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Monday, June 29, 2009

Part One: The City Life

So my study abroad officially ended the night of June 4th, and the next day was my birthday! And guess what birthday present I got...

My very own, specially wrapped,
Cherise Burk!

Boy, did I feel special ;)
And here our adventures together begin!

LONDON
We checked into our hostel and put our luggage in their "luggage room" as you can't officially check in until the afternoon. It was our very first experience with hostels, and it was quite interesting. And this was no luggage room. This was a luggage closet about the size of a pantry. Here I am, trying to stuff my backpack in with all the other bags. What an adventure...

We walked around Kensington Gardens (where Princess Diana's memorial is) in the light rain, and went to the National Gallery to see some art. And see some art, we did! Boy, that place is huge! Being the art fanatics that we both are (not!), we ended up walking around, picking fun paintings, and making up interesting stories of what was happening in the picture.
Next we went to Westminster Abbey for evensong. Wow, was that amazing, or what?! You can get in for free (as it is a service), sit in the beautiful cathedral, and listen to the choir of men and young boys singing the most beautiful songs ever! The acoustics are fantastic! Cherise fell asleep on my lap, listening to the angelic sound - she was struggling to recover from jet lag. :) What a peaceful hour, compared to the stressful hustle and bustle of the streets of London...
We went out to dinner for my birthday and then headed home and went to bed early, as we were both quite exhausted.

On Saturday morning we decided to head down and enjoy the atmosphere and fun shopping of the Portobello Market.
Then just explored the sites of London some more...here is Big Ben again. :)
We even went back to Westminster Abbey for evensong again, because we loved it so much! I really needed to feel that peace because I was a little stressed with the planning of our trip (as Cherise can attest ;) ).

That night we got to go see Les Mis...still my favorite show of all time. What a powerful show!
"To love another person is to see the face of God"
Then Sunday morning came! We had the most amazing opportunity of getting to sit in the 6th row of the Hyde Park Chapel to see President Uchtdorf (leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) speak to the members of the UK & Ireland (it was broadcast from there). And we didn't even have tickets like you were supposed to! (What a tender mercy for us that the ushers were sympathetic to our lack of transportation and prior knowledge).

After church, we finally had a bit of sunshine, and relaxed in Hyde Park for lunch.We got to watch some very talented rollerbladers (zig-zagging backwards, on one foot, through cones), sat in cute old fashioned beach chairs that are set up all over the grass by the pond, and walked by Speakers' Corner - quite an interesting place with all the guys on boxes and groups of people around each one, usually in heated conversation - before we grabbed our bags from the "luggage room" of our hostel, walked back to the church for the Young Single Adult fireside with Pres. Uchtdorf, and ran to catch our train to Edinburgh! First-class baby!

EDINBURGH

Monday was spent in Edinburgh...We walked down the Royal Mile, bought some Scotland sweatshirts, went inside St. Giles' Cathedral, and found our ancestry in the clan books of Scotland! :)

Then my favorite part of the day - we hiked Arthur's Seat (as pointed out in the picture below).As a trash-picker-upper when I'm in the outdoors, I found us a great Pringles can to take on our adventure with us. They were even flavored "Texas BBQ Sauce" - it reminded us of home (well, at least close to home).(don't worry; there weren't really any pringles in it)
Arthur's seat is a big mound of volcanic rock right near Edinburgh, so you can hike up it and look down on the whole city, and the Firth of Forth (the ocean coming into the river Forth). It was beautiful up there!(my cookies (Digestives) were a little melted....but still just as tasty)


There were approximately 7.5 too many people up there, and if you know me at all, I like being in the middle of nowhere, so Cherise and I walked over to another little hill that was empty, and enjoyed our own personal view over Edinburgh and the ocean. ...where we proceeded to read a little together and take a nap in the squishy grass :) What bliss! The next morning we went for a run around the city, and packed up to go. We met up with my aunt's Scottish neighbor's nephew (ha ha, ya got that?), Duncan, because he was going to hold on to my suitcase for me while we backpacked through the Highlands of Scotland. What a nice guy! ...and a life-saver, I'll tell you what! It was great to get rid of that bag for a week!

We went to the train station to catch our train, but we had just missed it, and the next one didn't come for another 2 hours. But Cherise was positive and met some cool people from Syria, and I was able to use the time to book some more of our hostels for the rest of the week. We finally got on our train, and were headed off for the best part of the trip!

To be continued... ;)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bashing around London

Yep, welcome to London! Here are just a few highlights:
This building above (the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben) was my favorite-looking building in all of London.

