Monday, September 29, 2014

Dream the Dream

Double-posting today because I just returned from seeing Les Miserables in London's West End.

Literally there are not words to describe the show. The music will be stuck in my head for the next few weeks and I am perfectly content with that. I thought it was fantastic and if I wasn't a poor college student I would definitely go again. And again. And then possibly even again.
You get the idea.

One of the best lines of the show is the end when they sing "to love another person is to see the face of God."

Please just re-read that and ponder it for a moment.

My cute cousin sent me a letter from her mission today and part of it read (regarding her companion), "The first couple weeks with her I thought I was going to die--she and I are just SO DIFFERENT and we were kinda driving each other nuts. But the more I understand about her, the more I've learned to love her. It's such a neat experience learning to love everyone."

From personal experience, I know exactly what she is talking about and know it to be true as well.
Everyone is so different; it is a truth universally acknowledged.
Another truth much less acknowledged is that even though we are all different, we can learn to love each other.
The more we are patient and kind with each other, the more we try to understand instead of judge, the more our love increases for the said person. When you see all parts of a person--their good, their bad, and even their ugly--you start to realize that they are just as human as you are. You start to realize that you can't possibly judge them for their decisions because they had good reasons and intentions behind them. You start to see how hard they are trying in their life. In essence, you start to see a glimpse of what Heavenly Father sees in us. You see potential. Most importantly: you start to truly love them, and when you truly love someone you really do see the face of God in them, if only for an instant.

So please; take the time to listen and understand those around you. You might just see the face of God while doing so. (Also go listen to the Les Mis soundtrack because heaven knows that is what I will be doing this week. Can't stop won't stop style over here.)

Just your typical Monday-night-thought provided to you by yours truly; the fruits of avoiding homework at its finest.

Love Always, Aimee


For the Beauty of the Earth; (Kensington Gardens Walk)

(In case you didn't catch this, I keep this blog for three purposes: it's a good way to journal and include pictures all in one, for my family while I am gone, and for a class here called London Walks. We go on different mapped out walks around the city and then blog about it. Anyways, now that you understand that time to move on..)

After dinner one night me and my good mate Ellen decided to take a nice stroll through Kensington Gardens. I would definitely say it was a good life decision. The sun setting, squirrels and birds out and a bout, and perfect temperature all cumulated to create an almost surreal atmosphere. It was weird to be in the sanctuary of the park and think that a 100 yards away was the busy streets of London's night life. All I felt was calm. It reminded me of the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth" which reads:
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

Is this not beautiful?
It was so nice to walk about and remember what a beautiful world our Father in Heaven has given us. I have noticed here that although London is a big city, the people in it really appreciate natural beauty. There are parks everywhere for people to just go and enjoy. They don't have giant plastic playgrounds like all the parks back home; they are just grass and flowers and trees and birds and ponds and paths. They are just there to enjoy for the sake of being naturally beautiful. AND PEOPLE USE THEM. They aren't vacant or only in use for those awkward teenage couples where if one person is there then you have to leave. No, that would be ridiculous here. These parks are used for picnicking, running, cycling, walking dogs or pushing strollers. They're used to just sit and read on a bench, or even to take a after dinner sunset walk. Whatever you want is game. 
You're probably thinking I am weird right about now because parks are not a novel idea and obviously can be used for those activities wherever you are.
But I am telling you, they are different here. They are used and they are loved as they should be.


Look at all these people out taking a stroll in the park! Brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant.
Kensington Palace. aka the residence of my future husband, Prince Harry...
Flower Walk where I met lots of squirrel friends who were oddly not afraid of me.
Italian water fountains/garden. I love finding pieces of Italy in England; it's basically combining my two obsessions for me.
God's love is all around us and evidence of His supreme power and brilliance is most easily seen in this beautiful world He has created for our enjoyment. What better way to show appreciation for his creations than to actually make use of them?

"To live [in London is] an awfully big adventure;"
me and my good pal Peter Pan.
Love Always, Aimee

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Southern England Adventures

I realize I am almost the worst person at blogging. I say almost purely because I am assuming there has to be someone out there worse than me,  I just don't know who they are. So much happens a day that I get a little overwhelmed and tell myself I will do this later... and then it just gets worse.

Here I am with about four posts to catch up on.
One day I will learn I suppose. Until then, just be patient because I promise to get them all out eventually.

Last week we took a trip to the southwest coast of England for three nights! It was wonderful. I mean, the riding several hours a day on a coach with limited leg room wasn't wonderful. Neither were the hostels or food. And to be perfectly honest, being without wifi is almost hard as pathetic as it is to admit that. But none of that even mattered. It is impossible to find anything to complain about here because I find myself completely content with life. Even Friday night I stayed in doing homework and wasn't even upset. Why? I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of London and going to sweet museums for free. FREE. A "bad" day in London doesn't exist.

