Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wow, how did I get so behind!?
Not last Friday, but the Friday before:)---
Friday the whole group had a scheduled trip to Hampton Court.
It's one of the palaces of king Henry VIII. I hadn't herd of it before we went, but it was really fun. The inside was cool, but the gardens outside were my favorite. All of the trees were groomed like big mushrooms. Everything was green and beautiful! Again, we have too much fun taking pictures:)
After our time at Hampton court, we took a quick stop at Charles Darwin's home. We just read a book on him and his wife which made the house so much more interesting. Each time we go out to the countryside I realize how much more I love it.
So, in a weird way, Friday night was maybe the most fun I've had here. Liz, Carly and I decided to take a train out to Reading for a YSA dance. Carly knew someone out there who said they would pick us up. So we headed out, caught the train and arrived in Reading- all smooth sailing. But long story short the guy flaked and never came to pick us up from the train station haha. Yet, the three of us had so much fun at the station and on the train. I highly recommend tutti fruiti ice cream at the Reading UK train station, if your ever there:) a fun and crazy night.
Saturday was a free day! We were a little bummed that it was raining, but some of us decided to go explore wimbledon. I was feeling a bit stressed about getting my schoolwork all done and writing my sharing time lesson for Sunday and almost didn't go. Boy am I glad that I went!!:) I love tennis and so Wimbledon was pretty darn cool. I bought a cute baseball cap and payed to go through the history of tennis museum (so worth it!). We were a bit sad that they didn't have strawberries and cream though! I went and saw center court and to my surprise, it was a lot smaller than I pictured it. Overall it was a really fun day!

Monday was the start of one of our last full weeks in London and we took advantage of it! I started out the week by running a half marathon! Ya, no big deal haha. I told my running buddy Paige I'd go on a long run with her Monday morning, but little did I know I'd be gone 2 and a half hours and run 15 to 16 miles! But it was amazing!! It's so fun to push yourself and do things you never thought you could. I've also become a fan of running because you really get to see the city. We ran to the tower bridge along the Thames and then ran back through the city. It was a great way to start the week- and all before 9am:)
Monday and Tuesday kind of blur together into a collaboration of homework, class, walking and museums. All great stuff, but nothing sticks out.
Wednesday we spent the day in Oxford! Surprisingly I found it extremely different than Cambridge. It's a lot bigger and a different atmosphere. I loved them both; I don't think I could pick a favorite (although punting in Cambridge was one of the best memories). We really had the WHOLE day to explore. I'm so lucky I had my friend Carly. She ran the whole day; had it all scheduled out, knew the best spots and we got so much in! We toured Christs church and guess what's cool about it? They filmed Harry Potter there- the great hall to be exact. Pretty cool huh?! We also climbed the tiniest staircase ever to the top of saint marys church and looked out over the whole city/university. So pretty! Then we at lunch at the famous turf tavern pub. This place was down alleyways and had the coolest atmosphere. I got a yummy chicken club sandwich and enjoyed myself. (this is the pub where apparently bill Clinton smoked a joint or something- not exactly sure of the story). Anyway, then we did some souvenir shopping, explored and indoor market and headed home- well to the center.
Thursday again, was class and homework day. But, Thursday night a group of us went and saw the phantom of the Opera. It was amazing!! Yes, I did have a pole right in front of me, but it was worth the discounted price:) The costuming was amazing and their voices were even better. It was one of my favorites; but nothing will ever beat Les Miserables!!
Friday Liz, Paige, Carly, mike and I went on a walk through Regents park. What a gorgeous place! It almost competes with my love for Hyde Park. Then we went to Camden Market! What a cool place!! I can't believe I've lived in London this long and haven't been there before! They have everything you could ever think of at Camden; Food, clothing, art, accessories etc. We had so much fun exploring! We even found an amazing burrito shack!!! I have missed Mexican food:) Santa Fe will treat me well when I get home haha.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ballet and Little India

