Can you find the unique one? Portobello Road, LondonIMG_1689

Upside-down white traffic cones outside the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A pair of legs independently crossing the street, Bern, Switzerland. 


“Solitary” has so many different connotations – while “solitary” makes me think of “alone,” which makes me think of “lonely,” which leads me to negative things like “fear” and “sadness,” “solitude” makes me think of positive things, such as “reflection,” and “growth.” For this week’s challenge I choose a selection that captures a range of these emotions.


Greyfriar’s Graveyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

Swiss National Day Celebration, Haut-de-Caux, Switzerland

Ruins of Baalbeck, Beqaa, Lebanon

Everyday life is near impossible to capture while traveling, if only because everything seems so incredible. I think this is why I love street performers and farmer’s markets- because they are so familiar the world over, and still so full of local flavor.

Yodellers in Bern, Switzerland

Samples of Turkish Delight at Burough Market, London

A local painter, my friend, and a painting he resembles in Byblos, Lebanon

A tribute to the bard

Shakespeare can take credit for a lot: some 40 plays, I don’t know how many sonnets, the creation of hundreds of words and just as many phrases of English vernacular, and one incredible weekend in the UK. It started on Saturday, when we went to see Henry V at the Globe Theatre, which was built near, and closely resembling the original, old Globe Theatre. Henry and his cast were incredible. Our tickets were in the standing section, and experiencing Shakespeare as closely as the 16th-century English did was absolutely incredible.

We dined on “traditional” bratwurst and wine, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, though our feet were a little sore after walking all day in London and then standing for the duration of the three-hour play. Although standing room had never exactly appealed to me, the connection we felt with the cast and the stage was incredible, and unlike any other theatrical experience.

In keeping with the theme, we watched Shakespeare in Love on Sunday to mentally prepare for our impending and final trip, to Stratford-Upon-Avon. In case you were wondering, we were pretty excited.

Our day in Stratford was beautiful and sunny. We began with a tour of his house, and walking on the original floors where Shakespeare himself walked and lived and cooked and wrote was incredible. The tour itself was a bit of a letdown, as the museum was not particularly informative and we were surrounded by francophone tourist groups. However, the actor performing Shakespeare in the garden made up for it, and overall, we had a lovely time. 

After touring Shakespeare’s house, we visited his grave, and spent the rest of the day walking along the river Avon, making friends with butterflies at the Butterfly Farm, drinking tea and eating cake, and visiting the various houses and cottages associated with Shakespeare in Stratford.

Although the tour didn’t capture it’s full potential, our day in Stratford was beautiful. The town itself is relatively untouched, and we both came away inspired to experience more Shakespeare.

I grew up obsessed with Harry Potter. I think there are few series that have so inspired and touched readers across the world. Although I knew the story was fictional, there was a tiny (huge) part of me that hoped it was reality. The seventh and final book came out when I was 18 and about to leave for college, which added a very dramatic significance to it all.

Beyond contributing to my already overactive imagination, JK Rowling inspired a true love of reading, and I have always been thankful to her for that. After I found Harry Potter, my appetite for instant transportation became voracious. When I was in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, I was drawn to the Elephant House, the cafe where JK Rowling conceived of Harry.

The creative energy inside the cafe is incredible. It has a fantastic view of Edinburgh castle, and overlooks a graveyard full of names one finds within the novels, as well as the school that supposedly inspired Hogwarts, which more closely resembles a castle than any elementary school I have ever seen.

Scrymgeour, the Minister of Magic in the 6th and 7th books

Moodie, one of the bravest and more feared auror’s in the series.

McGonagall, who was apparently a really awful poet, but an amazing Transfiguration Professor and head of Gryffindor House.

And finally… Tom Riddle, the villain of the series.

The bathrooms of the Elephant House are a tribute to JK Rowling’s far-reaching influence, as hundreds of her fans have written her messages of thanks and admiration on every surface imaginable.

Edinburgh itself is a city full of magic and intrigue, and discovering the names and places that inspired one of my favorite authors was almost as incredible as a trip to Hogwarts itself.

My great-grandmother, Maria, in Canada.

I’m not sure if it’s the melting pot aspect of America that makes so many of us curious about our heritage, but I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by the story of my family– how people with last names like “Pacelli” and “Rizza” and “Cavallo” came to live in Southern California. The stories and names and loves and losses captivated me, and my sister and I were raised on a blend of old East Coast and new Italian.

After we buried my grandfather in April, we visited my other relatives’ graves, and the old stories came flooding back, as well as my fascination and desire to know more. On an impulse, I booked a plane ticket, and found myself in Edinburgh last Tuesday morning. We don’t know much about how two Italians met and married in Scotland, but I’ve touched the hard evidence that Michael Angelo Rizza and Antonina Pacelli married in the Church of the Sacred Heart on January 26, 1893.

Marriage certificate of Michael Angelo Rizza and Antonina Pacelli.

The surname and family lore suggests that Antonina was related to Pope Pius XII, though the stories tell us that her family was kicked out of Italy at least fifty years before he came to power in the Vatican.

Before crossing the Atlantic, I did my best to research the topic, and was ready with the name of the church where the Rizzas were married, as well as their known address, which I gathered from family members who had also made the pilgrimage.

86 West Bow, where the Rizzas lived around 1903, and the last address on record.

Initially, we struggled to find their apartment, but once we did, what we gathered exceeded any expectation I had.

Church of the Sacred Heart

The church was hardly around the corner, and we were a bit bewildered at first as to how to proceed, but eventually found a doorbell, and a kindly father who escorted us upstairs to the records. I had only planned to see the marriage certificate and look around the church, but it struck me that the Rizzas had probably baptized at least some of their children before moving to Canada, and the priest agreed, helping Izzie and I on the scavenger hunt that took us through three books of baptism certificates, and covered twenty years.

We found the baptism certificates of the first eight Rizza children (there were 13 in total) as well as the addresses where each had been born. The Rizzas moved three times, and lived in a Catholic Italian neighborhood (something we found out by tracing names and addresses through the church records). While I’m not certain what, exactly, I was searching for when I booked my ticket, I do feel a sense of closeness with my family, to know what it looked like when they left their apartment in the morning.

The view up the street

Although it was fascinating to see where they lived, to know their birthdates and names (as many of my great-grandmother’s siblings name’s had been lost to history), I am struck now by the questions I wished I would have thought to investigate, such as, when did they leave for Canada? Is there a record of deaths or immigration, so we could find out which siblings made it to Canada? What names did they use when they enlisted in WWI? (the Rizza sons who enlisted, and were killed, were too young to enlist under their real names).

While I will probably always have questions, I’m happy to have come one step closer to unraveling the convoluted tale. The following pictures are the baptism certificates:

VIncenzo Rizza, 26 October, 1896

Petrus Rizza, 25 January 1894

Caterina Rizza, 30 August 1901

Angela Antonia (or Angelo Antonio, I’m not particularly certain which) Rizza, 20 November 1903

Michael Angelo Rizza, 22 July 1905

Maria Carmela Rizza, 16 March 1907

Antonius Rizza, 24 November 1909

Carolina Rizza, 29 January 1911