Monday, August 29, 2011

Being a Tourist

I'm writing from Naxos, a beautiful island in the Cyclades. I haven't seen many Greek islands, but so far Naxos is probably my favorite. It is a big island that has its own economy separate from the tourist trade, so while there are plenty of tourist-oriented shops, tours, and sights, it feels like there's more going on here than just catering to summer visitors.

View from an ATV riding around Naxos!

In the other two cities we've visited so far, Athens and Chania, there are very clear tourist areas. The Plaka in Athens is a mix of streets full of shops, restaurants, bars, gyro stands, and occasional ruins. (There is also an incredible baklava place that sells Nutella baklava - oh man, it's good.) Chania's old city has narrow alleys that lead between gorgeous homes and ruins from both the destruction of the Minoan civilization and World War II bombings. In both cities, the history is present and mingled into the everyday landscape. Naxos does have significant history - I'm not sure how many centuries it goes back, but quite a few - but as you wander through the old market and the old city, you easily find yourself stumbling into residential areas, churches that are still in use, and signs that are only in Greek. There are definitely more touristy areas, but they blend quickly into the everyday physical landscape.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I haven't posted in a few days, but I have a solid excuse - since last Friday I have been in Greece on a family vacation! After a summer with a lot of new adjustments and some uncertainties to face this fall, it has been a very relaxing trip. I spent two days in Athens, and I'm now on the island of Crete. I wanted to share a few things I've been thinking about as I've been traveling:

The United States Wins at Showers

This isn't always true, but I've noticed some interesting bathroom trends in the few times I've been to Europe. Often, showers do not come with tubs. I don't mean that it's annoying not to be able to take a bath - I mean that there is no tub rim to keep the water from flooding the rest of the bathroom. Bathrooms frequently have drains in the center, but tubs seem to make a little more sense. Also, shower curtains are optional here, which has caused me to soak my clothes or towel on more than one occasion. I like a lot of things about European hostels and hotels, but I do love my American showers.

What's that? You made a vase in art class with your bare hands?
Yeah, I guess that's cool, too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Michigan's Campus: Part IV

This is the fourth entry in my series on my favorite campus spots, which is a more focused version of my series on places I miss in Ann Arbor.

Angell Hall is a gorgeous building at the University of Michigan. It houses many of the humanities classes and departments. It is connected to Tisch, Haven and Mason Halls - it works, but I've never quite understood it - and is one of the buildings you see as you walk down State Street. It has huge columns on its facade and always looks grand. Even when I didn't have a class there, I still walked by it every day, and it was one of my favorite places around campus.

Angell Hall has the Fish Bowl, the giant computer lab, and the honors commons, which is a great place to sit and read/sleep in comfy chairs. It is also where you can find the Classics Library, where I wrote the second and third chapters of my thesis. Some of the classrooms are gorgeous, and the Angell Hall auditoriums have some of the best desks and chairs. I also worked in the basement of Angell Hall at the Peer Tutoring Center, which can have pretty cool mood lighting when the tutors feel like it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to Massachusetts

This past weekend, I went back to visit my family and friends around Boston. It was just a short visit, but I got to eat my mom's cooking, spend time with a couple friends, and visit two of my three favorite ice cream places around Lexington. Here are some photos from the weekend!

This is the view from Megabus on my way into the city. You can see the Prudential Center, the John Hancock Building, and the Citgo sign by Fenway Park.

This is why I always try for the window seat.

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about my favorite ice cream spots in Lexington and the surrounding towns. Happily, on my first night in town I went to Bedford Farm's with a friend to get the flavor burst soft serve that I love.

This is the bubble gum flavor burst - it's so pink and pretty!

Here's Boston Harbor. My friend Hope and I walked around the waterfront in the North End for a bit before attending a free wine tasting at the Golden Goose Market.


There was a little girl at the wine tasting with an adorable puppy. When we went over to pet it, Hope tried to make conversation with the girl. She asked, "Is your dog a boy or a girl?" to which the little girl replied, "Well, she's wearing a pink ribbon." Hope and I did not impress that girl with our smarts, apparently.

It was so small and so fluffy and if the girl hadn't had it on a good leash,
I may have tried to lure it away with the salami from the wine tasting...

This is one of my favorite views of the city, from the Charles/MGH T stop on the Red Line.

When heading inbound, you pull out of the Kendall T stop and suddenly you see this.
It's beautiful even on rainy days.

In that same post about ice cream places near Lexington, I wrote about Kimball's over in Carlisle. I went with my parents one night and tried their pumpkin ice cream. Delicious! As you can see, they have a regular menu, but then even more flavors stuck next to it with thumb tacks.
It takes me forever to pick a flavor.

Kimball's serves huge portions. Pictured below is my dad's kiddie size cone of frozen pudding. I'm hoping seeing his hand there will give you a good idea of the proportion.

