Enfield

LORELAI: When is it [the engagement party]?
SOOKIE: Tonight.
LORELAI: Uh, so your yen to hit the bingo parlour in Enfield was …?
SOOKIE: A vicious, vicious lie.

Enfield is a town in the Hartford region of Connecticut near the border with Massachusetts, with a population of around 40 000. Historically it was most famous for its carpet and gunpowder industries, and today is home to the US headquarters of Lego. It’s about an hour’s drive from the apparent location of Stars Hollow, and has three bingo halls.

Castro

EMILY: And this is what we need to discuss right now?
LORELAI: These [Emily’s maids] are women from countries that have dictatorships and civil wars and death squads and all of that they survived, but five minutes working for Emily Gilmore, and people are begging for Castro.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, and as President from 1976 to 2008. He was also First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 to 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, industry and business were nationalised, and socialist reforms implemented. Castro was the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries.

More than a million Cubans left their country to emigrate as political refugees, mostly to the United States, with Florida being the US state with the most Cuban-Americans. Lorelai suggests that at least a couple of Emily’s maids were Cuban-American, and there are more than 10 000 Cuban-Americans in Connecticut, with the highest number in Bridgeport.

Busan

Busan is where Lane’s cousins live, and where she will be spending the summer from June to August 2001. The city was called Pusan until 2000, and is pronounced like Pusan (at least that’s how it sounds to English-speakers).

Busan is the second-biggest city in South Korea, and has a population of over 3 million. It is the economic centre of south-eastern Korea, and has a large industrial area, and the biggest port in Korea. It is called the summer capital of Korea, since it has a number of beaches to attract tourists, along with cafes, restaurants, and shopping districts to cater to them.

It is unknown whether Mr and Mrs Kim, or their families, are originally from the Busan area as well as the cousins, but it doesn’t seem too unlikely.

The Ruins of Pompeii

RICHARD: I wanted to walk the ruins of Pompeii.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town near modern Naples, mostly destroyed and buried under tons of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The ruins of Pompeii have been a tourist destination for over 250 years, and today is one of Italy’s most popular tourist sites.

La Traviata at the La Scala Opera House

RICHARD: I wanted to see La Traviata at the La Scala opera house.

La Traviata (“the fallen woman”) is an opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. It is based on the 1852 play La Dame aux Camélias (“the lady with the camellias”) by French author Alexandre Dumas, fils, adapted from his own 1848 novel of the same name. The first performance of the opera was a failure, but today it is extremely popular and an operatic standard.

The Teatro alla Scala, nearly always abbreviated to La Scala, is an opera house in Milan, Italy which opened in 1778. Many of the world’s great opera singers have appeared at La Scala, and it is regarded as one of the world’s leading opera houses.

“Sending me to Korea for the summer”

LANE: My mother and father are sending me to Korea for the summer to visit my cousins.
RORY: So?
LANE: They’re sending me to Korea and they won’t tell me when I’m coming back.

Mr and Mrs Kim have bought Lane a one-way ticket to (South) Korea for the summer, leading her to panic they never intend for her to come home. This story line was based on an incident from the childhood of Helen Pai, the real life inspiration for Lane Kim. Her parents did exactly the same thing, but as with Lane’s case, it turned out all right.

The American flag in the background is surely a symbol of where Lane’s heart lies, and also shows that she will return home. In Korea, the colour yellow can be symbolic of good luck, so Rory giving Lane the yellow daisies wishes her good luck on her travels.

Balkans

RORY: You should get married in Italy.
LORELAI: All the way from home, same topic. There’s tons of stuff going on in the world. Big stuff.
RORY: Like?
LORELAI: Balkans.
RORY: That was ages ago. Read a paper.

Lorelai is referring to the Yugoslav Wars, a series of ethnically-based wars and insurgencies that took place in the Balkans, those countries in and around the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.

Lorelai may be referring specifically to to the Kosovo War, which went from 1998-1999 – hence Rory saying that it was ages ago (two years ago from the time of this episode). Insurgencies in the area continued longer, and there was still armed conflict in Macedonia in 2001 when this episode aired, not ending until August, so possibly Rory has not kept up with international events either, or doesn’t think of Macedonia as part of the Balkans.

It’s interesting that Lorelai immediately mentions a war during the conversation about her marriage proposal; a possible sign of things to come. This parallels Rory mentioning the war in Lebanon just before she broke up with Dean.