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AJAX: A (Brief) Discourse on Heroes, Part 1

I don’t mean the bleach, and I don’t mean Amsterdam football. I’m talking about the mighty Greek hero.

No one ever thinks about Ajax, the Salaminian hero. Homer described him as “Telamonian” or “Greater” Ajax, a mighty Achaian warrior. Unlike in the movie “Troy”, Ajax does NOT die early in the Trojan War. In fact, he does not die until after the War is over, after Achilles is dead, and then he only dies because he takes his own life. He is probably the only person in the entire Trojan War not to suffer any injury  — even Aphrodite gets cut by a sword! — and yet… yet you may not really know who he is. Poor Ajax, he always gets the shaft.

In Homer’s Iliad, Ajax is described as a warrior of great stature, having a colossal frame and the strongest of all the Achaians. Known as the “bulwark of the Mycenaeans,” he was trained by the centaur Chiron, who was also tutor to Achilles (Ajax’s cousin and dear friend). He was described as vicious, fearless, strong and powerful but also with a very high level of combat intelligence. In Book 15, Hector leads the Trojans into the Greek camp and attacks the ships. Ajax, wielding an enormous spear as a weapon and leaping from ship to ship, holds off the Trojan armies virtually single-handedly (this is just one example of his many super-human feats during the Trojan War). Sadly, Ajax is the only major character either Trojan or Greek who does not receive personal assistance from any of the gods who take part in the battles.

Despite his mighty prowess, Ajax (the poor guy) always gets the short end of the stick. He doesn’t get assistance from the Olympian gods (Athena is so cruel!), he doesn’t get Achilles’ armor even though HE was his good (best?) friend AND the one to save his dead body from the battlefield scavengers (stupid Odysseus and and eloquent way with words), and he couldn’t stand the shame of it all to the point that he, “conquered by his own sorrow,” committed suicide by falling on his sword.

As for his hero aspect, the kind of hero that was actually worshiped in real life, well… the Salaminians believed Ajax fought with them against the Persians in the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC (Hdt. 8.64) and dedicated a captured trireme to him after (Hdt. 8.121). Ajax, who in the post-Homeric legend is described as the grandson of Aiakos and the great-grandson of Zeus, was the tutelary hero of the island of Salamis, near Athens, where he had a temple and an image, and where a festival called Aianteia was celebrated in his honor. He was also the Eponymous Hero of the Attic tribe Aiantis, and a statue of him was worshiped in the Athenian Agora (Hdt. 5.66). Can Achilles say that? No. Can Odysseus? No. Can Agamemnon? No. Finally Ajax gets a little credit!

But what aspect of Ajax’s life does the Athenian vase-painting actually portray? NOT his mighty prowess in battle, but instead his losses and struggles in life and also his friendship with Achilles — though even then he’s shown LOSING to Achilles. Sometimes Athena is present in those scenes, just to rub it in that she’s there to support Achilles and not there for Ajax. The scenes mainly depicted are very emotional: 1) playing a boardgame with Achilles; 2) carrying Achilles’ dead body; 3) quarreling with Odysseus over the armor of Achilles; and 4) his suicide.

The earliest depiction of Ajax in Attic art is on the Francois Vase c.575BC (him carrying the body of Achilles).

Ajax carrying the dead Achilles, Francois Vase handle

Exekias, Ajax and Achilles playing a boardgame

After this, Exekias (the second half of the 6th century BC) played a major role in developing the popularity of Ajax in Attic vase-painting.

Exekias, Ajax preparing for suicide

He was the first to compose the ‘boardgame’ scene and the first to compose Ajax’s contemplation of his suicide (rather than the act of the suicide itself, which involves more gore but much less emotion). In Exekias’ depictions of Ajax, and those influenced by his subject matter decisions (such as Douris, Makron and the Brygos Painter), the manner in which they portray Ajax reflects an interest in the hero not just as a character from Homeric lore but as an exemplar of a particular kind of relentless logic that results in personal destruction.

According to the Beazley Archive, almost 400 vases depict Ajax, and all of those are scenes from the Homeric epics — not one of them is in any way a religious scene. Apart from his suicide scene, he is always associated with Achilles, and sometimes with Odysseus. Though he is the strong-man hero of the Achaians, he does not receive the respect he deserves nor will he ever measure up to Achilles. In the Iliad, Ajax is characterized as the premier defensive warrior on the Achaian side, but the visual narrative challenges this conception, since he is always coming in second place to both Achilles and Odysseus. It is the noble but sad mythological hero of Homer that the vase-painters choose to portray, not the Attic hero honored with a shrine and cult rites.

