Posts tagged off campus
I may not like pubs, ‘football’, or the cold, but there is one UK stereotype to which I am helplessly addicted: castles. Though I’ve visited ‘Iolani Palace and have some vague memories of a castle in Connecticut (Google informs me that it’s Gillette Castle I’m remembering), my fascination with ancient fortresses remained relatively latent until I came to Scotland.
After this weekend, my palace tally has increased to (a Tolkien-apropros) nine, and I plan to nearly double that before I leave at the end of May. Who wouldn’t want to explore ~15th century ruins for about the cost of frozen yoghurt, right? Even if all the masonry and empty moats start to look vaguely similar in a few weeks, I’m pretty sure I will never pass up a chance to see a castle.
I cross paths with Edinburgh Castle on a daily basis: it’s visible from Arthur’s Seat when I take walks, Princes Street when I’m shopping, and the top floor of David Hume Tower when I’m going to class. I was putting off the visit inside the castle for as long as I could, though–I’d been told by several sources that it wasn’t worth the hefty admission price. Still, since I believe in giving all castles a chance, I coughed up sixteen pounds and strode up the Royal Mile on a bright Saturday morning to see what all the fuss was about.
Well, like I said, I was warned.
In all fairness, I’m sure Edinburgh Castle would be amazing for military history buffs. There are several museums within the castle complex that chronicle the past few centuries of military activity in Scotland. Since guns, swords, and other instruments of war are rather my least favourite material objects, though, I wasn’t particularly moved. (I did learn one very fun fact: nineteenth-century soldiers were totally into needlepoint! The men were encouraged to take up handcrafts instead of spending all their free time drinking and gambling–and, for whatever reason, some did. Maybe I should try that technique on some college students I know…)
I hoped the interior of the castle itself would save my experience, but the restoration of the royal chambers didn’t impress, and the queue for the Crown Jewels was so claustrophobic and nightmarish that it made a trip to Disneyland in the middle of July with seven kids look comparatively relaxing.
Determined to improve the day’s castle sightings, I impulsively caught a train out of town to visit the stunning Linlithgow Palace. Unlike Edinburgh Castle, Linlithgow is no longer in use and is therefore considered a “ruin”–which basically means that children (and whimsical college bloggers) are free to explore its turrets and secret passages at their leisure. No guards, no queues, and certainly no awkwardly ‘conserved’ unicorn art objects.
If you’re a traveller just starting to get the hang of solo castle pilgrimages, I highly recommend Linlithgow as a first trip. The palace is about a three-minute walk from the train station, and the town itself is adorable and perfectly safe–nothing Glaswegian here!
Reaching Craigmillar Castle, my most recent conquest, is a bit more challenging. Craigmillar, located in the outskirts of Edinburgh proper, is best accessed via a ten-minuted bus ride to the Royal Infirmary from Old Town. After disembarking, intrepid tourists must sneak behind the University of Edinburgh’s School of Medicine to take a backstreet path up to Craigmillar Park, where the castle is surrounded by rolling fields which apparently contain an intriguingly named ‘Adventure Playground.’
Craigmillar’s halls and chambers were darker, smaller, and utterly more uncanny than Linlithgow. At the latter, I only feared a surprise attack from a small child pretending to slay dragons, while the former featured wild flocks of pigeons with no notion of fear. Still, the view of Arthur’s Seat–and from the one angle from which I had yet to see my favourite volcano, at that–was phenomenal!
Weirdly, I loved Linlithgow and Craigmillar because they were so unlike museums. Each room was labelled and dated with a simple plaque, but other than that, viewers were encouraged to discover the historical past through individual visual analysis and observation. Staring up at the random nooks in the stone walls, I could draw my own conclusions about how this building looked in its prime–which engaged me in a different way than reading or viewing a reconstruction.
Or that’s my professional justification, anyway. I really think I preferred them because I could put my hair in a vaguely Renaissance braid and dash up the spiral staircase pretending to be a rebellious princess on the run. Hey, everyone needs a break from the liminal weirdness of quasi-adult college life from time to time.
