Sunday, July 31, 2011

Being a Groundling

One of my main goals for this summer in London was to be a groundling at a Shakespeare performance in the Globe Theatre. We had tickets to All's Well that Ends Well, so I seized my great opportunity. I went early enough to grab a spot leaning right up against the wooden stage. It was a dream come true to a thespian like myself. For those of you who don't know, A groundling was a person that frequented the Globe Theatre in the early 17th century who was too poor to pay to be able to sit on one of the three levels of the theatre. By paying one penny, they could stand just below the stage to watch the play. The groundlings were commoners who were also referred to as stinkards or penny-stinkers They were known to misbehave and even throw food such as fruit and nuts at characters they did not like.
leaning on the stage!
The actors begin the show by coming to the edge of the stage and chatting with the groundlings and they tried to include the groundlings in the show whenever possible. What an experience to be able to stand up close to these amazing thespians. I was so close that I could feel a minuscule wet drop of spit from one of the actors' mouths.
I wanted to play my groundling part perfectly. I didn't bring any rotten fruit, but I did hiss, boo, laugh, sigh, gasp, and drum on the stage, when it was appropriate of course.  I had no previous knowledge of this specific show, so I loved not knowing how it would end. I chuckled my way through the show.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the play:
Mine eyes smell onions!

It is like a barber's chair that fits all buttocks

'T were all one
That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it, he is so above me

The Luck of the Irish!

My travel companions: Katie, Olive, Kelli, myself, and Hannah at our Hostel
My study abroad program allows one travel weekend where we are can go anywhere we want. I went to the beautiful countryside of Ireland. We grabbed a 3:45 am taxi to catch a 6:20 am flight. Boy, that was early! We flew in and stayed at a Hostel in Cork, a little city in the Southwestern part of Ireland.
On our first day, we took a bus to the small harbour town of Kinsale. Kinsale is mostly important because it was the site of a 1601 battle between the Spanish (plus some Irish Clans) and the English. It was also off the coast of Kinsale that the battleship Luisitania was torpedoed and sparked the United States joining WWI. However, it really is just a cute small fishing village. We spent most of our time walking around the harbour, watching the sea otters, and listening to the beautiful sounds of clinking sea shell chimes, ropes hitting the sail poles, and the whistling wind. It was a beautiful symphony.
Charles Fort

We ended up at the English Fort, Charles Fort. We walked around this fort for a while learning about life as a Soldier and just enjoying the ruins. We caught a bit of lunch in the town and then headed back to Cork for the evening. (Yes, we did lots of Irish Jigs as we walked around)
When we got back to Cork, we took a much needed nap and then headed off to the town for a bit of Irish nightlife. We grabbed some delicious Fish and Chips from the Fish Hatch and ate our dinner by the river. After this, we headed to a pub called Charlies. We sat in the Pub sipping Lemonades and Waters, listening to live Traditional Irish Music, tapping our feet, and having some good "girl talk" about kissing and falling in love. It was actually quite fun. I love the combination of fiddle and Irish flute!

Our second day in Ireland was breathtaking to say the least. We grabbed a bus to Killarney, where we rented bikes for the day and rode all around Killarney National Park. If any of you have seen "P.S. I love You" this is the place where the main guy originally meets his wife. I have not been on a bike in years, so you can imagine how shaky I was at first. I will admit that my buttocks is still super sore and that I did fall of the bike at least once during the trip.
There is something freeing and adventurous about feeling the wind on your face as you bike down the hill. The best part is when we'd come around the corner and the lush green trees opened up to display a lake or a hidden ruinous abbey. We stopped at the Muckross Abbey and walked around its skeletal remains for a bit

