Quebec: Week One

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My mom, her friend Dawn, and I left Massachusetts around five o’clock Saturday evening. We arrived in Quebec around one or two o’clock Sunday morning and checked into the Travelodge. The decor of the lobby in the Quebec Travelodge has a very funky decor: bright colors, water running behind glass walls and neon lighting. There’s a restaurant called Cafe Jules Verne which was where we had breakfast before heading over to the University of Laval.

After checking into my dorm room at Laval and unpacked my things, we went and explored the campus. Our first stop was the Pavillion Desjardins, where there is a cafeteria and a convenience store where you can buy bus tickets. Next, we looked for the Pavillion Charles de Koninck, where I have classes. At Pavillion Charles de Koninck, we met a boy named Jordan, who is from Newfoundland. Jordan joined us for lunch at the cafeteria in Desjardins, then to a nearby supermarket called Supermarché Métro, where we bought groceries for the week.

Mom offered to bring Jordan along with us when we went into Old Town Quebec.  We walked down to the lower part of the city via a series of staircases. Quebec is more like a European city than anything we usually see in North America with its narrow, winding, cobblestone streets. One of the streets is canopied by a number of brightly colored umbrellas.

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Mom wanted to find a church called Notre Dame des Victoires which translates to “Our Lady of Victories”: the name of the parish church in her hometown of Sayreville, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the church was closed so we could not go inside. On our way back up, we stopped for drinks at the Pub des Borgias; I had a rum and coke.

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The day ended with window shopping at the stores near Chateau Frontenac Hotel. Across from the hotel is a street filled with booths for portrait artists. I’ve always wanted to have my portrait done, so I decided to come back when I had more time.

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I had classes until 11:30 on Monday morning. Then at one o’clock, I went on a tour of the campus and saw its very impressive athletic complex. At 3:30pm, there was an orientation meeting, then I was free.

I took the bus into Old Town Quebec, intending to return to Chateau Frontenac and have my portrait drawn. Following the directions given by my Google Maps app, I got off the bus at Parliament Hill and looked around for the Gare Fluviale stop, where I was supposed to get on another bus which would take me the rest of the way to Chateau Frontenac. But I could not find the Gare Fluviale, so I wound up on a magical mystery tour through Quebec as I looked for my destination. The Summer Festival was going on this week, so there were a lot of people downtown Monday evening. Some big name groups such as The Foo Fighters, The Chainsmokers, Machine Gun Kelly, Beck, Lorde, Cyndi Lauper, and the Dave Mathews Band were on the lineup.

I met up with Dawn and my mom in front of a restaurant called Bistro 1640. Today was the day I finally had my portrait done. I sat for one of the street artists, who captured my likeness in sepia colored pastels. The drawing was well done but, unfortunately, it looked like me.

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The three of us had dinner at Bistro 1640. The bread was served with pâté; I had never had pâté but it was delicious. For my main course, I had a chicken caesar salad which was served in a very unique way: on a piece of slate with whole heads of lettuce and chicken thighs. Dessert consisted of maple sugar creme brulée which was fantastic. Monday was Dawn and my mom’s last night in Quebec, so I said goodbye to them when the dropped me off at Laval.

My classes were over at noon on Tuesday and then I had to go to the registrar’s office to get my student I.D. I spent the rest of the day at the Musée de la Civilization. My trip there went fairly smoothly until the bus drove past the stop where I was supposed to get off. After the bus dropped me off, I used my phone to find another way to get where I wanted to go. I had originally intended to go to the Musée du Fort but when I looked it up, I found that it was closed, so I decided to go to the Musée de la Civilization, using my phone to help me find the way.

Musée de la Civilization has exhibits which chronicle the history of Quebec. This region is fascinating. Both European and North America, Anglophone and Francophone, and completely unique.

I saw artifacts belonging to the native peoples who lived here thousands of years before European settlers arrived, the belongings those settlers brought with them and imported from Europe when things became more civilized, and items which exemplify Quebec culture, ranging from the 17th century to the present. The territory of what is now Canada was first explored by Samuel de Champlain, who founded the city of Quebec, and immigrants from France settled the area. It was ruled by France until the Seven Years War when the British took it over. The province of Quebec has always stood out among the British Empire, being Francophone as opposed to Anglophone and Catholic as opposed to Protestant. The Catholic Church played a big role in the founding of Quebec and in the formation of its culture and the collection of the Musée de la Civilization has plenty of Catholic iconography and paraphernalia.

