Two Queens, one King and the holy Trinity College by the river Cam

University of Cambridge, England, is one of the oldest universities in the world (800 years old) and is made up of 31 colleges. A college is where students live, eat and socialize. It is also the place where students receive small group teaching sessions, known as supervisions. This post will be about the grandest and most magnificent of these colleges: Trinity College.

I had the best guide to take me around several of these colleges but for this post, Trinity it is. It was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 as part of the University of Cambridge, combining two older colleges that existed since 1317 and 1324:

This is the clock gate with a statue of one of the older colleges founders, Edward III (and yes it did take me 20 minutes to walk 20 feet!)

“Pugne pro patria” or fight for your country he’s preaching with a beer belly and three crowns in his hand.  Edward III quartered the Royal Arms of England (the three lions) with the ancient arms of France, the fleurs-de-lis on a blue field, to signal his claim to the French throne.

The iron-work of the gates in the Nevile’s court leading to the “backs” is very impressive (I found a funny criticism of the gates in an old book—they were built for a total sum of 4 pounds in 1691):

I love this little feather stuck on these ornaments:

Trinity has many notable alumni but for me its most distinguished is Isaac Newton; this is where he measured the speed of sound (you can still clap your hands and hear the echo):

He is now standing in the college’s chapel:

For the ones who don’t want to decipher the words above, here is William Wordsworth’ poem (1850):

“Near me hung Trinity’s loquacious clock,
Who never let the quarters, night or day,
Slip by him unproclaimed, and told the hours
Twice over with a male and female voice.
Her pealing organ was my neighbour too;
And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.”

Newton is surrounded by bright minds in the chapel and even A Man for all Seasons. I am almost sure that the second gentleman from the left is Sir Thomas More:

Of course you should first get in the chapel to see all of that!

The most beautiful sight is the Wren library—off limit to cameras—which has exquisite classical proportions and maximizes space and light having bookcases below window level. It has Newton’s own copy of the first edition of Principia Mathematica, with hand written notes for the second edition.

Trinity College undergraduate gowns are dark blue, as opposed to the black favored by most other Cambridge colleges:

Unlike any other Cambridge college the porters—aka grass police—always wear black bowler hats; they make sure that as with many other Cambridge colleges, the grassed courtyards are generally out of bounds for everyone except the Fellows or me who was accompanied by a Fellow.

And this is their headquarter:

If you get lucky to be invited to a High Table in the Great Hall, you will have a formal dinner with very interesting Fellows but if you are very lucky, like me, you will sit between the most senior Fellows, Anil Seal and Béla Bollobás!

This is what  you are going to eat and drink (we were lucky enough to inherit a great Sauternes left over from the previous night’s big dinner); I was warned not to pass the serving platters to the person sitting by me and always wait for the waiter to do it!

And of course row after row of tea cups…

The great court is even more breathtaking at night where the college bathes in soft lights and the sound of the central fountain:

Just imagine going to sleep (like the other students of the college) with the sound of this old spring:

If you are a visiting scholar, you may stay in the college,

right beside the Master’s Lodge—in this case Sir Martin Rees:

I so wanted to peek through Sir Rees’ house but the best I could do was to take a furtive picture and be happy with his TED talks...

One place I could visit was the neighboring guest house in this blue hour,

and delight at the “green teas” you could have in the morning by the window…

Last but not least on my list is the river Cam and its romantic bridges made even more beautiful by the Punts (flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow):

It couldn’t get greener, wetter, fresher than this hazy beautiful morning spent visiting the Cambridge colleges:

And this punter, oblivious to the fine rain, enjoys the shallow and gravelly river, from one Cam bridge to the next:

After the first couple of colleges you either need a coffee at Caffé Nero accompanied by great fudge from fudge kitchen,

or something stronger: a carajillo just like Mitra D. likes it!

To be continued…

Marbella, the beautiful woman by the sea

I just got back from Marbella, Spain, where the weather is hot, the sun’s always shining and the colors are intense (at least in July).

For me, the South of Spain—Andalusia—conjures up my beloved Velasquez, García Lorca and of course the native son of Malaga, Picasso. It was my first time in this part of the country so I did the usual tourist things. The great hotels of Marbella looked empty under the sizzling sun; I loved all the local decors like Plaza Romano in Hotel Puente Romao:

Andalusia is the land of Flamenco (not to be confused with the pink bird flamingo) and these paintings by Fabian Perez, translate the passion of this dance into beautiful images:

But the real ladies of Spain were painted by my beloved Velasquez: the Infantas (daughters of a king of Spain, in this case Philip IV)— infanta Margarita who stared at me for years from a poster in my kitchen and infanta Maria Theresa who became the wife of Louis XIV and lived way longer than her poor sister, Margarita.

