Friday, December 24, 2010

Viva Italia!

7 Days, 3 Cities, 2 Trains, 3 Airports, 5 girls and 13 scoops of gelato= One of the most exciting adventures ever.

It all began here:

We spent the night at the Stanstead airport, because our plane left so early in the morning. Apparently its a popular thing to do because the only place we could find to rest is that corner of floor pictured above. Thanks to the girls in the center providing some awesome trash mags it wasn't nearly as bad as anticipated. After our night there we all slept the two hour flight, and before we knew it Lauren, Rachel and i found ourselves in....
We met up with Mandy and Kaitlyn and spent the next 4 days exploring all that Rome has to offer.
We all made wishes in the Trevvi fountain
And fell in love with the Colosseum
And took in the splendor of the Roman Forum, as well as the beautiful skyline
One evening we climbed the Spanish steps, and found an opening where we could see the entire city, and take in one of the most breathtaking sunsets I've seen in my life.
Rome is a city of domes, one thing I love about it very very much.
I also loved our visit to Vatican City. We went on a great little tour through the museum before reaching the Sistine Chapel. I can't imagine the amount of work that went into that ceiling. I'd heard about it my entire life, and to see it now, so real and lifelike, was amazing. Words and pictures don't do it justice. I also came to love love love Saint Peters Basilica. It is a stunning basilica. When we entered there was a huge mass going on for the police force of Rome, and it was so cool to see such a large service. I enjoyed exploring the different areas inside, but the real treat was being able to climb the dome, walk across the roof and take in the view.

And of course, a post about Italy would not be complete without mention of the food.
We got brave and tried canolis.
And fell in lust with gelato.
These are my first scoops! Carmel and chocolate!

And of course delicious pizza, pasta and even a few "coca lights" (did you see how tall and skinny the cans are there? crazy!)
Rome was... oh there isn't even a word... breathtaking? awe-inspiring? I love this city. Here are a few more highlights of Rome:
-The oranges growing on all the trees
-The beautiful blend of old and new
-The warm weather and palm trees
-Basilicas, Pantheon, churches, cathedrals and prayers
-Christmas market
-Slumber party night-complete with digestives, cookies, popcorn, and girl talk
-The elevator at our hostel
-All the piatza's and fountains
-Just being in Rome... I still can't believe I was really there, in a city I'd always dreamed of going to. It was so amazing to actually be there, and see all the wonderful things this city has to offer.
After an interesting 3 hour train ride, sandwiched in a middle seat between 2 Italians, and then meeting up with the girls and taking another quick train we finally arrived in...
Thats right, Florence.
I grew up imagining how beautiful Florence was. You see, I grew up watching While You Were Sleeping, where the main character, Lucy, says that if she could go anywhere in the world she would go to Florence. I grew up saying London.
I saw both these cities, and while I prefer London (I think because it was really a home for me) Florence is my second favorite city that I have ever been to. It is all that I had built it up to be, and then some.
There were many highlights in Florence including:
The Duomo. The mosaic inside is beautifully painted, and the green coloring on the outside, and unique architecture make it one of the most inspiring churches in the world.
Climbing the Duomo was difficult-it was by far the most steep dome I'd climbed yet. But, all good things require some work and trust me the view was a very good thing...
Please please notice the stunning brown roofs and how small all the little side streets... so beautiful
We also took a walk down by the river, and across the bridge-which is full of gold and jewelry shops.
I also loved just walking around this city, especially as it was getting all ready for Christmas. There were trees everywhere, a little band playing in the street with all it's members dressed as Santa, and a little Santa on the carousel too.
There were also beautiful lights strung between the buildings in the small streets, and I loved it.
Such a pretty city
Oh, and a post about Florence wouldn't be complete without mentioning all the David statues... he is quite popular here in Florence. We went to see the original at the Academia, but sadly it was closed on our last day there. I did see enough copies to last me until someday when I go back again-then I'll see the real deal.
Other highlights of Florence:
-Having the Uffizi gallery to ourselves one morning. To take in all that beautiful art work, in such a peaceful environment was a wonderful experience.
-Our super nice hostel and free Internet and computer
-Buying an Italian leather date purse-matching with Lauren
-"Leaning tower of Pisa hair" night, where after all checking our bank accounts we decided to laugh instead of worry... laughter is always the answer... and no-I will not post the "leaning tower of Pisa hair" pictures.
-The Medici family palace rooms we toured
-The sunset from Michelangelo's piatza
-Last, but not least.....
Running into the Seeleys!
As we got off the train in Florence I told my friends-"You know what would make my trip to Florence absolutely complete? If we could just run into the Seeleys."
I was met with slight skepticism, but on Sunday in a church-where else?-we ran into the Seeleys, and my trip to Florence was all I had ever wanted :)
As I stated, Florence surpassed even my highest expectations. I love this city and I sincerely hope that I get to return someday again.
On Monday night we took a quick train to Pisa, and went to the leaning tower... where I learned that a-it's not really tall enough to be called a tower and b-its really not that leaning. Minor details though. We went back Tuesday morning to check it out and take some pictures.
Including the cheesy-every-tourist-must-picture of holding up the leaning tower. The more entertaining thing is to look around at all of the tourists taking these pictures in the area around.. so funny to see us all look like fools.

