With a day off from work, I loaded my mother into our Pontiac and headed to mountain country. Oak Glen, one of the few places that retains its small-town-life charm in the face of rapid urbanization was the perfect destination to press 'reset'. Bundled in layers of sweaters, scarves, bonnets, and woolen socks we made the natural first stop: the side of the road to take a picture of the "Now Entering Oak Glen" sign. So there I am, sprinting along the side of the road in 20 degree weather, getting honked and moo-ed at by bull/horned cow/animals. All so I can throw up the peace sign next to this giant wooden apple, because, well, #aesthetic.
After taking the much needed photo-op with a giant wooden apple we headed back onto the road in search of sustenance from Apple Annie's. This came in the form of hot apple cider, breakfast burritos, and biscuits+gravy. We, however unfortunately, choose to venture to Oak Glen during off-season, which on the plus side meant less crowds and on the minus side meant less orchards and cider mills were open.
The snow and crisp weather made the experience magical though as everywhere you looked there were spots of white powder draped over buildings and dormant apple trees. I recommend grabbing a map as one of the first things you do here. We got ours from Apple Annie's after breakfast and just followed the curved road going from orchard to orchard; and believe you me, there are a lot of orchards in Oak Glen.
The first one we tried to stop at was Snow-line which boosts having the oldest chestnut tree in the community as well as apple-donuts, apple wine, and an ancient cider mill.
The next orchard we visited was the Los Rios Rancho, I highly recommend stopping off here because they have a display of antique carriages from the turn of the 19th century, stickers, postcards, a BQQ restaurant, and access to the Wildlands Conservatory. Unfortunately, due to the snow, the conservatory was closed when we visited, but I have been told this is an excellent hike to do when the weather's good.
From here we went to the School House Museum and Park, while the park is always open and children could be found sledding in the snow covered hills, the museum itself is only open on the weekends.
Our final stop of the day was Riley's Farm, which is a functioning orchard as well as a living history farm, meaning be prepared to witness the awesomeness of humans wearing late-18th-early-19th century garb. This place is honestly the greatest! Ideal for children and fun for child-adults like me, they boost candle dipping lessons, tomahawk throwing and archery lessons, and an English pub. The Hawk's Head Pub has amazing apple pie, chicken pot-pie, and live period-accurate music. Eternal hat-tips to the musician who mastered the mandolin.
There is a theatre house on the grounds, live animals, and Civil War/Revolutionary War reenactments. While, of course its historically inaccurate, as California was incorporated into the United States in the mid-1800s and had little battle-involvement in the Civil War. The SENTIMENT is cool.
Ultimately y'all, just go to Oak Glen. Their peak session is September-November where you can go picking apples along the dotted foothills, warm up with hot cider, and be amazed by the spectacles at Riley's Farm. Riley Farm offers, dinner-musical-performances as well, so a solid Oak Glen adventure for those who live further away would be to plan your trip around their performance schedule, so you could spend the day wandering around the town then see the performance in the evening.
5 years ago I set a plan in motion: AA -->BA -->MA -->PhD -->PeaceCorps -->Tenure Prof
Back then, I was a just a socially inapt girl from a family who'd always lived under the National Poverty Level. If I'd had any plans after graduation they probably began and ended with: Make money; leave Moreno Valley. Everything changed my first day of college. Taught by an eccentric priest, History of Ancient Greece showed me two things: 1.) The discipline of Historical Study is super cool. 2.) I was so far behind from everybody else in the class. Feeling inferior, I spent hours in the library reading things everyone else seemed to already know. Sometime during that first year I realized I was not only good at research but that I felt deeply satisfied by the process of learning. Before my first semester had ended I told my parents, “I’m going to get my PhD and be a Professor.”
Within those 5 years I transferred into UCLA, meet some of the best humans, fled across the world, finished a Master's degree in a year, and self-taught myself three languages. I took an unanticipated— yet much needed—GAP year after being rejected by IMT Lucca and received unconditional acceptance offers from all the PhDs I applied to. #startedatthebottomnowimhere
I think when I started I believed focusing on your grades and sacrificing a social life was the only way I'd be able to reach my goals. And, for a while I looked back on my non-4.0 GPA from UCLA with shame. Now though, I can see how much I'd needed to meet those people at that time. I'd always believed determination had got me to where I was in academia, until I let myself be open to possibility of friendship I don't think I thought much of my own intelligence. In fact, I see my collisions with extraordinary humans as one of the major contributing factors in me being where I am I today.
Joining and acting with the Shakespeare Company at UCLA brought me into contact with people who were truly fearless and believed me to be capable of the same feats of bravery. Meeting Megan in a Roman History course felt like finding a missing friend I hadn't realized I needed to know. Her relentless pursuit of knowledge, fierce belief in the magic of the universe, insurmountable strength to endure through the most brutal of circumstances, and her ability to love so purely in the aftermath showed me humans were worth investing in. Meeting Kim in Paris that fateful summer of 2015 was like a moment plucked straight from a telenovela. I don't think I've ever met another person who unconditionally believes in the value of humans.