The Abbey

Muckross House

Our view from Lunch
We sat on benches near the Victorian Muckross House sharing our previously purchased sweets, bread, ham, and cheese. Then we headed back on our bikes toward Torc Waterfall. The waterfall was gorgeous with its white cascades contrasting to the green moss. Whenever I think of Ireland, I will always think of the color GREEN! (Moss, grass, trees, meadows, ferns, shamrocks, etc.) There is something about waterfalls that seems very healing - as if they wash away pain and heartache with the fast falling water.
As we rode away from the waterfall, we passed two Irish guys and a gal. We stopped and chatted with them for a bit and they taught us a game called "hurling." It is similar to Lacrosse, Irish people are so FRIENDLY! They say "hello" when you pass them, the help you with directions before you even ask, and they take a general interest in where you are from. After the waterfall, we headed off to the "Meeting of the Waters" and took a little dip in the lake.
Lucky for us, when we returned our bikes to the town centre, there was a summer Music festival going on. We walked around enjoying the street performers. My favourite ones were these two girls dressed up as Irish dancing fish. I'm not sure why that entertained me so much. We arrived back in Cork, sore and hungry. We grabbed a pizza and returned back to our Hostel for the most epic game of Jenga ever!
Ireland was an amazing adventure that I will never forget!

BRITISH WORD OF THE POST - "Starkers" = to be naked

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Punting on the Cam

Last Wednesday, a small group of girls and I went to Cambridge for the day. My cousin Diana was a recent Cambridge student at Trinity College, so I had all the good advice on what to see and do.
One of our directors had connections to get us a private tour with a student through Penbroke College. It was so interesting to see what university life is like in a place like Cambridge. It is quite different from the BYU lifestyle that I am used to. People actually get to wear robes like in Harry Potter!
After our little tour, we stopped by the Fudge Kitchen for a free sample of Toffee fudge. Yum! We also walked around the street market.

 My Cousin warned us that some pseudo attractive young men would try to tempt us to join their punting tours, and she was right. However, the first guy that approached us gave us the best deal imaginable!
He offered the seven of us a private tour for a total of 50 pounds - that is basically 7 pounds for each person! We asked some of the other "punters" for quotes, and they were all floored that we were offered that price. Most children tickets are 8 pounds. Punting is so fun and beautiful! It is similar to Gondolas in Venice, but the punters are attractive young men instead of old Italian guys.

The tour took us along the Cam river behind all of the colleges and under the beautiful bridges. Our tour guide, Sam, was really sweet and friendly. You'll notice his toned arms in the picture above. My sister tried punting herself when she was on her study abroad, and every time I saw someone attempting their best to punt, I chuckled imagining a twenty year old Tammy doing the same.
BRITISH PHRASE OF THE POST - "Bob's your Uncle" = "And that's all!"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Temples and Proms

This week we had the amazing experience of visiting the London LDS temple to do baptisms for the dead. This trip was especially fun for me because it was on the grounds of this temple, 10 years ago, that my sister Tammy decided she would go on a mission. What a special moment to walk around and think of her.

The temple trip took most of the day, but in the evening we got all dressed up to go to Proms. Not Prom, but Proms, the world's greatest classical music festival. It was held at the Royal Albert Hall - just a short walk through the park. The orchestra played songs by Debussey, Ravel, and Falla.

The next day we went to the British Museum. This was pretty amazing. I felt like a child lighting up as I walked through all the things I had studied this last year in History 201 and Humanities 201. The Elgin marbles were especially fun because I realized that I was seeing more of the Parthenon in London than I'd probably ever see in Athens itself.

The British Museum also has an incredible collection of mummies. It was a bit creepy, but way cool to see some of these mummies. My two favorites were accidentally preserved by natural elements like sand and bog. One man was identified as being from 3400BC, and I could still see the remnants of hair on his scalp and the fingernails on his tiny hands! Through studies, they actually know exactly what the Bog man was eating before he died: cake and mistletoe seeds. They described him as been a well-groomed 25 year old. I bet he was quite the charmer before he was murdered and thrown in the bog. I didn't take pictures of him, but if you want to see what your skin would look like after thousands of years in a bog, look up "Lindow Man" on Google images.

Notice my new coat I purchased at Primark! I love how British it is.

