not all of us were so brave, Pablo deciding to give it a try…

(please excuse this first attempt to learn how to use imovie)

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Gangnam Style – First Few Days in Seoul, Korea

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Now, at the halfway point of our trip, it is astonishing to think that we have only been in Korea for three days, given the amount we have seen and done, thanks to our classmates who have organized this incredible experience.

Our Korean food adventured deserves its own separate write-up, so for now, we will focus on the tourist highlights and company visits.

  • Nanta a non-verbal performance and the longest running show in Korea, which is best described as a cooking-themed version of Broadway’s “Stomp”
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace Tour
  • Shopping in Dongdaemoon
  • Korea War Memorial Museum

 

Yonsei University 

Our visit to Yonsei University began with a presentation from Dr. Hahn, Columbia Business School PhD (‘81), about the transformation of the Korean political and economic environment during the past 60 years.  Learning about the growth the country has undergone during a relatively short timeframe was astonishing.  We then had an exchange with Yonsei MBA students and went on a guided campus tour where we got to “experience” the high-tech Samsung Library.  We were blown away by the flat screens scattered throughout the first floor that served as large touch-screens allowing students to do everything from using an interactive campus map to reading the news from nearly 100 countries in any language imaginable.  The whole group was struck by the beauty and energy of the bustling campus; based on our initial impression of Yonsei, it is easy to see the appeal of attending this prestigious and thriving university.

-Liz Millman, CBS ‘14

 

Severance Hospital

We were graciously received by Severance Hospital, the flagship branch of the Yonsei University Health System, Korea’s first modern medical institution founded in 1885 by American medical missionary Dr Horace Allen.  The medical faculty gave us a presentation on Yonsei’s work in robotic surgery, which at a cumulative caseload of 8,000 surgeries, is one of the world’s most experienced centers of robotic surgery.  Yonsei has made impressive breakthroughs in expanding use of robotic surgery beyond urology and gynecology into general surgery (GS), where it has performed by far the most procedures in the world in part due to the FDA having not yet approved robotic surgery for GS in the USA.  We toured Severance, built in 2005 and designed by American architects Ellerbe Becket, which resembled more of an airport terminal than a hospital with ubiquitous kiosks resembling ATMs for patients checking in.  Severance is 100% paperless with exclusive use of electronic medical records (EMR) and has over 1,200 beds.  Nearly all of us were left wishing we had such an efficient, comfortable, and modern hospital back home in New York.

-Paul Brandenburg, CBS ‘13

 

Lotte Co., Ltd.

See here

 

Nanta!

Seoul at night

Outside the Palace

the Palace

at the Lotte Home Shopping Network

Life’s tough decisions at Lotte Confectionary Factory

In front of the tanks at the Korean War Memorial Museum

 

 

 

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