When I visited the Highlands in late January, I was astounded by how much the rolling hills reminded me of the Big Island. While land-locked Ithaca couldn’t be more different from Hawai’i, Scotland has just enough natural, coastal beauty–and even a(n extinct) volcano!–to keep me from missing my birthplace too much.
I only have one more week of classes left, so I’m particularly keen to discover some inexpensive, nearby travel destinations with which to occupy myself during the next month before exams begin. A visit to North Berwick (a charming seaside village that has more in common with Waikiki than Western Europe) is my new idea of a perfect day out!
North Berwick is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre, a thirteen-year-old conservation institution dedicated to sharing the lives of Scotland’s many puffins, gannets, and kittiwakes with birdwatchers of all ages. The Centre is a bit small for its admission price (especially for skint students–I think it would be a brilliant time for children!), but at least the money funds an excellent cause, right?
The town is also the birthplace of conservationist John Muir, and is conveniently located near Tantallon Castle: needless to say, I will undoubtedly be back! To any prospective Edinburgh study abroad student reading this blog post in the near or distant future, here’s a travel tip–you can catch the hourly train that runs from Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick if you fancy a little adventure for little more than a tenner.
If you’d prefer to stick closer to home, the Royal Botanical Garden offers a voyage through almost every ecosystem imaginable: all accessible via a quick bus ride from the City Centre. Since I didn’t grow up in a world with snow, I’ve been noticing over the past few years that winter weather and the lack of green leaves really does make me feel incredibly depressed at times, and I think the RBG’s massive maze of interconnected, heated greenhouses is a good cure for anyone with the seasonal blues.
Although those greenhouses would be a treat even in the coldest of weather, springtime makes the exterior gardens particularly wonderful.
Since I’m the daughter of a botanist, I’m expected to have at least a working knowledge of native Hawaiian plants, and seeing some familiar hapu’u (tree ferns) and pukiawe (a…plant with berries? I don’t know the Mainland equivalent!) made me feel much more at home. Any fantastic plant collection would not be complete without a titan arum–but unlike Cornell’s corpse plant, which bloomed last spring, the RBG’s specimen remained flowerless. Honestly, I think seeing one blooming corpse plant during my lifetime is more than enough anyway.
Somehow in the midst of all these getaways, I’ve managed to officially register to write an honors thesis for my art history major next year! Time to start reading up on film theory and Latin American art…if I can manage to stay inside long enough to do research…
Frantic travel plans may, on occasion, transform the learned voyager into a simple mass of likes and dislikes. After a whirlwind weekend in London, I can confidently assert two such preferences:
I like tea and museums. I dislike the cold.
The train ride from Edinburgh to London passed thrillingly close to the coast, and as I watched the waves, I hoped the wind wouldn’t follow me across the border. Unfortunately, all of Britain is currently dominated by a little March cold snap–conveniently occurring during the one week this Hawai’i girl was most likely to be out and about.
Still, that’s what museums are for! Once I triumphed over the Tube system, it was fairly easy to ride from place to place with minimal exposure to the elements. (And what better remedy for those frigid dashes from underground station to attraction than a cuppa?)
Our London museum tour began with the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington–a visit we only made, I should say, due to a fortunate sighting of a subway advertisement!
The V&A focuses primarily on art and design, which, for my purposes, means lots of colour. Visitors are first greeted by a massive Dale Chihuly glasswork that dangles over the reception desk like some neon version of the chandelier from Phantom of the Opera. A blacklit discoteque-like gallery, on the other hand, houses elegant jewelry from the past few hundred years. My favourite display, however, had to be the towering rooms holding plaster reproductions of famous monuments and sculptural works–the institution was originally designed as a teaching museum, a fact which warmed my museum educator’s heart.
Our afternoon was supposed to include a visit to Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, but the massive queue outside the attraction, combined with the miserable weather, drove us away faster than a sighting of a speckled band. I’m sure Sherlock will forgive me.
We decided to face the London fog the next day, and began our first more traditional (read: touristy) exploration of the city with a go ’round the London Eye. Although I dislike the crowds of the Westminister area, I am addicted to seeing cities from above, and the early hour ensured we bypassed most of the line.
