Monday, April 26, 2010

Stranded in London (volcano crisis) and on to Backpacking!

Friday 4/16
The whole BYU Centre is a bit on edge today... we were all supposed to leave tomorrow but with the Icelandic volcano eruption that doesn't seem possible. The eruption created a giant ash cloud that's blocking the airspace above the UK, so all flights are still grounded, indefinitely. The worst part is not knowing when planes will be back up... As of tonight they keep canceling flights every few hours. I guess I'm not flying to Lisbon tomorrow... Haha you never really think of England as an island until you're stranded on it!

But on a happier note I had a great day today. This morning Ali and I went to see the Changing of the Guards (finally!) at Buckingham Palace. It was a beautiful sunny day (never any sign of ash) and so warm! I loved seeing the Royal British guards in uniform with the great marching band and formality and all... British patriotism in full force. As soon as I got home I started packing! It took me hours and hours... I barely fit everything in to my 2 suitcases! I was literally jumping on a suitcase. I didn't realize how many souvenirs and clothing I'd bought here! A lot of girls are mailing things home and leaving stuff here... but I can't seem to part with anything haha.

This evening I got to see Melinda and her family! They've been traveling on holiday and have been in southern England recently, and came by today to pick up mine and Ali's luggage, to hold it for us while we go backpacking for a month... so helpful! It was so fun seeing them!! They came to the Centre and I even brought Clara all the way up to my dorm. She said it was very messy, which is an understatement. It's a disaster area of half-packed suitcases and giant mess piles. With everyones' flights canceled, no one has finished packing. That and our room is always a pigsty anyway.

We packed the luggage into Melinda's car and went to dinner at Nando's together. Delicious. Her kids are adorable! We went back to the Centre and Melinda gave me a huge box full of Easter candy! Chocolate and candy and 5 packages of digestives!! I was thrilled to say the least. I do happen to like British candy... :) There were doubles of everything so Ali had a share of the love too :) I love you guys!

Saturday 4/17
Well... no chance of catching a flight to Portugal today. My backpacking trip is delayed indefinitely. There have been panicked overblown rumors flying around that the Centre was kicking us out on monday (the program ended today) so this morning we had a program meeting, and our director Macfarlane assured us (with a message from BYU) that we would be taken care of here. We can stay at the Centre until we find a way home, and if necessary they'll put us up in hostels. Still though, everyone's going a little mad. People are stressed about getting home (for some people it's urgent... they could miss weddings, graduation, the start of spring semester, etc). And of course the mice have now taken over my room. They're not afraid of us anymore! They come out at night, leaping over our mess and looking for food that (hopefully..) doesn't even exist in our room! It's disgusting. And I'm feeling stranded and kind of trapped here! Normally I would love extra days in London, but I'm anxious to start my backpacking trip! I don't want to miss out on anything we've planned. Although... London is a great place to be stranded in. :) This isn't a natural disaster or anything dangerous, so I'm lucky that I have shelter and everything I need to wait out the ash cloud. I'm just waiting in limbo...

Today Ali and I went to Portobello Road for the last time (haha my third time saying that) and it was a lovely spring day. Ash-free of course. I got a famous Hummingbird Bakery cupcake and a chocolate crepe. We spent the rest of the day looking for an escape route to the continent (much easier than trying to get to America!). We're getting creative. The Chunnel (the underwater train to France/Belgium) has been insane the last couple days (I saw pictures on the news... Overcrowded chaos). We've been looking into ferries, the ferry to Spain in 24 hours long (woo!) and if it lets us get through we'll book that. We rescheduled our Lisbon flight for tomorrow night but who knows...
PS and tonight Cam, Ali Calvin, Katie, Jake and I went out to dinner at a great Italian restaurant on Queensway. It's amazing that I've lived so close to it but never went! Yay for second chances. :)  
AND tonight a group of us watched the original BBC 6-hour-long Pride and Prejudice! It was fun but I almost didn't last... we started it at 9 pm haha.
PSS and technically today was my first day of backpacking! I will be wearing the same 4 t-shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 2 pairs of jeans, and 1 black (boys') jacket for the next month or so. I've got 1 pair of sneakers, not really any jewelry, limited make-up, 1 little micro-fiber towel, and a bar of shampoo-conditioner. Yay for my new backpacking-grunge style! I kinda miss my colorful cardigans already haha. But this is an adventure. :)

