Green in “The City of Light”

January 7, 2011

On Tuesday July 27th 2010, I set off on a night flight with my mom to Paris, France for the very first time.  It was not my very first time on a plane or in France.  I took a plane for the first time when I was a child and I have already been to Strasbourg, France (the French wine country) along with many other major cities within the United States and several aboard.  But this was going to be my first time in “The City of Light.” 🙂

I have to say that night flights to Paris are awesome!  I highly recommend them.   Our seven-hour Continental flight was scheduled to leave out of Newark Airport at 9:30PM.  I think it is fantastic to be able to sleep (or at least try) at night as you normally would and then wake up in the morning to new city/country.  Our flight was also great because the plane was not full – – therefore we had a three-seater all to ourselves; two meals (dinner and breakfast) a pillow; a blanket and the large variety of movies, television shows, music and games to individually select.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport at about 11:05AM.  We hit ALOT of traffic in our cab from the airport to our hotel and arrived at the Hôtel Observatoire Luxembourg, within the Latin Quarter, in the early afternoon.  We immediately wanted to hook up with my two cousins, their spouses and combined five children.  They were staying in another hotel down the street from us called Hotel Excelsior.  My cousin David lives in Switzerland, had been to Paris several times before and therefore was an excellent guide. 🙂  We met up and it was on!

First, we went to pick up passes we had pre-ordered from a website called parispass.com.  We got kind of turned around from door to door trying to find Fat Tire Bike Tours and thought for a moment that we had been had, but all was well and I highly recommend getting this pass.  This same day we took the open top bus tour complete with audio, which is a great way to see all of the sites of Paris; walked up to the Eiffel Tower; walked down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and ate dinner down a really cute side street in the Latin Quarter.   Unfortunately the food was mediocre and the service was terrible.  The stereotype of SOME French people being rude is I’m sorry to say quite true.  I just have to add that the bathroom looked like Medieval Times.  The sink had a foot pump that released the water.

Thursday July 29th was more of a chill day.  We went to the Museum D’Orsay.  As expected Museum D’Orsay has some cool exhibits inside and cool large black statues of animals on the outside before you walk in.  I really liked in particular one exhibit underneath the floor that enabled you to see through plexiglass as you stood on top of it.  It reminded me of the floor in Ghostbar within The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas.  My mom, cousin Beth, David’s wife Tabitha and I spent the rest of the day shopping while David and Beth’s husband Wayne took the kids to a playground in front of the Louvre.

On Friday, July 30th I woke up at 5:15AM so we could meet my cousins at 7:30AM.  Before this day, I don’t know if I have ever woken up at 5:00 in morning to do anything!  As a result, we were some of very first people in line to go to the top the Eiffel Tower before it opened at 9:00AM.  The top of the Eiffel Tower as you can imagine has incredible panoramic views.  After that, we went to the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa (which is pretty small  – – as most people say) and the giant magnificent pyramids outside.  I felt just like I was in the Da Vinci Code.    It was awesome.  Then, we had lunch in a café near the Louvre and the Opera House.  This time the food and service were excellent.  Although, the bathroom did not have any soap and we all had to use the same hand towel.  Gross!  But of course I always carry Purell.  Next we headed for Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.  Montmartre is a very artsy neighborhood that is cool to explore and Sacre Coeur is a beautiful church on top of a hill.  In order to get there though, you have to climb this huge hill and I’m not exaggerating about a million steps.  It was like something that MTV asks their cast members to do in a Real World/Road Rules challenge.  I’m so impressed with myself that I did it. Montmartre and Sacre Coeur are also near the infamous Moulin Rouge.  (I love the Lady Marmalade song re-created for the 2001 Moulin Rouge movie.)  We attempted to walk up to the Moulin Rouge to see what it looks like, but because we had kids with us turned around when we started to see all of the Red Light District type shops along the way.  Finally, we ended our day with a boat ride down the lovely Seine River.  I went to bed that night with immense pain in my feet that I have never felt before.

