Monday, 27 October 2008

Chapter Eight

This weekend was quite an adventure. We left on Thursday and made our way to Edinburgh, Scotland.  We had it all figured out, the train tickets were ordered, the hostel was booked. Nothing was supposed to go wrong.... but alas. It did. Everything, well almost everything, went wrong, but it really made the whole trip much more fun and funny and exciting.  

The first mishap happened in a little place called Berwick-Upon-Tweed. I have no idea where that is but we got dumped off at the train station because something or other was going wrong with our train.  Were told to get on the next train heading to Scotland... they didn't tell us the next train heading to Scotland was completely full and that we would have to be crammed in the in-between sections of the train next to the bathroom. Lovely. 

That's not all... the new train decided to stop for 2 1/2 hours.  Not fun.  The upside: we got all our train money refunded, got some really great recommendations of things to do from some Scottish men,  and we had a ridiculously funny situation involving a drunk lady who wanted to have a smoke.  And that was before we even got there.  

We arrived in Scotland far later than we anticipated but still had time to go on a ghost tour! It was really scary and fun.  We went through Grayfriar's Graveyard and Covenanter's Prison, the lair of the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Scary huh? It was... but it was really fun too.  
We got completely lost after the tour, which ended like two blocks away from our hostel.  By the time we got back it was 1:30 in the morning and completely pouring.  It was fun though and we got to see a lot of the city and a lot of drunk people, and enjoy the Scottish weather.  

Friday we went down the Royal Mile and saw fun Scottish sights like the Holyrood Palace and Scottish Parliament, loads of Scottish gift shops, and an awesome indian store.  We went inside St. Giles Cathedral and admired in the quaint, charming Scottish streets. I had no idea that Edinburgh was going to be so cute and charming.  All the buildings in the Old Town were, well, old and cute and charming.  The roads were paved with cobblestones and everything was adorable. 
The gang: me, Anna, Holli, Alison, Hailee, and Lauren

We went to a storytelling festival and the Museum of Childhood. I was basically loving life, I think I am a five year old at heart.  

After exploring we took refuge in The Elephant House, which is where J.K. Rowling conceived the idea for Harry Potter.  We ate delicious elephant shortbread cookies and beef stew, and wrote on napkins.  There were all these other napkins hidden in a drawer on our table from other people who had visited as well. It was a really great time just to sit and think and try to be creative.

That night we went and saw Mary Poppins, it was really good.  The set was amazing, but the story was a little different.  It was fun though.  Oh yes, and in the middle of the show the curtains closed and we had a short break due to technical difficulties... when does that ever happen?

Saturday was almost as much of a success as our train ride. We were planning on going to the castle and to Arthur's seat, but sadly we couldn't do either due to the wind and rain.  The gusts were so strong we could hardly walk up to the castle, or down from the castle, because the wind couldn't decide which way it wanted to blow I suppose.  Instead of going to the castle we went to this awesome museum called Camera Obscura.  Like I said it was awesome.  The whole things is filled with optical illusions and fun things.  

After that we braved the weather and walked to the Frankenstein Pub, which is apparently world famous, although I wasn't aware.  We ate lunch and then headed to the train station to head back to London. Of course the day we go home the rails were undergoing service so we had to go the opposite direction and then back to London, so our four hour train ride ended up being 7 hours.  Needless to say we were pretty thrashed by the time we got back home to London.  The whole trip was so fun, even though Scotland was out to get us. I think Scotland won.  

Oh yeah, and I love this guy.  It's always good to be prepared. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Chapter Seven

I have fallen in love... with England. It's decided... I don't know if the feeling is mutual, but I like to think it is. 

Thursday we went to Stratford Upon Avon... the birthplace of Shakespeare. It was so fun! We saw Anne Hathaway's cottage and the place where Shakespeare was born.   We seem to visit a lot of houses where someone or other is born... frankly I don't really like thinking about the fact that they were born there.  We tried to see Shakespeare's grave but the church closed right before we got there.  We did see this pretty rainbow though! 

Holli, Sara and I being Shakespearean in front of Shakespeare's home. 

Rebbie and I in this hut. You go in there if you are suffering from unrequited love... I don't know if I am suffering from unrequited love, actually I know that I am not... but since Spenser's on a mission I think that that might count :) 
We finished up the night with a performance of Love's Labors Lost by the Royal Shakespeare Company.  The show was amazing... I really have never seen a better Shakespeare show, which isn't surprising since they are supposed to be the best in the world.  It was the best way to end my lovely Stratford shakespearience. 

Yesterday was a super fun/wonderful/stressful day. We went to St. Paul's Cathedral. I LOVE St. Paul's.  I love the outside. I love the inside.  I love the sparkely mosaics.  I love the whispering gallery, and the all the stairs up the tippy top of the Cathedral.  I have always had this odd fetish for architecture and houses... I would read the Sunday house sales and everything. Anyways I guess that's why I love the architecture here, St. Pauls may be my favorite. We have been learning about the Baroque architecture, which makes it more fun too! I am a nerd. Anyways we trekked up like 500 stairs to get to the top.  The view was so worth it.  I loved it. 