After that, a quick bus ride (Thanks to Lauren for figuring out how to buy the tickets) and a long wait at the Pisa airport my visit to Italy was complete.

I left feeling satisfied with what I'd seen, done, and experienced, and grateful and excited that I had such a unique and amazing opportunity. I learned so much that week in Italy, and I came to love that country, their people, and the girls I traveled with so much. It was exhausting, and at time frustrating even-but these girls always made me laugh, kept me smiling, and helped me have the adventure of a lifetime. The moments of losing my breath in awe or excitement, and the endless smiles that these three cities provided for me far outweighed any amount of yawns or moments of exhaustion.

I love Italy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goodbye London

My last few days in London were not what I expected, they were absolutely amazing though. With finals over I was free to finish packing, saying goodbye to my favorite city, and hanging out with some of my most dear friends.
Sister Seeley told us that whenever you travel you should think how the journey has changed you. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and as I've thought about all the things I've learned and grown from I just feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the experiences I had.
I'm grateful for the great girls that became a family to me. I'm grateful that I could live, learn and laugh with each of them.
I'm more grateful for the gospel and for the blessings it brings to my life. I'm so grateful for the miracles I saw while gone, for the way in which my testimony was strengthened and for all my prayers I saw answered.
I'm grateful for 27 Palace Court. That building is stunning, and despite the formality of the sitting room, and sharing a room with 11 other people-this place became home to me, and I'm grateful for the comfort and fun it provided.
I'm still in awe of all the things I saw, and touched at the amazing places I'd spent 20 years hearing about. I'm grateful that I got to see so many important and stunning things and places-those both significant educationally and in pop culture!
I fell in love with the Catford ward-including Devri and Sarah. I'm so grateful that I was able to attend this ward, and feel of the sweet spirit of the members there. I learned that the principles and spirit of this gospel are the same everywhere-even if some of the physical things are a little different than at home. Also, I'm grateful for the 3 hours spent traveling there and home each week (gasp of surprise) Those hours where I got to know those two girls better were always a highlight of my weeks-I love them.
My first days in London were exhausting-walking so much... but in the end it is something I miss so much already. Being able to get anywhere worth going so easily, and having endless possibilities of places to visit within walking distance is something I loved. I miss the fun walks, the beautiful sights, and even, for a moment, the fun public transportation.
We always had so much fun. I already miss the nightly rants/jokes/towel songs/abs "workouts" and the endless laughter... and I'm so grateful for the girls that always made me laugh. Thanks room 4.
I lived with great people, but the biggest effect they had on me was the influence they had on who I've become. They loved me, and believed in me, and spending time with them taught me to believe in myself more, and recognize the beauty in everyone around. I think it's safe to say that we all grew up a little bit, and I'm grateful we had that opportunity together.
Overall, I fell in love with this city. I feel so satisfied with my experience there-with the things I saw and the feelings I felt there. I learned so much, I wish I could articulate them all better, but for now I'll just describe this experience in the best way I know how-right. I new from the moment I first saw this program advertised that it was right, and along each step of the journey that was confirmed to me. Being in London at this time, with these people, at this stage in my life was right for me-and the influence of this amazing experience will be felt for the rest of my life.

