Americans in Italy, Spain, and France are somehow always in the market for new sunglasses.    Today I’ll wear mine, the ones I found after trying on all the different styles in all the different cities.  I’ll pretend I am abroad in a European city; I might just ask for directions with an accent.  “Eh, zee museo?  Here, no?”  I’ll cross my legs at an outdoor café, writing in my journal, wearing a twist of patterned silk around my neck, in observation mode. When I’m through with espresso, I’ll move on toward a euro café full of racing leather, numbered shirts, and midriff, where I’ll sling back Sancerre and gulp orange mussels, dipping crusty bread into a lake of Thai-spiced coconut milk.  I’ll stab a tub of mayonnaise with salted fries, and I won’t need a napkin.  I’ll even have dessert, and the syrup they call wine to go with it.

I fear it’s time for sunless tanning lotion.  Soon the sundresses and shoulders will twist on the streets of Manhattan, above espadrilles and tanned calves, above white summery pedicures.  It’s that time again.  Time for sunglasses, outdoor seating, and oysters… for shell jewelry, glowing white on tanned skin.  For main course salads and white pants.  For a pot of crème brûlée, beneath a green awning, above white linen, beside a half-full bottle of Pellegrino. 

I move through cities without direction, in sneakers, inhaling architecture and absorbing flat faces.  I look for dogs and miss Linus, see fashionable men and wonder if their wives chose their ties, see nuns and wonder what their hair looks like, and who, if anyone, cuts it.  I hear small girls, with small folded white socks, ask for small things: a scoop of ice cream, some change to toss into the fountain, a balloon. 

We all ask strangers to take us to where the locals go.  Concierges everywhere grow weary from the request, “Nothing touristy.  Tell me where the locals go, where the good hole in the wall is.”  This from a woman wearing shorts and a fanny pack, holding a map.  You have to imagine he sends all the other tourists to that same destination.  So you quit doing that, and instead walk without direction, hoping you’ll stumble upon a secret gem of a restaurant.  Nothing is as thrilling as learning something new.

Not unlike a new love, there are few things more rewarding than believing you’ve found something amazing that no one else has gotten wind of yet.  For that moment, it’s your secret delight, and it feels warm.  Your wine tastes better there, and the spaghetti is unlike anything you’ve tasted.  You understand the idea of the Greeks and their ambrosia.  You’re certain this music you hear will follow you in life, and when you’re back in the U.S., you promise to go to the Tower Records international section.  You’ll load up on this music and play it when you’re cooking.  When you are back in America, though, you have new to-do lists involving milk and film development, phone calls, let-me-tell-you-all-about-my-trip plans, European-looking gifts for those you forgot.  But when you meet with friends to speak of your trip, of the weeks you were gone, you do it in minutes, sharing only one or two stories, speaking of your lucky find, of the beach you discovered and were on alone, of the fish you almost caught, of the guy you danced with until morning.  You suddenly have less to share; it wasn’t for them.  They won’t understand how you felt near that fountain, how you remember more the face of the gypsy who blessed you than an entire face of a city.  They won’t comprehend the small white moments you felt on the train, as you passed rolling farms, wondering about the hands that tended to them.  They will compliment you on your sunglasses, and you’ll thank them, wishing you could remember more.



  1. So true about trips and vacations. We always look for some hidden gem. Yet, when we try to explain the trip or the moment, no one can fully understand it except us.

  2. Once again, you are right. No one can really understand our relationships from the outside looking in. They will never capture the moment like we do.

  3. Stephanie, just stumbled across your blog the other day, and I gotta say I really enjoy your posts. Keep on writing, and I'll keep on reading!

  4. Did you ever try to move through your OWN city that way?? See if you can look at the things that pass by every day unnoticed… like the tourists do… white sunglasses, scarf, accent and all.

    Looking at your home city like an outsider can reveal a "there" that you didn't even know was there. You may find out how glad you are to live there.

    Looking at a lover as an outsider, however, is more dangerous. You may find out you're not so glad to LOVE there.

    Either way, you get the fries, the wine, the Pellegrino… and you don't need to miss Linus!

  5. I've been a tourist in my own city many times. I took the red double decker through the city, taking photos of Macy's, even. I've done The Empire State Building (and I always think of An Affair to Remember & Love Affair). I'll have frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity's too.

