Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years in London

I had to work during the day today which turned out to be lucky because when I got off I just walked right outside to the westminster bridge to where all the action is taking place tonight. By 8pm there were already a lot of people out. Around the London eye is where London has it's equivalent of NYC's Times square. The plan was to meet my ladies out there....which totally fell to pieces, so luckily I ran into my roommate Sarah and her boyfirend Jose.

There was a DJ playing rubbish music so we danced to keep warm. While this was a London party, there were very few Londoners out. It was mostly foerigners. An indian song came on and the bridge was hopping.....then "Jump" came on and there were about 3 of us jumping....hehe.

As seems to be the case with foerigners....the blond hair really does something for them. This Italian asked to take a picture with me just out of the blue. I thought I better at least get a New Years kiss out of the deal... he happily complied.

I must explain the pink sequins. So Lauren and I decided a long time ago that this is the year of the sequin. So we had both gotten our sequins ready before tonight. I am in fact wearing my sequin shirt, it just happens to be under at least 6 layers of clothing, so the headband was just to rock the sequin theme.

I met another group of friends from Columbia....very fun group. We hung around with them through the new year. I love latins!!! At midnight there were kisses on each cheek for everyone. So fantastic.

This is Sarah and Jose. It was really fun to hang out with them tonight. I am really lucky to have found them because all my ladies lamed out on me in the end.

Then the clock struck 12 and the fireworks went mad. It was really cool because they shot the fireworks directly from off the London Eye. It was a great show!

So we welcomed in the new year with Big Ben.

Once all the festivities were over we all started to shuffle off the bridge and it all of a sudden started to snow. Big, white, fluffy, magical snow! It was so dreamy!

A little while after midnight I finally got in touch with the girls who were all over at the Hyde Park chapel at the YSA dance, so I went and caught up with them there. These girls have been one of my favorite things about 2009! What a blessing. We had all previously drawn names for secret santa gifts so we did a little gift exchange and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning chatting. It really was a fantastic New Years, and I feel like 2010 has a lot of promise!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Birthday Extension

This morning while Charlie waited at my house for Lauren to arrive, Melanie and I went out for some adventures. We started off by going to King's Cross train station and I just popped over to Hogwarts for a sec. Haha!
We were wandering around confused trying to find this little passageway and a worker saw us and asked if we were looking for 9 3/4. Must be a lot of us Harry Potter fans.

The we went to the British Library which turned out to be way cooler than I expected. Here is a list of the best things we saw:
-The Magna Carta
-Lewis CArroll's original manuscript for "Alice in Wonderland"
-The original score for Handel's Messiah
-The Gutenberg bible
-Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks
-The original manuscript of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"
-Several Beatles songs scribbled on scraps of paper - Help, Yesterday, I want to hold your hand
-Original scores by Mozart
-Original manuscript of Jane Austin's "Persuasion"
And a lot of other really famous things.

While I haven't met many famous people in my life I have come in contact with tons of really famous things.
Next we went to Harrods. It is the most lavish department store I have ever been in. Here is the Egyptian hall.....just one example of the many splendors of this store. We spent a good amount of time wandering around their extensive food area where they had all kinds of really fancy foods for sale. Melanie took me into Laudree, which is a very famous and fancy sweet shop from France and we each got a macaroon - amazing! You think you have had all the yummy things in the world at this point in life, but no! There are amazing flavours out there yet to be discovered.

This is the bathroom where I am nonchalantly dabbing a bit of perfume on. Even the bathroom was amazing.
As a Harrods sovenier I found this really cute red patten leather Harrods purse. I love it so much....and it was on sale for only 12 pounds! Sometimes I think happiness is found in red accessories.
Next stop was the Tate Modern. We met up with Lauren and Charlie there. I must say that I don't really get modern art. Some of it is funky and some of it is just weird or plain and some of it is just really offensive.
This is a really famous sculpture called "The Kiss" by Rodin. Feels more classic than modern, which is probably why I like it.

This one I really liked, it made me think of what it would be like to be a two year old again....very cool. So we wandered around there for a while and "analyzed" the art and quizzed eachother on what we first thought of when we saw a piece of metal leaned up against a wall as one of the exhibits.

All that art talk made us hungry so we went and got some great italian food and chatted the nigth away. We must have sat there for at least two hours. We were probably being really obnoxious and laughing really loud, but we had a great time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Golden Birthday

A couple months ago I read "Persuasion" by Jane Austin and found a quote that suited me perfectly this year. It reads as follows,

"It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine that she was ten years before, and generally speaking if there has been neither ill health nor anxiety, it is a time of life at which scarcely any charm is lost"

I like to think this is the situation in which I find myself.