The morning of Saturday, July 31st my cousins left 😦 for a drive to Lyon and Saint-Tropez –  – (the French Riviera.)  Fancy huh?  I wish we could have gone too.  So my mom and I were now on our own.  We spent the next two days taking another open bus tour; shopping for souvenirs near Notre Dame; strolling around the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens; drinking coffee; eating croissants; omelets; salmon crepes; Nutella and banana crepes and McDonald’s! 🙂

We woke up at 6:35AM Monday, August 2nd to make our 8:45AM shuttle ride back to the airport.  We picked up two sets of people on the way to airport and the ride was really quick.  I think we arrived at around 9:20AM.  (This shuttle ride is a very economical and efficient way to get to and from your hotel.  I highly recommend checking it out.)   I thought we would arrive at the airport extremely early but we had to wait on a really long line to check our bags; go through customs; security and stopped to have coffee and yogurt.  By the time we were done with all this it was about 12:10PM.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 12:55PM.

The flight going to Paris was much better than the flight coming back to Newark.  The flight back was completely full and there was a disgusting smell in the air the whole time.  We couldn’t wait to get off!  As my mom and I walked down the aisle to exit the plane you wouldn’t believe or maybe you would, the mess.  Garbage, head-phones, pillows and blankets were just thrown everywhere.   Exactly one week later on Monday, August 9th the story of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater broke.  How could anyone forget this guy right?  I’m not surprised one bit to hear that he was driven to a break down like that.  It was one of the wildest stories I ever heard.

Once I was home again, got some rest and my feet finally stopped hurting, I was able to look back on this trip with a great big, smile.  My first trip to Paris was fabulous, fantastic fun!  We didn’t miss much of anything and I’m so glad I did it! 🙂

Photo: Paris Pont Alexandre III – La Renommee des Arts et La France de Charlemagne by Wally Gobetz

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Review of Hôtel Observatoire Luxembourg

January 7, 2011

My mom and I liked this hotel a great deal.  It was very small – – a true boutique hotel as it stated on the little, white, square room napkins, but it was very clean; had hot shower water; strong room air-conditioning; a refrigerator in the room; comfortable beds; a cute lobby; a nice looking set-up for breakfast; a cafe right next door and plenty near by; Notre Dame and a grocery store were within walking distance; beautiful Luxembourg Gardens across the street; shuttle service to the airport and a pleasant, very helpful staff who were fluent in English.

I also like another expedia.com traveler’s tip of requesting a back room if you want to open your windows.  (FYI – – there aren’t any screens on the windows.)  I think we had a side room therefore we had one noisy and one quiet window.  I liked opening up the windows in the morning to feel the temperature; enjoy the view of the building across the street and the pretty red, potted, flowers attached to the windowsill.  I could really see the influence of Paris on the city of New Orleans, Louisiana as a result of my trip there as well.  And, I would also suggest bringing washcloths because they are not supplied!

Photo: Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg by Janne Moren

Blogging 101

April 26, 2010

As my social media class and the Spring 2010 semester come to a close, I would like to share my thoughts on my blogging experience.  As I discussed in my very first WordPress blog post, aside from a blog writing assignment that I did for Public Relations Writing Seminar II class last semester (I got an A :-)) this is the first time I have ever blogged on the Internet.

I have always loved to write.  I started writing at a very young age – – before the pre-teen double digits, in a diary that had these pretty pink ballet slippers on the front cover and an actual lock and key on the side.  I also remember handwriting letters to my aunt who lived in Cleveland, Ohio on this bubble gum paper stationary that she gave me.  Hi Aunt Bunny!  (She’s probably reading this blog post right now. 🙂 )

Through my social media class I have learned that blogs need to: 1) have a catchy headline that grabs the reader’s attention; 2) have a beginning, middle and end; 3) have goals, a strategy and a narrow topic; 4) sound like a real person, be passionate and authentic; 5) include photos, links and videos; And 6) organize content into categories and tags.

I did find blogging challenging because I had to learn how to do everything as I went along.  By the time I got to my fourth blog post “Privacy on the Internet,” I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it and then when I made it to my fifth blog post “Ripping Off Rite Aid” I had finally figured out how to insert photos and so I started to feel like my blog posts were looking good/showing great improvement.   At times I also found it challenging to come up with a topic to write about when a topic was not assigned.

I have really enjoyed seeing my name in print, my hard work published, read, commented on and conversations happen.  (Thanks for all your responses!)  Now three months after the start of my social media class, I feel quite proud of my blog post progression.  There are still a few technical aspects of blogging that I would like to try utilizing.  Therefore, I’d like to keep working on implementing what I have learned in this class and continue practicing blogging some more after class is over.