I will make a post about Velasquez and one about Goya, once I visit the Prado in Madrid, but for now this post should do. These ladies with these extremely wide panniers inspired me to do a little Velasquez of my own:

I even drew one on the walls of the majestic Villa Padierna…

Las Meninas are everywhere in Spain even on a couple of Spanish fans I bought!

I wrote this post listening for the nth time to the superb Miles Davies’ Sketches of Spain, one of his best works.

Now let me take you to old town Marbella. It is a maze of narrow streets with white houses, restaurants and Bougainvillea galore! For good food check out Da Bruno.

Lots of small shops offering completely unnecessary but fun stuff:

The blue hour (the sun sets at 10 pm in summer) is accompanied by a dizzying fragrance of flowers.

I especially liked the  300-year-old statue of the Virgin—Virgen de los dolores— surrounded by dazzling plants:

A fun thing to do was to go to the open air market, bustling with life and colors; my mother (below in the middle) and my cousins were busy making good deals:

Southern Spain is a polka dotted country and they start dancing flamenco early:

Seeing all the beautiful vegetables, the Southern Californian (read Mexican) in me couldn’t resist treating everybody to a homemade quesadilla:

I went south of the border in every detail even the beer:

The trick is lots of green onions!

A good meal with family and friends is one of the blessings we usually take for granted.

Now back in Spain again, I shouldn’t be impressed with flowers but these hibiscuses were a red that only Goya would have understood…

The Villa had a swimming pool, a shallow spanish tile pool, a lion head fountain and Sepideh, my cousin, did her best to model for me by all three!

She looks so authentically Spanish that she’s had gotten into fights with some people in Malaga who accused her of lying when she claims to be Persian; the fact that she speaks Spanish well has not helped!

Can’t resist a poem of Garcia Lorca (english first and then spanish):

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Spain is a beautiful woman…

Check out this clip for a passionate and seductive flamenco dance by Belen Maya and its vocal version, Cante Jondo or deep song.

Watch the legendary Antonio Gades dancing it to perfection here.

Listen to Miles’ Sketches of Spain here.

Watch Carlos Saura’s Iberia trailer here.

For the beautiful poem (in Spanish and English) I used in my infanta image, read Dave Bonta’s post here.

Ms. Foodie goes to Hollywood

After living for a few months in Switzerland, I couldn’t wait to get to my favorite Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles, Versailles; everything tastes more delicious and was way cheaper in the good old U.S. of A.

The most famous item in the menu is the garlic chicken and even for somebody who is not a “beer person”, this Corona was just too good to miss:

I tried to go back and rediscover all the inexpensive great restaurant of my hometown like the King and I where they still serve the best Thai food since the first glass noodles I had there 25 years ago.

To have the best restaurant cheeseburger in Los Angeles (Tommy’s is still great), I went back to the Westside Tavern—they have a gorgeous bar,

and they serve a rare cheeseburger to die for:

I love old diners (my first impression of America remains diners with bad coffee in New Jersey and New York) and I miss Bob’s Big Boy in Santa Monica; Coogie’s who replaced it has a super fresh simple chopped salad:

Nothing says more southern California than a killer burrito like this world famous border burrito from Eduardo’s Border Grill in Westwood (surviving the attack of Persian restaurants in the area):

The dudes are preparing them with tender loving care,

worth every cent of its 8 dollar price!

So I am not very beer, or burrito or hamburger but Switzerland does this to the poor Californian foodie who comes back: I wanted to eat everything in every menu of every restaurant!

Lemons and limes are always fresh at Eduardo’s,

so are different kinds of salsas:

It takes mediocre expensive food to change Ms. life is too short for bad food and cheap wine‘s  opinion about inexpensive modest restaurants of L.A.

All of the above places were great and gave me a lot of pleasure (and poundage!) but the tea at André’s was as usual priceless…

Easter run over by chocolate rabbits

Maundy Thursday followed by Good Friday (Black Friday) and Easter Sunday are,  according to Christian scripture,  the days during which Jesus was resurrected from the dead after his crucifixion.

What does all this have to do with chocolate bunnies?

I guess these cute rabbits are happy about Jesus’ resurrection!

