A Word on Hygge, from New York

Hygge is a funny little Danish word that elegantly stands in for a potpourri of feelings: coziness, warmth, comfort, love, security, being surrounded by friends and loved ones, looking out at snow and sleet from inside a warm, fire-lit room, sipping a hot drink, feeling utterly safe and happy. Danes know a thing or two about hygge apparently, given that they won the metaphoric cake several times as the world’s happiest people, so we adopted ‘hygge’ as a new word in our vocabulary, to fill in a space that the pragmatic English language has left unexplored. (There’s a few other notions that English doesn’t begin to define, like the Portuguese ‘saudade’ and Romanian ‘dor,’ both meaning to miss someone, a mixture of nostalgia, hurt, love and good memories, or the Arabic “sukuun” literally ‘the presence of absence,’ so cleverly capturing the feeling engendered by a certain kind of emptiness.) But ‘hygge’ really stands out for its unequivocally positive connotations and we adopted it wholeheartedly. Until we spoke to the experts, that is.

I should say that by this point we arrived in New York, our third East Coast destination, and, not surprisingly, one full of adventures in spite of the fact that it was somewhat shorter. We stayed with our good friends Vio and Didi (which autocorrect insists are actually called Bio and Did with an infuriating self-assuredness) and were lucky enough to have our other friend Ion as guide and maitre d’ during the days.

Our wonderful hosts, hard at cooking a delicious vegetarian dinner on our first night in New York.

Our wonderful hosts, hard at cooking a delicious vegetarian dinner on our first night in New York.

Ion (pronounced Yon) also happens to be the expert whom we consulted with regards to ‘hygge’ and Danish culture, in general, as someone who lived a good few years there and experienced first-hand the much-vaunted Danish happiness, hygge and eponymous cheese-filled pastries.

Ion, our New York guide and Danish happiness expert :-)

Ion, our New York guide and Danish happiness expert 🙂

The verdict? The Danes are no more no less happy than anyone else. Objectively, they seem to enjoy excellent healthcare, a good social net, rake in sizable incomes and have plenty of time for vacations and family. On the flip side, their weather is terrible and their politics veer a bit extreme right, especially on the topic of immigration.

But happiness has nothing to do with objective measurements. Even those poor 1% of the US, who by all standards should be the happiest? Not always happy, believe it or not, because there’s always someone richer, younger, prettier or more successful than them. It’s all about perspective and who you compare yourself with – those above or those below you in wealth, health, looks, etc.

As for us two bums? Between eating gourmet vegetarian dinners hand-cooked for us by two Wall-Street hot-shots, taking in  the Maigritte exhibit at MoMa, walking through Central Park at its most splendid time of the year, and most importantly, hanging out with good friends in cozy places, laughing, drinking, and making plans, we certainly experienced hygge the New York-version, and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Brunch, watered abundantly with mimosas

Brunch, watered abundantly with mimosas

Dinner and drinks

Dinner and drinks at Reunion

At the Moma. We weren't allowed to take photos at the Maigritte exhibit :-(; but everything else was game...

At the Moma. We weren’t allowed to take photos at the Maigritte exhibit :-(; but everything else was game…

Thank you Bio, Did, Eye-On and Nod Yeah! DAMN YOU AUTOCORRECT!
A la prochaine, chers amis.

The Journey begins: Atlanta and D.C.

And so it begins: after packing up all of our belongings in boxes and crates, subletting the good old Lilly Pad, and stuffing the car with miscellanea, we drove down to Southern California to say our goodbyes to the family and get abused by our cat one last time- oh, how we missed you dear Minoush.

After a refreshing and energizing few days in the OC, Ed and I finally boarded an airplane to the first leg of our grand journey: The East Coast Tour. 

The trip starts on a nice fall day which feels more like an early summer day in sunny Atlanta, greeted by the smile of the wonderful Kelly Mac.  Our gracious host has in the past 3 years become quite the tour guide to the hip and cool of Atlanta.  As usual Kelly has an amazing knack to find the best music venues, coffee shops and this time as a special treat, an sumptuous restaurant.  To start, Tuesday night went off!  In a T-shirt and sandals we cruised, southern-style to a local music venue which had glorious live music and good southern food.  I’d describe it more in detail, but unfortunately I’m not the biggest fan of southern food, sorry foodies.  The open mic was generously shared to anyone who has musical talent, and let me tell ya’all, the talent in the building was flowing out the windows!

After a nice stroll to visit a little history we made a pit stop to the local refueling station.  Literally a former gas station for us professional culture seekers to satiate our late night astro-octanophilia.  My drink was a whiskey glass full of gin, bitters, maybe some absinth the right herbs and a massive cube of ice that even it was afraid to get dive into this large amount of high caliber alcohol.  I don’t know how, but I finished it before closing time, and the ice cube was left gleefully high and dry.  Good night folks.

The next day we saw a converted rail line into an artistic walk.  See photos.  I really appreciated this touch as there were a lot of people seriously enjoying themselves while jogging, rollerblatding, commuting, and walking their babies, dogs, babies’ dogs and even the resident cat was out for a walk.  See photos, ’nuff said.

The coffee shop actually reminded me of Coffee Bar, the original, in the Mission of San Francisco.  The best part of the coffee shop is the atmosphere and the folks inside, how they interact, are busy, and enjoying the place.  And the quality of the Coffee of course.  All should be written home about, but I’m not going to try to capture the quality of such. (so just go visit Kelly Mac, if you’re lucky enough to be invited 😉

Oh-la-la: Gentrification in the Capital of the Nation

A short preface, for clarification: both of us lived in Washington DC for a length of time (Ed for about 1.5 years, I for about 4); in fact, that’s where Cupid impaled us ruthlessly on a balmy Bastille Day. Thankfully we’re skewered onto each other, so we’ll forgive him the unnecessary violence. We still have lots of very dear friends that still live there, including two of my bridesmaids, Bulgarian firecracker Monika and Uruguayan goddess Ana.

We left on a lovely warm morning for D.C., where Bogdan, one of my old roommates (there were many of us!) picked us up from the airport in his snazzy new ride and deposed us to his new abode in Virginia, which he shares with Monika and another AUBG alumn and friend. The weather was definitely on our side again, with beautiful, mostly sunny and crisp days, which we packed real’ tight with people- and sight-seeing, including:

Champagne and hors d’oeuvres at Ana’s lovely apartment

P1050867Pit-stop at DC’s “sexiest” terrace – the W hotelP1050875Dinner where it all started: The Bistrot Du Coin P1050897Followed by drinks at Russia House, another DC institution with which we have some history. And yes, that’s a sickle and hammer on the wall there… Also, they served Hangar One vodka, the very distillery we toured the weekend before leaving San Francisco.P1050898Tour of NPR, complete with watching the Making of All Things Considered, directed by the one and only Monika Evstatieva (See INSTAGRAM Photos)

Toro Y Moi Concert at the 9:30 clubP1050912Tour of incredibly lovely looking, revamped Navy Yard and meeting with Tom and his adorable familyP1050930And finally, dinner at Roxana’s fancy new abode that looked like it fell out of the Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Overall, the biggest shock we experienced in DC was caused by the incredible degree of gentrification we saw everywhere – from 14th Street, which used to have a whopping two decent restaurants before we left, to Navy Yard, where people used to sleep in bathtubs for fear of stray bullets, as recent as five years ago.They both now look like posh sections of San Francisco.

Not sure if someone stumbled onto the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or what, or they finally elected a mayor without a crack habit, but the city is certainly booming.

Thank you D.C. friends – it was lovely to see you all! Next Destination: NEW YORK CITY!

E&C, a joint post