Can you believe that the Eye is more than a decade old? I was shocked myself until I realized that I last visited London when I was thirteen: six long years ago. And this London Eye trip was probably my final one as a teenager…and as a college student…and…uh, let’s move on, shall we?
My advancing years are nothing compared to the ages of most objects at the British Museum. Like the Louvre, the British Museum was almost dangerously overwhelming in its scope, but we did manage to visit some of its greatest hits during an unfortunately short single afternoon. Although I pushed and shoved to see the Rosetta Stone with every other tourist, I found the collection of lintels featuring Lady Xok–pieces I cited in the paper that will form the basis for my honors thesis–most enthralling. Honorable mention goes to the library-like gallery devoted to the history of the museum, complete with a fake Rosetta Stone perfect for hands-on language learning!
If you thought I couldn’t possibly bear to spend three whole days looking at museums, please reconsider. Today was devoted to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, an architecturally gorgeous museum that somehow manages to hold even more gorgeous masterpieces within it.
Some fans come to London hoping to catch a glimpse of big BBC stars and return home without even a little Benedict Cumberbatch to show for their efforts. Since my celebrity crush is Jan van Eyck, I had slightly more luck–although the Gallery’s rules ensured that I couldn’t take any paparazzi pictures of the Arnolfini Portrait. I don’t know how I avoided bursting into tears when I saw Jan’s little potential self-portrait reflected in the Arnolfini mirror for the first time in person: I certainly won’t show such restraint if I ever see the Ghent altarpiece!
My brush with van Eyck makes me vaguely excited to return to Edinburgh & my Netherlandish art class tomorrow: but only vaguely. Once again, although I love Scotland, I’ve found myself wishing I were studying abroad in England instead. Is it simply a greener-grass situation? Perhaps I need to spend a comparable amount of time in England. For experimental purposes only. Obviously.
If spending hours shut up in a dorm room ever makes me feel stir-crazy back at Cornell, I typically grab my notebook or something to read and head down to Beebe Lake to remind myself that nature is actually a far better companion than the Internet. When I lived in Ithaca last summer for my internship, I became particularly fond of eating a lakeside lunch or just meandering along through shadier forested areas on sunny weekends. There’s really no better place (except, perhaps, a library) to fully appreciate the joys of being an introvert than in some variety of wilderness!
Our surprise snowstorm on Wednesday had me feeling a little sad (not to mention SAD), so I when I woke to clear blue skies today, I told myself that I would take full advantage of the lovely weather (though perhaps not as much as the native Edinburghers–who were wearing shorts and t-shirts–did). Even if it meant I had to climb a mountain.
Or, I should say, especially if I had to climb a mountain.
Remember my post about Arthur’s Seat a few weeks ago? In January, I compared the crags of Holyrood Park with snowy Ered Nimrais, and now they’re greener than the Shire. Can you believe that?
Holyrood Park is a quick ten minutes’ walk from my flat, and although I was a little apprehensive about going off to the hills on my own, I felt better when I noticed the stream of families, school-children, and charming elderly couples frolicking up the tamer trails on the Salisbury Crags.
Instead of looping around through the park to tackle Arthur’s Seat as I did last month, I decided to take the road that went “ever, ever on” to a different wee peak. King Arthur’s hallowed (and possibly mythical) remains might not lie under this little crag, but it sure looked amazing anyway.
Places like Glencoe and Glastonbury Tor were phenomenally gorgeous and significant and otherwise deserving of ridiculous adverbs and adjectives, but I almost couldn’t process that they were real: and, more importantly, that I was really there.
Holyrood Park, on the other hand, felt absolutely and authentically alive, and I look forward to getting to know it better. Perhaps I can ask my Gàidhlig teacher to teach me how to say “This place is beautiful”–maybe Scots Gaelic’s flowing, tonal sounds can address a landscape when English words fail.
On the subject of Gàidhlig: Mar sin Leibh (‘goodbye,’ or, technically, ‘like this you go’), everyone! Tomorrow’s episode of Castles with Keely will feature a guest appearance by Stirling Castle & the Wallace Monument (which freakily resembles the tower of Orthanc at Isengard (THE TOLKIEN REFERENCES WILL NEVER END), and then I’m off to Paris on Monday. Oh yes, you heard that correctly.