Sunday 4/18
Another day of escape-planning and watching movies. Our flight tonight was canceled, of course. The ferries are booked through next week. But by some miracle we found a Chunnel to Brussels on Wednesday, for an almost normal price of £75! Chunnel prices for the next couple days have skyrocketed to like £400. We booked the Chunnel immediately... I feel so relieved that we have a way to the continent! We're just going to delay our backpacking trip a few days, but not cut out anything. :) Haha and since we are getting to Belgium (where we had planned to end our trip) we are doing the entire trip backwards! We have to reschedule some fights and hostel bookings, but it'll be fine.
Today we had our last Centre dinner (again haha) and for my crew, kitchen duty was reinstated. Yuck. People ditched out, again, but it wasn't so bad because other people helped.

Monday 4/19
Today was fabulous! I slept in and then spent the rest of the day out enjoying London, which I haven't been able to do in over a week (since before finals). Haha and we were supposed to be out of the Centre today since they're starting clean-up and construction work inside. Ali and I topped up our Tube passes and went to Piccadilly Circus. We'd planned to go to the Rail Europe office to book much-needed train reservations, but there were hundreds of people in line! Literally, the line stretched around the corner, down the block, around the corner, down the block, and on. We decided to return tomorrow morning, and instead got lunch at Eat. I will miss these cute places! We enjoyed walking around for awhile, and ended up in front of the new musical Hair, which we bought tickets to see tonight, on a whim.
Next we took the tube over to Tate Britain, which I hadn't seen much of. It wasn't as great as 'd expected... apparently the only room I had seen before (on a class field trip) was the best room in the museum. There was some dumb modern art, medieval Christian art, and some good 18th and 19th century art. Afterwards we went to Westminster, my favorite place in London! I saw Big Ben, the London Eye, and Parliament for the last time. We took lots of London-y pictures of Big Ben and red telephone booths and other things I love here. :) I also got my favorite Tesco chocolates there. We walked to Trafalgar Square and spent some time in the National Gallery, one of my favorite museums. We got dinner at Little Frankie's, a cute little American-Italian diner nearby, and then walked to Piccadily Circus. I freaking love London! We wandered around, people-watching, and then we saw the show Hair. It was.. wow. Definitely an experience haha. It's all about  hippies, sex, and drugs. I didn't love it at first, because it was kind of repetitive and there wasn't really a plot. Right before intermission the whole cast stripped naked in seconds! It happened so fast I was shocked haha. Kind of disturbing. I liked the second half much better though. The show was about hippies in the 60s (free love and wacked-out drugs) and the Vietnam War. Throughout the show the actors got involved with the audience by climbing on top of chairs and passing out daisies and fliers. It was fun and at the end everyone was dancing... some of the audience got on stage to dance, and Ali decided to do it and tried to bring me with her, which I stubbornly refused. I usually avoid stages haha. And I'm not that coordinated. :) So she ran on stage and danced with everyone... by the time he came back I already regretted not going up there with her! It looked so fun! Bummer. Next time I get a chance to do something like that, I will!