I can't end this post without mentioning my gratitude to my family. This experience would have been impossible without your support, love, e-mails and prayers. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity, and I owe all of it to you. Thank you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Officially Survived Finals

To celebrate I went to Hummingbird for a final cupcake run with Jessica, Beca, and Meegan. They all went well, and I'm very pleased with how I did.

It was well worth the sins of Tesco runs and only sleeping five hours.

So-what do I do now?

So glad you asked.

Pack. Nap. Abbey Road. Pizza Party. St. Pauls. Trafalgar Christmas tree. Laughing. Chocolate buying. Picture taking. London Eye. Italy.

Goodbyes are not in there, that is too much to think about right now. Not sure how I can say goodbye to a city, and these people that I love so much.

So, while I still can, I'll just continue to enjoy London and my life here on 27 Palace Court.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


We've been busy around here since Thanksgiving! We finished classes Wednesday and finals are in full swing right now.

And by full swing I mean girls popping caffeine pills, the library being over crowded, and more nutella being consumed in these last few days then the last few months combined.

We've also been taking time to have a little fun too though. For example-a few of us hit up Emerites stadium for a legit Football match on Monday:

And then, on Wednesday we all went to tea at the Orangry at Kensington Gardens:

It was a wonderful way to celebrate classes ending.

But of course our rooms are disasters due to the packing/cleaning/studying craziness.

Even the professors are a little exhausted!

So, as you can see things here are good. Crazy, but good. With each final I take I get a little bit closer to home, but I also get a little bit closer to goodbyes.

Something I'm not quite ready for.

So, for today I'm focusing on my next final. And laughing at the mass hysteria!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Craic Was Mighty

Ireland was wonderful.

I had so much to be Thankful for there. I was especially thankful for the slow pace, vacation like feel of it. So often on these trips we just go go go, which is wonderful, but it was nice to just relax, enjoy the beauty and even read a novel.

However now I'm back in London and classes are over and finals start up tomorrow, so time is something I no longer have on my side. So, this is going to be a quick blog recapping some of the finer points of Dublin:

-Craic. When we checked in to Abigail's Hostel we were told that breakfast was to the left, the tv was in front of us and the crack is here. We stared in confusion/disbelief. Luckily instead of just dismissing it our cute worker behind the desk started to laugh. "No, no not American "crack". It's "craic" it means fun. If you bring any other kind of "crack" back we'll kick you out." We laughed about that for the entire weekend, and we all took up the phrase "The craic is mighty"

-Gogarty's Pub. There comes a time of day, about 5:00, when everything shuts down. Well, almost everything. There is only one thing that stays open-the pub. So, every night was spent with a coke in our hands at the local pub Gogarty's. There they have live Irish music playing and it was fun to just chill and listen. On Thanksgiving they had real football on the tv. I was in heaven for a moment.

-Snow. Our first real experience with snow this season. We woke up Saturday to a winter wonderland and it was so much fun to run around and build a tiny snowman in it.

-Demonstrations. On Saturday there was also a huge demonstration going on. Apparently Ireland's economy is in shambles and everyone is mad at the IMF, etc., etc. Anyways 50,00 people marched around with signs yelling "You say cut backs, we say fight back" It was exciting to see but made getting to the airport a little difficult, and slightly sketch. A story for another time, like when I'm safe and sound at home.

-Castle. So fun to see a real castle here!

-Sea side. No words necessary.

-Ryan Air. Oh my goodness the turbulence was awesome. But seriously, who sells lotto tickets and near pornographic calendars in the middle of a flight. I did love the horn tune that played when we landed however.

-Thanksgiving dinner at Hard Rock. American food never tasted so good.

Overall the trip was a blast and I'm so glad I got to go, relax, and explore somewhere new. The hostel was great, the people were the nicest I've met yet, and I learned that living out of a backpack is doable.