I wonder if they sell chocolate in Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem? These rabbits don’t look like they are going anywhere close to the Way of Grief...

“The Easter Bunny is very similar in trait to its Christmas holiday counterpart, Santa Claus, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holiday.”

Sprungli, one of Switzerland’s most important confectionery producers, drive kids crazy with their chocolate eggs and rabbits.

An army of rabbits…

Eggs, like rabbits are fertility symbols. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox (Nowruz).

Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time. I took these pictures from my favorite florist, Marsano.

This big rabbit sets you back $190!

Happy Spring everybody.

Different shades of white

White is the color of purity, cleanliness, and innocence…or is it? I am surrounded and inspired by it lately and these are my white (ivory, ecru, eggshell, etc…) images:

michele roohani snow heart

I went out to take pictures yesterday; I love the quiet that sits with the snow,

michele roohani snow lindenhof zurich

even when it gets dark early.

snow candle michele roohani

These are my shoes,

michele roohani snow shoe print

and this is not,

white high heel shoe michele roohani

these are LeNôtre‘s shoes:

chantilly le notre statue marble  Noel, Edme Antony Paul michele roohani

on more recent creations, this is a white interior,

white interior car michele roohani

and a very expensive exterior,

white bugatti michele roohani

and people who can’t afford it:

amsterdam bike street michele roohani

Four white dogs,

four white poodles mcihele roohani

and some not so white ones,

white toy dogs Anne-Claire Petit michele roohani

a white wedding gown,

baracci wedding gown michele roohani

a much simpler one,

buenos aires wedding gown vitrine michele roohani

and some pretty pearls to go with it,

pearl necklace michele roohani

and a white church to complete it!

notre dame cathedral paris night michele roohani

Some punctual white statues,

gloria_friedmann_louvre michele roohani

and some timeless ones:

capoeirabatuque mestre amen michele roohani

Sunlight flirting with a quiet white curtain,

white curtain shadows michele roohani

in need of music:

white piano keys music michele roohani

to dance the “Swan Lake”,

white swans lake lucerne luzern michele roohani

or some other dance in white pants:

capoeirabatuque mestre amen michele roohani

back in good old California, some white table at the Huntley’s:

huntly santa monica white curtains michele roohani

with some great coffee in white cups,

coffee cups in the sun huntly hotel michele roohani

white on white:

sun worshipper in white bathing suit and hat michele roohani

and San Vicente’s majestic magnolias…

white magnolia san vicente blvd michele roohani

see “my green movement” here

my “red post” here

Tis the season…

To be jolly…in Zurich?

grossmunster christmas 2009 michele roohani

It snowed last week here and I was giddy like all the snow-starved Californians until the -13 C (10 F) hit me…

grossmunster zurich sunset michele roohani

The above image is Zurich’s Grossmunster, a beautiful church that I went to last night, on Christmas eve, to see how the Swiss celebrate Jesus’ birthday:

grossmunster christmas 2009 night michele roohani

Before I got there I stopped at Lindenhof and I was surprised by this lovely bird (or a winged rat as some people call it) who was not afraid of me and kept drinking from the fountain in spite of me and my big camera…

pigeon lindenhof fountain zurich michele roohani

I am so close here,

pigeon lindenhof  drinking fountain zurich michele roohani

Frohe Weihnachten!

merry christmas 2009 mcihele roohani snow flakes funky typography

Noble Rot, the liquid gold of Sauternes

Drive forty minutes from Bordeaux, and you will get to the most amazing wine country of the region, Sauternais, or the only area around Bordeaux where the noble rot grows.sauterne rows noble rot michele roohani

A most peculiar wine is produced here that has not much to do with the red Bordeaux wines that we all know (red or white). Sauternes is made from grapes that have been affected by a gray fungus, Botrytis Cinerea,  which causes the grapes to shrivel, leaving a sugary fruit with concentrated flavors resulting in distinctively flavored wines. sauternes pourriture noble rot Château de Rayne Vigneau michele roohani

I had heard about the Noble Rot (an oxymoron of a name) but I was still amazed to see these grapes on the vine stocks:sauternais pourriture noble rot michle roohaniThe grapes are definitely getting ripe here, all semi rotten! The best Sauternes come from vines that have been hand-picked—up to 12 separate times—to ensure that the grapes are not removed from the vines before reaching the perfect degree of ripeness required for these wines.Botrytis cinerea sauternes noble rot michele roohani.jpgThe eminent Château d’Yqem, the most expensive Sauternes wine, is the only estate in France who has received a class of its own, one step above Premier Crus. Each grape is picked individually, and only when it is rotten enough. Thanks to the noble rot and a lot of hard work, the result is an exquisitely flavored wine that is acidic enough to avoid falling into the trap of being a mere dessert wine.sauternes micheleroohani chateau de fargues golden bottles