Tuesday 4/20
My last day in London! Sad. Ali and I woke up early to get to the Rail Europe office before it opened... good thing we did! We were #88 in line, and they only see 145 people a day. We waited in line 4 and a half hours! We met some interesting people; two (Boston University) study abroad students-turned-backpackers (like us) a cute old Scottish couple. We finally reached the front of the queue and the cranky stressed-out manager turned us away and said that we were just trying to go on holiday and they were only helping emergencies, and that we couldn't get our rail pass-holder discount! We panicked, because we can't go backpacking without making train reservations and this office is the only way to do it, until the guy at our desk said it'd be fine. We were able to book every train we needed reservations for, and other big ones we needed in case the trains were overcrowded. By the time we left we'd spent over 5 hours at the Rail Europe office!
Our next stop was lunch, and then we took the tube home. We spent awhile wandering Kensington Gardens... which was gorgeous. Spring is finally in full bloom, so the trees and flowers were all green and colorful and pretty, and everyone was out with their dog or kids. And we met our first celebrity! Haha although we didn't know it... His dog jumped on us and he was apologizing, and then some teenagers behind us freaked out and asked for a picture with him, and we heard that his name was Alan. Later we googled him and recognized him as the British comedian/actor Alan Carr. I finally saw a celebrity in London. Pretty cool. :)
We spent the rest of the day in the Centre, hanging out with people and having our last program devotional. Ali, Cam, Calvin and I got dinner at Tuk Tuk Thai, and afterwards I enjoyed one last Magnum ice cream bar. Ali and I booked all of our hostels for April, packed our big backpacks, and said goodbye to everyone. It was sad... I'm going to miss so many of the amazing people that I've met here! London study abroad has pretty much been the best (and the coolest) experience of my life. This has been the most fun, busy, thrilling, new, exciting semester of my life here in London, and I have seen and experienced so many amazing things! If I didn’t have so many journal entries and thousands of pictures I don’t know if I’d believe it all. And my adventures get to continue for another month! I am so lucky and blessed and I am so grateful to my parents for helping me get this far and keep going. I most definitely couldn’t have done any of this without them. I love you guys so much! I can’t wait to see you all in May. I have lots of stories and pictures and presents for you. :) Traveling through Europe is fulfilling my biggest dream and I am so thrilled to continue my adventures!

PS Update: the ash cloud cleared enough wednesday 4/21 for planes to fly! Nice timing :)

PPS. Ali and I are backpacking through Europe for 1 month, and we are visiting...
Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Florence (on my birthday! a dream come true...), Siena, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon! Then back to London and then home to California! Woo! :)

Blog: to be continued....

Last week (ish) of London Study Abroad!

Ok. Well I am officially 6 days into my fabulous European backpacking adventure (which i will write about afterwards...) but first I need to blog about my last week of study abroad and the extra days I got in London due to the crazy Iceland volcano eruption crisis! Which left me stranded there for an extra 4 days... :) I won't be able to post pictures til I get home in May because I don't have my laptop with all my pictures, but I wrote all this a week or two ago...

My last week of London Study Abroad

Wednesday 4/7
We took a field trip to see Parliament, the Cabinet War Rooms, and the Churchill Museum. Parliament was huge and amazing; some of it looked like a cathedral and some looked like a royal palace. Haha then our tour guide told us that Parliament has been a cathedral and it was a royal palace until the 1500s. Everything was so impressive! We walked through the Chambers for the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and the Queen’s royal throne in the House of Lords Chamber. I loved Parliament.
Afterward we walked around and we were all a little hyper. We took some fun pictures. :) We headed to Trafalgar Square for lunch (Pret) and then we walked to Whitehall to the Cabinet War Rooms, which is in the underground bunker used during the blitz bombing of WWII. The rooms were preserved as they were in the 1940s, and there was a lot of cool information about the rooms and people who worked there. It was connected with the Winston Churchill Museum, which was awesome. I love that man... he was a witty genius/hero. The museum detailed his life and it was amazing to learn so much about him (and kind of exhausting. He was a busy man). My favorite quote of his that I found: “We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm.”
Afterwards… back home, napped (finally), dinner, blogged (it’s taken me so long to catch up!), and discovered a huge leak into our shower, from the boy’s shower right above us. I really hope that one of them doesn’t crash on top of us haha.

Thursday 4/8
Today was the last day of school for 4 of my 5 classes! It was a long day and I am stressed about being behind in every class, with a mass of papers due and finals next week. Oh boy.
I took a nice walk alone down Queensway… I ran errands and mailed postcards and wandered through some souvenir shops. I finally finished souvenir shopping. Oh! And today was beautiful – a warm sunny day (t-shirt weather)! I loved it. People seemed extra friendly today and I loved it. Sun was shining! Flowers were blooming! I took pictures of it all. Tourist time. :)
After dinner Ali and I went to see Billy Elliot! It was AMAZING. I expected a great show because I love the movie and I’ve heard so much about the show... I’ve been wanting to see it since January! It really was fantastic. Great music and dancing and story… ok I also may have almost cried (twice). It was just so good! It was one of the best shows I’ve seen here… right up there with Les Mis. Billy Elliot was definitely the best new show I’ve seen in London. AH so good. I can’t wait for my mom to see it! She introduced Billy Elliot to me. :)