    Today, I was thinking of walking over the Brooklyn Bridge with my camera, but then I'd want to eat pizza at Grimaldi's… but you can't order a slice there. I decided not to go because I'd have no one to eat with me… and contrary to most, I hate cold leftover pizza… and I don't own a microwave… ew, microwaved pizza is just gross anyway.

    I'm determined to eat French Fries tonight. They're kosher for passover, right?

  6. Bet you'd have had great light today with all the heavy clouds rolling through.

    And you're right: pizza + microwave = sponge (Bleah.) You just gotta find someone who'll eat it with you fresh or who likes it cold from the fridge later. (I know, I know.. duhh. This would be why my sister calls me MOTO: Master of the Obvious.)

    Go for the fries, I think they're kosher so long as there is a pope installed on the same day. That's a little-known ecumenical thingy passed in the 18th century.

  7. God! I enjoy reading your blog. I am no long 20-ish. Even though I chose to live in the bowels of a rural state, I relish hearing stories of 'one-who-could-be-me' living in Manhattan. Please don't let notoriety get in the way of who you are. Keep posting. I'll be reading.

  8. …french fries and mayonnaise, never really understood the European obsession with that.

    I'm currently studying in Paris, travelling throughout Europe. Your post captured my feelings, emotions, memories exactly. Fantastic!

    As for them fries…it depends how crazy you are about your KP stuff. "Technically" they're just potatoes…mmmhhmm…now I'm getting hungry. Darn Passover!

    Hag Sameach!

  9. i like french fries with honey mustard dressing. everyone else here seems to like it with tartar sauce. blah.

  10. Frozen hot chocolate? My fiance, upon seeing Serendipity in the movie of the same name became ravenous. My company owns the East Side Marriott and the Essex House. Tell me, is this treat worth the trip from Chicago? Just to satisify a girl who apparently doesn't like sweets but ate the buttercream off every cupcake at her brother's confirmation reception this afternoon.

  11. It's not that other people won't know the relationship as well as you they just won't have the same perspective on it. A battered woman stays with her abuser for years as all of her friends know for years that he is abusive. Some may have even told her and she told them that they were crazy and pushed them away. The people outside of the relationship may understand what's going on perhaps better than the people in it. But when you're in it … it's like that forrest trees analogy.

    I hope you had a great weekend!

    Bon chance!

  12. Beautiful writing Stephanie.
    This made me want to go out and get a pedicure, and pick up sunless tanning lotion. I also wanted to get on a plane to somewhere.:-)
    Enjoyed this post.

  13. I was roaming paris last Nov with the mood of enjoying those little out of the way bistros or cafes; upward alley with beautiful window displays and dated lamps mounted on the high wall. You feel you are having a glimpse of half hidden life of the real people. It is not so different than semi stalking someone. You may or may not know whether the person is there. You search with no expecation, and you will be freed just for the searching and anticipating itself. I was in Bronx Saturday and walked around midtown west yesterday, taking pictures of yet again of the skyline of the city I am so familiar with, but in the background of fast moving clouds and in a time of seperation from one special person of my life. And the city feels different to me, like everytime I look into it.

    This again is a great posting of yours. It inspires me when I read it. Thank you!

  14. The thing about fries being kosher? If they have not been fried in fat that has fried traife, pork rinds, twinkies, etc, they are OK. Think: latkes w/out leavening are ok, so why not fries? I wrote some stuff while I was in Rome for months in the snow, yeah, it snowed, but you write so well it makes me weep. I'm jealous.

  15. You took me back to Berlin (in '96). How did you do that? You captured one night I was there with my best friend and we did just that…stumbled upon a gem.

    Great post.

  16. What a great post. It had me saying to myself, "Yeah, that's how it really is!". I love reading you Stephanie Klein, you prove to a girl in Michigan, that no matter what corner of the world you live in, we all experience the same things.

  17. I've been living in Switzerland for about 4 years now, and still surprise
    myself by acting like a tourist occasionaly (you know, taking pictures
    of the Matterhorn when it's two hours away from where I live). Though many
    things are now familiar, I find it's still strange being here.

    Working through your site, good stuff. Makes me miss Manhattan.


  18. Hey, leftover pizza is great in the broiler.

    And still noone to share pizza with? I find that hard to believe.

  19. sorry… have you really ever been in europe??
    cliché cliché cliché……

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.