Laval University, where I am studying, is named after Monseigneur François de Laval who was the first bishop of Quebec and was made a saint.

I have always been obsessed with porcelain and period clothing and the museum’s collection is lousy with them.

The battery on my phone was running low at the time, so I missed many opportunities to take pictures of the pieces I liked. There is so much that trying to take it all in was a bit overwhelming.

There was a special exhibit called “Ici Londres” or “London’s Calling.” I downloaded an audio guide on my phone which was narrated by a personification of the city of London, who for some reason had a Quebecois accent.  Each section of the exhibit is meant to represent a different area of London which is also a fascinating place with a vibrant and fascinating art scene: a blend of tradition and the avant-garde, of capitalism and anarchy. “Ici Londres” is a celebration of the art, music, and fashion which put London on the map: from 1960s mods, the Beatles, and Mary Quant to 1970s punks, the Sex Pistols, and Vivienne Westwood, to 1980s new romantics and new wavers, David Bowie, and Body Map. I’ve always been an Anglophile and obsessed with music, fashion, and art, so I enjoyed this exhibit. The section of London I was most excited to see was Abbey Road which was dedicated to the Beatles, who made Abbey Road Studios famous.

I left the museum around 4:30 pm and took a taxi back to Laval and had an early night.

After our classes on Wednesday, we had a mandatory excursion to Vieux-Québec. We left campus at 1:30pm. Our first stop was at the Assemblé Nationale de Québec and the Fontaine de Tourny across the street from it.

We then walk through the old city fortifications and towards Chateau Frontenac.

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Behind Chateau Frontenac is a boardwalk which overlooks the St. Lawrence River.

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From there, we walked down the Escalier Frontenac to Le Petit Champlain, the lower part of the city, where Mom, Dawn, Jordan and I went on Sunday.

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We walked through Place Royale, where Notre Dame des Victoires is, and back up Rue de la Montagne, a hike which nearly killed me.

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Back on top, we looked inside the Cathedral-Basilica de Québec. The cathedral has a crypt, which contains the remains of St. François de Laval, but it was closed, so we were only able to look at the main part of the cathedral.

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Jasmine and her family arrived in Quebec on Wednesday and I had been excited to see her. She and I had planned to go out to dinner and then for a swim at her hotel. Later on, she texted me saying that we could not go for a swim because her parents did not want to go out again after swimming. When I got back from my tour of Vieux-Québec, Jasmine sent me another text to tell me that they were too tired from their trip to go out again. So I ordered a pizza and settled down to finish watching season two of Thirteen Reasons Why.

On Thursday, Jasmine and her parents picked me up around noon. I wanted to show her the Musée de la Civilization, so we went there. My reason for returning was to take pictures of items in the collection which I had neglected to photograph on Tuesday. One exhibit tells the history of Quebec in chronological order: I photographed some dresses and hats ranging from the Edwardian era to the 1950s.

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The other exhibit has items muddled together without any apparent rhyme and reason. It has everything from Victorian wedding dresses and 1940s salon chairs to stuffed buffalos and polar bear cubs.

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One thing I was surprised to see was a computer like those we had in my elementary school computer lab.

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I feel much too young to see something from my childhood in a museum. I was able to take photographs of The Belle Inconnue death mask and of the hippy, mod, and new romantic clothing I liked in “Ici Londres.”

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We left the museum around three o’clock because I had to be back at campus for one of the excursions I had booked: a trip to Cabane de Pierre, a maple farm a couple of hours away from Quebec.

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We were shown a Cabane à Sucre, a hut where maple syrup is made.

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Then we had a meal in the main building which included ham, eggs, sausages, pancakes and shepherd’s pie, all drizzled with maple syrup.

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A band played music from the traditional Québec music to a song from the film Titanic, to staples of middle school dances like “the Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “the Hokey-Pokey” and “the Macarena.” I did a little bit of dancing but it quickly tired me out. For dessert,, we had maple candy made from maple syrup poured in shaved iced and then wrapped around a popsicle stick, which was delicious. I read about this type of candy in the Little House on the Prairie books and I had always wanted to try it.

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We arrived back at Laval University around ten-thirty.

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Saturday was my second excursion, which was to Lévis, the city across the St. Lawrence from Quebec. We took a ferry across the river and when we disembarked, I went to an Aux Petits Oignons and bought a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, and a soda for lunch.