And if the scenes of him contemplating and then committing suicide weren’t emotional enough, I’ll end this post with a soliloquy from Sophocles’ “Ajax”:

“Have I not learned this, only so much to hate my enemy as though he might again become my friend, and so much good to wish to do my friend, as knowing he may yet become my foe: most men have found friendship a treacherous harbor” (670-83, J. Moore’s translation, 1975).


Another Notch in the CrossFit Bedpost

…two notches, actually (my my I’ve been busy!). And this doesn’t count the 3 weeks I spent in England training at Oxford Powersports with a random drop-in to Crossfit Central London. Everywhere it’s always been about the people, and wonderful amazing people (you’ll have to read all the way to the bottom to hear me rave more about people. I love people).

In the past 2 weeks I’ve made more CF friends! In Berlin at CF Werk and in Vienna at CF Vienna. Very different experiences, but both fantastic and happy (I expect no less from my extended and distant CF family)!

CF WERK (Berlin) — Motto: “einfach war gestern”

From the initial emails with the owner, Flo, I knew I’d enjoy this place. Being the only CF box in all of Berlin, it was an easy decision to visit, especially after 2 weeks in Paris with nothing but running and bodyweight exercises. It was completely out of the way, behind a brewery, off my map (no it was literally off my map), but Flo’s email just said “from Suedkreuz, just follow the signs to IKEA then we’re right down the street 200m.” Huh, look at that, he wasn’t kidding. After that all I had to do was just listen for the repetitive clank of a loaded barbell hitting the ground. When I found the charmingly small gym and walked in, someone was plowing through “Grace” (30 clean and jerks for time at 60kg). I hadn’t touched a barbell in over 2 weeks , so I was extremely excited. Excitement, however, subsided quickly when I learned the actual WOD for the day was “Kelly” (5 rounds for time of 400m run, 30 box jumps [24″/20″] and 30 wall balls [10kg/5kg because those are the weights they have]). Their runs are actually 450m around building with uneven terrain, and guess who had to use a 10kg wallball!??! That made things a wee bit more difficult, and needless to say my time wasn’t spectacular. But, the great group that these CF Werk people are, they all just reminded me that I rocked the 10kg wall ball and be glad about that. Oh.. .yeah! Right! Thanks, guys! They were awesome, too, putting up some very impressive times and finishing the WOD with head high and big smiles after. My favorite part? Everyone hugs everyone goodbye. That’s way beyond the camaraderie of just good old-fashioned “high-fives” for a job well done!

Of course I returned on Saturday (couldn’t make it in Thursday due to museum-ing all day, so I made up “Annie” in my hotel room with a PR time of 6:34!) for “Griff” (2 rounds for time of 800m run forward, 400m run backwards), and then stuck around to get some Olympic lifts in. It felt just UH-mazing to put weight overhead again! I kept the weights light to medium (no more than 50kg for snatch and just a few pulls at 60kg for clean and jerk) and then Flo graciously asked me to teach a little session on the Clean and Jerk. I happily obliged, sticking to just power cleans and push jerks, and at the end of an hour I got to see at least three people make huge PRs on their lifts (some by at least 10kg)! Happy smiles all around.

Saturday also ended up with me participating in the most international CF class ever: each person was from a different country (Germany, Australia, USA, Finland, and Belgium), and the class I attended the couple days prior we had an Italian! Only in Berlin, I guess 😀 Now, CF Werk is a small gym, as I mentioned before, and a young one, and it’s not exactly loaded with equipment (only 2 barbells, 2 10kg medballs, 2 5kg medball,s 2 boxes [that can be flipped to become 20″, 24″ or 30″], a few KBs, some PU bars, rings, tires…). This made for a learning experience for me! It’s amazing how creative you can get when you have to make do, such as sharing a box for box jumps (talk about accuracy!). So, for instance, GHD sit-ups. No GHD machine, but there is a loading paddock, a tire, and people. Turns out that’s all you need! Just amazing.

It doesn’t end there (in CrossFit, it never stops at the gym). The next night some of the CF Werk crew joined me for dinner at Sauvage, a Paleo restuarant (yes — PALEO!!!). It was my one extravagant dining expense for myself (about 25 euros for a 3-course meal with a GIANT glass of wine), but gee whiz was it worth it (especially considering my breakfast buffet at my hotel had sufficiently fed me for the entire day for the past week). Above all else, the company was great, and that always makes for a great experience. But also the food was fresh, phenomenally prepared, generous portions were served, and I didn’t have to “resist” any bread tray or worry about what went into the preparations of the food on my plate. Even if you aren’t gluten-free, sugar-free, or dairy-free, I highly recommend this place.