Friday 4/9
Our last field trip – we took a boat tour down the river Thames, from Big Ben to Greenwich, and then we explored Greenwich awhile. The tour was fantastic! Touristy but a great ending (ahh I didn’t say that) to our sightseeing in London. We sailed past Big Ben, the Eye, Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the business district’s skyline. I loved it all. Beautiful day too… so sunny it was blinding! Haha I don’t think my eyes are used to sunlight yet.
At Greenwich we walked through the park up to the Royal Observatory, where the Greenwich Prime Meridian line is, separating the hemispheres. I stood in two hemispheres at once! Sweet. On the way back through town I got my first Magnum brand ice cream bar! It was amazing. I was so tired on the tube ride home that I fell asleep on it… in public! Every time I have ever fallen asleep in public has been on the tube in London. :)
Tonight – got Whitely’s waffles :)

Saturday 4/10
Slept in, went to Portobello Road Market, for the last time! So sad. It was warm and sunny again! I love spring. I notice (and appreciate) it so much more when I’ve suffered through a long cold gray winter (in utah and england). I wore sunglasses for the first time all year! It was exciting. I got a chocolate crepe and an apple tart.. couldn’t find much else. I will miss that place dearly.
Dinner at Khan’s with some great people – Laura, Ali, Cam, Calvin, Alyssa, and Mary.
Wasted time, no homework today.. whoops.

Sunday 4/11
Time is moving by way too fast!! I blogged, emailed, skyped, had our last centre dinner, we had a program fireside-testimony, and I blogged.

Monday 4/12
Last day of class! (Mythology). Spent the whole rest of the day doing assignments I should have done all semester. Ugh. Only left the centre for Tesco – lunch, and diet coke and candy. :)

Tuesday 4/13
Same as yesterday... studied ALL day and went out once for a Tesco run. Coke and candy. The centre is full of pale zombies and dozens of bottles of Coke haha.

Wednesday 4/14
Finals 8 am to 9 pm (6 hrs of tests) ew. More Tesco runs... candy overload... for the sugar energy and because I'll miss British candy! I'm getting all my favorite candies this week... sentimental reasons. :) I tried a Tesco brand red bull too but it was nasty. I'm so tired. Went to bed at 5 am last night.
Everyone was up all tonight (someone even slept in the library!) Dead zombies all. Went to bed at 5 again.
This is like a social experiment – coop everyone up in centre (no escape) and make them study their brains out and chug diet cokes and energy drinks while depriving the of sleep haha. Ohh college. Even on study broad it's not much easier. I feel a dead hermit... a zombie. One more day of finals!
PS oh! and mice have infested our room. Lovely.

Thursday 4/15
I took my last 2 finals! And wrote like 7 mini-papers. DONE. No more school!
I had my last mcdonalds sweet chili chicken sandwich :)
Today we had our last program meeting – Macfarlane sang a funny tribute to Susan Howe (to the tune of a Wicked song) and it was hilarious, especially with his awesome singing voice! :) We had a pizza party and dozens of dozens of Ben's cookies (very popular among us students).

Update: Well today we heard about a massive volcano eruption in Iceland!!! There are no flights in or out of England, indefinitely... My fight to Lisbon (where I start my backpacking trip) leaves Saturday morning... crossing my fingers...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easter and the Cuban Ballet

Saturday 4/3
I woke up to the smell of delicious waffles (yes the smell reached us up here on the 4th floor) made by the fabulous Terri Shuler (the facilitator's wife). Home-ade waffles with chocolate sauce and strawberries - yum. I mailed home a big package of candy to my lucky family (i think 10+ candy bars?). I finally successfully bought tickets to see Billy Elliot this week! I am so psyched. Ali and I spent some time on Oxford Street (shopper's paradise) and i got a few clothes for backpacking. Good thing i'm broke or I might have gone on a shopping spree! I love London window-shopping though. Haha actually I went into about 10 or 15 souvenir shops today looking for some presents for my sisters, brother, and mom. I also bought a union jack flag purse. Cheesy but fun. Spent the night blogging and emailing haha. Somehow went to bed at 5 am doing this. What a night. :)