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The first stop on our tour was a former Anglican church, which is now a theater, in Vieux-Lévis. We walked up there via and “escalier” which are becoming the bane of my existence. Our next stop was the house of Alphonse Desjardins, who founded a chain of banks here in Quebec, then we went to a well-known ice-cream parlor and candy store called Chocolat Favoris; I had the dulce de leche which was delicious.

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The second part of our trip was to Fort Lévis. We were shown the artillery magazine and our guide demonstrated how to fire a canon. I was part of the demonstration: I used the brush that cleans out the canon before it is loaded.

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Finally, we went to the Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, a waterfall outside of Lévis. We walked across a suspension bridge to the other side of the falls. The Chutes-de-la-Chaudière are beautiful and I would recommend going to see them. I would also recommend going to a Chocolat Favoris but Lévis is nothing special.

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So far, my trip to Quebec has been tons of fun.

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On Finally Getting to See “Hamilton”

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“I saw her just up Broadway a couple of blocks. She was going to see a play.”

Here ye, here ye! My name is Rachel Lesch and I present free thoughts on Hamilton: An American Musical.

Mom, Aunt Pat, and I took the 11:30am bus into New York City. The trip took about an hour because the traffic was insane, man. We had a quick lunch at Schnippers across the street for Port Authority before heading to Richard Rogers Theater. Because it is June, our Playbills were Pride Month themed.

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“What time is? Showtime!”

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“Alexander Hamilton,” the opening number, received a massive ovation, especially during the entrance of lead actor, Michael Luwoye. Daniel Breaker, who played Aaron Burr, has a hoity-toity snooty sounding voice which was different from Leslie Odom Jr. (the original Aaron Burr) who sang the part with a smooth menace. He did well but I thought he sounded a bit weak during “Dear Theodosia.”

When Peggy (Joanna A. Jones) is complaining during “Schuyler Sisters,” Eliza (Lexi Lawson) puts her hands on Peggy’s shoulders and is like “shut up Peg.”

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Angelica and Eliza during “Schuyler Sisters”

When Peggy (Joanna A. Jones who is double cast as Maria Reynolds) is complaining during “Schuyler Sisters,” Eliza (Lexi Lawson) puts her hands on Peggy’s shoulders and is like “shut up Peg.”  One of the students in the common dances around Eliza flirtatiously at one point during the song. George Washington (Bryan Terrell Clark) sang the lines “Can I be real a second?” and “Elegance and eloquence” a sarcastically during “Right Hand Man.” I thought that Clark’s voice did not quite fit the role of George Washington. It does not have the deep and commanding quality that I imagine the character having. 

There was an “eyes-meeting-across-the-ballroom” moment between Hamilton and Eliza during “Helpless.” Their kiss at the end of “Helpless” was long and steamy, so when John Laurens (Anthony Lee Medina: who is double cast as Philip Hamilton) says “Alright, Alright, that’s what I’m talking about” at the beginning of “Satisfied,” he interrupts their kiss with suggestive pelvic thrusts. The line “I romanticize what might have been” made me think maybe Angelica is looking back on her first meeting with Hamilton with rose-colored glasses. She is making more of her connection with him than there perhaps really was. One of Hamilton’s biggest historical inaccuracies is that Angelica is presented as still eligible whereas in real life she was already married by the time she met Hamilton. According to the show’s logic, if Hamilton preferred Angelica over her sister Eliza, he would have married her instead. Eliza is seen dancing with Burr when she first notices Hamilton at the ball.

During Hamilton’s narration at the beginning of “Stay Alive,” Eliza is seen reading a letter, so his words are meant to be a letter home. Read coat soldiers march in front of where Eliza is standing during “Stay Alive,” so it kind of looks like she is a British prisoner. I imagine that Eliza must have had to be careful since as the daughter of a general in Continental Army and the wife of George Washington’s right-hand man, she would have made a valuable hostage. Eliza and Angelica are frequently seen in the background during the war scenes, showing that Hamilton is thinking of the women he loves.