Similar to CF Werk, one of the walls of CF Vienna is decorated with shirts from other boxes (I should send shirts…). This one had shirts from CF Copehnagen, CF London, CF Fenway, CF Adelaide (“like fit, but fitter”) and a couple others. Very cool. Very UNLIKE CF Werk, this gym is located in the basement of a deceptively very nice building on Josefstädter Straße with a door code and everything. The owner, Basti, is L2 certified, and was very welcoming from the start (see a trend there?). His classes were structured similarly to what I’m used to at my home gym in Charlottesville: group warm up, strength, WOD, group cool down stretch. Unlike Flo, Basti led everything in German with the occasional “you have any questions?” directed at me. Thankfully, stretches and movements don’t change with the language barrier, so I was just fine. Wednesday WOD was just 5×5 backsquats. I hadn’t squatted anything but air in 3 weeks, so I knew a heavy set of 5 was going to feel REALLY heavy, but I managed to get 85kg and opted to not try for 90kg and instead do a recovery set at 70kg. The two guys sharing my bar with me were pretty awesome and encouraging, and one of them hit a 5-rep PR at 90kg which was super cool. *Quick sidenote: Vienna is my first experience with real humidity since I’ve left Charlottesville. So I was sweating, a lot. We were all sweating in the 75% humidity and heat. We were indoors, and it was sweaty and dirty and people were lifting heavy and it was great.* Then we had a surprise WOD (hahah surpriiiiise more work!) of a quick 5 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 7 push-ups and 7 air squats. I got 11 rounds with HOG push-ups (“hands off ground”). Then stretches, then fist pumps of camaraderie, then some good chatting with the owner. And a promise to return the next day.

Thursday’s noon class was a tad smaller than the previous afternoon, but that’s all good fun. A little different style than the previous day, in that it was just a met-con programmed and no strength component. The metcon was: 3 rounds of 30m bear,crawl and 20-15-10 KB/DB squat clean&jerk. I used 10kg DBs for a time of 6:29 (I should have used the 12kg KBs I realized too late). A little singing, a little dancing, some discussions about Paleo and worldwide CF and the Games and strength bias, some more fist pumps of camaraderie, a quick hug goodbye for Basti (who tricked me into doing the above WOD TWICE, by the way) and then we all headed back out in the heat and humidity to continue our days. Really nice people, fun CrossFitters, I’m looking forward to returning when next I’m in Vienna.

So, I’m having fun touring the CF boxes of Europe. Of course, I would expect no less. I’ve been to quite a few CrossFit gyms outside of the one in Charlottesville, and each one has only resulted in a great experience. It’s no wonder that whenever you ask a Crossfitter, no matter what their level, “What is your favorite part about CF?” almost inevitably their answer will be “the people!”. The community aspect is beyond incredible. I’m here in foreign countries where English is NOT the main language spoken easily able to walk into any CrossFit gym and feel right at home. Can you say that about your gym or sport?

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Sadly my next stop is Florence and Rome and they have no CrossFit. But I WILL have my parents, and my mom is perfect to use as a barbell for backsquats. 😀 But then I’ll be in Athens and happily settled in with the fine folks at Primal Crossfit Athens.

Survey Says: Berlin is IN

The exam is over, it’s all been graded, and folks, I gave Berlin an A+ (even despite the fact that I went to Germany and did not see a single castle).

The city is warm and inviting, open for exploration, full of history, food, and beer. I didn’t see nearly close to all of it, but I saw a good part of Mitte, MuseumInsel, and Alexanderplatz, which was enough to tell me that this is an exciting city with tons of character. I even walked from my hotel in Mitte to the Judaisches Museum and over to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche by way of Potsdamer Platz (FANTASTIC Musical Instrument Museum) and then along Tiergarten where I saw NUDE male sunbathers! Talk about culture shock!

I’m still not used to the sight of people walking home with an open beer bottle in hand, nor do I think I’ll ever “get used to” the permanent odor of cigarette smoke that clouds the air, but all in all, this is a great European city.

