Wednesday, 30 July 2014


Now, I'm home in Pittsburgh. My amazing hometown holds up well in the face of these travels. I'm still learning new things about the city's history, culture, and people. It's wonderful. That's why I know I'm in the right place. All at once, I feel secure and curious. There is so much I love about this city, but there is still so much to explore.

Whelp. That's all for now.

Until my next great adventure....

Oxford Alumna

This July, I returned to Oxford as an alumna. How cool is that? I traveled there to receive an award and present my research at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. The conference's theme was "Food & Markets," which aligned really really (dare I say, "perfectly") with my dissertation research. It was such an intellectual treat to converse with academics whose work aligns so well with my own. I look forward to returning to this conference in the future! Here are a few snapshots from presentations on high art, leftovers in 19th century Paris, and qualities of freshness in the fish industry, respectively (NB: the Piccolo Napoli reference from Palermo in the third image):

On the final day of the conference, I was able to take a few hours to go explore my old stomping grounds. I made my way out along the Cherwell and to the Thames. As I wove my way along the river, I couldn't help but think about my time on the Lincoln College rowing team! I laughed when I spotted the long horn cattle in the Corpus Christi College gardens. They're still there! I always enjoyed walking by them at 5:30 am in the morning. They were one of the highlights on an otherwise exhausting walk to morning practice.

After walking along the river, I made my way over to my college, Regent's Park! It was kind of eerie to walk around the college's grounds when no one was around. I guess you get to a point where your college isn't your own space anymore. Strange how that works...

à Paris.......à Londre! (Harrods, the Globe, the Tour de France, Museums, and More!)

After taking the Eurostar train through the Chunnel, I arrived in Foggy London Town! And what a treat that was. I feel like I started my re-acculturation to American life in London because it was so much more familiar than anything I had experienced in the last 3.5 months. Life in London was so easy. I didn't have to actively listen. I just understood what people said. I didn't have to think before I spoke or be self conscious about my grammar. I just talked. It seemed so effortless compared to everywhere else I had been! While there, I stayed with my best friend from Pittsburgh, Laura. She was kind enough to put me up in her London townhouse for nearly two weeks (bless you, Laura!) I was also able to catch up with my Yale friends (Daniel, Pat, and Riana) and one of my Oxford housemates (Ciara).

Of course, one of the first things I did while back in London was head to Harrods! I don't know why I love this place so much, but their Food Halls fascinate me. I love the immensity of their gourmet food selections -- a foodie's paradise, to be sure.

Another highlight of my time in London was heading to the Globe Theater with Laura to see Titus Andronicus. This show was absolutely PHENOMENAL! So gory, so dramatic, so life changing! It was, by far, the best acted Shakespeare play I had ever seen. The show itself is very bloody and the acting was so genuine that I felt kind of queasy the entire time (and I wasn't the only one). Laura and I were lucky enough to have seats, but many people pay 5 pounds and stand in "the commons." During the bloodier scenes, people started dropping like flies -- as in, they started fainting one right after the other. I think 8 people fainted in total. The Globe staff anticipated this and had a great medical staff on hand to get the people settled and back up on their feet for the second half. And everyone in the pit had to be on their feet because the actors used the crowd in the performance. They often pushed through the standing audience and enticed them to cheer and chant during scenes were the emperor addressed all of Rome. It was really cool to see, actually!

Randomly, the Tour de France passed through London this year. I had some spare time on my hands, so I decided to take the Tube out to Canary Wharf to see them race by. I knew I was in the right place when I saw dozens of office workers migrating towards the main bridge just inland from the wharf. People lined up along the roadside and stood up on the median to get a better view. We all huddled close together because it started raining about 15 minutes into our wait. I had an umbrella, so I was occupying (or rather, creating) prime territory. Everyone was in good humor, though. We all sort of just laughed it off and hoped that the cyclists would be coming through soon.

At first, the supply cars and medical staff started coming down the road (some arrived 30 minutes ahead of the racers). Eventually, the two leaders zoomed past us. I knew they were coming because I could hear the crowd cheering a quarter mile up the road. Then the rest of the pack came by and in under 60 seconds they were all gone. zoooooom! It was a bit anti-climactic, but I was anticipating that!