When King George III (Euan Morton) sings the line “I’m so blue” he stamps his foot petulantly and the spotlight changes from red to blue. When King George III (Euan Morton) sings the line “I’m so blue” he stamps his foot petulantly and the spotlight changes from red to blue. The use of color in the production design is the stuff of lengthy analytical essays. Hamilton’s arrival home from the war and reunion with the pregnant Eliza is lit in blue, Eliza’s signature color, which is calm and soothing. Eliza and Angelica, who wears a pale shade of rose pink, are warm and comforting forces in Hamilton’s life and their pastel shades reflect this. There is an interesting parallel between “Non-Stop” and “Take a Break.” Both songs end with Angelica and Eliza each holding one of Hamilton’s hands and him breaking away from them, first to go and be Secretary of the Treasury, then to stay home from a family vacation.

The dress that Eliza wears during “Non-Stop” and “Take a Break” is a pale turquoise: her blue mixed with Hamilton’s green. As his wife and the mother of their children, her identity is an extension of his. After his betrayal with Maria Reynolds, the sultry siren in the red dress, she goes back to wearing the pale blue she wore before their marriage. Red is a color associated with danger and is used as visual shorthand to say that Maria Reynolds is bad news. It also clashes with green, Hamilton’s signature color, showing that his relationship with Maria is wrong. Eliza, the saintly wife, is dressed in Virgin Mary blue while Maria, the mistress, is a literal scarlet woman. During “The Reynolds Pamphlet” Maria is seen reading the titular pamphlet, in which she is named and shamed, and walks off stage with her head hung in disgrace. Eliza, the homemaker, is pitied by the public while Maria, the homewrecker, is reviled as a whore. Maria Reynolds is a character I loathe and despise but at this point, I almost felt sorry for her.

Hamilton and Eliza are fully reconciled by the bittersweet “Best of Wives and Best of Women” during which Eliza wears a dark teal dressing gown: her blue and his green mixed with the black of the mourning clothes they wore after the death of their son Philip. The Hamiltons are a united front again though sadder what wiser after all they’ve been through. When she widowed, Eliza wears pale blue again, signaling that she is her own woman.

James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, made his entrance as Jefferson to thunderous applause. I saw him as the Genie in Aladdin and the Tony Award-winning actor is always a joy to watch but I think he did better as Jefferson than as Lafayette. His voice is better suited to Jefferson’s jazz than Lafayette’s rapid-fire hip-hop. The songs that got the biggest reaction were George Washington’s parting song “One Last Time” and Eliza’s break up song “Burn.”

Lexi Lawson sounded broken and tearful during “Burn” which was a different take on the song. Phillipa Soo (the original Eliza) sang it with a steely intensity, using her words as pins to burst Hamilton’s bubble. I have always seen “Burn” as Eliza’s “Letterbomb” from American Idiot, where the love interest is pretty much telling the protagonist “fuck you, I’m done with your shit.” You can imagine that Lawson is going to eat a ton of ice cream and cry which is understandable in her situation. 

The feels hit me like Aaron Burr’s bullet during the second act. I do not think that I have ever had as big of an emotional reaction. The song “It’s Quiet Uptown” is known as a big tear jerker but it never had as big of an effect on me. Hamilton and Eliza’s reconciliation is seen as a beautiful moment of forgiveness but I’ve always seen it as one of the countless instances of a wife being expected to “be the better person” and forgive her husband for his transgressions when he probably would have just kicked her to the curb if she had done the same thing. Upon actually seeing the show, I confess that the scene moved me. You see how completely heartbroken Hamilton is following Philip’s death and how he blames himself (not unjustly) for the chain of events that lead to this tragic events. Eliza is aloof and ignores her husband even as he pleads for forgiveness. When she finally allows him to hold her hand, he breaks down crying and it’s a powerful moment.

The last ten minutes of Hamilton are a masterpiece of suspense as events hurtle at breakneck speed towards the climactic Hamilton/Burr duel. It’s ending is superb with Eliza explaining how she spent her half-century of widowhood carrying on her beloved husband’s legacy. Hamilton ushers Eliza in the spotlight where she takes her last breath and is finally able to join him in the afterlife. I was close to tears as I walked out of the theater.

After the show, we had dinner at the Heartland Brewery in Port Authority before getting on our bus back to New Jersey. We then had ice cream at a place called Magnifico’s on our way home. The perfect end to a perfect day.

I have the honor to be you, obdient servant,

R. Lesch

New York City: Greenwich Village and Chicago the Musical

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For months, I’ve been planning on visiting my brother, Tom, and his girlfriend, Gabi during my spring break.  They moved to Brooklyn during the Fall and from what they’ve told me it looks like a cool place.

