Saturday, June 26, 2010

last day in London!

Yes, this is the last London post. After this, it's back to posting about regular life - which isn't bad, of course. Posting about regular life may be my favorite, because extracting meaning from the little everyday things is just as rewarding as writing about London (though it's probably significantly less exciting!) however. I might do another post about London shows I saw (which means that this is only probably my last post, with a strong possibility of a follow up...heheh) but that can come later! Anyway, here are a few pictures from my last day in London:

who can go to London without visiting Harrods, the largest department store in the world? and who can go to Harrods without buying some of their fabulous food? oh, we bought food. and dessert (s). this is a walnut fudge brownie from their huge chocolate/pastry/desert room. oh, yes. it was divine.

Harrods dessert part 2: strawberry pastry thing.... probably one of the best things my taste buds have ever experienced! yum yum

does it look like our last day was filled with a tribute to London food? well, I guess it was! ;) this is the famous Ben's Cookies, where we frequented to get a chocolate-orange cookie or a milk-chocolate cookie or a triple-chocolate-chunk cookie (yeah, really). here we are, sad to say goodbye!

we took a river boat on the Thames, going from Westminster bridge to the Tower Bridge... a wonderful way to see the bridges and sites along the Thames we loved - here's our boat!

me, Kathryn, and Shaina on our boat ride... with the Union Jack in the background!

me and Tower Bridge

I took this picture on our way to the London Eye.... this is a combination of two quintessential and beloved features of London - the Underground and Big Ben! I loved seeing Big Ben stick out in the city; often when we would walk around London, we would look over and there it would be, peeking out through the buildings and reminding us where we were! and the Underground... the Tube was one of my favorite things in London! (after I figured it out, of course!)

a big group of us went on the London Eye on our last night... it's definitely the biggest ferris wheel I've ever been on (and apparently, the tallest ferris wheel in Europe). this was taken when we were at the very top, with beautiful London in the background.

me and Jenny on the Eye! this lovely girl was my bunkmate... I miss her!

and this lovely girl is Stephanie Dawn (yes, we are both Dawns!) we were in the same dorm (the best dorm ever!)

me, Kathryn, and Stephanie.

left to right: Jenni, Kara, Chelsea, Whitney, and me. I love these girls!

me and Whit on the Eye with lovely London in the background... we didn't start hanging out until about halfway through the program, and we are kicking ourselves that we didn't start hanging out before! she was my amiguita that I would speak Spanish to... because she's going to serve a Spanish speaking mission! (hehe... wishful thinking! you never know, Whit!) te quiero!

our very last stop in the Tube! Notting Hill Gate was our Tube stop! (well, and Queensway too)

Kathryn and I with the Palace Court street sign - #27 Palace Court, that was us!

I miss London!

June 6-14 in pictures

this was our very last full week in London! craziness. we tried to see and do as much as we could... and it was definitely action packed! without further ado, here it is:

Dover Castle at Dover Beach, famous for its defensive significance in England's history. This site is also featured in Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" (I wrote a paper about this poem a couple semesters ago... so it was cool to see the actual site!) here are a few lines from the poem:
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay...

St. Augustine Abbey ruins - yet another abbey, yet more ruins! good thing they're all pretty cool, or it would get boring!

our "fearful faces" in Canterbury Cathedral. this was the spot that Thomas Becket was murdered because of a conflict with Henry II. Becket was made a saint, and thousands of people made a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral to honor him.

me, Chelsea and Shaina at Canterbury Cathedral doing... I'm not sure what ;)

Hampton Court Palace! Several different British monarchs inhabited this fetching huge palace, and we spent several hours looking through the palace and on the palace grounds.

amazing wall/ceiling paintings in Hampton Court! (honestly, this was huge; the picture doesn't even come close to doing it justice)

us on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace... and I'm apparently very, very happy to be there!

a statue on the grounds at Hampton Court

Chelsea, Kathryn, Shaina, Kara, Whitney and me on the "tree top walk" at Kew Gardens. First of all, Kew Gardens are amazingly expansive and gorgeously beautiful (how's that for an extended list of adjectives haha). to do the "tree top walk," we climbed up, up, up, up a huge spiral staircase until we were at the level of the tree tops, and we walked around for a few minutes up there. it was fabulous, but we tried not to look down too much! scary!

the lily pond at Kew Gardens - we sat and enjoyed the pond for awhile, and chased some peacocks around :)

Shaina and I went to see Lion King! this was our third attempt (fourth for Shaina, I think) at seeing Lion King - it was a popular show, and always sold out! we were in the upper balconies (no student discount means sitting way far back!) but it ended up being a perfect spot to be.