You can't go to London without going to King's Cross train station to see Platform 9 3/4 :)
See ya, Mom & Dad! I'm goin' to Hogwarts!
We went to Greenwich - the beginning of time! (the Prime Meridian)
On a boat cruise down the Thames River with Big Ben in the background. What a sunny, beautiful day!
And of course, as we were on a nursing study abroad, we went to the Florence Nightingale Museum in London...loads of fun! ;)
(there were costumes you could try on throughout the museum, and on the bottom right is a dress made out of a maps!)

Our first night in London, we got tickets to see Wicked!
The famous Trafalgar Square...A view from the top walkway of Tower Bridge across the Thames
This was in the Tower Bridge engine room...ha ha
And Phantom the 2nd night!The last night of our study abroad Christina and I ran a 3.7 mile race for homelessness in London. This (running) is my way of seeing the city! :) It started and finished at St. Paul's cathedral, crossed the Thames several times, went by the Globe Theatre, the London Eye, the Tate Modern, and many other beautiful sites of London. It was really fun!Sorry it's just a smattering of pictures from London. Its a busy, bustling city, but just as London-y as you can imagine. We also went to Buckingham Palace, the Globe Theatre, St. Paul's Cathedral, and had plenty of tube rides stuffed to the rim (and then some!)! What an experience! :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Edinburgh

On our last Monday in Scotland, we once again had Bill for our tour guide. He took us to Stirling Castle and the William Wallace monument. He told us the "true" story of William Wallace. We drove down south and went to Hailes Castle. I loved it because it was in the middle of nowhere, it was free (I always like free!), and nobody else was there! It was great!
(just hangin' out)


Then we went to a city on the coast called North Berwick (said "North Berrick") and got to walk out to the edge of some rocks. It was SO BEAUTIFUL!
And then for the second half of the day, we got the chance to roam the great Edinburgh!

This is St. Giles' Cathedral

And of course, the Edinburgh Castle. It was fun, but I think we had just seen a few too many castles already, so it wasn't anything spectacular.

Although the Scottish guards in their cool uniforms were pretty awesome! :) And we got to hold an old sword...man, those things were HUGE! It came up to my nose, with the tip on the ground, and I couldn't imagine trying to swing that thing around and actually be agile with it.

We were sure to stop my the Elephant House, a cafe/pub where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter series.

We hurried back to Blackford to pack up our stuff, then caught the train to London at 11:45pm. But this was no average train....this was a sleeper train! I have to admit, I have always wanted to ride on a sleeper train, like in the old movies (specifically White Christmas). It was so much fun! You can ask the other girls; I was going nuts, I was so excited! Even when we woke up, I looked around for about 2 seconds, remembered I was on a sleeper train, and went nuts again! ha ha They came around and brought us orange juice about an hour before getting into London. Each berth had 2 beds that folded down from the wall. Candice and my room was next to Michelle and Heidi's, so we opened a little door in between our rooms. The berths were SO TEENY! We had the little beds, and a "hallway" next to the beds that was only about a foot wide, and that was it. Oh, and a little window to the outside. We had a little dance party before we went to sleep, complete with my headlight strobe feature, Candice's lovely beat-boxing and singing, and Heidi's sweet dance moves! :) Even going to the restroom on the train was quite the experience. I can finally check "ride on a sleeper train" off my list - yay! :)

Ooo...big, burly Scottish men in kilts!

Sorry for the delay on updates, but I'm finally back in the states and am playing catch-up.

So, picking up where I left off 2 posts ago in Inverness... On Friday, Bill picked us up once more and was in charge of getting us from Inverness down to Blackford (our next stop), which is near Stirling. But the awesome guy that he is, he wanted to show us more of Scotland. So here was our wonderful itinerary for the day:

1) We drove west to Loch Carron - beautiful!

2) We kept driving west and took a pit stop at a cute little fishing town called Plockton (not pictured here). The town pretty much consisted of one street along the water and one row of buildings/houses along that street. It was so quaint and beautiful with all the sailboats sitting in the bay. Candice and I walked out in the water - which was ocean water! It felt so good!

(I have to tell a quick funny story Bill told us on the drive: So there are two football teams (soccer) there named Caledonia and the Celtics. They are big rivals, and they were playing once and it was a really close game. Just in the last few seconds, Caledonia (lovingly called Cale (like Cali)) won! But the best part was the newspaper headline the next day:
"Super Cale, Go Balistic, the Celtic are Atrocious!"
(ya get it?!)

3) And even more west, we got to the Isle of Skye. He let us out and we got to walk across the bridge to the Isle of Skye. It was so beautiful! (not to mention sunny!)