On Thursday,  I took the 3:15pm train from South Station in Boston which arrived in New York’s Penn Station at 7:21pm, where Tom and Gabi picked me up. Gabi made reservations at this restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Bea, a great little place with a theme of black and white photographs and old movies.

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Tom and Gabi at Bea

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I had the macaroni and cheese; Gabi had the margarita pizza with pancetta; Tom had the pork dumplings. We shared some of our food with each other and it was delicious. As I was going to the bathroom, they were playing La Bamba by Richie Valens, one of my favorite songs of the 1950s.

I would definitely recommend Bea. The decor, food, and music were all amazing.

Gabi got a text from her friend Eva, saying that she was going to perform to a bar in Brooklyn called “Flowers for all Occasions.”  We took the subway to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, where the bar is situated.  “Flowers for all Occasions” is exactly the type of place I wanted to go to when I decided to go to Brooklyn: a weird little, hole-in-the-wall, hipster dive bar. It is decorated like an elementary school art classroom (silver foil, cardboard traffic cones, and paper mache monster heads on the ceiling; Christmas lights and splotches of paint on the walls),  weird music is played, and it has the highest concentration of people with mullets that I’ve ever seen. It is an interesting place, very artsy and crazy and I would love to go back.

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Tom and Gabi at Flowers for all Occasions

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Eva Performing

After breakfast on Friday, Tom, Gabi, and I took their dog,  Tyson, for a walk in a cemetery near where they live. When we were done with the walk, Gabi and I took a train downtown to find the nearest TKTS kioks. Tom had work, so he and Tyson returned home. At TKTS, Gabi and I tried to figure out what show we wanted to see. We ruled out Anastasia, our first choice, because it was getting mediocre reviews. The tickets for Carousel, our second choice, were too expensive, so we decided to see Chicago. After getting our tickets and walking around for awhile trying to figure out what we were going to do, we stopped at an Au Bon Pain to get a snack and use the bathroom.

Tom and Gabi have another apartment that they rent through Air B&B and Gabi had to return home and it get ready for guests, so I crashed on the couch for about an hour, watching Youtube videos and cuddling with Tyson. When Gabi was done, we took the subway to the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan. We walked through Washington Square Park and under the Washington Square Arch.

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Feeling Small

Gabi had a gift card for a restaurant chain called Bareburger, so we went to one in Greenwich Village for lunch. I had a hotdog in a pretzel bun which was absolutely wonderful but the service at Bareburger was terrible. Our waitress was a total space case. After lunch, Gabi showed me this bookstore called “The Strand” which has racks and racks of every book you could possibly think of. I felt like Belle during that scene in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast gives her his massive library.

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I’m in Heaven

I bought A Game of Throne, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series The Last Olympian, the last book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, some pins for my backpack, and a pair of Abraham Lincoln socks for my friend Jasmine.

Our next stop was a nail salon called “Think Pink” where Gabi got a manicure, then a consignment shop called “Beacon’s Closet” where I bought a pair of tights with a black seem a long the back which looks like stockings from the 1940s. Gabi was looking for a pair of shoes to wear with an outfit for a wedding and got these really nice black heels. We looked in an Urban Outfits until it was time for our six o’clock dinner reservation at a restaurant called Rosemary’s, where Gabi sometimes work. Rosemary’s is truly a gem; the food was fantastic and the service was exemplary. I had the rigatoni in marinara sauce and the tiramisu for dessert, both of which were wonderful.

Our tickets were for eight o’clock and we barely made it to the Ambassador Theater in time for the show. We walked in during the open number “All That Jazz.” I’ve seen the movie version of Chicago a number of times but I haven’t watched it in a while, so I’ve almost forgotten how good the music is. Gabi and I thought that the actress playing Roxie had great comedic timing but we didn’t much care for the actress playing Velma. The actor playing Amos, who sings “Mr. Cellophane” one of my favorite songs in the score, had the best voice in the main cast. One of the problems we had with this production was that we couldn’t always understand what the actors were saying. For the most part, we enjoyed Chicago. 

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Where’s my exit music?