The Sauternes region is located 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the city of Bordeaux along the Garonne river and its tributary, the Ciron, which demarcates Barsac (Orange on the map) and Sauternes (yellow on the map). Barsac lies within Sauternes, and is entitled to use either name. Somewhat similar but less expensive and typically less-distinguished wines are produced in the neighboring regions of Monbazillac (which I tasted  a couple of years ago when visiting Bergerac) , Cérons, Loupiac and Cadillac (not the car)!

sauternes barsac ciron michele roohani

The moisture the Ciron brings, and the morning mists it causes, are favorable to the development of the fungus Botrytis cinereangus. This contributes to the high quality and renown of Sauternes wines.My guide explained that vines produce one to two bottles of wine everywhere else, but in Sauternes, you can only get one to two glasses per year! No wonder this wine is so revered (and expensive)…sauternes association de producteurs michele roohani france barsac

Not having money to burn, I only bought some of the more modest bottles after the tasting:

sauternes tasting bottles glasses michele roohani

Of course, there are myriads of labels to choose from:Botrytis cinerea sauternes labels michele roohanilike these bottles with ample and intense golden liquid inside…Cru d’Arche-pugneau Sauternes michele roohani bottlesYou wonder how on earth with amazing wines like these in the region,golden Botrytis cinerea sauternes barsac micheleroohanisome of the locals drink coffee…gentleman drinking espresso bordeaux michele roohani

My other post about wine:

A night with some dry drunk Persians here

Budapest, the neglected beauty on the Danube

Budapest, the neglected beauty on the Danube, is a city of friendly people, opulent buildings, golden domes, thermal baths and opera.

Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river with a unification on 1873 of right-bank Buda and with left-bank Pest.

new york palace cafe budapest michele roohani

A foreign city robs you of your prejudices about different neighborhoods—you look at everything with fresh virgin eyes.

Let’s start by my posh, but relatively inexpensive, hotel room and its great view:

new york palace hotel room budapest michele roohani

grand cafés everywhere,

budapest cafe callas michele roohani terrace

like the Callas :

callas budapest michele roohani brasserie

The Hungarians are Opera-crazy and they have their elegant Opera Houses to show it:

opera budapest michele roohani

There are plenty of beautiful Hungarian girls,

pretty hungarian girl budapest michele roohani

and boys:

budapest hungarian waiter michele roohani

and very proud ones at that: The Heroes’ Square welcomes you with seven Magyar chieftains (Magyar: Hungary) who led the Hungarian people in their proud history; I highlighted a couple that I liked best:

michele roohani hungarian chieftains hero’s square Hősök tere budapest

Now we’ll take the Budapest metro—super efficient and easy to use— to go places.

budapest metro michele roohani

Like a good muslim, I first went to visit the great Saint Stephen Basilica:

saint stephen basilica budapest michele roohani

the madonna looks friendlier in orthodox churches—somehow less aloof, more human…

madonna saint stephen basilica budapest michele roohani

In spite of all the gold in the public places, Budapest has its share of run-down buildings,

budapest run down building michele roohani

this huge metropolis is not as pretty as her smaller sister city, Prague,

budapest telamones statues michele roohani

but is as rich in history and as breathtaking in sights:

budapest danube panorama michele roohani

the sunset on the Danube is majestic:

buda castle sunset budapest michele roohani

Again as a good Shiite who does believe in Holocaust,  I went to visit the Dohany street Synagogue of Budapest, the world’s second largest that caters to a mix of Orthodox and Reformed Judaism unique to Hungary:

Budapest Great Synagogue exterior michele roohani

in spite of its Byzantine Moorish style, the similarities between this synagogue and a grand church are striking: there is an organ (Franz Liszt played on it once),

Budapest Great Synagogue interior chandelier michele roohani

and even pulpits!

dohany synagogue budapest pulpit michele roohani

In the Jewish quarter,  you are constantly reminded of the Nazis’ atrocities:

Budapest Great Synagogue michele roohani 1944 nazis

Budapest is known for its 80 geothermal springs but I didn’t have the courage to accompany my friends to these pools in Szechenyi bath:

Szechenyi bath budapest michele roohani

the Fine Art Museum was more pressing but that should wait for another post; the Hungarian parliament deserves a post all to itself as well.