Holli and I on the steps of St. Pauls. It's kind of massive and huge, so its hard to get the whole thing in the picture.

Hello lovely London. 

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Chapter Six

Okay, okay I know everyone is probably sick of me saying that this is amazing and that is amazing, but really that is the only way to describe England.  Maybe I need to expand my vocabulary, but until I do amazing will have to suffice.  

This week we went to the north of England specifically Liverpool, Preston, the Lake District, Haworth, and Chatsworth.  As always, it was amazing, but the thing I loved most about this trip was how different each day was.  There were very spiritual, beautiful, and fun things that I saw and felt.  

Our first stop was the Quarry Bank Mill.  We took a tour of the mill and were able to see all the different machines that were used during the Industrial Era.  I had always wondered how fabric was made and now I know! But more importantly than that I really learned a lot about my heritage.  A lot of my ancestors from my dad's side are from a town called Oldham in Lancashire.  Oldham was completely dedicated to cotton factories.  I most likely had ancestors who worked in these factories and it was an amazing experience to see what their lives would be like.  They would work twelve hour days in noisy, polluted, and dangerous conditions.  I can't even imagine working for that long, and it puts my 8 hour office job to shame.  I can't believe I ever complained about sitting behind a desk all day! It made me so grateful for the things that I have and all my many blessings.  

Our next stop was Liverpool, home of the Beatles! Yay.  We visited the Cavern Club which was the first place they played at and reveled in the Beatleness of Liverpool.  It was fun. 

The best part of the day was the Liverpool Docks.  These docks are where all of the Latter Day Saint converts left to go to America.  I was able to see where my ancestors left from to give their posterity a better life.   They gave up their homes, their friends, and everything they knew for their faith.  It was so amazing to look at the same body of water that they looked at and contemplate the sacrifices that they made for me.  I am so grateful for their sacrifice so that I can be able to have the blessings of the gospel in my life.  

The Liverpool docks at night.  It started raining and we got so soaked shortly after this.  I love the England rain!

This picture is next to the statue that the church donated and commemorates all the families that left from Liverpool.  

After Liverpool we went to the Preston Temple.  It is so beautiful.  We admired the beauty of the temple and I played ring around the rosie with Francis, Professor Benfell's darling daughter.  She says it's okay to color even though I am almost nineteen years old.  I tend to agree.  

We then took a tour of Preston, which is the first place that the missionaries taught in Britian.  I learned a ton about the history of the church in this area and saw the place where the first baptisms took place.  It was really great to see how the church developed in England and all the amazing miracles that took place.  

This is the River Ribble. The first converts to the church were baptized under that bridge... well at least that's what they think. The bridge has been rebuilt. But they were baptized in the River Ribble.... River Ribble, has a nice ring to it huh?

The next day was one of the best days, among all of my many best days. We went to the Lake District, which is one of the the 1000 Places to See Before You Die. So I guess now I can check it off the the list.  It is such a beautiful area.  I really loved it and would love to own a home there (I guess I'll have to have a bunch of summer homes in England).  The whole Lake District is filled green rolling hills and mountains.  There are little creeks running everywhere and sheep just roaming about. I love sheep. The lakes are so beautiful and realllllllllly cold. I would know. We went swimming on our first night.  I guess I should have figured that my skin would be numb after getting out, after all the lake is glacier fed. But it was really fun and was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  And don't worry mom I am not sick, and did not catch my death or anything. This is the view of the lake from our hostel.... it's okay I guess :)

The Lake District is home to some famous people.  We visited Henry Wordsworth's cottage. It was really adorable and unfortunately I hadn't ever read Henry's poetry... shame on me.  I do like it now though and am adding that to my to read list when I get home.  We also visited Beatrix Potter's home, called Hilltop Farm.  It was as cute as all her stories... and would be the perfect place for a lady like Beatrix Potter to live.  I saw Peter Rabbit's garden too!

Hilltop Farm

I thought it would be cute to do bunny ears for Peter Rabbit.  Some people weren't as enthusiastic as me I guess. 

We spent the rest of the day exploring Ambelside, which is the town we were staying in.  Almost all of the buildings in the town are made with the grey stone and there are all these stone walls everywhere, some of them are hundreds of years old. I loved it.  We ate at this cute restaurant named Lucy's On a Plate and I had the most delicious macaroni and cheese and lemon cake. It was so good.  Then we found a trail to a waterfall, just off the road in the middle of town.  I love exploring.  After our waterfall adventure we went back and had the real "hostel experience."  We made friends with the hostel workers and had a jam session.  My friend Holly is so amazing and sang some of her songs... she is going be discovered one day.  It was just an all around good day.  I have had so many of those here.  Days where there is nothing you can complain about and you go to bed completely content.  I love it.  

These are some of my friend here. Alex, Jordyn, Sara, Me, Rebbie, Brooke, and Marin. 