Maybe it's called "kiddie size" because it's the size of a small child's head.

After a rainy bus ride from South Station, I made it back to Philadelphia last night. All in all, a fast but great trip to Boston!

30th Street Station - one of my favorite places in Philly!

How have your summer travels been?
Have you gotten to visit any favorite spots?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Michigan's Campus: Part III

This week, I am focusing my series about places that I miss in Ann Arbor on my favorite spots around campus itself.

I did not understand winter until I moved to college. As a New Englander, I thought I had experienced cold weather. We have nor'easters and regularly get multiple feet of snow in the winter. I figured the midwest couldn't throw anything at me that I hadn't seen before.
While in some ways this was true - Michigan snowstorms aren't much worse than Massachusetts snowstorms, but winter does seem to last longer - I had not considered what winter is like when you don't have a car. Sure, it was cold waiting for my ride home from high school, but my mom would pick me up and my snow boots barely got wet. If I wanted to visit a friend, I could drive across town and only have to grumble about the time it took for the car to heat up.

I took this picture on April 19, 2011. Why, Michigan, why?

At the University of Michigan, I walked everywhere. My freshman year dorm was up on the Hill, which meant I had at least a fifteen-minute walk to the Diag, longer if I was walking against the wind or if I had to make it to the opposite corner of Angell Hall. Snow boots had a real purpose, especially when I failed at stepping over the slushy puddles that pool at crosswalks. I collected scarves and was thrilled when for Christmas freshman year my mom gave me brand-new long underwear and double-layer mittens. My friends and I had dinner conversations about the merits of wearing leggings under your jeans. It was serious business.

Throughout my four years, I developed certain coping strategies for the winter months. One in particular involved places on campus: shortcuts through well-heated buildings.

When I lived in Couzens Hall, several of my classes were in Angell Hall or Mason Hall, which is on the southwest corner of the Diag. This was a solid fifteen- to twenty-minute walk from my dorm room, and in the cold, it was not especially fun. As the winter blustered away, I learned a few paths through buildings to make my trek a little more pleasant. At least, it was warmer for a minute or two at a time. From Couzens, I took the bridge over Washtenaw Avenue toward Palmer Commons. At the end of the bridge, there's an entrance into the
Palmer Commons study area (which has now been turned into the Glass House Café). By cutting through the study rooms, I gave myself at least 45 seconds of warmth.

It only seemed right to draw in maize and blue.

From there, I had to brave my way through the wind tunnel created by the Undergraduate Science Building and the Life Sciences Institute. Once I got past the Dental School and crossed North University, I reached my favorite spot: the Chem Building. The Chem Building has a huge atrium that leads directly from North University to the Diag. It was almost a minute and a half to reheat if I walked slowly. From there, I could dash across the Diag (avoiding the M in the center) and make it to class with enough time for my hands to warm up before I had to take notes. I realize these are small things to be excited about, but believe me, as a freshman finding my way around a big campus, they felt like accomplishments.

If you step on the M, you will fail your first blue book exam.
I played it safe for all four years and avoided it like my boyfriend avoids a salad.

There were other little tricks here and there - like how the LSA Building has doors on opposite sides that make a direct line between the crosswalk on State Street and the sidewalk down Jefferson, so cutting through was just more efficient - that made me feel like a Michigan insider. I'm sure other students had even better keeping-warm ideas, especially those who lived up on North Campus and had to wait for buses in the cold. In the same way that intersections make me feel at home, being familiar enough with the campus to know shortcuts made me feel much more comfortable in Michigan. Whether I was more comfortable because I was warmer or because I was well-acquainted with my surroundings is hard to say.

Where are your campus shortcuts?
Do you have any favorite routes that might be longer but warmer?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Michigan's Campus: Part II

This week I'm focusing my series on places that I miss in Ann Arbor to my favorite spots around campus.

I visited the Michigan Union almost daily, and I always loved walking up to the grand, ivy-covered facade. My friends who visited from other schools often remarked, "That's your union?" It looks as gorgeous and as majestic as the Law Quad. On the front steps, JFK announced his idea for the Peace Corps in 1960, and the building is just as fantastic today as it was then.

" a graduate of the Michigan of the East, Harvard University."
That's right, Crimson. Michigan of the East.

There are many parts of the Union that I love and miss: the Amer's, the phone booths with computers in them, the UAC office on the fourth floor, the circular couches outside the UAC office, the ballroom, and so on. One of my favorite spots in the Union, however, was the Union Tap Room.

I think universities plant ivy on purpose to make their buildings look more intellectual.
(Photo from

Separated from the underground area with the various fast food places, the Tap Room was one of my favorite places to study. I stopped in there a few times freshman year, and then from sophomore year onward I lived within two blocks of the Union, so the Tap Room became a close work spot where I would be less likely to fall asleep than if I studied on my couch. The Tap Room was a popular spots for my roommates, too, so during finals we would often camp out, take over an entire stretch of tables, and work like crazy until the Union staff kicked us out at 2 AM. We scouted certain tables based on the number of electrical outlets nearby for our laptops, and settled in to write our papers, study for our exams, and share youtube videos when we needed study breaks. With food and coffee conveniently in the same building, it was easy to stay for hours.