One day, I went to see the British Museum. Their ancient civilization collections are incredible. I enjoyed seeing the Rosetta Stone and spotting food references in the ancient Egyptian and Assyrian works. Even the ancients were obsessed with food!

One day, I decided to follow the suggested itinerary of my college roommate, Elah. She loves London and has lived there during law related internships. So, many (although, not all) of her suggested activities revolve around the places where lawyers work. I started my day off at the Inns of Court (essentially where all of the best lawyers have offices). These buildings have beautiful inner courtyards (secret gardens, if you will) right in the heart of London. They are open to the public. You just need to know where to look. While I was walking through one of them, I came across a tethered falcon...strange!

At one point during my wanderings, I realized that I was in a part of London that I had visited way back in 2006 with Laura. We went on a Davinci Code tour of London (based on the then "popular" book/movie). So, I sort of just followed my nose, so to speak, until I found the Knights Templar Church. I remember it being really beautiful, so I was happy to visit it again.

After looking around the church, I made my way back out into the city streets of London. I ended up at Sir John Soane's Museum -- this really eccentric house stuffed with rare artifacts and other trinkets. It's a giant room of curiosities! It even has a crypt! One of the best things about the museum is the staff. They actually have people stationed in every room so you can ask questions and learn more about the collections. Brilliant!

On one of my final days in London, I made my way to Hamstead Heath. Elah described this as one of the most beautiful places she had ever been...a kind of place where you can imagine your favorite British literary characters (such as Elizabeth Bennet or Jarvis Lorry) walking around. And she was right! It truly is a beautiful city park and provides a lovely panoramic view of London's skyline!

After looking down on London from Hamstead Heath, I made my way back down into the city to a really cool neighborhood called Camden Lock. They had all sorts of markets set up here: bazaars, craft markets, food markets etc. The entire neighborhood had this really funky/alternative vibe that I absolutely loved. It's these kinds of neighborhoods that make me want to move to a city like London. Too bad it is the most expensive city in the world!

Paris - la troisième fois!

I can't believe I am writing this right now because it sounds so absurd...but here I go...

The third time I went to Paris this summer, I stayed with my good friend Jessica. I met Jessica in New Orleans while I was conducting research there. She was a post doc at Tulane and has since acquired a tenure track position in Oklahoma (Go Jess!)

Jessica lives in the 2nd arrondissement - an extremely charming part of Paris that I wrote a post about earlier this year. So, naturally, I was excited to visit her!

Most of my trip, though, was spent in the archive. I made my way back to the National Library, except this time I felt like a veteran rather than a neophyte. And to add a cherry on top of my already exciting experience, I had a really fruitful (ha!) trip to the archive. I knew exactly what materials I wanted to see and I found some really interesting parallels between depictions of street vendors in Paris and New Orleans.

When I wasn't in the archive, I was out exploring with some of my friends. Why not go to the Louvre again? It's the Louvre, after all!

At one point, Jess and I did a bit of food exploring. We headed to the Île Saint-Louis to try out Berthillon - a special ice cream "indigenous" to this one island in Paris. I tried rose flavored. Delicious! The French are so good at floral flavored desserts. Bravo!

I was also able to meet up with two of my roommates from Rome, Anna and Jie. We decided to convene at Notre Dame (how cool!) and then hold a picnic at the pont neuf.

After watching the sunset over the Seine, we headed toward the carnival at the Tuileries. I had the most magical swings ride of my life -- flying over top of Paris at sunset. You could see all of the monuments in that gorgeous, warm light. I loved it!

The next morning, Jie, Jess, and I met up at the Petit Palais to see the Paris 1900 Exhibit (the one that I was dying to see the last two times I was in Paris!). An exhibit hasn't captured my attention like this in since the Alexander McQueen Exhibit at the MET. I spent 3 hours totally immersed in its amazing collections -- ones that ranged from architectural plans from the 1888 World's Fair to home furnishing of the Belle Epoque era to paintings of the Moulin Rouge. I was so entranced by turn-of-the-century France. I could have spent even longer in the exhibit, but Jie and Jess were ready to head out and grab some lunch.

Before I knew it, I was off to London -- MY LAST STOP (well, sort of! I had to go to Oxford too!)