You know that feeling you get upon leaving the Cornell bubble and subsequently witnessing the glorious natural beauty off-campus? (Protip: if you want a watered-down version of this experience but don’t have a car/time, simply take a walk across the suspension bridge.)
Same thing happens here in Edinburgh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still (somewhat) madly in love with the sweeping architecture of Old Town, the big-city stylings of New Town, and the glorious silhouette of Arthur’s Seat rising above both as the sun sets (at 4PM). It’s easy to forget, of course, that Edinburgh does not cover all of Scotland. It has to compete with the Highlands for that.
My friends and I may have splurged a bit on our bus tour of Glencoe, Loch Ness, and the Highlands in general last weekend, but it was worth every pound.
(If you don’t believe me yet, just scroll down!)
Our tour began after we stumbled through the empty town at 6:30AM to meet our group at Cafe Nerd–I mean, Cafe Nero–on the Royal Mile. Well-supplied with Nerd coffee (I, of course, had a raspberry ginseng infusion), the group boarded a Handi-Van-sized bus to the soothing music of what sounded like some kind of Enya mashup.
Two hours later, we’d traded snowless Edinburgh for a small village that pretty much looks like the Scottish version of Madison, Connecticut.
We drove on through the snowy landscape (passing such trivialities as the castle used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) when, suddenly, we’d reached our second destination: Glencoe, the “most photographed glen in Scotland.”
Our amazing driver, Laura, treated us to the gripping and tragic tale of the MacDonalds and the Campbells–yet I was more entranced by her brief mention of the Picts, who considered the glen a place of sorrow because the mountains appeared to be weeping. (Here’s a little warning before we go any further: I have an amateur obsession with the Picts, so they’ll probably appear frequently in any blog posts from here on out).
Fun fact for the non-Keelys (a.k.a. Harry Potter fans of the world): one of the Glencoe mountains was apparently the former location of the movie version of Hagrid’s Hut, as well as the Forbidden Forest. I just can’t escape that series over here, can I?
I didn’t linger on that boy wizard for too long, of course, because the landscape up North is seriously the most Tolkienesque place I’ve ever seen.
Eventually, I grew restless with the unlimited supply of snowy mountains. You see, readers, I joined that trip with one secret goal in mind.
I was going to see the Loch Ness monster.
It pains me to say that my dreams did not come true. No serpentine head rose out of the water to smile at me in greeting. Okay, monster, I know it was pouring rain and probably negative one hundred degrees with the windchill off the lake, but, as Syndrome from The Incredibles would say…I AM YOUR BIGGEST FAN! How could you disappoint me like this?
To make up for his loch’s sheer lack of a monster, our boat guide was incredibly knowledgeable and merry, and even told us about the one time–in twelve years of sailing!–he saw something unexplainable in good ol’ Ness. Hey, if this guy really saw a six foot ‘hump’ once upon a loch, that’s enough evidence for me.
The best part of the tour, though, was entirely unexpected. Because we were so punctual throughout the morning, our group had enough time to check out Inverlochy Castle, a 13th-century ruin that is essentially the best place in the world for a castle nerd like me.
My conclusion? 5/5 stars for you, Highland eXperience. Would Highland again. But, erm, perhaps some tour company out there would be willing to comp me the admission cost? I will repay you by performing my own original Enya mashups throughout the ten hour drive! (Or, alternatively, I could repay you by only doing so for the first forty minutes. Make your choice.)
Getting to Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall Museums is like traveling to Narnia–if you swapped the wardrobe for a creepy winding stair complete with cheerful signs encouraging visitors to continue against their better judgment, that is. Until we finally reached a glass door branded with a comforting TripAdvisor sticker, I was fairly convinced that my friend and I had been tragically deceived (possibly, we joked, in an attempt by sinister practitioners to collect more specimens for the collection).
