Friday, November 18, 2011

Bicycling in Paris

 Photos courtesy of Oh, Happy Day

I have always loved the idea of bicycling as a means of transportation in European cities.  I toyed around with the idea of renting a bike from the university when I lived in Leeds but ultimately decided the city's hills would be too much for my out-of-shape thighs.  This post from the blog Oh, Happy Day has made me think I was missing out on a fantastic means of exploring one's city.  And wouldn't Paris be an amazing city to explore?!  Just thinking about coasting past monuments like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame makes my skin tingle!  The post's explanation of Paris's bike rental system sounds as though bicycling would be an easy and interactive way of enjoying the Parisian sites.  I would, however, make one alteration to this scenario.  Flowers are very well and all, but that bike basket looks like the perfect means of toting a baguette and some cheese.  Or some pastries.  Food trumps flowers every time in my book.

P.S. When the lease was up on their San Francisco apartment, the couple behind Oh, Happy Day decided to pack up their two young sons and move to France for the year.  How cool is that?   I love reading about their perspective on Parisian life

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sketches by Boz and Other Antiquarian Treasures

After looking over my post highlighting the National Book Fair in York, I realized I kinda sorta made it sound like I came away empty-handed.  That would be a lie.  I left the fair with a few treasures; never had I been so happily weighed down.  My discovery of the day was locating an 1861 copy of Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens, complete with the George Cruikshank illustrations.  Perfect timing, when one considers this was the summer in which I discovered my love for Charles Dickens novels.  I bought it for the bargain price of seventeen pounds.  Plus, it's red!  It's not in the best condition, but I love it all the more for these minor so-called flaws.  Funnily enough, this is the polar opposite of my reaction to new books, over which I obsess in order to maintain their pristine condition.  But I love this tattered Victorian book just the way it is. 

Gold lettering on the spine
Title Page
I adore the George Cruikshank illustrations
This depicts 'Vauxhall Gardens by Day'
The pages are ragged and weathered -- I love it!

Ana also thoughtfully bought a turn-of-the-century dog narrative for me: A Thoroughbred Mongrel by Stephen Townsend.  Originally copyrighted in 1899, my edition is dated 1905.  I love the old photograph on the cover.  Again, the fact that little bits of it are missing only serves to make it more endearing.

Finally, I bought another dog book.  In fairness, literary canines are related to my dissertation, and it was only six quid.  Do you see why I simply had to buy it? (Do you see how I'll simply use any excuse to buy a book?)  It's a children's story called Thy Servant a Dog told by a young pup called Boots.  Rudyard Kipling, the reader is meant to understand, merely 'edited' the text.  

I love this detail on the back cover

So, while the autographed copies and first editions must wait until a future (read, richer) day, I'm quite happy with these gems that have been lovingly added to my growing collection of books. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Missing Leeds

I've been missing my Leeds this week.  I'm missing walking around the beautiful buildings on campus (example above), cups of tea at the student cafe, long conversations with friends at the pub, munching on Cadbury's crunchie rocks, etc., etc., etc.  I even miss the wuthering!  (Kind of.)  I originally had plans to return to Leeds for the graduation ceremony next month, but now that those have fallen through I am feeling that longing to go back more keenly than usual.  For now, I shall look forward to visits in the future and take a walk down memory lane with a few photos. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The National Book Fair in York

Ages ago I wrote a post about attending the National Book Fair in York.  This truly was a book worm's paradise.  With texts ranging in price from a few quid to well over 1,000 pounds, there was a wide variety of books -- a plethora of gems to be found.  Now (a full light year later) I'd love to share some photos of a few of those treasures.  I could tell from the strange glances that the vendors thought it a bit odd for somebody to photograph themselves with the books they had an offer.  I will only say that if I had had sufficient funds, I would have bought them.  All of them.  Unfortunately, my student budget meant that I had to find contentment in coming away with photographs instead of the real deal. 