Our last stop was Chatsworth and we saw yet another amazing palace.  Seriously.  They are like a dime a dozen here.  Well not really, but there are a lot, and they are all so amazing.  They filmed that new movie the Duchess here, which I haven't seen. So I will have to see that.  The whole palace was filled with beautiful art, decoration, and sculpture.  This particular palace was neat because the current residents, the Duke and Duchess of something or other have a bunch of their art there as well. It was kind of fun to see the new art mixed with the old art, and just fun to see the art in general.  
After Chatsworth we had a nice long bus ride... like four hours.  So that was fun. The bus and I have become very good friends this past month.  This week was so great for so many reasons.  I really learned so much about my heritage and my faith.  It was such an amazing experience to learn about the lives of my family and what they sacrificed, and also the history of my church.  The lake district was fun and beautiful.  This whole experience has been so amazing and I can't believe I still have two whole months! I don't know how can get any better... but I have a feeling it will. 

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Chapter Five

Yesterday we went on a day trip to Blenheim Palace and Oxford University.  I know I say this a lot but it was amazing (seriously everything here is amazing).  The palace was beautiful and Oxford was beautiful and everything I do here seems to be beautiful.  

It was freezing at Blenheim Palace... well maybe not freezing but cold, and windy.  Which makes it very cold.  I think it is finally fall now.  It is getting cold and the leaves are starting to change.  I love it.  Blenheim is a Baroque Palace and it was so pretty.  There were beautiful gardens and beautiful rooms in the palace. It was the place where Winston Churchill was born too! 

The gardens were so pretty. The first thing I wanted to do when I got off of the bus was sing "The Hills Are Alive" from the Sound of Music.  I didn't but I did take a picture frolicking in the grass with my friend Hailee.  It was very satisfying. 

After Blenheim we went to Oxford.  It wasn't what I expected, well really I don't know what I expected but whatever it was it wasn't what Oxford was. That was confusing. But I did love Oxford, I guess that's all that matters.  We went and toured Magdelene's College. It was really pretty.   Here are some pictures to illustrate: 

The highlight of the day was punting down the river. Punting is a way to steer a boat down the river.  You stick this long pole to the ground and use it to push off and steer the boat. It was so fun! I gave it a go and was so close to falling in the water. Not fun. It was really hard though, especially because I have zero upper body strength. My friend Alex who didn't go with us really did fall in the water.  She has a whole new Oxford outfit now... lucky her.  Here are some pictures from my punting adventure.

We finished off our Oxford adventure with evensong.  It was so amazing.  I love being able to learn about new religions and their customs.  The service was beautiful and the mens choir was really great.  I really enjoyed being able to worship my beliefs in a different way and to learn about how other Christian religions worship.  It was a perfect end to a really great day.  

Chapter Four

So this past week, has been very crazy. I have had so much schoolwork (well really I have been catching up on schoolwork because I was off playing here).  So most of the evenings I stayed in and caught up on reading and whatnot. This semester has already been so amazing and I can't believe that I have been here almost a whole month! Ah, its crazy.  I have learned so much about so many different subjects and myself. I love being in a different culture and seeing different people.  You might not think that the British culture is much different but it is.  There are so many different ethnicities and customs here and it is a really great place to be a part of. Anyways that was may have sounded really corny, but it's true. Now for the really cool things I did this week.   

Buckingham Palace
We took a tour of state rooms of the palace. Apparently they only open these rooms up every so often so I was really excited to be able to get to go.  It was so beautiful inside! Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take pictures during the tour so I don't have any on the inside, but in a way that was nice because I could just take in the decoration and architecture of the palace.  The tour was really great and I learned a lot about the history of the palace.  

The Globe Theatre
Since I am a drama nerd I loved The Globe.  We saw a Midsummer Night's Dream here and it was so fun.  We were "groundlings" which means we only had to pay 5 pounds for our tickets but we had to stand for the whole show.  Luckily the show was really funny and engaging so I really didn't notice that my knees were about to collapse (that is an exaggeration).  Other than the standing it was really fun. 

A Stroll Through the Country
On Saturday a man from one of the stakes that we go to took us on a lovely walk through the country.  London is SO beautiful and green.  Since green is my favorite color I love it... among other reasons.  We hiked nine miles through fields, farmland, and quaint country towns.  We ate lunch at a castle... at an actual castle.  One day I would love to buy a country house and visit every summer.... I don't know if that will ever happen though. I was talking to one of the men from London about it and on the lower end of things a small town home could be about 400,000 pounds, or 800,000 dollars.  I better start saving now. 

Other Highlights:
1. Ivanov- an amazing play by Anton Chekhov.  Kenneth Branagh played Ivanov and it was the best play I have ever seen.  I was speechless at the end.
2. St. Bartholomew's Cathedral- the oldest church in London.  It looked old and smelled old and was so cool.
3. Gelato Mio- the BEST gelato I have ever had. They have delicious flavors like pear and plum.  So delicious.