Sunday 4/4
Happy Easter! We had a lovely Easter brunch at the Centre which looked like a tea party buffet. It was adorable. Lots of dainty little things, tarts, coffee cake, and yummy food. I ate Cadbury chocolate eggs today in honor of my mom's Easter tradition. :) We had an Easter program with musical numbers and talks. A few of us took pictures all dressed up, and then Ali and I went to Kensington Garden. It started as a stroll through the park and an excuse to feed bread to the ducks, and it ended as a photoshoot. It was a wonderful Easter afternoon. AND flowers are starting to bloom! The daffodils are out (pre-planted) and sooo pretty. I wish Spring would bloom faster! This was the most beautiful Easter of my life. Wow i love London.
I got to skype my family today, blogged, etc. Some of my friends here got back from Scotand tonight! They talked about eating haggis and sailing over the creepy Loch Ness (no monster sightings) and meeting hilarious friendly people with great accents. I'm sad I won't get to visit Scotland on this Europe trip! Someday.
and i love these girls
There are lots of photos from today but here are some of my favorites...
ali's shots of me
my shots of ali... to be continued.. :) 
Monday 4/5
Classes, then Ali and I went to Trafalgar Square to get tickets for the Ballet! The Cuban National Ballet. I've been wanting to see a ballet all semester and planned to see it this weekend when Cinderella opened. Student tickets sold out immediately and just when I thought all was lost, our director told us there was some leftover money in the program and that each of us could have £60 to see something classical/educational (ballet, opera, classical concert, and some plays - including Les Mis). I would have preferred the cash... but they wouldn't hand it out. I used the money to get great seats at a Ballet! Cinderella wasn't open yet (and seemed sold out) so we got tickes to see the Cuban National Ballet perform Magia de la Danza. It sounds random but i am thrilled! Today i got a ferrero rocher flavored ice cream cone and sat relaxing, looking across the street at Kensington Garden (a 4 minutes' walk from the Centre). The sun even shined for while. I was so happy. Is it weird to still have simple experiences like this feel surreal and magical? Almost perfect. I am so satisfied to sit in pretty London and people-watch and eat good ice cream especially if there's sunshine. I don't want to leave yet! PS my birthday is in 1 month! yay. :)
Trafalgar Square
london love
Tuesday 4/6
Today was lovely. After class we had lunch at Eat (like Pret) and then went to Primark… I will miss that crazy store. I won’t miss the constant madhouse crowds though. I bought a cardigan (ok maybe 2.. so cheap! Primark miracles haha) and a pink dress! That’s right. Light pink with polka dots and 1940s-ish ruffles on the side. I love it so much. It’s one of those purchases that make your day. We got home and dressed up for the ballet (I wore my new dress!) and actually had a nice dinner at Italian restaurant Zizzi’s. Real restaurants are a big deal. :) Haha we used a ‘buy one meal get another for £1 deal.’ We went all out – appetizer, big pizzas, and dessert (cinnamon gelato!). It was delicious.
trafalgar square
We headed to Trafalgar Square to the London Coliseum, to see Ballet Nacional de Cuba perform Magia de la Danza. My first real ballet! It was amazing. Unfortunately I was exhausted and my eyes closed a few times without my noticing (seriously I thought I was watching it and then realized I missed some of it haha). Sad. But the darkness and soft music and my drowsiness was a bad combination. I had chocolate in the intermission and that helped wake me up.
Anyway the Ballet! I absolutely loved it. We has great seats in the Dress Circle (first row up) and the performance was perfect for me because it was a sampler of highlights from seven ballets! I saw ballet from Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker (my favorite), Coppelia, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, and a Gottschalk Symphony scene. It as a mix of classical ballet and fold dance ballet and a Spanish matador-themed ballet! What an amazing ballet.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