Fortunately for us, the Surgeons’ Hall already has specimens in spades. Every great breakthrough and frightening snarl in the history of medicine lies preserved within its walls–from an ancient Egyptian mummy head (the head, guys, not the sarcophagus mask or anything less organic) to a plethora of examples of medical anomalies (most now treatable by modern medicine, thank goodness!) to…well, things that I’d rather not mention.
(Okay, so there was a pocketbook made out of the skin of murderer William Burke. Nightmare fuel indeed. Hey, surgeons, why would you sink to a killer’s own level by turning him into a wallet? More disturbingly, whose idea was it to literally engrave this dang thing with the eloquent label “Burke’s Skin Pocket Book”? Medical history is messed up.)
If skeletons, old-school orthodontic tools, and, you know, traumatizing pocketbooks aren’t your style, close your eyes and ask a less squeamish friend to kindly lead you through the halls to a very special exhibition about the relationship between Edinburgh native Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and one Joseph Bell, a man immortalized in literature (and sadly disappointing BBC miniseries (in Season 2, at least–sorry, fanboys/girls)) as Sherlock Holmes.
Some of Holmes’ less attractive traits, on the other hand, came from Conan Doyle’s daddy: Sherlock’s drug problems were likely a response to Charles Doyle’s alcoholism. Seeing the ways in which the curators pulled apart Doyle’s various influences was perhaps my favorite part of the exhibition (mostly because I’m sure anyone attempting to read my writing will easily find its influences in my life).
The most fantastic experience of the entire outing, however, arrived in the form of a charming gentleman who works at the museum (whether he was a docent, a security official, or some kind of combination thereof was unclear). After exchanging some good-natured quips and pleasantries with him at the reception desk, we encountered him once more in the galleries, asked him a few questions, and ended up with a lovely free tour.
No, calling it a ‘free tour’ doesn’t quite capture the magic. Before he began sharing pretty much everything about the objects on display, our guide leaded in confidentially over a glass table, his eyes proof that ‘merry’ is still a very useful adjective in the modern world.
“This hall is full of stories,” he solemnly informed us. “Would you like to hear some?”
I couldn’t have written him better myself.
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall Museums (yeah, I really just wanted to type out the full title) is located on Nicholson Street, near the University of Edinburgh’s “Old College.” Admission is £3 for students with valid identification. Also nearby is the Mosque Kitchen, otherwise known as literally the best & most cost-effective place for vegetarian food in Edinburgh. An enormous plate of yellow lentil dal and rice is also £3; samosas are 60p. This is important information, people.
Oh, and one more professional-looking italicized fun fact: Arthur Conan Doyle spent some time living in my very neighborhood in Edinburgh! No wonder I keep having the bizarre desire to turn the sitcom I’m writing into a mystery series.
What is Arthur’s Seat?
“…a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its great design.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
“Very steep and rocky.”
The Internet’s “WalkHighlands.Com”
“Freakin’ crazy, man.”
Someone Above Me on the Trail
Has reality left you really tired? Do you dream of a mythical world filled with danger, magic, randomly unhelpful eagles, and very few female characters with which young geek-girls can identify?
Well, what if I said you could live your dream? Spend a day in the books they call…
…’THE LORD OF THE RINGS’?
If you can’t afford that flight to New Zealand (probably because you spent too much on frequent viewings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey over Christmas break), Edinburgh might just be your best bet. Climbing Arthur’s Seat, located in expansive Holyrood Park, is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a true member of the fellowship.
Which is to say it was accursedly icy and I thought I might slide right off the cliff before my second week of classes even started.
Here’s the thing they never tell you about study abroad back in the Shire, guys. It’s really tough to make friends, especially if you come from a program like Cornell’s that just throws you into the metaphorical pool without the fallback of an organized group. Lone wolf that I am, I wasn’t sure if attending this International Student Centre-sponsored walk without a buddy would really be fun (plus I’m barely a quarter through Christopher Brookmyre’s Not the End of the World and it’s a little difficult to stop).
Fate intervened ’round lunchtime when my flatmate mentioned that she was also going on the walk, so I decided to be brave and take that ring to Mordor, as they say. We met in front of the ISC on Edinburgh’s main George Square campus, and began a great procession through the town and over to Holyrood Park, (one of the supposed) home(s) of King Arthur’s legacy.