After a bite to eat, my friends, Olive and Patria, and I decided to go for an evening run. We ran from our Centre to Big Ben. What a divine time for a run! This run takes you through three parks: Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and St. James' park. You run past Buckingham Palace and end up at Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We stopped to stretch on the bridge overlooking Parliament on the Thames. I had the strangest realization that I am LIVING here in London. This city has become my home in many ways, I didn't realize how much I am going to miss it when I leave. I know once I am on that plane, I will not be able to contain my anxious desire to be with my family again in Salt Lake, but I'm glad to know that there will always be a part of London in my heart.
BRITISH PHRASE OF THE POST - "litter bin" = trash can

Castles and Gardens

This week began with a little trip to the Thames Valley. First Stop: WARWICK CASTLE
This castle is really fun with its interactive activities and exhibits. It is the home of one of the largest trebuchets in the world. Some of the exhibits are done by Madame Tussades, so the figures are made of wax and quite life-like. I learned about the Earl of Warwick, a lancastrian during the war of the roses, who rallied men together to fight for King Henry during the war. I also learned about the secrets and scandals of the Victorian royals. This exhibit made me chuckle because it really was pretty silly with its scandals and sound effects.
After Warwick, we headed to Stratford Upon Avon. We visited Anne Hathaway's, Shakespeare's wife, home as well as Shakespeare's birthplace. The gardens at Anne Hathaway's house were beautiful in a quaint little home garden way. My nose was overwhelmed by the scent of Violets. We walked through this wooded glade listening to Shakespeare's love sonnets. Here is one of my favorites:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Can you imagine a world without Shakespeare? I learned a bit more of this man from the trip like how he was 18 when Anne Hathaway (then like 24 or 26) became pregnant with his child. Of course, they had to get married because it wouldn't be right otherwise. His father was a glove maker and acquired a great deal of debts through his back dealings with wool and loans. Shakespeare writes his knowledge of gloves into his plays.
In the evening, we had the incredible experience of watching the National Shakespeare Company perform "Macbeth." My seat was only two rows from the stage. The students on the first row had all the fun of feeling the stage blood and spit. They say that a lot of spit is the sign of a great actor.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
 The second part of our journey led us to Blenheim Palace, the beautiful home of the Duke of Marborough. There was a small exhibit there about Winston Churchill and the state rooms were nice, but the gardens are really the main event. These huge grounds sit right on a lake, which makes it picturesque and lovely. I did not even begin to see all the grounds, but I enjoyed the rose gardens and waterfalls. Not to mention, I had the most delicious cookie of my entire life at Blenheim palace (White Chocolate cranberry)

After Blenheim, we visited Oxford. I think the highlights of this trip were getting a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake milkshake from Moo-Moos and going to Christ Church College for evensong. Christ Church college gets to boast that their grand hall was part of the Harry Potter movies, so there were quite a few tourists flocking to it.

After returning back to London, we took one day to go visit the Royal Botanical gardens at Kew Gardens. These beautiful gardens were quite extensive and I felt like I had walked through all parts of the globe by the end of our visit. They had a tree tops walk where you climb up over the trees and walk around an elevated boardwalk. I felt like Tarzan or the Swiss Family Robinson.
The Tree Top walk

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hugging Trees and Muddy knees

Regents Park
A few of us walked around Regents Park the other day and were floored by the beauty of the rose gardens. They had roses of every color and scent. There was one rose that smelled like candy licorice. The Park must be made for lovers because there were couples everywhere. It is pretty romantic with the beautiful gardens and the boating lake. The parks have been one of my favorite things about London.

Hampton Court
I found myself a sleeping Tudor man
This palace was built for Henry VIII's advisor Cardinal Wosley. However, Henry liked it so much that he took it for himself. It was amazing walking through the palace kitchens and realizing the huge production that happened to put together a Tudor Banquet. It was interesting to realize new things about Henry VIII and his 6 wives. Long after Henry, King William and Queen Mary also took residence in Hampton Court. As I walked through their apartments, I was supposed to pretend I was a visitor coming to pay respects to the King and Queen. I gave myself the name of Lady Genevieve of Cordoba. (I know- french name and Spanish city, but I liked it). The Gardens at Hampton Court were also beautiful with their roses and perfectly trimmed shrubs.
So my friend Megan and I have a tradition of doing "Tree hugging" pictures wherever we go. The sign on this tree is supposed to say "Low trees," but someone has changed it so it reads "Love trees." It seemed like the perfect tree for the picture.