North Trip part 2

Wednesday 3/31
Day 3. The week continues. on and on. We left Durham castle (they served a very British breakfast. Not my favorite) and we drove through the English countryside for awhile... very pretty and shockingly green. Lots of sheep in pastures. We kept driving and it started snowing! Our first stop was Hadrian's Wall, a Roman wall ruin. I'll try to be positive but it was the worst stop of the week (even the directors admitted that afterwards). It was freezing and blizzarding and extremely windy, and they didn't warn us that the walk up to the Roman ruins would be a long hike up a snowy muddy hill. Not fun. I slipped every other step and almost fell a lot but luckily didn't. After a few minutes my poor sad boots (worn thin with holes in the heel and ripping at the seams...) did not last. My socks got soaked through. It was miserable and so dreadful that I gave up and stayed at the museum (3/4 of the way to the ruins). So i never even saw the ruins. :) My feet were cold and wet (ew) so i trudged back down the hill and spent awhile in the bathroom trying to dry my soggy socks and boots with the hand dryer. At least I had another pair of socks to change into! I'm glad I didn't go all the way up because everyone said it was a disappointment; small and rather lame and most people fell at one point.
trudging up the miserable hill...
the ruins at the top (which i never saw)...
yay for good attitudes!
Next we drove through part of the lake district, where the poet William Wordsworth lived. It was very pretty and the village was quaint. We visited Wordsworth's homes -  Dove Cottage and Grasmere - which were bland museums and not my favorite places to spend a lot of time. The scenery was much more interesting!
Finally we reached Hawkshead - our youth hostel for the night. It was pretty much the hostel, a lake, trees, hills, and sheep. I liked it. I explored a little but then we had 2 hours of class to attend. I almost fell asleep and started (accidently) writing random funny things in my notes. :) My boots are stiff, cold, and damp. :( This trip is destroying them! Well that and I'ver worn them nearly daily since January. I cannot wait to trash them in april!
Hawkshead. So pretty it looks fake (its not). 
This is what you do in middle-of-nowhere Hawkshead.. dance in the middle of the street :)

Thursday 4/1
Day 4. April! yikes. Time is moving too quickly. I explored Hawkshead a little and then we left Hawkshead for neighboring Hill Top Farm (home of Beatrix Potter).Well some people walked 45 minutes there but I was lazy (aka smart) and waited for the shuttle. Hill Top farm was pretty... cottage farms in the countryside. We watched Miss Potter before so i knew more about her. Lots of adorable lambs. Unfortunately touring the houses of dead famous people is still not exciting for me. And we've done that every single day on this trip! It was cute seeing all the Peter Rabbit things though.
The rest of the day didn't get any more exciting (I am spoiled by all my other adventures!). We spent the rest of the day in Preston seeing church history sites. I was especially bitter because I am dying to see Edinburgh, or any of Scotland! We were supposed to go there on this North trip but they cut it out... so we can get a whole day of church history sites in. We spent the afternoon in Preston (which the shuttle driver earlier called an ugly violent town) with our wordy mormon tour guide. We wandered all over and around the town, and got funny looks... a group of 50 people wearing awkward headsets and criscrossing the town (which is not exactly a tourist destination). We got attacked by swarms of bugs. And it was a long tour! Like a few hours. It was interesting to see places we learned about in our religion class... but I got bored and most of us in the back of the group (the cool people haha) goofed around, poked each other wth branches, etc. But I like acting like a 5 year old sometimes. :) After Preston we visited the Preston temple, which was nice. For some reason that temple reminds me of a robot. The grounds were pretty.
Our last stop was Liverpool! Cool city. Second biggest in England (i think). We checked in at a hotel then Cam, Calvin, Ali and I went out to find dinner. They got fish and chips, I got McDonalds. What can I say :) It is better here I swear! Their sweet chili chicken sandwich is my favorite sandwhich ever. Oh and I got  creme egg mcflurry. They're seasonal (for Easter) so I can't miss an opportunity to eat one! Liverpool is a bit sketchy. But I like cities. I like how big they are and how fascinating it is to wander aimlessly and people-watch. I want to go back to London and get lost in the city!
Friday 4/2
Day 5! We spent the morning in Liverpool so we didn’t have time to see much unfortunately (let’s just say that I would have planned The North Trip rather differently). We all went down to Albert Dock on the river Mersey, and then most of us went over to the Beatles Museum! It was great. It was even cooler because they were from Liverpool, and there were replicas of their first band stage and lots of cool stories and paraphernalia etc. And good background music. I love the Beatles! I got a snazzy Beatles t-shirt.
Afterwards – I got a chocolate crepe in a big Liverpool shopping area nearby, and then headed back to the coach. A few girls got lost and got back on the coach half an hour late, so we didn’t have time to visit our last stop on the trip – Coventry Cathedral. We watched The Importance of Being Earnest and Amazing Grace on the long ride home. Both were great! It was actually nice on the way home because some students left from Liverpool to travel for the weekend (Scotland) so there was room on the bus and it was quieter. I was sad though because Melinda and her family live in Harrogate in northern England, and it was so sad to be in the area and not get to see them! All wrong. :( I miss them and wish it was easier to see them more often here while we’re both in England.
We got lunch/dinner at some truck stop type place. I forgo-ed the grossness and waited until London for dinner (went to Nando’s… yum).
London sweet London! So glad to be back. :) No more wearing a puffy snow coat 5 days in a row! No more snow! AND my camera finally came in the mail!! Yay. Tonight we celebrated Margaret’s birthday (cake and ice cream) then watched Bend It Like Beckham. Another movie set in London (and Southall)! So cool.
PS. I saw this sign in Liverpool and laughed. :)