I’ve been to New York City many times but I’ve usually left before five in the evening. One of my favorite things about this trip was that I was able to stay out fairly late and experience some of New York City’s nightlife. Today I talked to Gabi about the possibility of me returning again in May after this semester is over.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

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Lady Rose’s Pink Evening Dress

The present I got from my mom this year for my birthday/Christmas was a ticket to the Downton Abbey Exhibition in New York City. I learned about it on Thanksgiving while I was watching the National Dog Show and it was advertised frequently during the commercials. This morning, my grandfather drove Mom and me to Perth Amboy, where my mom’s friend Kathy lives. We went to the Perth Amboy train station from Kathy’s house. I have to say that Perth Amboy is a total shit-hole; everything looks rundown and is covered in trash, specifically the train station.

We, me, my mom, Kathy, and her daughter Kimberly, took the train to New York City’s Penn Station. From there, we took a cab to where Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is held. We were about an hour early, so we went to a nearby Prêt à Manger for a snack. It was bitingly cold today. Standing outside on the platform at the Perth Amboy train station or in line to get into Downton Abbey: The Exhibition were more than I can handle. At Prêt à Manger, I drank a cup of Earl Grey to help myself warm up.

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Downton Abbey Servants Uniforms

The exhibition began with a short video of Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey’s butler, welcoming us and saying, in the politest way, that he finds our interest in seeing the servant’s quarters, and the clothing we are wearing, odd. Its first floor is set as “downstairs”: the world of the servants; the kitchen, the staff dining room, and Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes’s sitting room. There were displays of props and costumes from the show such as servant’s uniforms. Mr. Carson’s desk, and Mrs. Hughes’s keys.

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The Kitchen and Uniforms Belonging to Daisy and Mrs. Patmore

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Servants Dining Room and Outfits Belonging to Anna and Mr. Bates

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Office/ Sitting Room and Outfits Belonging to Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes

My mom badly twisted her ankle a few weeks ago and so was pushed in a wheelchair by Kathy today. One of the guides helped us out when we took the elevator up to the second floor. I thanked him for his assistance and said that Mr. Carson would be proud of him. 

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Downton Abbey Dining Room

We sat through a video of clips from Downton Abbey which show its central theme of the preservation of tradition in the face of changing times before we went into the second part of the exhibition which was set up as “upstairs”, the world of the aristocratic Crawley family. There were areas set up to look like rooms in Downton Abbey such as the dining room and Lady Mary’s bedroom. Props and costumes such as the Crawley family jewels and the beautiful evening dresses worn by Lady Grantham and her daughters.

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Lady Mary’s Bedroom

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Countess of Grantham’s Pearl Tiara and Necklace

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Flapper dresses worn by Lady Rose, Lady Edith, and Lady Mary

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Flapper dresses worn by Lady Mary and Lady Edith

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Turquoise and Bronze Evening Dress worn by Lady Mary

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Evening Dresses worn by Lady Mary and Lady Edith

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Crawley Family Jewels

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More Jewelry

My Favorite part of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition was the third floor which was dedicated to costumes from the show. The costumes I liked best were Lady Edith’s beaded blue evening dress, Lady Rose’s presentation gown, and the wedding dresses. Mr. Carson, along with Lord and Lady Grantham, appeared again to bid us goodbye.

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Evening Dress Worn by Lady Edith, Lady Mary, and Lady Sybil

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Lady Rose’s Presentation Gown

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Wedding Gowns Worn by Lady Mary and Lady Edith

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Wedding Gown Worn by Lady Edith

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Wedding Accessories

Like with a Disney World attraction, we exited through the gift shop. There were two Debrett’s etiquette books that I wanted but they were fifty dollars each and I only had thirty, so I bought a beautiful pair of earrings. Kathy’s son William met us outside of the exhibition and called an Uber to take us to Penn Station. While we were waiting, I took pictures of the costumes in the display windows. 

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Dress and Coat Worn by Lady Edith

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1920s Evening Dresses

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Flapper Dress Worn by Lady Rose

From Penn Station, we took a train back to Perth Amboy.

Bag Girl Goes to Salem: Peabody Essex Museum and Witch Museum

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My film studies professor told us about an exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum called It’s Alive which features posters and props from classic horror and sci-fi films. It piqued my interest and so Jasmine and I decided that we would go downtown today since my only class was canceled and Jasmine did not have class until 3:05.

We were able to take the Salem State shuttle downtown. I had also wanted to see the Friendship, a reproduction East Indiaman ship which is sometimes docked in Salem harbor. Since it opens at nine o’clock, whereas the P.E.M. does not open until ten, we went there first but the Friendship was not in port. So we waited around until the P.E.M opened.