Photo: Washington Square Park at Night, NYC by Francisco Diez

The Incredible iPad

April 19, 2010

As we all know Apple’s iPad made its grand debut in United States stores earlier this month on Saturday April 3rd.  Along with my school –  – NYU; many of its students and faculty I love Apple products.  I have two iPods.  I have an iPod mini (remember those?)  that I still use and an iPod nano.  I very recently, at the end of last month, had to break down and buy a new laptop computer.  I am now the proud owner of a 15” MacBook Pro.  I had (and still have) my iBook G4 laptop for six years!  I take really good care of things.  It still looks brand new.  I could probably start my own technology museum, but that’s another blog post.

I saw an article on the cover of Newsweek magazine entitled “Think Really Different: The iPad will change the way you use computers, read books, and watch TV – – as long as you’re willing to do it the Steve Jobs way.” Even though I’m a big Apple product enthusiast, I like the author of this article, I am wondering just what is so great about the iPad?

As this article explained the iPad runs on the iPhone operating system, so it’s apparently even easier to use than a Mac.  Just like the iPhone, the iPad is a sleek, slim device and you navigate its interface with your fingers rather than a keyboard or mouse.  It has a 9.7-inch screen and it weighs only one and a half pounds.  You can read books and play movies for ten hours on a single battery charge.  We talk about “getting onto the Internet,” but with the iPad you can have a constant online connection, which is a pretty amazing shift.  The iPad also has a 24/7 link to a store, enabling users to make impulse buys.  According to this article, the iPad could eventually become your TV, your newspaper, and your bookshelf.  Pretty soon, Apple might even become your cable company by selling subscriptions, via iTunes, to individual shows or channels.  Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak also added “The iPad could lower the cost of acquiring computers for students.  I think it’s going to be huge in the education market.”

After reading this article, I agree that Steve Jobs has an uncanny ability to invent beautifully designed products that we didn’t know we needed, but then suddenly we can’t live without.  By this time next year I may have decided that I need the iPad to read books electronically.  I haven’t started doing that yet.  For those of you who did not pre-order or wait on the massive long lines for the iPad, are you going to go out and get one?

Photo:  ipad_home_screen by Ben Atkin

Perilous PR?

April 7, 2010

I was watching The Insider and Entertainment Tonight, when I saw a story come on that involved Lady GagaBeyonce and  Donny Osmond. Donny Osmond may currently be starring in a Las Vegas/“Sin City” show alongside his sister Marie, but he is known for his squeaky clean image as a young pop star and his strong Mormon religious convictions.  So for me this sounded like a very intriguing combination.

Donny Osmond is upset about Lady Gaga’s new “Telephone” video, which features Beyonce.  The full-length racy video features women fighting in prison, Lady Gaga dancing around in a bikini, semi-nude – – her backside is exposed within this women’s prison as well as Lady Gaga and Beyonce teaming up to poison patrons in a diner.

Donny’s argument during his Donny Osmond radio show on Wednesday, March 24th was:

“I’m all for freedom of speech and against any form of censorship, but all I know is that I’m a parent and I’m upset about this.  I wouldn’t want my child to watch this video.  Would you?  What do you think?  Should these two extremely gifted female role models for millions of young girls, maybe, have given a little more thought to the effect it might have on their core audience?  Unlike 20 years ago, in today’s modern, viral world in which content becomes instantaneously available irrespective of age, I wonder whether the music industry might need to rethink its marketing policies with regard to making an explicit music video containing profanity, sexual exploitation, nudity, and graphic violence available to anyone with Internet access.”

For the most part I agree with Donny.  I’m also a big fan of Lady Gaga and Beyonce.  I think they are very talented entertainers.  I also agree that it is important to have free speech as I have learned through the book  The Law of Public Communication, because it provides: 1) A Check on Government Power; 2) A Change with Stability or a safety valve that allows people to express themselves freely over the Internet rather than seek influence through antisocial acts and 3) Fulfillment – – the theory that speaking and publishing enriches one’s life.  Whether or not Lady Gaga and Beyonce accept or acknowledge it they are looked up to by many young girls.  But what I question is, is it the parents’ responsibility to monitor, filter and block what their young daughters are watching over the Internet or is it the music artist’s responsibility to make a video that is acceptable for the young girls who look up to them to watch?

