Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Last night we got back from Wales.  On our drive home we stopped at some church history sites.  It was as emotional as it was fun and everyone bonded.  Our professors picked our roommates for the hotel out of a hat (which they'd never been able to do before because everyone gets along so well.)  I seriously love the professors and girls (and boys).
Today everyone is going crazy about our Halloween celebration tonight.  We've gone all out.  It is going to be SO fun!  So far... the costume ideas have been crazy!  I'll have to post some pics!
The following pictures are not from Wales.  But I wanted to post them anyway!

At Brighton


Country walk
"The happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say, there is more learning and science within the circumference of ten miles from where we now sit, than in all the rest of the world." Samuel Johnson

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A little taste of home

One rule: "do not touch the instruments."
 Sarah and I touched Bob's guitar.

Today I went to the first ever Hard Rock Cafe here in London.  Here will be a list of things that made it a keen experience:
1.  American version of customer service.  Friendly. Split checks.
2. All of the memorabilia.  Guitars, coats, papers, etc. from the best musicians in the history of rock.
3.  Tour of the vault.  Our "tour" guide/ random (and pretty cute) kid was hung over and probably stoned as he took us into the vault.  Only rule was not to touch the instruments... Sarah and I decided to be rebellious and touched Bob Dylan's guitar.  Totally worth it.  The harpsichord in back of it is the original from one of the Beatles music videos.
4.  The gift shop has giant photos of different artists.  Is Jason up there?  Why, yes.  Yes he is.  Did I have a meltdown when I saw his wristband that says "Hyde Park" on it?  Yes.
5.  It just felt American.  And it felt good.  As much as I love England... I am not British.
I am American.        And sometimes I just need to act like one.
I'm pretty happy about this.
If you can't tell, his wristband reads "Hyde park" on it. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A test of faith

Every week getting to our ward seems to find us some kind of adventure.  Today was probably the biggest adventure yet.  First of all, our normal route is as follows:
District line from Notting Hill Gate to Wimbledon.
Tram from Wimbledon to Mitcham Junction.
Walk "up scale" to church.
Well... about 3 of the weeks we've been here the District line has actually been up and working.  So we find other routes.  Take the Central line to Tottenham Court and transfer to the Northern Line and then take a train to Wimbledon and a tram to Mitcham.  Or, take the Central line to Victoria line and the Victoria line to Victoria station and then a train to the bus stop.
You get it.  There are about 5 more routes I could give you... but I think you get the idea.
Today we took the Central line, transferred at Victoria line, took Victoria line to Vauxhall, and took Vauxhall tram to the Wimbledon tram.  You keeping up?
Well, we got to Wimbledon and unbeknownst to us our tram was "out of service."
So we got on the first available bus to Mitcham.  Next problem: bus stops randomly somewhere in Mitcham because of road closures.  So we did what any good BYU students would do... I cursed and Anne told Satan to "suck it" and we were going to get there anyway.
We eventually got to church.  It was the primary program today (Anne and I are both in primary so it was stressful to be a half hour late and have to walk in in front of everyone).  But it ended up being worth it to see all those crazy little kids sing and run around on the stage.

Yesterday we actually got to participate in the baptismal service of a 9 year old girl who started coming to primary a couple weeks ago.  She loves the BYU sisters.  She wrote me a cute card for my journal asking me to stay in England and not go home.  She participated in the primary program today and even brought her older siblings with her to church.  It's experiences like this that remind me why it is worth the trouble and time to make it out to the Mitcham ward each week.

Some of you know we are doing family history stuff from the British Isles.  As far as I can tell I only have one line that goes back to England and that is James Kenyon in 1669.  I was a little put off about only having one line because some students here had their maps filled with ancestors that came from the UK.
Well... of all the people I could sit by in class the day they were due, I sat by Jenna who found out she is related distantly to the Queen and other fun stuff.  I showed her that I only had one name on my paper from Lancashire and she says "Oh my! I bet we're related.  I have a John Kenyon from the same place in Lancashire who was born some 20 years after your James Kenyon."  So we did our homework and John is James' son!
I am cousins with Jenna!
Of all the people that could be related here I thought I'd be the last to be related to anyone.  It is distant but was still relevant to me.  It made me realize that we are all closer to each other in this small world than we may think.