We spent the day at the Tower of London. It is a very interesting place. It was originally a fortress, a royal palace and a prison (especially for royals and high status prisoners). It has also been the treasury for the Crowned Jewels of the United Kingdom since 1303.

We had to wait in line to get tickets since there were tons of other tourists there today and it was pouring down rain. Happy Birthday to me!!

When we got inside we got in on a Yeoman Wardens tours. These are the guards of the Tower, they are real military men who guard the tower, live there, in those houses you see behind us with their families and take us all on tours and give us all the good stories about the Tower.

In the tour they told us that these doors are painted blue because soldiers used to be illiterate and a blue door signified a civillian residence and they would not enter. He also told us about the Ravens. Legend has it that if the crows leave, the whole kingdom will fall, so there is a full time raven keeper on staff to make sure they are happy and stick around.
The "tour" was conducted exclusively in the chapel on the grounds since it was raining a ton. The warden told us about some of the most famous prisoners of the tower, namely Anne Boylin and Henry the VIII's other wife Katherine who were both beheaded in this square. We saw both their burial sites. Creepy...
We also got to go into the royal armoury and see tons of suits of armor and other cool weapons. After that I had to get Jason to the airport so I left Melanie at a Starbucks and got Jason his things and off to the airport. I was of course really sad to see him go! It was so much fun to have him around. He is so fun and easy to get a long with.
Once I had seen him off (which took far longer than expected) I went back to find Melanie and she was gone. I assumed she was back in the Tower so I went back in too and saw all the crowned Jewels. There are some seriously huge stones in those crowns! It was really incredible to see them up close.
This is the view of Tower Bridge from the outter wall of the Tower. Stunning.
I went back to Starbucks to wait for Melanie, after a while she didn't turn up so I assumed she had gone back to my place (luckily she has an excellent sense of direction). I found her there and Charlie came over a little later and we made some pasta and watched "Young Victoria" - a fantastic story of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert.
During the day when I was taking Jason to the airport and finding Melanie I was feeling a little down like I wish my golden birthday had been a little more epic. And then I came to realize that I am competing with myself! I just went snowboarding at the Matterhorn and I live in London and I do amazing things every day! Doing something epic would be so common place for me right now. It has been a golden year! So more than anything I was just glad to be with good friends and family. What a great day!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Today after going to early church meetings we went to the Science Museum. I have this top ten book of London and it had the top ten things to see in the museum. This little simulator ride was number one. It was a simulated roller coaster with graphics about as good as Atari from the 80's. We just laughed when we got out and stopped following the top ten in the book.

We found this really cool area all about plastic and all the ways we use it and how it has changed our lives completly. Very interesting.

In the basement there was an exhibit of old house hold items like stoves and hair dryers, etc. Here there was a display of how a toilet works....complete with it's very own "floater" so you can follow it through the whole process....intersting but a little yuck too.

Next was the Natural History Museum. Same stuff you see in all that type of museum. Their dinosaur bones were really cool and the building that houses the museum is spectacular. They had a working model of a T-rex which was cool and they had a model of a blue whale which is the largest mammal on earth. It was seriously the size of an airplane! Very cool.

Next we hit up the British Museum. The atrium area of the museum is really fantastic. You can see the moon shining there through the glass roof.

Jason's double chin was not quite as confincing as the real buddah - nice try J!
Our last stop was the National Gallery where we got to see tons of really amazing Impressionist art by Rembrant, Monet, Manet, Serrat, Van Gogh, etc. It was an extremely cultural day. I really enjoyed it. feet need a break.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Walking London

This morning we took the bus into Greenwich, everything is still pretty much closed today but we headed up to the hill where Greenwich mean time starts and got this amazing view of the city.

From there we headed down to the Thames and got on a river cruise. The driver gave us a brief description of everything we saw, it was freezing, so we only stayed on the top deck for a little while then had to head into shelter. This picture is funny because Jason is just being "gangster" here, but we remembered later that Daren had told us that this gesture is like flipping someone off in the UK.... haha.
We got off the boat at Westminster and walked to Buckingham Palace....tadah!

Then we walked through Hyde park. They have this Winter Wonderland carnival/german christmas market set up. It was really great! Very festive.