A copy of Matilda signed by Roald Dahl
Ooh, I would have gladly shelled out the 250 quid for this
 First edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles
If I remember correctly, it was nearly 1,000 pounds
This antiquarian political print cracked me up
Ana with a first edition of The Vampyre by John Polidori
A signed copy of The Amber Spyglass
I did see the complete His Dark Materials trilogy
All three were first editions, all were signed by Philip Pullman
It could have been mine for the very low price of 13,000 pounds
A teeny tiny prayer book
Sarah with a gorgeous copy of Pride and Prejudice
Be still, my heart!  A first edition of Villette
I just love Charlotte
Ana with a Winnie the Pooh text (can't remember which one now)
signed by A.A. Milne
A first edition of Virginia Woolf's Flush -- only fifty quid!
I nearly bought this one, but I refrained

Until this day I hadn't grasped the danger antiquarian books pose to a compulsive book buyer.  After a visit to Waterstone's/Barnes and Noble or a cyber-spree on Amazon, I can emerge with a large pile of brand new books without making a noticable dent in my wallet.  But one or two purchases from an antiquarian bookstore, and one is potentially bereft of hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds.  Nevertheless, I fully intend on returning to York's bibliophile heaven with money to spend. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leaning Tower Photo Bloopers

Demonstrating my super-human strength

Every tourist who visits the Leaning Tower of Pisa must come away with a 'Look!  I'm holding up the tower!' photo.  It's an unwritten, mandatory rule.  With the picture above, I came pretty close to getting a good shot.  However, this is the result of many attempts.  Observe:

More tourists behind me
Not even close, I'm making a funny face
and the tourists remain

And sometimes when I attempt to photograph major monuments I come away with photographs of other tourists examining their own photographs.  I think it's time I took a photography class.

When the Cat's Away...

 ...The mice will play!

My parents are traveling back east this week, so I am the designated house/baby-sitter.  Let me tell you, we are going cuh-razy in their absence. Not only have I been cultivating my domesticity by cleaning, cooking and chauffeuring teenagers, we've been partying big time.  Yesterday Chelsea and I decided to get really wild by hanging out at the bookstore.  We ordered hot beverages from the cafe (salted caramel hot chocolate for her, hot apple spice with extra caramel for me), and we read.  For over an hour.  Crazy, right? 

It doesn't stop there.  Tonight we completely defied all the rules and went out for dinner and a movie on a school night (as pictured above).  We saw Johnny English Reborn, which I'm pretty sure is the most rebellious movie of all time.  I don't think I've ever seen anything so...transgressive.  Just when I thought we couldn't get any more unruly, we listened to Christmas music in the car -- well before Thanksgiving.  Where did our inhibitions go?

Honestly, my teenage years didn't look much different from this.  This mouse was always a low-key geek whose conflicts with the supervisory cat generally involved piano practice (I wanted to practice; my mum disagreed) and the fact that I stayed out past curfew to watch period films with my best friend.  Clearly I haven't changed much.  I hope my brother and sister have enjoyed getting their geek on with me this week so the next time the parentals propose traveling and leaving me to rule the roost, Christian and Chelsea will reply with a 'Hell to the yeah!'  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Wandering through the streets of Pisa, we finally reached the Piazza del Duomo where the infamous Leaning Tower can be found.  The piazza was swarming with tourists such as ourselves, but I was still enamored by the gorgeous architecture.  An impending train departure prevented us from hiking to the top of the tower, which I really wanted to do, but the grounds of the piazza are absolutely beautiful.  The weather that day was sunny and warm, making time spent outdoors very enjoyable.  It served as a welcome departure from the all the wuthering going on in Leeds at the time.  For a few minutes we sat on the grass, drinking in the atmosphere while Maggie read us Henry James's thoughts on the piazza from his text Italian Hours.  Viewing Italian architecture to beautiful prose in the company of fabulous friends is a fail-proof formula for a great time.  Now, without further ado, is my little tour of Pisa's Piazza del Duomo. 