The It’s Alive exhibition is part of the collection of Kirk Hammett, lead guitarist for the band Metallica, who is a big fan of horror and sci-fi films. We walked through the doors, which made the creaking sounds often found in haunted houses, and saw posters for classic horror movies such as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Dracula and film clips of their famous scenes projected onto the walls.

 

There was a piece of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory which zapped “electricity” in the form of light projection.

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as well as posters for films such as Lon Chaney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bête

The next part of the exhibition was made up of posters for famous sci-fi films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Metropolis.

My favorite exhibits were of props from the films Invaders from Mars and Invasion of the Flying Saucers which we dummies of alien creatures.

We also got to see posters for more recent horror classics such as The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.

On our way out, we saw a cut out advertising the 1933 film King Kong.

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Because we are Salem State students, Jasmine and I can get into a number of museums here in Salem for free. One of them is Peabody Essex. Another is the Salem Witch Museum. Jasmine and I went there to get tickets for the one o’clock tour and then got lunch at our favorite pizza place. The first part of the Salem Witch Museum is a room with wax displays telling the story of the Salem Witch Trials. We sat in the center and lights came up on each of the displays and a narrator tells the story.

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The second part of the museum explores the changing perception of the witch from wise and kindly ancient wise women, to satanic hags, to modern-day Wiccans.

I saw an add on Facebook this morning saying that the Residence Hall Association was running buses downtown to see the Halloween parade. I went to the seminar room of our residence hall around four o’clock and met up with Jasmine around four thirty. We enjoyed pizza from our Omega’s, one of our favorite places before boarding the bus. To our surprise, instead of just watching the parade, we got to be in it, marching to represent Salem State University. Our bus dropped us off where the parade was to begin. I saw a trio of people dressed up as Ghostbusters as we were walking in.  

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The parking lot was filled with cars decorated with different themes such as movies like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws, Pirates of the Caribbean, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

The parade was set to begin at six thirty but since our group was at the very end, we did not get to leave until another forty-five minutes later. Jasmine and I volunteered to hand out candy to children as we passed. We also had our faces painted. I asked to be made to look like a broken porcelain doll, but I ended up looking like I have that grayscale disease from Game of Thrones. Jasmine was made to look like a black cat.

We walked through downtown Salem from the docks, where the parade began, to the Hawthorne Hotel, struggling to manage crowds of sugar crazed children. Salem is one of the best places to be during the month of October and today was an excellent kickoff to Halloween month.  

Bag Girl Goes to The MFA Boston

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Since 2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of 1967’s Summer of Love, The Museum of Fine Arts is showing an exhibition on this seminal moment in American pop culture. Mom and I were eager to go see it after falling in love with the work of artist Peter Max during our cruise.

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Orpheus and Cerberus by Thomas Crawford

Today was the perfect day to go into the city: sunny and pleasant with a crisp autumn coolness. We took the 10:13 am train to Boston and arrived around eleven o’clock. By the time we got to the MFA, around 11:30 am, I was starving and ready for lunch. After getting something to eat, we went to see the Summer of Love exhibition. 

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Summer of Love Album Covers

After getting something to eat, we went to see the Summer of Love exhibition. It was in a small gallery and mostly displays of album covers, some of which, I imagine, were designed by Peter Max, since I know that he collaborated with the Beatles on their cover art. What the Beatles were to the sound of the 1960s, Peter Max was to its look. 

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Summer of Album Covers

The Summer of Love exhibition had its own little gift shop, where I purchased a beautiful book on Max’s work with a foreword by Neil Degrasse Tyson of all people.

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Summer of Love Album Covers


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Ancient Egyptian Beadnet Dress- Art of the Ancient World, Gallery 105B

I had made a list of my favorite works of art on display at the MFA and which galleries they are in. First on the list was the ancient Egyptian beadnet dress on display in the Art of the Ancient World wing, Gallery 105B. In a little activity sketchbook that they were giving out for free, I sketched all of my favorite artworks, starting with the beadnet dress.  

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Mrs. Billington as Saint Cecilia by George Romney- Art of Europe, Gallery 141

Next was Mrs. Billington as Saint Cecilia by George Romney in Gallery 141 of the Art of Europe wing, a painting I saw on the MFA’s Instagram page this morning and felt that I had to go see. We also looked in an exhibit of eighteenth-century porcelain, which I wanted to take all of home. 