St. Paul's
St. Paul's Cathedrals is 300 years old this year. For the anniversary, the church just finished a 13 year deep clean, so I got to see it in all its perfect glory. This building is even more beautiful than I remember it being 6 years ago. Christopher Wren designed this church in a Baroque style that would fit with the Anglican teachings. The United States Capitol Building as well as Salt Lake's Capitol building are based on the design of St. Paul's. It is full of space and light.
It was a symbol of Hope during the Blitz in World War II. There is a famous photograph of London consumed in smoke and ash with the dome of St. Paul's gleaming white and safe. Churchill made it quite clear that St. Paul's had to be saved. Because of great men, the building suffered only minor damages and thus became a symbol of hope in the midst of destruction.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral, but you can look them up online if you want. I climbed the nearly 400 steps to the top of St. Paul's. It goes through 3 galleries. The first gallery is the whisper gallery. You can whisper into the walls to people on the other side of the dome -Kind of creepy, but really fun. This picture is of me at the second gallery overlooking the city, and the third is just about 126 steps higher. (You might notice that I am wearing stickers on my shirt and sweater. This was for the tour guide to know who was in what group)
That evening I took myself on a date to see "Wicked." The show was amazing. I loved it even more than the first time I saw it. I must admit that I prefer dates with men, but being with myself for a while was also refreshing. It made me appreciate coming home to a bunch of amazing girls even more. Next time, I think I need to get myself some flowers or something.
This was a failed attempt at a jumping picture.
After the cathedral, we stopped by Guildhall. We just so happened to get there right as the Lord Mayor of London was leaving a meeting. The thing about Brits is they are all about tradition. They still wear all the traditional hats and have swords etc. The Lord Mayor tipped his hat to us and wished us a good afternoon. What luck to have been there right then right?
Rainy Country Walk
A really sweet Man from one of our wards offered to take any of us who wanted to join him on a walk through the countryside near Kent. Looking at the forecast, we saw that it was supposed to be rainy most of the day, but being the Englishmen that we are, we decided to go anyway. We walked by beautiful fields of lavender and wheat. It rained pretty much the entire way, but at least we had expected it to. I had an umbrella and rain coat. I should have invested in some rain boots though.The walk was about 9 miles.
The rain let up a bit after we ate lunch in the barn full of lavender creations. There was one bit of path near a stream that had a very large puddle. I carelessly tried to go around the puddle on the slanted hill above it. I started slipping on the muddy surface, so in a split second I decided to move quickly and leap over the puddle. In this quick movement, I slipped even harder an fell straight into the mud. I'm sure this was pretty comical for the fellow students behind me. I tried to stand up, but my feet kept slipping on the inclined muddy surface. Thanks to a friend, I finally gained my footing again on the path. My hands, my right forearm and elbow, my whole right side of my jeans, my backside, and the bottom of my backpack were covered in dark brown mud. (At least I missed the puddle)

The Wheat fields

These pictures were at the end of the walk, hence the beautiful sunshine. Note the lavender over my shoulder. (Sadly, you cannt see my muddy jeans)

We ended the walk at a little old church where we sang some hymns together. It was a special moment even though I was looking like the swamp monster.
After a shower and a load of laundry, a group of us went to see Harry Potter. I must admit that I did in fact cry during this movie. It made me want to read all the books again.
British Phrase of the day - "Gormless" = clueless

Sunday, July 10, 2011

York, Edinburgh, and Ambleside

We went on our Northern Tour this last week and in this one week I have fallen in love with the countryside. It was a week of inspiration, meditation, contemplation, and exclamation. I took a ton more pictures than what I'll be showing you here on the blog, but hopefully you'll be able to see why I fell in love so quickly. 


 York is a small little medieval town. At the heart of the town stands the large cathedral "York Minster." We attended Evensong together at this cathedral. I had never been to a service like that before and I was fascinated by it. We walked all around the little cobble stoned town drinking in the precious shops that looked almost too cute to be real. We went to the Medieval Barley Hall where they currently house a collection of period costumes from famous movies like Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Elizabeth, Hamlet, Casanova, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Sweeny Todd, and The King's Speech. I loved learning about the different English fashions through the years. We also grabbed a leg of pork sandwich and strolled along the tops of the Roman walls.