I have much more to say and pictures to post about our 2 day trips last week.  Let's hope I can keep up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A beautiful mess...

As I've had some time to hike through the countryside it has dawned on me that I have given up something exceptional to come here.
Fall in Utah.  Not just the changing of colors on the mountains in my backyard or my favorite tree on the street to my house, but Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The season has begun here.  The leaves are changing and the air is growing crisp and cool.  As we walked through Ambleside and again today in Kent I could smell Autumn in the air.  On one of our numerous stops we found a place selling rather small pumpkins, the first I've seen since they don't really celebrate Halloween here the way Americans do.  I wanted to carry one all the way home with me.

Today marked our halfway point.  Like I said before, it is bittersweet.

Someone carve a pumpkin for me... and eat my slice of pie.

Monday, October 18, 2010

North trip

At the Cavern where the Beatles played

best museum ever.

Durham cathedral and abbey.  Yes... this cloister is used as part of Hogwarts. 
This horse was SO sweet.  Bede's world!
I am back from my week long North trip.
There is too much to say so I'll just add the itinerary here and talk about the highlights.

Left early on the coach.
Stopped at Chatsworth, visited the house and gardens. (This is the house they used as Pemberley in the Kiera Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice.)
Then we went to the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, the church and the moor.
We checked in at the York youth hostel.
I love hostels... 
Spent the WHOLE day in York. 
Guided tour of York minster in the morning.
After the tour we had the day to go to museums, shop, eat, and went on a Ghost hunt tour through town (which was not scary and our guide made dirty jokes the whole time. Awesome.)
I love hostels...
Left for Durham.  
Tour of Durham cathedral.  Refreshing to see a NON Gothic cathedral.  Plus, part of Harry Potter was filmed here.
Went to Bede's World.  Disappointing because it was not an actual theme park with rides.  However, the playground was lots of fun and we got to feed some barnyard animals.  <Insert enthusiasm here>
Next we went to Hadrian's wall.  Right between England and where Scotland's boarder used to be.  I loved hiking up to this spot.  It was so beautiful and looked like a scene from Braveheart.
Got to Ambleside and checked into our hostel that looks right out onto lake Windermere.  
I love hostels...
Hiked from our hostel to Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth museum.  Then we had the whole day to do what we wanted.  Everyone went to Beatrix Potter's home and back to the hostel on the coach except for four of us, who stayed in Grasmere and hiked for the day... all the way back to Ambleside through countryside and town.  We went to the lakes, the caves, and spent the evening in town eating dinner and seeing a movie.  One of the best days I've had since I've been here.  
Got back to our hostel pretty late.
I love hostels...
Left Ambleside.  Stopped in Preston for some church history stuff.  Worst part of this visit: it actually rained on us for a change.  Best part: as we were stopped on some random street listening to our tour guide this old woman in a large window from across the street put her hands up to the glass and started saying "help me."  It was like horror movie, creepy with the rain and such... but her neighbors said she's just crazy.  Hope her neighbors aren't murderers.  
Got dropped off in Liverpool with a few others that opted to stay.
Best news: didn't have to stay in a hostel because Liz has a friend that goes to school in Liverpool.  So we stayed at her house and shared a bed.  
I love the Beatles.  According to Andrew... everyone loves the Beatles so really I'm just stating the obvious.  I'll even be redundant about it.  I love the Beatles.  And I'm wearing my Beatles shirt.
Take that Andrew.
It was such a great day.  We went to the Beatles museum and on the Magical Mystery Tour.  By far the coolest museum I've ever been in (and at this point I've been in a ton).  The tour was awesome because the bus was probably actually from the 70's.  We went to all the houses the Beatles lived in and other places that they put into their songs, like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.  After the tour we went to the Cavern where the Beatles started and played in almost 200 times.  You can be jealous because it was a major experience.  If I didn't already love the Beatles I certainly do now.  
Took a train back to London.  
John Lennon's house. 
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.  Clear beneath the blue suburban skies.

