Truly American Experience: The Rose Bowl

I will be spending four months in Europe this spring for work with the majority of the time in Florence, Italy but also nearly a month in Austria. So the blog will include a lot more photos and stories about Italy than fits the name of the blog. But before I left the U.S., I made sure to “pile on” truly American experiences and that included in addition to the Rose Parade (see previous post) the Rose Bowl itself – because what is more American than football at the oldest bowl game in the U.S.?!?

The Rose Bowl – also called the “Granddaddy of them all” – is the oldest of all college football bowl games (playoffs). In 1902, the first post-season game in the nation took place here between Stanford and Michigan (Michigan won 49-0). The Rose Bowl included many firsts –  for example, the first transcontinental radio broadcast of a sporting event in 1927 as well as the first national telecast of a college football game in 1952.


Iowa Hawkeyes Fans – Love the Hat!

The current Rose Bowl Stadium was built in 1922 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark because of its importance in American culture and history.


Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA – 2016

Even though the team we rooted for (Iowa) was beaten badly in this year’s game against Stanford (45-16), the Iowa fans kept up the good mood and atmosphere in the stands and made this a great experience as my last big event to visit before I go to Europe (there were some grumblings and complaints about the Stanford band making fun of Iowa and sticking to stereotypes that showed very little knowledge of Iowa and made me question the maturity and creativity of Standford students, but that is a different story – read more here if you are interested: Article on Stanford Band). Although I am excited and curious about Italy and look forward to spending some time in Austria, I am a little sad that I have to miss the Super Bowl experience in San Francisco this year (it is not that often that the event is that close to where I live). Next time, I will be posting from Florence. Ci vediamo!


Shirts for the Super Bowl for Sale at the San Francisco Airport

The Huntington Near Pasadena, California: Worth a Visit

A trip to Pasadena, CA should also include a visit to the fantastic Huntington, which easily overwhelms with its seize. The Huntington in San Marino, CA offers a library with a collection of rare books, four different art galleries, a 120-acre botanical garden, a large greenhouse, a tea room and much more. We tried to squeeze everything into a one-day visit but had to skip some of the gardens just because there is too much to do and see.

The Library collection of rare books was exciting since it showed books that I have heard so much about during my studies as an English major: the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg Bible on vellum, early editions of Shakespeare’s work and much more. The Gutenberg Bible (ca. 1450-1500) sparked a revolution throughout Europe in the way knowledge was presented and shared as previously nearly all texts were written and copied by hand. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and movable type changed the way books were created.


Gutenberg Bible at the Huntington Library

The four art galleries on the grounds include a range of older to newer pieces with highlights such as Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Edward Hopper’s The Long Leg.

A personal favorite that is not one of the most famous pieces of the collection was A Foothill Trail (ca. 1919) by Granville Redmond:


The Huntington is actually the former estate of railroad and real estate magnate Henry Huntington (1850-1927), who at one point was on as many as 60 corporate boards at the same time throughout the U.S. I am always fascinated by how many ultra-rich people on the West Coast during and after the Gold Rush got rich because of the railroad (Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University, comes to mind as another example). The estate is so large that we had to skip some of the over a dozen specialized gardens that add up to 120 acres. Even though there are plenty of palm trees around California, I enjoyed the Palm Gardens the most:

After hours of walking through the grounds and standing in front of pieces of art, afternoon tea with scones and finger sandwiches was exactly what we needed (reservations are recommended for the Rose Garden Tea Room):

If you are in the LA area and especially if you are in neighboring Pasadena, I recommend a visit to the Huntington. For more information on opening hours and entrance fees, see: . For more details about the Rose Garden Tea Room and to make online reservations for it, see: Tea Room.

Rose Parade

The Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day is over a century old and is usually shown on American TV. 2016 marked the 127th year of the parade. All floats have to include only natural materials such as flowers, seeds, and grasses and most floats take a year to construct by mostly professional float-building companies. Seeing the parade live though provides a lot more behind-the-scene details and close-ups than ever shown on TV, and this year I had a chance to see the parade live.

What I did not realize was that people actually reserve spaces on the sidewalks along the over five-mile long parade route 24 hours before the parade starts at 8 in the morning on New Year’s Day. Plenty of people camp out over night just to ensure the best spots to view the parade.


Some people were really settling in for the night:

Side Walk Camping4

We went the more traditional route and put chairs out the day before but hoped they would still be there in the morning even if we did not spend the night. Another option was to spend money on grandstand tickets.


And it worked! Our chairs were right there in the front row waiting for us. Someone actually moved them even closer to the line during the night, so we sat so close that I was worried some of the members of the larger bands would actually trip over our feet.

There were so many large bands:

The floats were even more impressive close up than on TV since it was really obvious how many flowers were on these large constructions:

My favorite floats were the the ones with strong colors that popped against the bright blue sky and seemed to vibrate in the sun:


Downton Abbey Float – Public Broadcasting Company


“Treasure Life’s Journey” from Donate Life – all people on the flat actually received donated organs

Other details that the TV broadcast usually does not show is that many floats that are very high actually have to lower some of their parts to fit under the freeway and some of the floats break down and have to be pulled by a tow truck, which also leads to some delays towards the end of the long route:


The large tower in the back had to be lowered to fit under a freeway.

Another detail is that the poop-scoopers walking behind the groups of horses in the parade actually get more applause than the bands and floats (I forgot to take a picture of them though – they are dressed in white and push a garbage can for the over five-mile walk). The parade is unique and more exciting in person than on TV even though it does take hours; this year’s parade featured 95 different participants: floats, marching bands, and horse groups. It is a New Year’s tradition just as the New Year’s Concert of Strauss waltzes in Vienna is an Austrian New Year’s tradition.

And there was even room for some political comments during the parade:


Sky writing during the parade