After a trip through the park, we meandered up a flight of at least sixty stairs to reach the beginning of the trailhead. (I say “meandered” because the icy road that was to follow would make the one hundred and sixty-one steps up the Cornell Clocktower look like nothing.)
Look, I may be the world’s most intensely introverted human being, but even I was impressed by the kindness and friendliness displayed by other international students. On my way up, I slipped on a patch of ice and might’ve started a domino chain down the mountain if the bloke behind me hadn’t caught me. Likewise, the descent found me similarly clumsy (and frankly terrified of falling to my death) so a pair of graduate students each offered me an arm and we made our way down as a trio.
I assure you–both in retrospect and in the moment–all the shenangians were certainly worth the stunning views.
All in all, it was a far more wonderful way to spend my afternoon than doing homework or watching awkward UK Netflix.
Especially when I happened to find an interesting trinket in the snow!
Hopefully the ISC’s next weekend excursion will involve an active volcano…
Blame the snoods.
It was a shockingly sunny Edinburgh morning and I had no classes. Consequently, I decided to trek to faraway Princes Street (the hub of all things store-related) to expand my warm clothing collection: in particular, I wanted one more snood (the most useful winterwear object I’ve ever encountered). Okay, so maybe I’d only been to Princes one other time, but I wasn’t worried. My Mental (in both senses of the word, I later discovered) Edinburgh Navigation System was all ready to go!
A quick flowchart detailing my foolish methodology follows.
Using this fine system, I took a wrong turn moments after leaving the University and detoured through Grassmarket (apparently the former site of executions…lovely) and the West End for about thirty frightening minutes before I finally caught the holy sight of an H&M superstore.
Several pounds and a fashionable new snood & sweaterset later, I wanted to redeem myself. Instead of giving in and riding a taxi back to Sciennes, I retraced the original route I’d taken with my friends on Saturday, relying upon such wonderful landmarks as
- the super classy Pizza Hut by the Balmoral
- Cafe Nero (memorable because its logo font encourages the delightful misreading ”Cafe Nerd”)
- the row of tourist shops all blasting bagpipe music at the same time
- and the Justiciary and its fancy-scarf-wearing employees
to find my way. Surprise! It took no more than fifteen minutes to return home. All that madness because I didn’t take the “high road” by Greyfriars…
(At least I now know how to reach the critical Edinburgh shopping destination known as Mr. Wood’s Fossil Shop. See, there’s a good side to everything!)
Sometime around the age of six or seven, I experienced a major identity crisis as a result of my family’s great love for The Magic Schoolbus: was I more like Dorothy-Ann or Phoebe? Pigtailed D.A.’s smarmy “According to my research…” quips essentially sum up my behavior in every single class ever; Phoebe, however, sported the same reddish locks and flapper’s bob that I wore proudly throughout my childhood.
What’s a girl to do?
Though I still tend to wobble betwixt these two great personalities, I definitely channeled Phoebe yesterday during the art history department’s trip to Philadelphia: like our favorite red-dressed MSB heroine, I felt the need to point out the obvious differences between Cornell and “my old school.” ”At my old school,” you see, we didn’t take field trips. My little sister’s class actually went to a local grocery store for a field trip, and instead of learning, perhaps, about the challenges and rewards of running a business, they simply bought snack foods and ate them. And this was in bustling Honolulu, which offers such landmarks as the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Bishop Museum, and Iolani Palace. Get it together, Punahou!
Thanks to some fortunate grants, though, about sixteen faculty members, grad students, and undergrads (including yours truly!) traveled all the way from Ithaca to Philly on Saturday, accommodated in a decent bus hired from Ithaca Airport Limousine. We gathered sleepily in the RPCC parking lot at 5:30 AM, arrived at the Philadelphia Museum of Art at around 10:30, and returned home a little under twelve hours later.
A guide (and Cornell parent) shepherded us through the PMA for about an hour or so, making sure to point out the highlights of the general American and 19th/20th-century collections. Since I prefer my art to be at least a thousand years old, I was a little disappointed at first, but was soon appeased by the museum’s incredible central court.
