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.

The Northwest Territories

LUKE: You get a promotion?
LORELAI: Oh yeah, they made me head salesman of the Northwest Territories. No, I run an inn, there’s no place to promote me too.

The Northwest Territories is the second-largest territory in Canada, with the current borders established in 1999. The northern part of the territory is in the polar region, while the southern part is subarctic, and is one of only two areas of Canada where Indigenous people make up more than half the population (it is very slightly more than 50%). Its capital is Yellowknife, which has around 20 000 people.

Because Gilmore Girls was first filmed in Canada, affectionate references to the country are made from time to time.

Kinko’s in Groton

TAYLOR: Oh, this is absolutely ridiculous. Do you subscribe to this troubadour mystique?
RIVAL TROUBADOUR: I run a Kinko’s in Groton.

Kinko’s was an earlier trademarked name for FedEx Office Print & Ship Services, a retail chain providing an outlet for FedEx Express and FedEx Ground Shipping, as well as printing, copying, and binding services. It is the main competitor to UPS Stores. Founded in 1970, the name was changed in 2004, although the older name is still advertised.

The town of Groton in Connecticut was discussed earlier, as the former home of Lorelai’s deceased relative, Claudia. It is about an hour’s drive from the area where Stars Hollow appears to be located. In real life, it doesn’t have a FedEx Office today, and may not have had a Kinko’s in 2001. Does this cast doubt on the rival troubadour’s story? Perhaps he has mystique too, but just has a different way of going about it.

Cucamonga

TAYLOR: Lorelai, I hope that’s not food in those bags. Food is not allowed at town meetings.
LORELAI: No, Taylor its not. Its, um, diapers for the little ones.
TAYLOR: What?
LORELAI: Dorsal fins and Cucamonga.
TAYLOR: What did she say?
LORELAI (whispers to Max): I confuse him till he loses his train of thought and then he moves on.

The Cucamonga Valley is a region of southern California located between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. It is a major wine-producing area, and one of its cities is Rancho Cucamonga. The name Cucamonga comes from a Native American word meaning “sandy place”.

(A dorsal fin is the fin on the back of fish, whales, dolphins, and porpoises.)

Winchester Mystery House

LORELAI: And you just need to give this situation [with Rachel] a fair chance.
LUKE: I know.
LORELAI: And that starts with ceasing work on the Winchester Mystery House here.

The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California that was built as the home of Sarah Winchester, the wealthy widow of the firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester, the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Constructed between 1884 and Sarah’s death in 1922, the house is rumoured to be haunted by the ghosts of all those killed by Winchester rifles, with tabloids of the day claiming that Sarah intended the house to be used as a refuge for their restless spirits (although other rumours said that she tried to ward off their spirits by building the house). Her biographer finds no evidence to support either claim.

Built without an architect, the house is very large and has many oddities, such as stairs that lead nowhere, and windows overlooking other rooms of the house. Some of the more bizarre curiosities may have been added after Sarah’s death to make the house seem more eccentric, while others may be due to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. The Winchester Mystery House is privately owned, and operates as a tourist attraction.

Lorelai connects the lengthy and haphazard building of the Winchester Mystery House to the work that Luke is doing on her home.

Sarah Winchester was originally from New Haven, Connecticut, so this reference links the state that Gilmore Girls is set in with the state that it is filmed in.

Amusingly, Jared Padalecki, who played Dean Forester in Gilmore Girls, later went on to play Sam Winchester in Supernatural, with his surname chosen in honour of the Winchester Mystery House. Sam’s brother is named Dean – their first names are a nod to Sal and Dean from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, previously mentioned.

Balthazar’s

LANE: Then he [Henry] said, “It was fun meeting you the other night.”
RORY: What?
LANE: He didn’t say which night. Like he didn’t remember which night. Like he’s mixing me up with another girl from another night. For all I know, he thought he was calling the hot blonde he met at a hopped up night at Balthazar’s.

Balthazar is a French restaurant in SoHo, Manhattan which opened in 1997 and is owned by Keith McNally. Famed for both its food and atmosphere, it is a favourite place for celebrity-spotting. It is notable that Lane gets the name wrong, not being familiar with trendy New York eateries.

Rory points out the obvious implausibility of Henry, a sixteen-year-old private school student from Hartford, being hopped up (on drugs) at Balthazar and meeting hot blondes, but Lane is not in a logical mood.

“Go build us another statue”

MICHEL: Be quiet.
RUNE: Go build us another statue.

Rune is referring to the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Englightening the World), which was a gift from the French people to the people of the United States. It shows the Roman goddess Libertas (Liberty) holding a torch above her head, and in her hand holding a tablet inscribed with the date of the US Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776.

Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the statue is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, and was dedicated on 1886. It has become an important symbol of American freedom.

YMCA

MICHEL: May I help you?
RUNE: Yeah, I need to know where my room is.
MICHEL: Uh, are you sure you are in the right place? Perhaps you want the YMCA or the local bus station.

The Young Men’s Christian Association, an international organisation founded in London by George Williams in 1844, and based in Geneva, Switzerland. As well as its many charitable activities, the YMCA has hostels all over the world providing low-cost accomodation for travellers.

In real life, there is no YMCA hostel in Connecticut, with the nearest one to Stars Hollow being in New York. As there is also a bus station in New York and not in Stars Hollow, Michel is telling Rune he hasn’t just come to the wrong hotel, but to the wrong town, and should get out. This subtle insult is totally wasted on Rune.