North Trip part 1

This week we went on a 5-day trip through Northern England. On a coach every day... with 50 people... it was a long trip. We saw some cool things and some not-so-cool. But i liked getting to see a different part of England. Here's the first half of the trip!

Monday 3/29
Day 1. We left early for a long coach ride, and watched Bright Star (good movie about the poet John Keats. I maybe almost cried..). Our first stop was one of the best of the week - Chatsworth House. A mansion actually. Dukes and duchesses live there, and it is gorgeous! We were especially excited because in the Pride and Prejudice movie (with Keira Knightley) it is Darcy's home - the Pemberly house! I recognized it :) I recognized the black/white checkered floor, the mythology-adorned ceiling, the room with all the white statues (no bust of Mr. Darcy though), the staircase outside, and the fountain they sit in front of in the last scene. Yes I really like this movie. Other rooms included an display of historical paintings, antique furniture, and a cute display of Elvis paraphernalia kept by an old duchess. Outside everything was SO pretty even though it was gray and raining. There were gardens, paths, fountains, lakes, a waterfall, rock formations, and even a mini-maze. Gorgeous.
cam and i
When we boarded the coach we immediately started watching Pride and Prejudice! I have seen it quite a few times here, but this time was the best because I had just been to Pemberly! :) We all went a little crazy (well there were 36 girls on the bus) and we got very irritated (fiesty) whenever our talkative bus driver Tony interrupted the movie to point out random things on the road.

Next stop - Haworth, home of the Bronte house/museum. It was.. an interesting place. It's the setting of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and we saw the moors - dark and foggy and wild. Kind of creepy. Very cold and wet. It fit the mood of the Bronte's town. The countryside was pretty still... lots of green underneath the fog. Next to the Bronte house was a huge cemetery that added to a gloomy atmosphere.
Last stop - York. We didn't see the historic parts of town because we got in late. A group of us got dinner at a pub where I tried rootbeer (the drink i miss the most) but it always tastes wrong here! Well apparently it had actual root flavoring in it. Nasty. Every lemonade and rootbeer I've tasted were just wrong here. The pub had some cute guys but they were mostly drunks. Afterwards we stopped at Sainsbury... where I meant to buy healthy snacks for tuesday but ended up buying a diet coke and 5 candy bars. (2 were for my mom!). Gross haha. :) We stayed in a hotel for the first night.