(a really cool lighthouse seen from the bridge)
4) Turned back southeast and stopped at the Eilean Donan castle - one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. This castle is located on a little island on a loch, with a stone bridge to get to it. I would have been totally okay with it if someone asked me to live there. ;) When we first got there, a high-school aged boy was playing his bagpipes to earn money. Oh, how I love the sound of bagpipes! I could seriously listen to it all day! We got to eat lunch and explore the castle for a few hours before heading off again.
5) Bill took us through Fort William and down through Glencoe - one of the most beautiful places (and great hiking spots!) in all of Scotland! And everything is SO GREEN there! (because usually it rains all the time; we were just very blessed that it was sunny the whole time we were in Scotland!)
(Oh, how I love Michelle!)
(it was super windy, if you couldn't tell!)
6) We drove into Blackford, Scotland, where we would be staying for the next 3 days at our instructor's sister's house. She and her husband, Alister, and their 1-year-old daughter, Isla, live in the old bank house. It was so cool! It is really tall and skinny, has 3 levels, a grand staircase, a "posh" sitting room, a dinner room with 2 different wallpapers, double front doors, a vault room (skeleton keys and all!), and 18 chimneys (yes, one fireplace in every room!). It was amazing! We each had our own room. Mine was one of the ones on the top floor, with a beautiful view out my window. This is the sunset from my window the night we got there (it probably set around 10:30pm). They even have a pet turkey in their backyard. His name is Dinner. ;)
Saturday morning we got up and went out to Alister's parent's farm, got on welly's (boots) and gloves and spent the morning putting tubes around the little trees that were growing to protect from the deer and other animals. It was really fun! (well, at least I thought so, but I may just be weird like that)

After we finished they took us on a walk by the river,and to the cave that Robert Louis Stevenson used for the cave in one of his books.
(yes, I brought the side pony to Scotland)

We got home, ate lunch, and got cleaned up just in time to go to the Blackford Highland Games!! This was one of my favorite activities of the whole time in Scotland! It was so cool! It's a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage.


There are a ton of different events, kind of like a track & field meet. They had running races, and biking races; they had Scottish Highland Dancing (so cool! they did about 5 different dances, changing their outfit everytime, but this is the most traditional outfit);(and a video of it for your entertainment)
video
a tug-o-war (super intense! - they really have a technique for this, it's not just any tug-o-war); a bagpipe band that plays every once in a while;
and our favorite... the heavy weight competitions in the middle of the field:
Here you have a bunch of guys in kilts who do everything that involves picking up and throwing rediculously heavy items :)

- the "stone put" (like shot put),
video

-the Scottish Hammer Throw (I would explain it, but it makes more sense if you read more about these events here - it's really interesting!),
video
(the best part is the grunt!)

-the "weight throw" (again, read in above link)

-the "weight over the bar" (yes, I know, very creative)
video
-the "caber toss" (our favorite) - if you get a chance, seriously read the link above - it will give you a good explanation of the goal of each event.
video
Oh, what a day! We even had our 2 favorites to cheer for, Bruce Robb (doesn't that just fit?!), and Ryan Neighbors. It was so fun!

The next day was Sunday and we went to church in nearby Perth (where there was a total of 42 people there, including us! - but hey, that was pretty full compared to the 13 we heard were there the week before). After church they had a "Bite & Blether" - quite comparable to our "Munch & Mingle" or "Linger Longer." We got to meet the people and it was really fun to talk with them. We again met some of the young single adults (which just happened to be all male - hey, we're not complaining) and got to hang out with them for the afternoon. They took us to a place called the Hermitage, which was a beautiful hike (more like a walk) through the forest to a beautiful waterfall! Thanks Steven, Joe, Daniel, Robbie, and others for the fun and friendship!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Heading out on our adventure!

So I don't have much time to update (and yes, I am way behind!), but I wanted to just say that Cherise and I are together again! She flew into London on my birthday...what a birthday present! We are now in Edinburgh, and tomorrow we head out into the Scottish Highlands for my favorite part! We will go to Loch Lomond, then up to Glencoe for a bunch of hiking, biking, kayaking (hopefully, if the weather is good). I will catch up on all the happenings of the last week or so, and this coming week - but it probably won't be until I get home. So yes, I know you are all sitting on the edge of your seats, hoping to hear some more good stories from over here in Great Britain, but, alas, you will have to wait a little bit longer. :)

Pray for us, and if we don't come back in a week, head over here and start searching for us!

LOVE YOU!