 The cathedral and the tower
Traveling Buddies
 Francesca and Maggie
Tanya and the Baptistry
Front of the Cathedral
A closer view -- I just love those columns
 One last shot of the Tower

Before making a mad dash for the train station, we wandered through the Baptistry and Cathedral.  Photos of the interiors to come.  I also have some rather funny photo bloopers documenting my attempt to capture the stereotypical holding-up-the-tower shot.  Oh, the joys of being a tourist!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I (Heart) Alan Rickman

A friend posted this on facebook, and I had to pass it along.  This quote is so touching, it made me want to cry.  (Don't worry, I refrained.)  Alan Rickman is just plain spectacular. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

Keep Calm and...?

I am definitely a fan of the old adage 'Keep Calm and Carry On.'  Fantastic advice!  The perfect motto for a postgraduate student!  You might have noticed its presence on my sidebar.  However, I think I prefer this hilarious alternative version:

Now I am wondering why I was ever content to simply carry on when I should have been finding myself a Mr. Darcy.  Tut, tut. 

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Happy Bonfire Night!

Last year's Bonfire Night

I had grand plans of forcing my family members to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with me this evening.  I was determined to light a fire, however small it might be, somewhere in our back yard and pull out the leftover fireworks that have been gathering dust since The Fourth of July. 

Sadly, it didn't come together.

I'm not sure what culprit I can blame for its failure.  Mostly like it's due to a combination of factors.  We did receive our first proper snow last night, and the family isn't keen on going into the cold without good cause.  An ideal fire location does not exist on our property.  My mother had no idea what I was talking about when I suggested a Bonfire Night Bonanza.  Mentions of The Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes and Houses of Parliament did not succeed in enlightening her, and I was finally compelled to provide a brief history.  It could also be that after watching the totally deep and cerebral movie Dodgeball we were too tired for much else. 

In fact, the only person who exhibited any enthusiasm for Bonfire Night was my brother.  I'm certain it has more to do with his deep and abiding passion for burning things rather than an excitement for English holidays.  His face lit up at the idea of burning an effigy in the fire.  Still, perhaps I can use his pyromania to my advantage and gain force for a celebration later this week.  

I hope my friends in England had fantastic Bonfire Nights.  And if my American buddies are curious what Bonfire Night is all about, I wrote a post explaining Guy Fawkes Day when I celebrated the holiday in Leeds last year.  It also contains an anecdote about the getting hit on by a weirdo (oh, joy!), but you can simply ignore that bit. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Birthday Dinners & Bundt Cakes

I'm thrilled with my bundtlet!

Since my dad was out of town on my birthday, we had a low-key celebration.  When asked where I wanted to have a birthday dinner the thought that immediately sprung to mind was, 'Which restaurants are near Nothing Bundt Cakes?'

See, what I really wanted for my birthday was a killer cake.  Fortunately for me, Nothing Bundt Cakes sells killers cakes -- nay, assassin cakes.  They really are that scrumptious.  Their bundt cakes come in a variety of sizes with the smaller versions sporting cute names like bundtlet and bundtini. 

So, in order to obtain proximity to this baked-goods Mecca, I decided on the Asian restaurant across the parking lot.  The food sure was tasty, and I'm confident it would have been even if it were miles away from a cakery (can I make that a word?).

 Mum and Chelsea dig into the grub
 I opted for pad thai and green coconut curry with rice
With the brother
Mother and daughter

After dinner we made our way home with lots of cake for dessert. I came away with a white chocolate raspberry bundtlet and a full-size chocolate chocolate chip with cream cheese frosting.  All of our purchases were delicious, but that chocolate chocolate chip cake was on another level.  As I told a friend, it really took the cake.  (Puns are allowed for birthdays.)  We're not chocoholics at our house, but it didn't take long for the chocolate chocolate chip bundt to disappear, leaving naught but a smattering of crumbs behind.  In short, I'm ready for another bundt.  (If you want a bundt, there are locations from California to Tennessee.)

Christian immediately decided on the red velvet
He was quite chuffed with it
Chelsea selected the cinnamon swirl

As for me, I thought this day exemplified the old adage, 'Spicy food and cake a great birthday make.'  Okay, that's not an old adage.  But I found it to be full of truth.  Thanks to my family for making this birthday a delicious one!

P.S. I ate homemade chocolate cake while writing this post.  I clearly have a serious problem.  Time to join the 12-step program?