Now I want to talk a little about Museum Island. In reality, the entire city of Berlin is like a giant museum. Its streets are dotted with statues, shrines and memorials honoring its own (sometimes infamous) history. There are sections of the Berlin Wall still standing with plaques illustrating its history and destruction. But museums of all sorts (modern art, photography, interactive, ancient, specific people, communication, etc.) are to be found in every neighborhood, and many are free the last 4 hours on Thursdays (and on Thursdays they are usually open late, some as late as 10pm!).

My second day there I got a 3-day Museum Pass to all Stadt Museums which only cost 19 euros — this quite a deal, considering the Pergamon Museum alone costs about 12 euros! I spent the first 2 days of that Pass just on Museum Island! It is quite literally an island in the middle of the river, in the very center of town (well, technically it’s in what was once East Berlin), and it is filled with some of the world’s best museums. The Berlin Dom is also there. I can’t properly express just how excited I was to grace the halls of the Altes Museum and see the Berlin Painter’s name-sake vase,

Berlin Painter's name-sake vase

to walk through the Pergamon Museum overcome with awe at the Ishtar Gates of Babylon,

the "smaller" intertior part of the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon (15m high)

and admire the architecture of the Neues Museum just to come across the room that holds the painted bust of Nefertiti.

Realistic busts of Akhenaten and Nefertiti

These are simply highlights. I took hundreds of pictures on this island and I still didn’t manage to capture all that amazed me. It’s no wonder I felt I could easily spend the entire week in these museums alone and never see the rest of Berlin — but I’m glad I ended up exploring further afield.

So, do I like Berlin more than I like Paris? I’d say that’s an unfair question. Both European capitals are charming and fantastic in their own rights, and I, for one, will not take sides.

There’s just something so enticing about a living history that comes with a city — something you find everywhere in Europe (especially in Rome! Oh Roma, ti amo); it just never gets old (hehe).


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” –Mark Twain

It’s no secret I love to travel. Often I find myself returning to familiar places (Italy…) or in a familiar city but finally really discovering all that it has to offer (such as my last 2 week in Paris). I even find new things to do each time I’m in Rome, no matter that I’ve visited that city for more weeks than I care to count (and will add another week to that long list in September).

But what is truly a great experience is to find yourself in a whole new city — nay, a whole new COUNTRY. Well. Here I am in Berlin. I’ve never stepped foot in Germany before today and now I’ve went and gone on a 3.5 hour guided walking tour of the city seeing all the major sites and (re-)learning the city’s history (started at Brandenburg Gate and ended in the middle of Museum Island). It is really an amazing experience. I can’t say I speak the language well, and I didn’t have a map until my hotel receptionist handed one to me, and I don’t eat pork though many of the meats sold by street vendors and in restaurants most likely include pork (can you say “currywurst”?). But I’m loving it. I love the experience, if anything. Does Berlin make on to the list as one of my favorite cities? Well… we’ll see, won’t we.

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Au Revoir

I am all packed up, the apartment is cleaned, and my night train for Berlin doesn’t leave for another 4 hours yet still I keep checking my watching wondering when I should head over to Gare de l’Est.

I believe my time in Paris has been spent well. Too well. My feet have walked for miles, my eyes have drunk in the scenes of the Seine, the churches, Versailles, the Left Bank, the Right Bank, the fromageries, the boulangeries, the fantastic open-air markets, the art of the museums… I have checked everything off my list and more. I ate well. I drank well. I spoke in French, I tried to understand French. I was mistaken for a Parisienne.

I met with curators of Greek art at the Louvre and the Cabinet des Medailles. I had the Louvre to myself my first Tuesday here. I was invited to spend as much time as I liked in the Salle de Luynes.. I looked, I drew, I took notes, I went home and worked and worked and worked some more. I went out and walked.

My last full day in Paris I woke up to a rainstorm that slowly calmed as I sat in my apartment in the 3rd eating a breakfast of fried eggs, smoked lox, fresh arugula and soft cow’s cheese. By noon the sun was fighting a winning battle against the clouds and I stepped out in my Parisian uniform of black Chuck Taylors, skinny jeans, a solid tank and a black jacket (which was not necessary within the hour). I walked down Rue Turbigo through some hidden passages with unique shops, then down Rue Montorgueil where I purchased my last pastry in France, then along the Seine towards the Petit Palais (a free and lovely museum with an incredible collection of French painting, 20th century photographs, and also Greek rhyta, among many other things). Then I crossed the Seine to have a late picnic in the shade of the Tour Eiffel. After people watching and sun bathing I began my trek back to my area of Paris, but I took the long way through the Left Bank, down Rue Grenelle then hitting up with St. Germain des Pres and finally crossing over Pont Neuf, up towards the Pompidou and finally my tired but happy legs walked up the steps to my apartment where I poured a glass of vin rouge and prepped the ingredients for one last dinner of steak-frites. Fresh figs from the market on Rue Cler for dessert.