It became relatively normal to run into one or more of my roommates at the Tap Room on any given night. We also frequently made plans to meet there and study. On one particular night in December of my junior year, one roommate and I were among very few Tap Room residents of the evening due to a massive snowstorm that had hit the state that day. Despite the inclement weather, we spent a good portion of our "study time" trying to convince another roommate to join us. I'm pretty sure our persuasion tactics revolved around texting the word "snooooooooow" over and over. During finals, somehow that seems like an effective strategy.

By my senior year, I had expanded my studying to other locations, as detailed in my post about writing my thesis. However, the Tap Room remains one of my favorite campus spots, and one that I associate with productivity. Ignoring the youtube video sharing and texting, that is.

Have you ever studied in the Tap Room? Where are your favorite study spots on campus?
And if you're curious about what the Union looked like years ago, before Subway and Panda Express, here's a link to a website about it!

Michigan's Campus: Part I

This week, I am going to share a few of my favorite places around campus at U of M!

There is a view of campus that I have always loved. When you stand on the steps of the Graduate Library, you can see directly through the Diag to the area by the Bell Tower and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Ah, spring! The Michigan sky is no longer gray but the temperature is still pretty damn cold.

You can see all the people traveling through the Diag and from the MLB and Michigan League. You can admire the beautiful architecture of Michigan's central campus. You can gaze at the open green space on the Diag as well as the frisbee players, musicians, and giant squirrels that may be occupying it. Over the trees, you can see Burton Memorial Tower silhouetted against the sky.

My mom may or may not have taken this same picture on every single visit to Ann Arbor.

The area by the Bell Tower is one of my favorites. It's a beautiful spot to sit and relax when the flowers are blooming and the sun is out. I also have connected to it for various reasons over the past four years. When I was a freshman, two of my lectures were held in the Modern Languages Building and one discussion section was on the eighth floor of the Bell Tower itself. Often, I would sit outside on the little wall reading books before classes in the MLB. Regularly for the past year, I trekked down the walkway past the Bell Tower and the League each Wednesday morning, even in blizzards, to go to the Alumni Center for Welcome Wednesdays. It is an event where Alumni Association provides free bagels and coffee to students from 8 AM to noon. (If I ever donate money to the Alumni Association, it will be for Welcome Wednesdays. Every Michigan student should have access to free Wednesday bagels.)

The entire view from the grad library steps is a favorite area for me mostly because of its beauty. I often found myself walking between the Diag and the Bell Tower area and thinking, no matter how stressed or tired I was, that I was so happy to be at school in such a gorgeous place. The buildings, especially the grandeur of the grad library, the Bell Tower, and Rackham, made the area inspiring for me. It was also always a comforting feeling. If I was worried about an exam or I felt overwhelmed by work, I was still happy to be where I was.

Where are your favorite spots on campus?

Monday, August 1, 2011


Another entry in the series on places I miss in Ann Arbor

When I left for college, I found myself missing really strange places in my hometown. In addition to the usual spots - my house, the town center, the center playground - and the people, I missed specific locations, such as the intersection right next to my house and the traffic light in the middle of town. I couldn't explain why I missed these places so clearly, and I'm pretty sure my mom thought I was weird when I mentioned it.

I've noticed the same thing happening since I left Ann Arbor. I miss the usual things - friends, our house, places around campus, favorite restaurants (oh
Frita Batidos, I long for a caramel rum cream batido!) - but I also pine for intersections. I love the one near my street, right by the Ann Arbor District Library. I also miss all the corners on the walk down Liberty toward Main, past the post office, Cafe Japon, and a bunch of shops. I miss where Detroit Street cuts diagonally up towards Zingerman's. I love the corner between the Law Quad and Dominick's. I miss the corner of Main and Washington, where I'd turn left, cut through bd's Mongolian Barbeque's corner and walk down to Sweetwater's or Frita Batidos.

A is for An Intersection I Miss.

So why intersections? When I move to a new place, I've found that the best way for me to feel at home is to walk around the city or town. By walking, I see things that make the place special for me - stores I like, gardens that are especially pretty, houses with cool windows, or little hidden doors. Ann Arbor itself began feeling more like home once I got off campus and found my way around the city. It was also the first city where I lived on my own and started to feel like an independent adult (or as much of an adult as your average college kid can be). Though there were many things that made Ann Arbor feel like home to me, the various streets around where I lived were a major part.

After two years on Hamilton Place, we finally got a street sign!

What are your favorite spots in Ann Arbor?
Are there any specific streets you like best? Or do you like intersections, too?