After lunch and some free time for individual exploration (during which I discovered Joseph Cornell, my new favorite artist), it was time to set out into the surprisingly warm Saturday air and cross over to the new Barnes Foundation!
The Barnes Foundation reminded me a lot of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA: both feature excessively packed walls with absolutely no labels available anywhere. It’s not exactly my idea of curatorial excellence, but I did catch a glimpse of some Egyptian and African pieces: finally, something not painted by Renoir!
We ended the day at the PMA’s second exhibition hall, the Perelman Building, which featured an incredible Winslow Homer show based around shipwreck paintings. By that point, though, I was certainly suffering from “museum fatigue,” and I wasn’t the only one: thank goodness we returned to the bus soon afterwards. Even though my neck smarted from looking up at elevated canvases and I had accumulated a nontrivial sleep deficit, our little journey definitely counts as one of the best field trips I’ve ever taken.
(Just wait until I start taking weekend trips to London and Stonehenge next year, though!)
I have this bizarre recurring nostalgia that typically hits a week’s time after an exciting event. Today, for instance, I kept recalling how happy I was last Wednesday, eager for four days of adventure & relaxation.
I’ve already explained why my Thanksgiving was totally awesome. What I’ve neglected to mention, however, are the further shenanigans that took place the Saturday after our nation’s sacred day of ruthless shopping. Saturday afternoon found me, my suitor, and my honorary sister cruising down a highway (I’d give you the number to sound all journalistic and dramatic, except the only highway in Ithaca I know by name is 13–such is the fate of the car-less) on the way to Taughannock Falls, a beautiful state park in nearby Ulysses, NY.
I’d previously visited the falls twice: once when my dad came up for Parents’ Weekend during my freshman year, and again at the end of this past summer. Even with the assistance of questionable smartphone technology, however, my friends and I ended up getting a teensy bit disoriented. Although we eventually did reach Taughannock, we found ourselves at the top of the overlook ridge instead of down at the trailhead, all because we took the high road at an intersection!
Apparently it takes more than a dramatic vista to satisfy a carful of college kids, though, because we followed our trek with a trip to the new Yogurtland that opened near Wegmans earlier this year. Returning to my beloved Honolulu chain here in Ithaca was an incredible experience. Sorry, Yogurt Crazy.
Finally, my companions were obliging enough to let me make a stop at FOUND in Ithaca, an “antique and vintage marketplace” located in Sketchy Warehouse Alley…I mean, the area behind Wegmans. Backroads aside, however, FOUND proved to be the proverbial clean, well-lit place (and I’m pretty sure some of its merchandise was contemporaneous with Mr. Hemingway himself).
Objects I adored included…
- an illustrated biography of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life
- a “mermaid’s bathtub” (actually, there was a suspiciously large number of mermaid-related things in this store: needless to say, I was very pleased!)
- a veritable wunderkammer of quirky trinkets that I swear were taken from some imperialist Victorian archaeologist’s dusty mantlepiece
- the world’s most beautiful red & black brocade vintage dress that was JUST my size and would’ve been the best thing ever and made me look like a dragon queen…alas, expensive objects, why must you tempt me?
I suppose I should stop before this blog post turns into a eulogy for a lost 50s dress, so here’s a Career Reflection instead! I keep assuming that museums are the way to go for art history majors, but the art world encompasses many different institutions, from big auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s to charming local stores like FOUND.
In any case, Cornellians should definitely pop into FOUND or check out their website. A visit to FOUND could even make a delightful first date! Imagine impressing some worthy young lad or lass with your ability to drop words like “mid-century modern” or “Bakelite” while the two of you browse the merchants’ offerings! Or how about competing in the quest to find the oldest piece of Ithacan ephemera, the most disturbingly racist children’s book, or the object most likely to have been used as a cursed item in a 90s supernatural TV show? (See, this is why I usually write about academics, not dating.)
Museum lovers, come back on Sunday for my review of the Philadelphia Museum of Art & the Barnes!
(Museum haters, what are you even doing reading my blog?)