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From Paris to “NYC,” “The Big Apple,” “Nue York” or Just Simply “The City”

I flew to New York, not only to visit with my daughter, but because I couldn’t pass up the fare — $546 Paris-New York on British Airways Open Skies. With flights between Orly and JFK or Newark, it’s a great way to go between the cities on small, but comfortable planes.

After months of cold, snowy weather, New York opened its skies to let in the clear blue warmth of a budding spring. For the first couple of days, being on the streets of Manhattan was a pleasure the New Yorkers hadn’t had for a very long time. Then it turned misty/rainy over the weekend reverting to moderately ‘miserable,’ but not so frosty and a whole lot more tolerable.

I don’t go to New York for New York’s sake like most visitors to the city. In fact, even as a past resident of the city (college years at FIT), a property owner (my daughter’s West Village Studio) and a frequent visitor with lots of old friends, the “Big Apple” is one city with which I’ve never had much of a rapport — believe it or not.

Most people assume I’m a New Yorker, but I’m really just a “Southern Girl” more in tune with the likes of “Tara.” While no one can argue the city’s electrifying attraction to the entire world, for an old “Parisienne” like me, New York doesn’t live up to the beauty, charm and finesse of the European cities I’ve come to know and love — like Paris, Nice, Amsterdam, Venice, Seville…the long list of cities oozing with exactly what New York is missing.

This does not mean New York is lacking for much. “Au contraire.” Part of the problem is a reverse culture shock that hits the moment I land. In a recent article by Dave Infante in titled ‘21 Things You Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners About New York City,” his number 3 on the list hit on my number 1 reason culture shock sets in the moment I arrive:

“3. Yes, it’s always this loud. No, it doesn’t “bother” us. For the love of God, stop covering your ears every time an ambulance or screeching subway goes by.'”


Face it, New York is noisy. Paris isn’t silent by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s many decibels lower — on the streets, in the restaurants, everywhere — it’s quieter. We all know that American voices are heard well over French voices, and this is true wherever Americans are, whether on the streets of Paris or New York or anywhere. It can be tough to take once you’re sensitized.

The piles of garbage in the streets doesn’t seem to bother New Yorkers, either — like the doggy poop in Paris we Parisians have come to ignore. It is shocking to me that the city hasn’t figured out (or won’t spend the money) to clean itself up. When are they going to provide garbage bins (like our green ones) that aren’t such an eyesore as the plastic bags (which are also terrible for the environment)? And when are they going to actually pick them up more often than twice or thrice a week?

According to NYC Department of Sanitation, “Under the current leadership of DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, NYC streets are cleaner today than they have been in more than 35 years.” I hope that’s not true, but maybe it is. On my daughter’s street, the pick-up is three times a week, but that’s simply not enough. The piles pile up and it’s not a pretty sight, much less a hygienic one.

I slipped on the floor of the subway a few times — the dirt and oil is so thick and wet that even rubber-soled boots were sliding all over the place. The Métro is by no stretch of the imagination sterile, but which underground would you rather be in? I know my choice.

Face it, the city is gritty. My daughter claims it’s part of the appeal — she’s more opposed to pristinely perfect France than cities that have this kind of ‘edge.’ I get it, but I don’t have to like it.

Item 7 of Infante’s list is a lesson to be learned: “We don’t call it the ‘Big Apple,’ and we barely even call it ‘New York’ or ‘NYC.’ It’s ‘The City.'”

So, it’s clear from what I’ve already written here that I’m an outsider. Interestingly enough, the phrase, “Big Apple” was coined as long ago as 1909 by Edward S. Martin in his book, “The Wayfarer”: “Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city…It inclines to think that the ‘big apple’ gets a disproportionate share of the national sap.” It was later in the 1920s that it was popularized by sports writer, John J. Fitz Gerald, but the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau really made it stick when it built a tourism campaign around “The City” in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, there is so much to love, too, on the positive side of culture shock.

I love that the city is open and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. France is still in debate over Sunday opening hours, much less openings overnight! Prime Minister Manuel Valls is pushing key economic reforms, one of which is quite controversial — the opening of retail stores from five Sundays a year to 12. In spite of Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s objection, shops in designated tourist zones, will be allowed to open every Sunday. Hurrah!