I went to London to visit the Queen! we happened to be in London for the Trooping the Colours parade... which is the Queens "official" birthday (not her real one... this is a special birthday set aside in the summertime when it's nice outside to have a parade haha). I was really close too - isn't that crazy? that's the Queen of England!!!

even more exciting than seeing the Queen (is that possible?) is seeing the heartthrob heir to the throne, Prince William (sitting in a carriage with his step mum, Camilla). I'm posting this especially for Akayleia - she spent much of her youth completely devoted to Prince Will! I even remember writing a short story about the marriage of Akayleia and William in junior high school. :D

the picture everyone has to have in London! :)

Whit and I wanted to take a picture with one of the statue men in Covent Garden. this guy was a statue with a sense of humor... as you can tell, he's trying hard to make the picture awkward for us by sticking his hand in our ears and playing with our hair... creep-o! we forgave him because he was talented at being a statue. and we even tipped him!

Kathryn and I at the Natural History Museum... I had never seen a dinosaur before! so this museum made me feel like a little kid again :)

Baker Street tube stop! we even stopped by 221B Baker Street to visit Holmes himself!

this silly picture is all of the "name doubles" in the London group, and we're all doing awkward prom date poses hehe. there were Natalies, Chelseas, Stephanies, Megans, Jessicas, Jennys and Katelins! crazy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

tea party!

Yes, this is what you think. A real, true, legitimate British tea party. After all, who can go to London and not have afternoon tea at least once? Me, Shaina, Kathryn and Chelsea dressed up and headed off to the Orangery, a restaurant in Kensington Palace famous for its afternoon tea. Of course, we didn't partake of traditional English tea (tipping my hat to the Word of Wisdom), but we chose between herbal tea and hot chocolate. It was YUM-O! as Rachael Ray would say.

Here we are, waiting in line at the Orangery! This was an occasion that called for a lovely dress (borrowed from the closet of Jessica) and fabulous earrings (given to me by Sabrina). Ready to go!

What a lovely place to have afternoon tea!

Check out the gorgeous tea trays! Our afternoon tea came complete with little finger sandwiches, an orange scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam, a mini fruit tart, and an ├ęclair. and of course, the tea! I had a yummy fresh mint leaf tea (pictured far right) :D yum!

showing off the fruit tart topped with a red currant

we enlisted the help of our waiter to take a picture so we could document our wonderful afternoon tea experience together! bottoms up!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Northwest England Trip

Pictures galore! We took a trip into Northwest England, hitting Haworth, the Lake District, Liverpool, and Wales. Here are the highlights from the trip:

Haworth is where the Bronte Parsonage is located, the parsonage of Charlotte and Emily Bronte's family. Haworth is located on the moorland of England, which basically means lots of hills, grass, bad weather, and a perfectly creepy setting for books like Wuthering Heights. We actually stopped by on a beautiful day, and our tour guide informed us that we were quite lucky to enjoy such lovely weather! This picture was taken inside the Bronte home - it's a portrait of Charlotte Bronte (the author of my beloved Jane Eyre!)

Here's me standing next to the church and cemetery adjoining the Bronte home. The graveyard has a mystically ancient feel about it and, I'm sure, helped inspire the Bronte sisters' writing (especially Wuthering Heights, which is actually set on the moorlands, and has its fair share of mystical and creepy). This was one of my favorite literary sites in England - and I celebrated the occasion by buying a beautiful edition of Jane Eyre with a little stamp inside that said "Purchased at the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth." :) !

Welcome to the Lake District! one of England's national parks. It's a mountainous region with something like 20 lakes and is absolutely and impressively gorgeous! Basically, the Lake District is the marriage of two of my favorite things: mountains and English countryside. It's the landscape that inspires Mary Bennett to quip "what are men to rocks and mountains?" in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Mary, I would have to agree! (sorry guys!)

This is the home of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy when they lived in the Lake District. Seeing their home nestled in the middle of the Lake District, we were all led to think "if I lived here, I would write poetry too!" Although I'm not sure if we would succeed as well as Wordsworth. I was able to appreciate, however, the landscape that inspired so much of Wordsworth's poetry. We weren't visiting during daffodil-blooming season, unfortunately, so I couldn't walk among the daffodils and quote "I wandered lonely as a cloud..." darn! maybe next time.