London is so diverse.
These last couple days have been some of my busiest here. I feel like I haven't even been at the center. Monday was Valentine's Day and even though it was hard to be away from my family and I missed them a ton, I had a wonderful day. First thing after my British literature class Kaylee, Haley and I literally ran to the train station. We never waited more than 30 seconds for a lift, tube or even our train on. It was crazy! If we wouldn't have run one set of stairs or caught one tube, we would have missed our train. It left at 11:58 and we jumped on at 11:57. Kaylee has a friend serving his mission here and we went with her out to Windsor castle to meet up with him and some other missionaries. I didn't know what it would be like, but It was just like walking around town with any normal group of people. Windsor Castle is BEAUTIFUL. It was different than the castles we visited in Scotland. Much more palace-like. As soon as we got home, we got all pretty for the ballet. I didn't know what to expect but I was excited to go do something so fancy with my girls. I did not expect to love it as much as I did! I was really enthralled every second and I want to go back so bad. I never thought that it would compete with my love for musical theatre... But somehow it did! Did I say that it wasn't just any ballet? It was Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House. I just can't tell you how much I liked it! haha
Tuesday was another busy day. Again, the second that class was out a group of us were off to a gallery. For my fine arts class we have to go to a gallery a week and do a write up on one painting we liked and one we did not. Its so fun! We didn't get to spend too much time at the gallery because we had to catch a train to south hall for part of the program. South hall is also known as little India. It is unlike any place I have been so far in London. It is really like a country inside of a country. First off, we went and visited a Hindu temple. It was an eye-opening experience. It's great to experience other cultures. After we spent some time in the temple, we explored the diversity on the street. It was definitely a rougher area of town, but it was fun to look around for a little bit. Their clothing stores are exquisite! All of their clothes, jewelry and accessories are so shiny and bright. All 40 of us had a scheduled dinner at an authentic Indian restaurant and I was a little nervous. It was my first experience with Indian food, and I loved it! Sure it was pretty darn spicy, but I thought it was just delicious! I loved the chicken tiki masala, spicy rice and naon! I'm going to try to get my family to try some when they come over:)

Wednesday was beyond wonderful. We went to the London temple. It was just what I needed. It was so beautiful and such a wonderful experience. We were there for 2 and a half hours and I still didn't want to leave:) I am so thankful for temples!

Thursday was school, school school and workout, workout, workout:) it was a pretty normal day in London. Nothing to exciting- just living in one of the greatest cities!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Wee Bit of Fun

I had three days packed of homework, school and various activities after our trip to Paris and before our trip to Scotland. I got a lot done!
Early Wednesday morning all 42 of us hopped on a train to Edinburgh (that's the capital of Scotland). Let's just say that I have become a huge fan of trains! They have more room than a bus or a plane and are much smoother. This train ride was especially wonderful because of the breathtakingly gorgeous views out the window. I tried to read my book, but I was constantly distracted by the windows. It was what I image the east coast to look like. Cool, dark water, rocky beaches and cliffs, lighthouses and vivid green grass. It was mesmerizing. I was in love with Scotland before I even stepped off the train!
I fell even more in love with it once I got there! There's just something about Edinburgh that you have to love. It has fun shops, restaurants and museums along the main road (known as the royal mile). At the top of the road is the gorgeous Edinburgh Castle that over looks the whole city and at the bottom of the royal mile is the Queens palace and parliament. As soon as we arrived we toured Edinburgh Castle. It was our first castle and I'm pretty sure that everyone loved it! It helped that it was not even close to as cold as we thought it would be. On a scale of one to Preston, it wasn't even a 4! Some girls and I stayed quite a while exploring the castle. We went in to all of the memorials and museums; and yet again, took lots of pictures:) We meet everyone back at the Hostel before we headed out for dinner. - now this was my first experience with a hostel and I will admit that I didn't know what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised! It was very nice and I really liked our little room- So, for dinner I went to my first Pub!! I know, it is HORRIBLE that I have been in London for over a month and hadn't eaten at a pub, but it just hadn't happened. We went to the Mitre pub and it was AMAZING! Some of the best food I've had yet, so I will definitely be visiting more pubs. Afterwards, some of the girls wanted some of Scotland's famous shortbread, so they stocked up with some boxes and gossip magazines. Haha we had a fun night walking around and hanging in our room.
Thursday was one of my favorite days since I've been here in Europe! It started with my good friend Paige and me going on a BEAUTIFUL run around Edinburgh. (Paige and I run every morning- rain or shine, freezing or sunny-and I love it! I've been taking pictures of everywhere we run and I'll post them all together at the end of my little adventure here in Europe) We ran up to this lookout point and saw the sun rise over the city. So fun! After a quick breakfast, we headed down and walked around parliament. The parliament building is possibly the coolest structure I have ever been in. It amazed me. Paige, Kaylee and I actually got to watch a live debate, so that was cool to see how their system works. We looked at the Palace across the street, but didn't pay for the inside tour (it was a bit pricey). Then we hiked Arthurs seat! This was one of my favorite things I've done here; I just loved every minute! Edinburgh is right next to the ocean and the views were amazing. Paige, kaylee, Carly and I had a complete blast!! The views were indescribable and the girls were so fun! We spent most of the day hiking to different peaks or ruins and taking plenty of pictures along the way:)
We had a nice little lunch at the hostel and then I took a much needed, quick little nap. Kaylee, Sharon and I set out and explored some more of the city.
We went to find what we thought would be a museum about the 300 or so convicted witches that were burned at the stake; but when we got there, it was just a plague on the side of a building. We had a good laugh:). Then we went to the Elephant cafe. This is were JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter! So yes, I've been to the birthplace of the great HP. We tried to tour the peoples museum but they kicked us out to close. So then we walked up to the top of the lookout/hill and enjoyed the view. We meet up with people back at the Hostel and walked over for Annie and dinner. We ate at this place called taste of Italy and it was pretty good, but Annie was better. It'd been a while since I'd seen the musical and it'll always have a special place in my heart; I loved it so much when I was a little girl. There were times when it was extremely cheesy, but what musical isn't?! It was a great way to end such a wonderful day.
Friday we hopped on a coach (that's what they call buses) and drove the New Lanark world heritage site. It was an old mill town and it was really beautiful. The tour was informative and interesting, but the best part was the ride. It was the oddest/weirdest/funniest attraction I have ever seen. It went less than 2 miles per hour and talked about the life of a little girl at the mill town (done in a very creepy way). "remember us, remember us"- I will never forget it. I rode with Liz and we were laughing our heads off:) We also hiked up to the waterfall that powered the mill. It was such a beautiful walk. Everything is so green even though it's winter. The walk was really relaxing and enjoyable. Afterward, we headed off to Sterling. As soon as we got there, we toured the castle. I don't know if I liked it as much as Edinburgh castle, but it was still really cool. Then we had our little "American night". Haha, we went to a very Americanized restaurant and to a movie. It was the first time I have been to the Cinema over here (they do not call it a movie theater). It was fun!!
Saturday I slept in for the first time since getting here and it was WONDERFUL!!! We headed out for the William Wallace monument at 10:15 and hiked to the top. It was on top of a hill and then 246 stairs. The view was great and the company was better. The rest of the day was spent traveling. Coach to train, train to tube, tube to home:) The London center has really become home and I love it!!
Well there's a summary of my trip to Scotland!! Enjoy