I also love that every service known to man is available — you can get just about anything delivered to your door at any hour of the day or night. In Paris, sure you can get sushi delivered, or pizza, but that’s about the extent of it. And if you didn’t grocery shop before 1 p.m. on Sunday, then you’re out of luck for Sunday dinner, except for dining out and even then, your choices are more limited.

I love that people are creatively eccentric or not. You can tell the tourists from the New Yorkers almost immediately, just like you can in Paris, but there is no “New York Look” so to speak — in fact, New Yorkers can have any ‘look’ imaginable. They are clearly marching to a different drummer and anything goes.

Other than being critical of “The City” for which my daughter is quick to criticize me, these last few days have already been a refreshing blast of New York culture. What does a Parisienne do when she hits “The City?” besides complain?

1. Run to eat really good and cheap sushi — $20-$20/person at Takahashi. Why can’t the sushi restaurants in Paris be so creative?

2. Get a pedicure for $20. Pedicures were only done by podiatrists in France until about 10 to 15 years ago and even now they carry a price of about €45 or more.

3. Visit the new World Trade Center. The new glass tower is a beautiful sight, but the twin memorial manmade waterfalls, each about one square acre in size, set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers, are downright creepy. The names of the people who perished are engraved along the bronze border, and one feels it would be easy to fall in and perish forever just like they did. I’m not sure I want to go back.

4. Stroll through the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see what else?…but the French impressionists! We were fortunate enough to see the Madame Cézanne exhibition of Paul Cézanne’s paintings, drawings, and watercolors of his lifelong attachment to Hortense Fiquet just before it ended Sunday, but the permanent collection of French paintings in the second floor galleries rivals that of the Musée d’Orsay, and the museum bookstore is one of the world’s finest, if you’d rather shop than drop!

5. Descend the stairs within the glass cube entry designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to the flagship Apple Store at 767 Fifth Avenue, open 24/7, 365 days a year (Parisians, eat your hearts out!). You can buy an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc. any day, any time. I wanted to buy everything and decided to buy nothing thanks to the overwhelming hoards of shoppers — I’ve never seen so many people in one retail store in my life, whether they were seriously shopping or just playing around, it’s a crowd experience.

And while I’ve been out running around, meeting with old friends and getting to see a bit of “The City,” daughter Erica Simone has been busy launching her Pubslush campaign to publish her book: “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen.” (See the latest Huffington Post post Photography Book: Nude Self-Portraits Around Busy New York City (NSFW))

From Houston to Hudson and From Bowery to the Bronx, Photographing Manhattan Has Never Been Such a Rush…Launched on Pubslush today! — NSFW. I dare you to check it out!

Join the movement. Watch the teaser video #thepowerofnaked, directed by Paul de Luna.

The publishing of the book is almost half-funded…so if you’re so inclined, donate a dollar or a $1,000 or just pass it on to your friends and support “the power of naked” in “Nue York” or “The Big Apple” or whatever you choose to call “The City!”

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

(photo by Erica Simone)

Respond to Adrian



P.S. For all my New York friends, you are invited to attend a beautiful one-night photography show curated by Jaci Berkopec, Erica Simone and Monica Watkins on Tuesday, March 24th from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Kinfolk Art Gallery (94 Wythe, 11249, Brooklyn, NY) to celebrate the Classical Elements (Water, Air, Fire & Earth)—a benefit for The Foundation for Art In Motion and The Shooting Stars Photography Workshop for Teens at Risk.

Featured artists include: Spencer Tunick, Marco Gallotta, Erica Simone, Shae DeTar, Ryan Keeley, Paul de Luna, Gregory Prescott, Michael David Adams, Rachel Sussman, Shoko Takayasu, Jaka Vinsek, Rachel Barrett, Brandon Thibodeaux, Anastasia Samoylova, Jaci Berkopec, Anastasiia Sapon, Nicholas Hughes, Lisa DiLillo, Laurent Badessi, Bob Packert, Bryan Derballa, Ian Brewer, Reka Nyari, Justin Gonyea, Marta Berens, Nikola Tamindzic, Jeaneen Lund and Jeff Friesen.

Esteemed Sponsors include Beautiful Savage Magazine, Pubslush and flower design by Tinsel Twine. Music by DJ Valissa Yoe. Edible chocolate installation by Culinary Harassment.

There will be an appreciated $10 suggested donation at the door. Proceeds from art sales will be going to the Foundation for Art in Motion and Shooting Stars charities.

For more information, visit


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