Creepiest moment ever.  Of course I had to take a picture of it.

Me and my bestie... haha.  On our hike in Ambleside.
Hiking to Dove Cottage.

Bede's World.  Not an amusement park, but we did dress up as monks.

Chatsworth gardens.

Why I loved this trip:
Did you just read my itinerary?!  How could I not love this trip?!
Unlike France (which I did like), this trip was not jam packed with touristy type assignments.  We had time to enjoy everything we saw and experienced (apart from Hadrian's wall... needed more time there, less time at Bede's world).  Our days in York, Ambleside, and Liverpool were free for us to do as we pleased.  Note: we saw "Winter's Bones" after our hike in Ambleside.  It's a Sundance movie so if you like independent film festival movies that make you depressed and sick with life then I recommend you see this little gem.  It's rated "15"... whatever that means.

I apologize for any spelling or grammar errors.  I usually write these posts in the early hours of the morning.

Thanks for reading.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

John Keats and Hampstead

Hampstead was a joy.  I love Keats.
Honestly, with all the remodeling they did on the Keats House a couple of years ago it wasn't that impressive.  However, it was fun to get a book of his poetry from the house that he wrote most of it in and read some of it in the garden that he looked out at from his study.
We took a nice semi-long walk through town to the pub Keats would occasionally write in.  It is called The Spaniards Inn and it had really great dessert and the best diet coke I've had since I've been here.
From the pub it was a short walk to the Kenwood house.  Most people would recognize this old Victorian mansion from the scene in Notting Hill when Julia Roberts is filming a movie on the grass.  It is actually an orangery now with loads of art, including my favorite John Singer Sargeant, Vermeer, etc. The grounds surrounding it are beautiful.  We walked into the woods and upscale to look out over the hillside with the city in the background.
We stayed so long we were almost late for dinner.

 I would love to go back and walk through the Heath and sit out on the grass and read.  Actually, I would love to go back and stay there indefinitely. 

 OTHER noteworthy things:
Final performance at the Globe.  Henry iv part 2.  
Found some Tirmisu better than Aida's~
At my ward with the missionaries and investigator Mousey.  Prob the first and only pic I'll have of me looking like a sister missionary. 

Going North for the week.  It will be a fun, long trip.  Some of us are getting dropped off in Liverpool on Saturday, myself included.   Here I come Beatles tour.

Friday, October 8, 2010

seldom sleeping

It's early here.  Way early.  And I've been on Skype with Alicia and Hannah for about two hours.  Eight hour time difference and half a world away I still managed to get to that Jason concert with them.  Did I cry a couple of times?  Yes.
It was only after a half hour that I realized, after weeks of saying I could stay here forever, that I could never live in England.  While I am much more impressed and content with the small towns in the English countryside than anywhere I've ever been in America, there is no way I could be away from the people I love for so long.  As time goes on this experience becomes more and more bittersweet.  Anyone who's lived here will understand what I mean.  You want the best of both worlds... to have some magical power that can transport England to your life back home.  I never want to leave but also wouldn't want to stay. 

One of Jason's new songs says "I want to thank those who make me love who I am."  (Or something along those lines since it's not yet released and I only got to hear it through once.)
But thank you to all of you who love me as me.  I'm never going to stop loving what I like and the people most important to me like me more because of these things.  

Special thanks to Jason for his new music and for singing MJ, the Beatles and Unfold.  I don't care how popular you get or if I never get to go to a low key bar concert again... you'll always be my favorite.

Will post pics of Hampstead before I leave for the North trip on Monday.

Alicia and Hannah: I love you guys.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trying to keep up.

In Stratford Upon Avon at the hall of fame with my boyfriend Kenneth Branagh.
Kew Gardens.  This place had temperature controlled glasshouses with plants and trees from all over the world.  