Monday, February 7, 2011

Baugettes, Cheese and Apples

My weekend in Paris:
I wish that I could include every little detail from this past weekend adventure, but I would be here all night long.
Our exciting weekend started with my alarm going off at 2:45 in the morning so that we could catch our bus at 3:40. I have inherited my mother’s disease!! I start to freak out that we are all going to be late and then get there extremely early; but better early than late:) My roommates get a kick out of it haha. So, we took a bus to the train station and had some time to spare before we boarded our Chunnel train to Paris. As soon as I was in my seat I was asleep.
When I woke up, I was in France!! I couldn’t believe that I was actually there. The only great thing about leaving so early was that we had the WHOLE day to explore. There were nine of us all together and it was perfect. I love all the girls so much. First thing we did was get some euros, buy metro tickets and find food; we were starving!:) We had to go for a classic bakery and croissants (SO good). Our first stop was the Louvre. Oh my goodness, it is so big. I never pictured it being that huge. We didn’t really have the time or the money to try to get inside, so we decided to just take pictures outside by the big glass pyramids. As we walked towards the Champs E’lysees we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel tower and I think that was when it hit me that I was really in Paris. I will admit that it was a lot colder in Paris than I was expecting. If the wind wouldn’t have been so fierce, it would have been perfect. I am excited to go back in April with the family!

So back to the story…we walked from the Louvre along the Seine River toward Notre Dame. We took a detour and went inside San-Chapelle cathedral. It was my favorite Cathedral so far, and we have been to a lot of Cathedrals! It was the perfect size; not overwhelmingly large and not too small. The walls were made entirely of stained glass and it was nice to take some time to rest while admiring the beauty of the place. After San-Chapelle, we had our first encounter with Paris restrooms (or as they say, toilettes). Everywhere we went the bathroom cost money, so we were all holding it until we could find a free one… and in front of the Notre Dame we did. It was a robotic box that cleaned itself between uses and it was quite interesting- we all got a kick out of it. Next was our first experience with a REAL crepe. I’ve had crepes before back at BYU and maybe two in London, but this crepe was beyond amazing! Maybe it was the fact that I was going off 4 hours of sleep or that I had been walking all day, but my ham and cheese was one of the best things I have ever eaten:) – I’m excited to take my brother back there.
Notre Dame was really beautiful from the outside, like any other cathedral on the inside but had the most gorgeous views from the top- the 400 stairs were completely worth it.

Afterward, we looked at the crypt (some kind of French ruins that we weren’t too interested in, but it was a warm place to walk through).

Then we headed for the Eiffel Tower. Wow, it is so much taller than I pictured it! You can see it from anywhere in Paris. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t black, but that it was brown. We loved taking pictures and walking all around it. For dinner we found a cute little bakery- got a baguette, went next door to the cheese stand- bought some French cheese, went next door to the fruit market- bought an apple and I was in Heaven!!!! I could have that meal every night:) It was just perfect.