Photo: Lady GaGa by Ama Lia

Networking for Non-Profits

April 7, 2010

I’ve never had a formal “9-5” job working for a non-profit organization.  But, I have done my fair share of volunteering and have helped out with some non-profit organizations while growing up and into my adult life.

I started out at the ripe-old age of seven as a Brownie within The Girl Scouts of the United States of America organization.  I really enjoyed my experience with the Girl Scouts.  I earned lots of badges, sold tons of Girl Scout cookies and (pretty shocking for me because I’m “girlie”) loved camping!  I stayed with the Girls Scouts long enough to become a Cadette.  In high school, I was a candy striper at White Plains Hospital and worked in a soup kitchen in New Rochelle.  I helped paint the interior of a New York City public school in Harlem through an organization called Publicolor.  For ten years now, I have participated in and raised money for the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” five-mile walk.  To help support friends, I joined three causes on Facebook –  – World Savvy; Save Louisiana Arts and Cerebral Palsy Awareness. And most recently, I am very pleased to say that I exercised my First Amendment right to petition and got some signatures for a Stop Cancer Cuts Petition.

After reading the article 4 Ways Social Media is Changing the Non-Profit World, I found it very interesting to learn about how social media is having such a positive and powerful impact on non-profit organizations.  The article explained how social media is: 1) Deepening Relationships and Engagement. To illustrate this point, the article used the March of Dimes’ online community called Share Your Story.  March of Dimes supporters were so moved by a 17-month-old baby girl named Maddie’s story that they raised tens of thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes in her memory as well as covering the funeral costs for the family.  2) Individuals & Small Groups are Self-Organizing Around Non-Profit Causes. Just as I joined three different causes on Facebook this article was explaining how social media is enabling many individuals to take control of efforts that can benefit their favorite causes.  The Facebook Cause Application even allows an individual to use his or her birthday as a means to raise funds.  3) Facilitating Collaboration and CrowdSourcing. Social Media is now enabling people who work in non-profit organizations to connect and collaborate informally across institutional boundaries quickly and inexpensively.  It is also allowing non-profit organizations to get ideas, feedback, and content for programs from their supporters.  And 4) Social Change Behind the Firewall. Social media is even helping non-profit organizations change their cultures and flatten hierarchical structures.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in technology since I was a Brownie in the Girls Scouts and I look forward to being able to continue to utilize social media on behalf of non-profit organizations in the future.

Ripping Off Rite Aid

March 19, 2010

I was listening to WCBS 880 AM Radio for the news/to find out what is going on in the world like I usually do, when one story in particular caught my attention.  It was a story about a 91-year-old woman named Florence (Flo) Critelli who works as a pharmacy cashier at Rite Aid in East Northport, Long Island.  At 10:55AM on Thursday March 11th a customer walked up to Flo’s register with a dollar bill to pay for an Easter marshmallow candy worth 54-cents.  When Flo opened up her cash register to give the customer his change, the man grabbed for the money in her register.  Flo then put her hand on top of his in an attempt to stop him and that’s when the suspect punched Flo in the chest and ran out of the store.

While it is horrible to hear that a thief would assault a 91-year-old woman, the part of this story that really stuck out to me was what the radio said was the reaction of Flo’s managers and the Rite Aid public relations department.  According to WCBS 880, instead of being commended for trying to apprehend a thief, Flo was scolded by her managers and the public relations department.  Flo was reprimanded for violating a Rite Aid policy, which states that employees are not allowed to touch the customers; for talking to reporters and for the potential danger of having her picture released to the public.

Even though I do think it is quite shocking that Flo would get punished instead of praised for her actions (thankfully for Flo her disobedient actions will not be placed on her permanent record), I can appreciate Rite Aid’s public relations department’s point of view.  We have been taught through our classes the importance of an individual within a corporation or agency receiving media training before talking to the press/reporters.  It is so important to be prepared to place yourself in the best possible light when talking to the press, because reporters are always looking for a story and at least one really great quote.  Therefore, if a spokesperson is not careful then he or she could be quoted saying something negative and a completely damaging story could be written about this person or his or her company/agency.

Aside from being a little shook up, Flo has come out of her ordeal physically just fine.  Only regretting that she did not hit the robber in the head.  Nassau County police arrested a suspect on Saturday night March 13th after apparently using the same move – – shoving a 60-year-old cashier to the ground at a Hicksville, Long Island Walgreens – – before fleeing with cash.