We found a schnitzle (which is some kind of breaded fried german meat - very very tasty) You just can't help but enjoy something with such a great name. Jason had a hard time with it and kept omitting the "n" - we had a good laugh about that one.

Everywhere we went Jason was feeding the birds.... and as a result he got pooped on about 5 times (literally) three times in Rome and twice in London - this bird got him good....hehe. It was pretty funny too because Melanie hates birds, so they kept their distance during Jason's bird feeding time. I think she might have been the smarter one.

At the other end of Hyde Park is Speakers Corner which is classically a place where people would get on their soap box and preach about whatever they want. Still happens today, must have been too cold I guess. I am sure Gordon B. Hinckley preache on this corner during his missionary days.

From there we headed into Kensington Gardens. It really is amazing what a huge area of the city is parks. There are 1700 parks in London!

Next stop was the Portabello Road market in Notting Hill.

We even happened upon the "Travel Bookshop". This is the one where Hugh Grant works in the movie! Dreamy!

From there we took a bus ( we had been walking at that point for about 6 hours consistantly) back to Oxford street. We didn't realize how crazy it would be. Today all the after christmas sales started. It seemed alot like Black Friday in the states. It was absolute insanity. We ended up walking in the street to avoid the crazy human traffic.

We found ourselves a nice pub and got some classic fish and chips with pea mash. Good stuff!

After that we wandered into the main square of Somerset House. It has been around since the 16th century and was a favorite mansion of the nobels, now it is used by the government. During they holidays they have this gread ice rink set up in the square. It is sponsored by Tiffanys & Co., so it is very classy of course.

Our original plan for the night was to see Lion King, but it was sold out. Jason went and saw Phantom of the Opera and Melanie and I went to see teeny bopper heart throb Zac Effron in his new movie "Me & Orson Wells". This is the theater where the movie premiered. We walked in his footsteps (sigh! hehe) The movie was mostly just weird, but we were of course entertained by Zac.
I think overall today, by the time we got home we walked at least 10 miles. It was a great day and we saw so much but my feet need a rest.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I worked on Christmas Eve, so when I got home we opened some small presents I had gotten for us...including these rad Union Jack socks and had crepes.
Then we headed out for a nice Christmas Day walk. It was a beautiful, crisp day. Tower Bridge is about 2 miles from my house so we walked there first. Such an impressive structure.

Then we headed back to St. Pauls to try and catch their Christmas Day choral service, much less crowded today since all London transport is down. Here we are on the massive church steps. I found out that these are the steps used in Mary Poppins where the bird lady sings "Feed the Birds"!

The service was really amazing. An all male choir in long white robes sang some amazing music, none which was recognizable to me as christmas music. They did sing some christmas songs, but to tunes I didn't know. Mostly it was just amazing to be in a church of that magnitude and to hear the choir voices resonate through the church.

After St. Peters in Rome, this is the second largest church in the world.
We wandered home and met up with my roommates Nikki and Sarah and her boyfriend Jose and had a nice christmas roast and attempted to watch "Elf" but all fell asleep. It was nothing like being at home but it was a nice day.
We got to skype with mom and dad when Justin called from his mission. We chatted for about an hour and a half but it felt way too short. It was so good to hear his voice and hear his stories and experiences and just hear his personality too. He is so much fun and he really loves his mission! We of course sang "Families Can Be Together Forever" on the phone and had a family prayer which is the missionary phone call tradition. My family is one of my greatest blessings! I am glad they are mine forever.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

I worked the night of the 23rd and on the 24th Jason and Melanie explored the city a little and when I woke up I met them at St. Pauls for a christmas choral service.

Jason had been talking about how Londoners all wear the same dark colors and about how he was going to buy a flourescent green hat. Aparently he found one that day at H & M and I immediatly picked him out of the crowd at St.'s bass lake idea of flourescent colored t-shirts really does work!

We were in this massive queue and got 10 people from the front when they stopped letting people in...ouch. I decided to give them a very different yet classic christmas experience and take them to Primark. It wasn't as hectic as I thought but we all got some cheap stuff and then headed to a pub for a classic christmas dinner. Here we are doing Christmas crackers.

It was really great because Hannah and Renee were in town and we had planned to meet up but I hadn't heard from them. I had told them previously what pub we would be eating at and they just happened to wander in and find us there.

After a yummy christmas dinner we walked to the bus over this foot bridge.

There were some really beautiful night views. It was so nice having company in town because we walked all over the place and I really got a better feeling for the city.