Last night I was looking through my dear friend Sara's "London Calling" blog from two years ago and two things occurred to me:
1. Sara kept a better blog than me and I'm jealous so I'm going to try harder on mine.
2. Now that I can relate to her pictures and experiences the dates on all of them have a lot more of an affect on me. Her time seemed to fly by and it sort of freaked me out.

Last week in Stratford Upon Avon at Anne Hathoway's home.

Our day trip yesterday was to Glastonbury, Stourhead, and Bath. We have seriously lucked out with the weather on these trips. Other than the rain at Kew Gardens last week it has been sunny skies. At Glastonbury we visited the abbey ruins and saw the burial spot of King Arthur. Years ago some archeologists found the remains of Arthur and Guinevere on the Isle of Avalon. We also hiked up the Tor and looked out over the entire area. It was the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen.

Stourhead is the equivalent of a Jane Austen landscape and it is no wonder they filmed part of the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice there.
While all the girls were being proposed to by our professor's 15 yr old son, Sarah and I were proposing to each other and I got to slap Ben.

In Bath we visited the Roman baths and went to the assembly rooms. Bath deserved a whole days visit, not just over an hour. I hope we go back on a weekend because it is a really neat place.  Plus my camera died so I don't have any good pics of the place.

Tomorrow we're going to the Keat's house.  Can't wait.  You all know how I feel about him.  Monday we head up North for the week.  I don't know what we're doing up there other than they're dropping us off in Liverpool on Saturday.

Thanks for reading!  Miss you all!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Poems on the Underground

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loviliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondance, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o`er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, inspite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.

John Keats (1795 - 1821)

I stumbled upon a little treasure today. The Underground website that we frequently use to check the status of tube lines keeps a space on their site called "Poems on the Underground." This was the poem of the day. Fitting considering I was reading Keats earlier today for class. I love this part of Endymion. The beauty that Keats speaks of is all around me in London. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Beatrix Potter exhibit in the V&A museum and then walked home through Hyde Park. The silver skies that usually promise rain seem to enhance the green scenery. When you've been able to take in beauty like this, you appreciate men like Keats for being able to express it better than you ever could. However, I have been writing some poetry of my own. Maybe someday I'll share. Until then, take some time on the Transport for London website to check out the pro's. Don't think too hard. Just enjoy.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pictures! (for those less keen on reading)

France and more!