This one is for Megan - Darcy and Elizabeth!!!
On our way to Edinburgh, we stopped by Hadrian's wall near the city featured in Stardust called "Wall." Hadrian's wall marks the northern reaches of the Roman Empire. They couldn't go any further North because the wild Scots were quite the warriors. Apparently they would paint their bodies all blue before running into battle. We stopped at the ruins of an old Roman fort.

For those of you who do not know, Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is situated on the eastern coast of the country. After we settled into our Hostel, we hiked Arthur's Seat. It is this small green mountain that is situated right in the middle of Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-burra). When we finally arrived at the top, it was as if we were on top of the world. The city stretched out on all sides and we had gorgeous views of the Firth of Forth and the Sea. It was beautiful.

We did quite a bit in Edinburgh including walking the Royal Mile, spying on the Queen's tea party, touring the catacombs with a Ghost Tour, The writer's museum, the National Gallery, and going through the Edinburgh Castle.  Edinburgh Castle is sitting on the cliff of this large volcanic rock. It is famous for being the birthplace of James I and subsequently the residence of Mary, Queen of Scots. I learned a lot here about Jacobites, the Lang Siege, and the impact of war on Edinburgh. The castle was pretty cool! I also highly recommend walking through the Gardens below the castle. It used to be a loch (lake), but it has been drained and turned into a park. There isn't a prettier spot to walk amongst the roses while listening to the fountain, the spinning carousel, and the children laughing on the playground.

Trying to lift the Cannon Balls at the Castle

 The Lake District
Driving into the Lake District was like driving into my own personal fairytale. The greenest mountains I have ever seen, moss covered trees and stone walls, waterfalls, streams, sheep, cows, sparkling glass-like Lakes, pinkish purplish Foxglove flowers all over, and ferns covering the ground like a Jurassic Park movie. It is just so lush and serene.A small group of us went on a little hike up to Jenkin's Crag.

What an experience! I felt like I was walking into a painting by Constable or Thomas Cole. I just couldn't stop marveling at the beauty and serenity. It is so peaceful. No one is in a hurry there. When we got to the crag, we looked out over the hills and Lake. Wow. That is all I can say. I couldn't help just shouting from the top of the hill. We sat there in sheer beautiful silence for a while. I can see why so many poets and writers come to the Lake District to be inspired. It inspired me. Maybe I'll post my poem I wrote while I was a later post though.

We visited the Poet, William Wordsworth's, grave and two residences (Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount). We read some of his poetry out loud at his grave site. What an experience that was! I also read my poem out loud for the first time in his garden because I thought it was the perfect spot. When we headed to John Ruskin's home (Brantwood) it started to rain a bit. We had to leave the Bus in the parking lot and take the rest of the trip on foot because the country roads were too small. So there we were strolling through fields, cow pastures, and meadows with our umbrellas and rain jackets. The rain let up and we just lauhed as we literally walked through the cows and sheep (this was a pubic path by the way). I felt quite skilled at dodging mud and cow pies. Brantwood was well worth the small trek to get there!

We strolled through the wild gardens and I felt a bit like Anne of Green Gables. I couldn't stop imagining myself as a fairy or an Avatar for that matter. The rain misted on and off as we spent the hour exploring and taking in the nature. I have never been so deliriously happy. When it came time to start heading back, the rain began to pour! It reminded me of the song from Winnie the Pooh. This didn't stop us from heading off back to the coach. Luckily, I was prepared with my rain coat, umbrella, and tennis shoes! So there we were walking through cow pastures and fields in the pouring rain, but I couldn't have been happier. It was an experience to remember.

The next morning we went on a boat cruise around Lake Winderemere. Afterwards a group of us enjoyed a homemade Blueberry Scone with cream and jam. Oh happy life! We sat on the dock with our feet in the water. I've decided that I want to return to the Lake District on my Honeymoon, and if I end up an old unmarried maid, I am moving to the Lake District for a year, buying a cow and a cottage, and writing great works of poetry!

I can't explain it, but I feel as if those few days in the Lake District were made for me. I felt closer to Nature, I felt closer to God, and I felt closer to myself. I wasn't worried about anything...I was just living and enjoying. I don't know how to explain it, but I wish you all could have felt it. It made me yell off the top of a mountain and throw my face up towards to sky letting the rain drops dance across my face. That is the Lake District!