After dinner, we meet up with some girls from the Paris study abroad program and followed them to the Young Single Adult crepe party at the institute building. I was a fun little experience and I think I would have enjoyed it so much more if I hadn’t been so exhausted. By 10:30 we were all dead and excited to go to our hotel and crash… little did we know the journey that lay ahead! Haha
I can’t explain in detail the events that occurred that Friday night in Paris, so here is the long story short. We got lost in a very sketchy area of town, found the “hotel” in that sketchy area of town, realized that our hotel was something out of a horror movie, were saved by Kinsey’s Dad making reservations at a different Hotel and booked it out of the bad situation via Taxi cab. So that is the VERY short version. It leaves out quite a bit of crying, stress and laughing, but it was something I will never forget about my first trip to Paris!! Haha (if you would like a more detailed account, press here )
Saturday started out with, again, my favorite meal (baguette, cheese and fruit)- everyone teased me that I loved it so much, but there is just nothing better! We then climbed the 284 stairs to the top and had SO SO much fun taking pictures- just being silly. We walked down and hopped on a boat tour on the Seine River. It was nice to sit, relax and see all the major sights.
Back to the Eiffel Tower! This time we rode the elevator to the very top and wow was it amazing! The view is like nothing else. The crazy part was getting down! Our elevator just decided to stop. The guy managing the lift told us that it usually happens maybe once a year for one minute, and we were stuck in the tiny claustrophobic box for 10 minutes. But, I can now say that I was stuck at the top of the Eiffel Tower and how many people can say that?
To finish up our trip we bought another crepe and did some souvenir shopping. Then again, I got all worked up about making it to the train station on time and then we got there an hour and a half early! Haha Well I loved my weekend in Paris!! But I LOVED coming back to London- it’s home now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Dreamed a Dream

Alight, time to recap this past weekend. Starting with Saturday…
Saturday morning I went on possibly the longest run I have ever been on and it was one of my favorite things I’ve done here in London. Here’s a list of things I saw/did while on my run- gorgeous Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Big Ben and Parliament, the London Eye, the Thames River, I ran across the Bridge in Harry Potter (here’s a link if you don’t know what it looks like haha), the Tower of London, and I ran across the Tower Bridge. So it was pretty much amazing; the best way to start a day!
At noon we had a tour of parliament. It was interesting to see how differently government is run here in the UK compared the US. There is so much history and ritual to the way that they do things. The building was amazing on the inside! So much detail, gold and portraits of royals. Our tour guide was liked to get right in our faces to explain things, which kept the tour interesting:) It was a really fun and different experience. When we left Parliament there was a large protest going on outside. It was CRAZY. They were yelling, marching and some of them were even throwing fire (I don't know why). In our efforts to get away from the mob of people we were walking about 15 yards in front of the protest and we like to say that we lead the riot haha. It was definitely an eye opening experience.
That night was Annie’s B-day celebration. Annie is one of my roommates here and I just love her to death!! We went to the biggest mall I have ever been to in my life! They had everything from Prada and Tiffany’s to grocery stores. We had a lot of fun browsing and exploring (mom I didn’t buy one thing!:). For dinner we went to GBK or Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I have missed burgers quite a bit and this burger was delicious; it hit the spot. For dessert we got little baby gelato cones that only cost a pound- it was perfect.

Sunday’s are wonderful here. I go to the Lea Valley ward and I love all of the people. I teach the 8 to 11 year olds in the Primary and they are the sweetest! I love their accents.
Now Monday was Kaylee and Elise day! We just happened to need to do all the same things and so we spent the whole day together and we had a good ole time:) We worked out in the morning, went to class, ate lunch, went to the National Gallery for an hour or so and then because it was such a beautiful day we walked around Big Ben and had a photo session! To end the perfect day we went and saw LES MISERABLES!! It is by far my favorite show I have seen here. It was, in one word, perfect. I am already dying to see it again:)

Tuesday was Tea. The whole center when to afternoon tea at Kensington Palace; it was so fancy. We got all dressed up and tried to act proper. Though I didn’t drink any of the tea, Kaylee and I had fun stirring in sugar cubes. We had these picturesque stacked plates of sandwiches, an orange scone (my personal favorite) and little dessert tarts. It was delicious and oh so fun.

Wednesday was our nine mile hike throughout the countryside. It was SO beautiful. I have come to really love the city but going out to the countryside reminded me about how much more I love nature. Living in Santa Fe, I sometimes forget that things can be so green, even in the winter!! The hike was not really rigorous, just really enjoyable. We stopped to eat our lunch at some castle ruins and walked through gorgeous green fields. There were three older men who led us on the walk and it was fun to talk to them along the way. They were all in London when it was being bombed in WWII. It was fascinating to hear their stories.

Today was homework day. I got all of my homework done because in a few hours 9 of us are going to PARIS!! I am so excited! We’re planning on seeing all the main tourist sites in just 2 days. We are going to have a blast! I will definitely be blogging about it when I’m back in London.
Have a great next few days!