Hello friends and family!
Here I am. I bet you all thought I'd left the blogging world completely.
Not quite...
I got back from France exceptionally drained and not in the least bit enthused on the idea of having to write it all down. Plus the internet is just horrible.
I'm going to be lame and give the condensed version of the last week and a half.
We went to France for four days last week. We spent most of our time in Paris and stayed the last night in Amiens. It was honestly an amazing trip filled with all the beauty, art, romance, and tourism that Paris has to offer. Outside of Paris we went to a lot of Great War sites that still have trenches and potholes from all of the artillery left in the earth.
Day 1: Drove and drove. Took the ferry from Dover to France and took the coach from the coast into Paris. WWI sites along the way. That night we got our first crepes and took a scenic boat tour down the river through about a hundred bridges. It was really pretty and romantic, just like in the movies. Everything was lit up and people were making out all along the river's edge.
Day 2: Took the coach to Chartres Cathedral. This place is magnificent and a lot taller than I'd expected it to be. After we were taken to Versailles to see the gigantic castle of Marie Antoinette and Louis IV. Giant. Elaborate. Here's what I can say about Versailles: Think of Disneyland on a holiday. Now keep thinking of that image and add the smell of feet, BO, and cigarettes and you've got yourself Versailles. No need to elaborate on this experience. Back in Paris we ate dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant and then headed over to the Arch de Triumph. Had a beautiful view of the Eiffle tower and got to watch it sparkle on the hour.
Day 3: Crazy day. Started off early at Notre Dame and went to the top where we got to go through the big wooden frames to see the enormous bell and look out over the city. Next headed to Saint Chapelle to see the amazing stained glass in the midmorning light. Problem here was the towering wall they'd put up for construction blocking the section of stained glass that the light was hitting. Still, really pretty. We ate pizza for lunch and the headed to the Pantheon. Sarah and I stopped at a boutique so we didn't get much out of the Pantheon other than we moon walked on the slippery floors. Next stop: Musee de Orsay. Love this place. At this point our feet were aching pretty bad. My fav's: the Degas ballerinas were as close to perfection as I knew they'd be. Didn't like the more modern painting of a woman's vagina so much. After Orsay we went to L'Orangerie to see Monet's waterlilies. They covered three rooms of walls and they had tranquil music playing... felt like I was at Sego Lily day spa ready to get a massage. Finally went to dinner and then the Eiffle Tower. Bad news on both accounts. If you don't like bleu cheese... don't order anything in France that involves cheese. They put it on everything and it's not like American bleu cheese (which I also think is disgusting). It tastes like acid and cleaner and everything wrong all at once. Worst decision of my life. Also, we stood in line for 40 minutes just to be told they'd closed the top of the Eiffle tower. So, we just sat around at the bottom and watched it light up. Spent the rest of the night at the triangle outside the Louvre and then ate creme brulee at a corner cafe. Draining day. Too much great stuff to do in such a short amount of time.
Day 4: Went to the Louvre. I love the Louvre. I am not sure what everyone's beef with the Louvre is. Sure it's a monster. Sure we only got to see about two halls on one floor in three hours. But you know what... what I did see was incredible. And I'd go back to Paris just to spend a week in the Louvre. After the Louvre we went the Pompedeu which is a modern art gallery. This was my favorite place of our Paris time and my regret of the trip is that I only had over an hour to spend here. Saw Matisse and loads of other brilliant modern work. It made me really excited to go to the Tate Modern in London. Bussed out of Paris to Amiens stopping at some more war sites. In Amiens we took some time to walk the outside of the Cathedral and study its Gothic architecture. Got pizza and went to a local grocer to get our lunches for the next day. This was my favorite day of the trip.
Day 5: Went inside Amiens cathedral to see the head of John the Baptist before we had to leave to come home (yes, my home is London). On the way out of France we stopped at yet some more war sites. We put crosses on fallen soldiers graves. So many hundreds and thousands of white headstones, most of which don't even have names of soldiers. So many lost men in the war that they buried them with the title "soldier of the great war, known unto God." And many of the headstones were shared with two or three soldiers. It was a somber experience and I'm really starting to feel un-American about the whole history of it all. It just gets to me that we never really learned or even know about the Great War, and was such a catastrophic and unnecessary war that went on for years and killed hundreds of thousands of men.
Finally at home we were so glad to be back we ran full speed to the centre. I had a package from my mom and it was a great way end the trip.
I liked France a lot and I saw and learned so much. The language barrier was tough and the tourism routes were draining, but overall it was a good trip. So glad to be back in London though. London is home and my true love.

Other noteworthy things from the last week:
Went to the Merry Wives of Windsor at the Globe on Tuesday. Not as good as Henry IV but still brilliant. You really can't go wrong at the Globe and I don't think I'll ever look at a Shakespeare play the same way again. The next day we took a trip to Stratford Upon Avon where we got to see the house of Shakepeare's wife: Anne Hathoway, the house he was born in, the house he owned... etc. A lot of houses that looked pretty much the same. But it was all really fun and such a cute town. I would live there for sure. There was an amazing little shop that was full of potions and wizarding stuff and we bought some Butterbeer. Note: just because it's in Harry Potter doesn't mean it is going to be good. Butterbeer is gross. Went to Kew Gardens yesterday and their controlled climate greenhouses are incredible. It poured rain on us all day though which was slightly disappointing. Good week though. Ready for Conference and another fun week to come.

I'll be back with pictures! And now that the Paris trip is out of the way hopefully I can steer clear of these long posts from now on.