Tuesday 3/30
Day 2. We went further into York, walking on a big medieval wall surrounding York. It was pretty cool. We reached York Minster, a big old cathedral. Massive and gorgeous. I probably overuse those words… but they describe many cathedrals very well. :) York Minster is quite ornate and gothic, with, of course, beautiful stained glass. After a lengthy tour we saw the crypt underground but it was piles of Roman ruins of something… not much to see. York Minster reminds me of Notre Dame a bit. I love that I can say that. :)
After York Minster Ali and I hurried over to find a McDonald’s (God bless McDonalds for free wi-fi and cheap good-ish food!) so I could email my parents about next year's class schedule (my registration opens up while I’m in the North) and eat lunch (and yet another crème egg mcflurry! yum). Sadly I didn’t have time to explore anywhere else in York, but it seems to be an interesting town. :)
Our next stop was Fountains Abbey. It’s a very old ruin of an abbey, and at this time of year it’s very green and muddy. Not many of us were in great moods (looong week) and it was cold and rainy (what else should we expect?) and I kept wishing that I had some rain boots to keep the mud out of my poor worn boots. But the abbey was pretty, in an ancient stone ruins kind of way.
Last stop was Durham… a tiny little town with a big castle at the top of a hill, which happens to also be a university. Tonight we got to sleep in the castle!! So freaking cool. There are dorms inside the castle and students are on break so we got to stay there.
We walked into nearby Durham cathedral and stayed to watch Evensong. A priest spoke and then the choir (young girls and teen boys) sang. The music was really pretty and I liked seeing a Catholic (or Anglican?) church service, in a cathedral no less.
A group of us had dinner at Pizza Express (which sounds cheap and crummy but it’s actually a pretty nice restaurant) and made a Tesco trip. I can’t walk out of Tesco without buying chocolate. It’s a problem (that I don’t care to fix). Walked back to the castle… about half the people I saw on the streets were other BYU students haha. Durham castle was big and a little spooky and seems to haunted… a few girls had experiences with doors opening and closing mysteriously and creepy sounds. Well it is an old castle… Freaky though. Haha so I roomed with Alyssa and i was in my room talking with Ali and we planned to surprise her when she came back in. When Alyssa knocked (doors are always locked) Ali hid in the closet and when she walked in Ali shook the closet and I yelled "For Narnia!" laughing hysterically. Then Ali burst out and said "I found Narnia!" We scared her. So funny I know. :)

London Eye, Tea at the Orangery, and museum

Saturday 3/27
Today was fun. A top day! :) Ali and i went to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which was in a really pretty old building. It was a lot of fun. There were creepy crawlies and birds (I saw a -fake- dodo bird!) and fish and fossils and learned about earthquakes and human biology. The brain is and will always be my favorite! It's just too cool. Maybe that's why I like psychology. Sadly we missed 2 of the big exhibits... Mammals was closed and the dinosuars had a really long line.
Afterwards we walked up through Hyde Park and Kensington Garden (they're connected) to the Orangery, next to Kensington Palace. We had a lovely British afternoon tea there. It was splendid. Our table had a mini orange tree on it, with a tiny shrunken orange.We both ordered a cake and tea (the whole thing- sandwhiches, cakes, biscuits, tea - was way overpriced!). I got Victoria sponge cake and rooibos tea. Both were delicious.
The Posh Life
We walked back to the Centre in pouring rain and then left again for the London Eye! Which I've been excited about for a couple months. We watched a mini-movie beforehand, which wasn't about the Eye but was like a 4-D advertisemet for it. We were there at 6 so we could see the sunset... which wasn't too clear but the view was still amazing and i loved it. It's like a giant ferris wheel in central London, over the Thames and across the river from Big Ben. You feel like you're in a slow-moving bubble over London, and at the top you realize how incredibly massive London is! It didn't end... in any direction. Wow. It was gorgeous too. It had stopped raining and among the gray clouds there were streaks of orange and pink. *sigh... I didn't want it to end. So lovely. The best was when Big Ben lit up. I may have an emotional attachment to that clock haha. It is my favorite place in England!
After our go-around the Eye ended, we wandered the area. There was an adorable carousel and a cute 'candy floss' stand (cotton candy).  i liked the rain puddles :)
We crossed the Jubilee bridge (best view in London) to the other side and walked to Big Ben. everything as lit up and beautiful. We saw CJ there taking pictures, and then the 3 of us went to dinner at Khan's. Top day!
--except for the part where I procrastinated and then stay up all night writing a paper. Got 45 minutes of sleep! :(
Sunday 3/28
Tired (obviously) and felt like a zombie at church... haha i fell asleep on the tube and at church. It was my last day in Whitechapel ward, which was sad. I won't miss having to pay to get to church every week... but i did like my ward. There are some amazing people there. I liked being around different types of church members. It was interesting to hear different stories and experiences. And I will miss the entertainment of being in YW! I went home, napped for 4 hours. Packed for the north trip tomorrow. somehow went to bed at 4 am. :)