If you want to stay in great affordable hotels in a great cosmopolitan European city, go to Budapest (or ask my friend, Reyhaneh, who is a champion in finding great deals!)

hotel bolosco new york palace budapest lobby michele roohani

I leave you with this quote: “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget” and “Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence” by Thomas Szasz.

hotel bolosco new york palace budapest room michele roohani

p.s.  I am not writing about food because the only good meal I had worth writing home about was with my favorite Hungarian,  Professor Ungvari, at Remiz.

September morning in paris, an early stroll

It’s one of those great (and gray) September mornings in Paris and I take my poor jet lagged body out to take pictures of a city that looks more majestic without its occupants or tourists like me!

I would like to take you with me; first we take the bus:

bus line 67 paris michele roohani

the streets are all empty—one of the oldest surviving buildings in Paris from the 16th century:

francois miron street paris michele roohani

even the marché is not open yet,

morning marché produce market rue glaciere michele roohani

Saint Michel is unrecognizable at 7 am:

saint michel deserted street michele roohani

the cafés are just opening,

chez julien paris michele roohani

walking along the river bank in Isle Saint Louis,

isle saint louis quai michele roohani

Notre Dame is majestically melancholic,

morning notre dame paris michele roohani

but pretty soon, life starts in the city:

notre dame paris michele roohani morning

I decide to go towards the Marais; I am surprised to see a Pain Quotidien on my way—so far from Brentwood and Westwood but exactly the same menu:

pain quotidien paris michele roohani rue des archives

rushing towards Place des Vosges, the street signs stop me:

francs bourgeois rue vieille du temple paris marais michele roohani

its’ too early in the morning for gooseberries,

fruit stand groseilles gooseberry marais michele roohani fruits rouges

I really need a strong coffee,

empty coffee cups marias cafe michele roohani

but of course the waitress cleans up the street and not the table left from the previous clients,

place des vosges sweeper michele roohani paris

the galleries around the square are too commercial but I am glad to discover a painter from Rafsandjan, Reza Sarrafi, in one of the windows:

reza sarrafi still life pear place des vosges michele roohani

the wine paintings are from another painter, Annekov:

dmitri annekov archange paris wine painting michele roohani place des vosges

Voilà! Now you know.

self portrait michele roohani notre dame reflection in camera lens paris

I am not kidding when I say I love this city—here are my other posts about Paris:

Alone in Paris

Paris and Paul Newman

Pretty girl in Paris

Giacometti, a post from Montparnasse

I met Arcimboldo and some Germans in Paris

Opera Garnier in Paris

Paris was a woman

Paris at 6 am

Bread and Music

How Enrico Fermi killed all the Aliens

An expression that can mean anything means nothing; when you want to please everybody, you please nobody.

fermi paradox aliens michele roohani extraterrestrial ET

Enrico Fermi, the great Italian physicist, killed all the aliens in 1950 by asking this simple/innocent question: “if extra-terrestrials exist, where are they?” This question has become the Fermi Paradox.

Even though I am a science fiction fan I do agree with the skeptics that, Houston, we have a problem:

a) the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) program to detect radio transmissions from other civilizations has been a failure.

b) the question of the Great Silence remains unsolved; if life is common, why don’t we detect their radio transmissions?

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 20, 1969).

25th anniversary of first moon landing stamps michele roohani stamp collection

I remember the thrill of hearing about it on a hot summer day in Iran; the moon has not looked the same since!

Unlike my father, I am a lousy philatelist (postage stamp collector) but I was able to find the above page I bought in 1994—on the 25th anniversary of “the big step”—among my loose leaves.

andre demir stamps michele roohani

The Drake Equation—an attempt to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way with which we might come into contact— is still fascinating to me but I see its light getting dimmer with every “silent year”…

N = R* × fp × nE × fl × fi × fc × L

This once serious equation looks more and more like this cartoon from this very funny site:

the drake equation cartoon michele roohani

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon, Google is offering Internet users a virtual trip to the moon.

I empathize with Fermi’s passion for clarity. I am simply unable to let things be foggy. The Drake equation is literally meaningless because “an expression that can mean anything means nothing.”

Related and Suggested Posts and Resources:

Carl Sagan explaining the Drake Equation.

Google earth lands on the moon.

Other Life not likely to be intelligent.

The new Drake Equation by Susan Blackmore.

The SETI Institute.