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The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit by John Singer Sargent- Art of the Americas, Gallery 232

Upstairs in Gallery 232 of the Art of the Americas wing hangs one of the MFA’s most iconic possessions: The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit by John Singer Sargent who is one of my favorite artists. Aside from sketching an outline of its composition in my book, I also drew the two giant Japanese vases, similar to those found in the painting, which flank it on either side. We finished up our tour of Art of the Americas by looking at depictions of the elegant and privileged lives of the turn of the century elite done by Sargent, Cassatt, and Whistler.

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Haymaker and Sleeping Girl by Thomas Gainsborough- Art of Europe, Gallery 246

Returning to Art of Europe, we passed through galleries of eighteenth-century rococo furniture, including my dream bed, to Gallery 246, where the next artwork on my list hangs. Thomas Gainsborough’s Haymaker and Sleeping Girl is a romantic image of a rustic country lad staring longingly at a refined young lady, asleep under a tree.

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Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer by Edgar Degas- Art of Europe, Gallery 255

Last on my list was Degas’s Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer in Gallery 255. The section of the MFA dedicated to the nineteenth-century French Impressionists is one of my favorites in the whole museum. One of my new favorite paintings in the MFA’s collection is La Japonaise by Claude Monet which features his wife, Camille, wearing an elaborate kimono. 

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La Japonaise by Claude Monet- Art of Europe, Gallery 252

Mom had me check to see what time the train was coming. The time given on the MBTA ap was 3:15 pm, so we made a dash back to North Station. After checking the schedule there, we found that I had been wrong; the train to Gloucester was not coming until 5:30 pm. There was a train to Beverly coming at 4:30 pm, so we had Dad pick us up there.

Bag Girl Goes to Old Sturbridge Village

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I have not been to Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge MA since I was six or seven, which is going on fifteen or sixteen years ago. Today, it was open for free as part of the state’s “free Fridays” program, so my mom and I went there to meet Ruth,  an old friend of her’s. The drive from Gloucester was about an hour and forty minutes.

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Old Sturbridge Village is a collection of buildings from all over New England that are preserved how they might have looked in the early nineteenth century, specifically the 1830s. The first building we looked at was a lower class house which smelt sweetly of dried apples and herbs. Out in front of it was a large, enclosed pasture where sheep grazed. I was able to feed one of the sheep a handful of grass; it tickled when the sheep nibbled away the grass.

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The next two buildings we visited were religious meeting houses, one Quaker, the other Congregationalist. The Congregationalists are now known as the United Church of Christ, the church to which Ruth belongs and is an ordained minister. Near the Congregationalist meeting house is the parsonage, where a minister like Ruth would have lived in the 1830s.

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Among the other buildings we saw were a schoolhouse, a cobbler’s shop, and a potter’s kiln and workshop. 

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At the farthest end of the village is a small dairy farm, where I got to pet a two-week-old calf named Norman. Inside the house, some women were making cheese. I knew from watching a number of documentaries on historical farming that a substance called rennet, a digestive enzyme found in the lining of a calf’s stomach, is used to curdle milk and turn it into cheese. The barn was filled with sweet smelling freshly mowed hay.  

We had to choose between a ride on a river boat or a hay cart since we had to pay for both of them. The hayride was what was chosen, which I felt was something of a rip-off. It only did a quick loop around the village square which I felt was not worth the six dollars we paid for it.

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Near the square is the finest house in the village, an elegant home which is where I would choose to live if I was a nineteenth century Sturbridge resident, and a store where I purchased a sandalwood fan (my old one broke), some postcards, a book on crocheting, and a book called Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. 

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Also near the village square is a bank, where I flirted with a well-dressed gentleman and asked if they gave out student loans. We popped into a house where they were making a quilt and knitting comforters, and a reproduction store with displays of goods which would have been sold there. My favorites were the fans and jewelry. 

On our way out of Old Sturbridge Village, we passed through its vast gift shop. I bought a packet of columbine seeds and a copy of The Hamilton Affair, a romance novel based on the marriage between Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler. We had a picnic of damp cold cut sandwiches on a grassy knoll near the parking lot. Mom and Ruth caught out while I did a preview read of The Hamilton Affair. I had to be at work in Gloucester by five o’clock. The traffic driving home was heavy and I had just enough time to quickly change my clothes and dash off to Market Basket.