Yes, I would say I had a grand ol’ time in pretty Paris.

Tour Eiffel, Seine, & moi

Next leg: BERLIN.

Where Have All The Good Men Gone and Where Are All the Gods…

Let’s talk about heroes.

…Dead ones (long dead).

…Mythological ones (Herakles and Theseus!).

…Heroes with cult in Athens (sorry, Achilles, but helllllo Ajax).

….Heroes you’ve probably never heard of (Eumolpos, Triptolemos, Erichthonios, Akamas, Demophon…).

Heroes and their cult are the main ingredient of my dissertation, and their representations on late Archaic Athenian vase-painting are the reasons I’m traveling from city to city in Europe spending hours with vases in museums (lovely lovely hours).

Sometimes I get so wrapped up with organizing my notes from a recent museum visit, or noting connections between this vase and that, or marking when an unusual subject is portrayed, that I forget I am in Europe, in some wonderful city waiting to be explored, and instead I just sit with my notes and my images and work.

This is not a bad thing, really, considering that I *should* be devoting the majority of my time to my dissertation! I want this Ph.D., after all.

So, since heroes are so much on my mind, some of my future posts will be devoted to heroes relevant to my work. This way, in future contexts when I blather on excitedly about so-and-so you can be a little more informed about who so-and-so is! The first ones will cover some of the more familiar heroes, such as Herakles (NOT Hercules, this is Greek vase-painting!), Theseus, and the ever solemn Ajax. I may just start with that last guy, since he’s quickly forming a large soft spot in my heart with his name written all over it. Aww Ajax, the guy just doesn’t get enough credit.

I may also include tidbits on how these ancient heroes of old still play a role in our own pop culture (I like that sort of thing…. cue “Xena” …). To kick things off, here’s the trailer for a new movie coming out based (very loosely) on Theseus. Now that that’s done, I refuse to discuss this trailer any further.

Bangarang Bullies

Needless to say, this is not a post about my travels (per se) or my work or my Crossfit. Nooo this is a post about bulldogs. JUST in case you were unaware, I absolutely LOVE English bulldogs and plan to have one in the future. She will be mostly white and I will name her Boudicca.

Bulldogs rule and just make you smile. Evidence:

Sadly, I did not see a SINGLE English bulldog during my time in Oxford (or even London)!!! A few pugs, but they do not count.

 So now I’m almost done with 2 lovely weeks in Paris, and I’m wandering around the 5th Arrondisement and come across THIS lovely little spectacle in a shop window!!! Instant smile on my face.



French bulldogs

…  There are some things in life that make me put on an ‘ew’ face, and French bulldogs are one of them (so are most fast-food joints, “Hawaiian” pizza, buttered popcorn flavored jelly beans, and the stink of sewers*.) They are NOT to be confused with the adorable smooshy-faced wonderful greatness of English bullies. These are yucky icky French bulldogs with their pointed ears and smug faces. And they are NOT cute (even as puppies). And I saw them in France but did not see English bulldogs in England and somewhere some god is playing a cruel joke on me.




*not a comprehensive list of all things that entice my ‘ew’ face.


Old tower on right, 'new' tower on left

Today I did nothing whatsoever to do with my dissertation. Today I went to Chartres. Way back in high school AP art history I remember studying the development of Gothic cathedrals and their floor plans and masonry and spires and buttresses… and of course 12th-13th century Chartres was a key player (easy to remember because of its asymmetrical towers).  So in my mind, Chartres Cathedral was the key player for this little day-trip. What I did not expect to find, however, was the town from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

looking at some Medieval homes in Lower Town

I kid you not, that is exactly what I stumbled upon when I walked the streets of this lovely, adorable, unassuming Medieval town.  What was nice, though, was that since Chartres Cathedral is in the Upper Town (literally higher elevation than the older “Lower” town) you can see the towers from wherever you are and use it as a reference point among the turning alley-width streets that make up the town.

Maison du Saumon

Chartres is home to some of the oldest surviving French Medieaval buildings, including the oldest surviving home (still a home, on 29 Rue  Chantault) and the “Maison du Saumon”, which currently has nothing to do with salmon, but is preserved as an excellent example of 16th century architecture.