Adventuring around Southern California's desert region was my 2018 resolution. As a desert/beach child I spent my life split between Long Beach and Moreno Valley -- with a short period in Big Bear -- as a result I always found the diverse geography a commonality growing up. The way the shadows fell on the canyons with every sunset, the way the sun sparkled off the Pacific ocean, the way a white-out snow fall felt like an engulfed world of white softness; all these things have come to shape my experience of growing up a Southern Californian.
In the midst of returning from my year abroad and preparing for my PhD abroad I have this GAP period where I find myself in my childhood home. Over the past couple months I've been here I am revisiting what I know of SoCal. Often when people think of SoCal they think Hollywood, the beach, and Coachella. Probably in that order too. I think growing up I took advantage of my surroundings and the phenomenon of only having to drive 5 minutes east to loose civilization. Frolicking through the dirt on a hillside canyon miles away from the sounds of humans, dancing to the music spilling forth from a Chevy truck while the sunsets was more often than not my Friday nights. I think it took me a while to realize that I could be more than one thing, I could be a surfer, beaching my way through my school vacations and a desert flower blooming in arid climates. Both things were fine, both things are a Southern Californian.
In an attempt to connect -- I suppose -- to my roots I find I am now less cautious to explore the area around me. Tiny Americana towns litter the Inland Empire, like Perris and Lake Elsinore, as much as the rolling canyons/mountains do.
A dusty town with just over 60,000 people in it has a single strip of a main street built around the railroad station. Settled, like much of the Inland Empire in the California Boom of the 1880s; what was once pasture land became the connector station between Barstow and San Diego. Known primarily for its Orange Empire Railroad Museum -- which has an incredible amount of trains, including a particularly cool Mourners Trolley or Funerary Train which brought residents from San Dimas to funerals. Additionally, it boasts a total of three smaller museums just on D Street as well as the Rock Castle which was built using rocks from the Whitewater River.
Lake Elsinore, CA
For some reason I grew up thinking Lake Elsinore was the hopping destination for summer travel. Spurred, I believe now, by the hype of BMX/Bro culture which ravaged through Inland in the 2000s as well as Lake Havasu's infamy; this town was not what I was expecting.
With about 50,000 occupants the once populous rancho community has maintained its cultural center around the 3,000 acres of the natural freshwater lake but grew as a resort destination for those interested in dirt biking and boating. A fun aside, I learned on my trip from an elderly woman who happened to be at the Lake the day I was, because of its length, the lake was used during WWII to test seaplanes. If you're an adventurous hiker, I recommend heading out this way in the Spring when the California Poppies and wildflowers will be in full bloom. Hitting Walker Canyon and Alberhill District which relishes in its epicenter of Terra Cotta, a local ghost town which had been a mining center.
She was not prepared for the orgy of entertainments -- theatrical, intellectual, operatic, gastronomic -- which filled the days she spent there.
Sceaux, Hautes-de-Seine, France
I have voyaged to Sceaux a total of two times in my life. It is one of those places I think I will always visit should I find myself in France, if solely for the cheese shop. While researching the castle I stumbled across a google book Rival French Courts: The Experiences of a Lady-in-waiting at Sceaux, at Versailles, and in the Bastille from 1913, which tells the story of Mademoiselle Delaunay who reportedly fleed with her Lady Madame du Maine from "the slavery of Court life at Versailles" to the "supreme liberty...of the Court of Sceaux". (Lombardini, p.53)
As lady-in-waiting to the legendary 'goddess of Sceaux', Mademoiselle Delaunay's memoir glides through her early life in a convent in Rouen and into her transformation into Madame de Staal all of which is set against the backdrop of France's scandalous courts during the height of their Absolute Monarch. I highly recommend checking out her memoir if you want a distraction from the present, she really is quite the story-teller.
It's hard to imagine life at court in any context when I visit these castles. My mind mentally compares the imposing structures with all their opulent windows to the images of villagers who'd be a solid middle-class-peasant if they could afford the taxes on just one window. I compare this image to the modern equivalent of Parisians who's clothes still externally categorize them as one of the elite, to the families who live in multi-million dollar apartment flats and have personal chefs. The level of wealth a small-town Southern California girl experiences while in Paris is quite discombobulating. So I focus on the perceivable societal significances these buildings now have to the general populous.
Should you find yourself in France, I highly suggest you head to Sceaux, grab a basket, fill it with cheese, rotisserie chicken, seasonal fruit, and a baguette, and picnic on the gardens. Maybe even pay homage to the lady-in-waiting who once called the very same grounds home some 200 hundred years ago.