I picked this out as my future vacation home in the Lake District (I wish!)

This is the youth hostel we stayed in overnight in the Lake District - can you believe it? How inexplicably gorgeous! The hostel sits right on the shore of Lake Windermere, next to the little city of Ambleside (where I found a fabulous vegetarian restaurant :)

Lake Windermere at sunset

This is Beatrix Potter's cottage! Her home was, I think, my number one favorite literary site in England. The home has been kept exactly as she left it, with the exception of a little furniture rearranging to allow for tourist visits, so we were able to see everything - paintings, bedding, dolls, china - as Miss Potter left it. One of the tour guides said their goal was "if Miss Potter herself walked through the door, she would recognize it right as she left it!" I thought of my mom the whole time I was there, and how much she would have loved to see Beatrix's home - we'll visit it together one day, Mom! :)

On our way down to Liverpool, we stopped by the Preston temple. After visiting all the Gothic cathedrals and ornate buildings, the Preston temple is exquisitely simple, and I thought it helped leave a distinct impression as being different than all the other religious sites in England. There's something about seeing an LDS temple that makes me feel right at home!

Caernafron Castle in Wales - as you can see, it's pretty massive! This is where Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales, because, as I learned, the Prince of England is also crowned and called the Prince of Wales. (There's your random bit of UK trivia for the day).

Beaumaris Castle (also in Wales). This castle was really cool because, unlike Caernarfon that was made into more of a museum inside, Beaumaris was left pretty much as it was left (with the addition of a few guard rails, as you can see), so as we explored inside we felt like we stepped out of, oh I don't know, Robin Hood or something like that. ;)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

hello, America!

Here I am, back in the good ol' US of A! When I flew in Wednesday evening, I was exhausted (going on 48 hours of no sleep!) and I'm surprised I lasted until 10 30 PM. Part of it was, I'm sure, the fact that I wanted to visit with my fam, and show them my London purchases :) The day after, we were on our way down to St George! I must say, it is good to see this again:

Today in church, someone made a comment to the effect of: "we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth." After a little thought, I have to say that I completely agree. The past seven weeks in the UK, I experienced another one of the most beautiful places on earth; there is so much green! I have never been in a place with so much green - even the huge city of London is dotted with dozens of gardens and parks, so much that it was easy to forget that I was in such a large city! The English countryside is lush and alive, and I'm sure it doesn't take much coaxing there to have a beautiful garden (unlike the desert!). However....

I love Southern Utah - I love the desert. I can't think of a place more opposite the UK - the color green definitely takes a back seat, becoming much more of an accent color! The red rock (so called... it's more like burnt orange) against the wide expanse of blue sky affords a unique vista unlike so many other beautiful places on earth. Now I sound like a travel guide :) or one of those commercials on TV, trying to convince people to come to Rhode Island or Nevada or Colorado because it's the best state ever! I have to say, I had to wonder during a tourist commercial for Nevada who in their right mind would ever take a vacation to Nevada? I mean, unless you like gambling, what else is there? (for those of you from Nevada, please feel free to correct me). Anyway, maybe my romanticized view of the desert comes from the fact that the desert is where I grew up - I have so many wonderful memories filled with sagebrush, lizards, and orangey-stained socks that used to be white.

A culmination of childhood memories collected under the Southern Utah sun branded me with an endearing, yet not often expressed attachment to the desert. Last summer, standing on top of a mountain in Zion National Park, I realized what I had always known: there is a part of my soul, epidermis-like in size, that can only be touched by the desert. Angels’ Landing, one of the tallest peaks in Zion, is a perfect location to see and appreciate the desert landscape stretching for miles and miles. The climb to the top of Angels’ Landing is no easy feat; the two and a half miles to the top appears menacing at best. Determined to tackle the beast, I put my right foot forward on the trail and started up. After I trudged up the seemingly endless switchbacks that make up the first part of the hike, I held fast to the chains anchored in the rock that provide a safe passage up the cliff. Finally, I stood windswept, enchanted, and three feet away from 1500 feet of down, down, down; and I understood that no matter where I go, the desert of Southern Utah will always be my home!

PS: now that I'm home from the UK and free from the yolk of school for the summer, I have big plans for posting much more often! I'm going to start by posting more pics from my UK trip, so be watching for that soon :)