Even the newer parts of the Upper town, which are busy with the traffic of tourists and locals browsing the many stores, bistros, and patisseries, have thankfully retained (or incorporated?) the original Medieval charm that makes Chartres so special. And speaking of patisseries, Chartes is known for its super-soft macaroons (which are actually originally an Italian pastry, but have become known as a French sort of cookie, and the French certainly know how to make them right).

In my search for said macaroons, with full intent to purchase a selection for the tasting, I instead came upon the perfect pain au chocolat, a giant specimen for only 1.05euro (just look how much bigger they are than the croissants, even!). And, for the first time on my France trip, I bought a French pastry (macaroons do not count since they are gluten-free, I say). And it was warm, and buttery, and flaky, and filling yet light, and full of chocolate. Totally worth it.

It would be remiss of me not to post some interior shots of Chartres Cathedral, especially since it’s known for some of the best stained glass and surprisingly massive interior proportions. I will warn you, however, I do not have a fancy-dancy camera nor was the interior lighting superb, but here I give you two hotos that hopefully give a sense of size and amazing color:

East apse stained glass windows

These pictures really don’t do it justice at all. Just… just go there. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Very. Tall. Building.

And now: sipping on some champagne, enjoying the memories of what turned out to be a wonderful day, despite the threat of rain all day.

And yes, I did walk to/from Gare Montparnasse 😀 So far my goal of walking everywhere around town: complete success.

Paris, je te vois et je te sens

Traveler’s tip #19: walk everywhere.

Three full days in Paris have passed and the soles of my feet are feeling the effects.  I have focused on the Right Bank (and Ile de la Cite) since the last (and only) time I visited Paris I explored much of the Left Bank, only venturing across the Seine to get lost in the labyrinth that is the Louvre.  So I have walked. And walked and walked. And walked some more.

Traveler’s fact #2567: you can never get lost, you can only take the scenic route.

After reaching certain destinations, I would let my curiosity take the helm as last-minute turns steered my way back to my apartment. When you’re not in a hurry, why rush? This way you see more then you ever knew was out there.

I have seen: beautiful architecture, metal framed windows, gloriously large wooden doors, old Parisian ladies, horizontally striped shirts, delicious window displays, museum exhibits, a newly-wed couple roller-blading down the street, historical buildings, green gardens, young lovers, old happy couples, interesting graffiti, many a tour group, the Tour Eiffel in the distance, Les Tuileries, random street art, Angelina’s tea room, L’as du Fallafel, bistro after bistro after bistro, Le Marche des Enfants Rouges, Notre Dame at night, the old Opera house, the collections in the Cabinet des Medailles, the wonders in the Louvre, the period rooms and other works in the Musee Carnavalet, the Bibliotheque Forney (in the Hotel de Sens), scooters ridden on sidewalks, designer boutiques, capoeira street performers in the Latin Quarter, the Pompidou, beach volleyball set up in front of the Hotel de Ville, the Bastille Opera House, a fake beach on the Seine, the flower market on Ile de la Cite, the National Archives building and garden…

And as you walk you smell the city. Much of it pleasant (aromas wafting from the open doors of the patisseries, the mingled smell of produce in the markets, the dense musk of red wine before you take a sip, the fried fragrance of street vendors’ foods, the oddly fragrant smell that permeates leather stores) and some of it not so pleasant (the unfortunately numerous homeless persons who dot the boulevards, the stink from the sewers, the ever-present stench of cigarette smoke). All of this mingles into the smell of a city, and combined with the sights and sounds and ever-present hustle of locals getting to work (yes, even in August when much of France is on Holiday) and tourists seeking their next destination of exploration, it is all an experience I would never forego just to more easily get from here to there via metro.

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I have yet to explore and re-explore the left bank or walk along the Champs Elysees or Saint Germain des Pres, or go even further afield to Chartres (tomorrow’s plan) or Versailles (Monday’s plan), but I have another whole week to check everything off my list. And yes, I am also working on my dissertation. My first day here I saw the vases in the Cabinet des Medailles, and my second day here I spent my time the Louvre (which is closed on Tuesdays so I was alone), examining the vases in the galleries, the study rooms, and the storerooms (60 in total! Whew!). Today is full of sitting at my computer, organizing my notes from the museums and all the thoughts that popped into my head since I’ve landed in Europe. There is much work to do, and many questions to pose and answer (or try to answer), but I am plugging along. I *was* planning to run to Sacre Coeur and back today (about 4 miles round-trip), but then the weather changed my plans. As I type, a steady downpour is hitting the courtyard outside my window, and I’m glad I stayed inside (with my lovely friends: wine and cheese).