P.S. Extra Fun Fact: Sceaux was also the choosen setting for a Balzac novella: Le Bal de Sceaux, written in 1830 and inspired by two La Fontaine Fables: La fille and Héron.
Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille.
2017: The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
Quote from the book: "We're now living with the uncertainty principle and the incompleteness theorem and philosophers who say that the world has become a simulacrum -- a copy without an original. We live in a world where nothing may be real; a world of infinite closed systems and particles that could be doing anything you like (but probably aren't)."
What I say about it today: "If another person makes a reference to Baudrillard or Derrida or Heidegger or the fact that we are all perhaps living in a un-real world made up of images that are representations of reproductions, I may just loose my mind."
2016: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Alborn
Quote from the book: “People are only mean when they are threatened.”
What I said about it in 2016, I was 21-years-old yolo-ing my way through Senior year of undergrad and debating on whether I could handle graduate schooling: "I hope I remember to be brave enough to give love freely."
Present-day Anna's response to 21-year-old Anna: "I'm still trying."
2015: Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Quote from the book: "Where I'm from, we believe in all sorts of things that aren't true... we call it history."
What I said about it in 2015, I was at that time a 20-year-old, a new transfer student at UCLA, and living in a classic dormitory: "I find it problematic that I am sympathizing with the bad-guy."
Present-day Anna's response to 20-year-old Anna: "I feel like I missed the point of this story and should definitely go back and re-read it. Or maybe I didn't and that's the point of a post-hero world ?"
2014: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
Quote from the book: "Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into reality. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off."
What I said about it in 2014, I was then 19-years-old a Sophmore in community college getting ready to transfer into UCLA. This one actually comes from a comment thread on Goodreads that I apparently responded to: A man named Mitch asks: "Has anyone else compared this to "All's Quiet on the Western Front?" A man named Stansherman replies "No comparison...Johnny Got His Gun is the Bible of anti-war literature." To which statement 19-year-old me replies "Is It?" I've yet to receive a response.
Present-day Anna's response to 19-year-old Anna: "This would be what I would be doing at that point in my life; responding to forum commentaries and questioning absolute statements about subjective matters. 🙄🙄🙄 "
2013: Hold Still by Nina LaCour
Quote from the book: "I’ll make a swing so I can reach the places I can’t reach yet.”
What I said about it in 2013, back when I 18-years-old and a freshman at my community college: "For me it was a nice story of love, pain, and finding yourself through a mess of angst."
Present-day Anna's response to 18-year-old Anna: "Why I chose to classify a story about pain as 'nice' I'll never know."
2012: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Quote from the book: “You were talking to that niche in the wall again, Gwyneth. I saw you." "Yes, but it's my favorite bit of wall, Gordon. I'd hurt its feelings if I didn't stop and talk to it.”
What I said about it in 2012, I was then a Senior in High School and 17 years old: "I immensely disliked how dim-minded the character was made out to be, and for goodness sake child; stick up for yourself! Don't just stand around and gawk at the men."
Present-day Anna's response to 17-year-old Anna: "I find this to be incredibly hilarious! Seeing as how I'm now 22-years-old, still have never had a boyfriend, and find myself still very much gawking at men on the daily. Ha."
*I admit, I stole this idea from another Paris based blogger Anne Elder, seriously check out her blog as she's a pretty cool and dynamic lady, who I discovered through Our Paris Stories, a great website dedicated to showcasing real people and the reasons they're in Paris.
SEE THE LOUIS VUITTON FOUNTAIN
SEE MARQUE DE SADE'S PRISON CELL AT CHÂTEAU DU VINCENNES
SEE A BALLET AT OPÈRA BASTILLE & PALAIS GARNIER
SEE AN OUTDOOR MOVIE
CLIMB THE STAIRS OF CATHEDRAL NOTRE-DAME
PICNIC IN PARC MONCEAU
EAT MACARONS FROM ACIDE MACARONS
EAT ICE CREAM FROM BERTHILLON
EAT EL NOPAL TACOS ON CANAL ST. MARTIN
HAVE BRUNCH AT HOLIDAY CAFÉ
HAVE A DRINK AT LE PERCHOIR
VISIT LE MUSÉE DES EGOUTS TO LEARN ABOUT DRAINAGE THINGS
VISIT MUSÉE MARMOTTAN MONET
VISIT RUE CREMIEUX
VISIT SQUARE DE MONTSOURIS
VISIT VILLA DE PLANTANES
TAKE A WALK ALONG LA PETITE CEINTURE
STROLL THROUGH PASSAGE DE(U) L'ANCRE, PANAROMAS, & GRAND CERF
TOUR THE CATACOMBS
GO FOR A BIKE RIDE ALONG THE SEINE
TAKE A DAY TRIPS TO SCEAUX, VERSAILLES, FONTAINBLEU, VINCENNES, SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE, & CHANTILLY