Back to our trip last week.

Our trip started at Stonehenge. Way, way cool folks. Highly recommended. Sure, at the end of the day it is just a bunch of rocks. But it represents so much more than that. It has mystery and genius of the past that is absolutely fascinating. 

Next we went to Salisbury Cathedral..

I thought it was stunning. I tend to think every cathedral is stunning though. It is very gothic in design and beautifully built. I love old buildings..  It is also home to one of only four Magna Carta's in the world. That was neat to see, but sadly no photography was permitted so you will just have to take my word for it. 

Next we went to Stourhead Gardens. I will admit, when I saw it on the schedule I just thought, "okay cool. I like flowers. It will be nice to get off the coach and walk around for a bit, even if it's just a garden. No complaints here." .. Little did I know all my wildest dreams that I did not even realize I had were about to come true.
It turns out they filmed parts of Pride and Prejudice (the one with Kierra Knightly) there. 
That is my all time favorite book and I could watch the movie over and over again and never get sick of it. Seriously, so much love for Pride and Prejudice. 
Now. You know the scene where Elizabeth runs away from church in the rain and Darcy chases after her, confesses his love, and asks her to end his agony and marry him? And she just tells him to get off and it is pouring rain and absolutely perfect? Yes. Yes, I was standing on the pavilion where that scene took place. Yes. Yes, I died and went to heaven and ran up a mountain to get to it and it was wonderful. Everyone should put Stourhead Gardens on their list of places to visit in life because not only was it picturesque and perfectly lovely to walk around, but.. Pride and Prejudice guys. Need I say more? 

Now the real question is where is Mr. Darcy??
Candid moment through the gardens

That night we stopped at a pier for dinner and to just enjoy walking on the beach.
We definitely enjoyed it. 
three cheers to England 

The next day we ventured to St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, the very southwest corner of England. It is so cool. It was a castle on essentially its own island with a little community that lives in the tiny town around it. Everyone on the island works for the family that lives in the castle (and has lived there for hundreds of years). During low-tide you can walk the probably half mile out to it, which is what we did. I don't know how to fully describe how cool I thought it was or how brilliant I found it. 

At this point in the post you might be noticing the excessive number of "jumping pictures."
Well.. Yes. You are correct in thinking there are too many and we need to become slightly more creative. But to be honest, the four of us take one at every location. I have only posted a small number of the ones we have for your enjoyment. Ha, there will be so many by the time December rolls around. We will be professional jumpers. I could not really tell you why we do it, but we do. Just roll with it. 

Loving the Castle life
 Following St. Michael's we stopped at Tintagel, old castle ruins and Merlin's cave where King Arthur was apparently conceived? fun fact for you I suppose. It was breathtaking. Possibly my favorite stop. At least of that day. The view was just killer. So were the steps... Haha. So many steps. No complaints though; after hours on a coach it fells good to stretch your legs.

Is this not incredible? You can't tell me it is not stunning.

The next morning we hiked up yet another mountain of sorts to reach a Tor. I don't really know much about it.. Other than we did a 2 hour hike in a half hour and deserve some sort of reward. 
Then again, the view was definitely reward enough. Southern England is beautiful. It holds a special spot in my heart and I would not be opposed to moving there one day, even if just for a little while. 

That afternoon we arrived at our last destination: Bath, England. Home to some Jane Austen novels and the Roman Baths. Also lots of flowers, so naturally I took a picture. I am obsessed with all the flowers in this country. We need more in the states. 

The Roman Baths were so intriguing! I had never realized the amount of area they covered until the tour. It is fascinating to say the least. Highly recommend the audio tour. Romans highly interest me and I love England so mix the two together and I am one happy camper. Especially when a little Jane Austen can be thrown into the mix as well. This trip really was perfect. I have such a good life. All these adventures happened in the span of three days. THREE. And I only showed you a very small part! It does not take a genius to see that this study abroad gig is the bomb and roughly a billion times better than a regular semester. I am the luckiest person I know. 

(Anyways. It was a little after 3 am for me now and we leave on yet another trip in about 5 hours so it would probably be smart for me to get to sleep now. Please forgive any grammar or spelling errors as I am too tired to proofread...)

Love Always, Aimee


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hidden Secrets of the City; (Mayfair Walk)

Last week I took a stroll through the part of town known as Mayfair. Dating back to Roman times, May Day Fair was the celebration of the first day of summer. Over time the theme transformed to one of love and lust as the young and single would dance around and hope to entangle a lover of sorts. Now the area is known as Mayfair, and while it still mostly attracts the youth it is not just a festival to satisfy lust. It is now a vibrant part of town that I found full of bright colors, intriguing alleys, and delightful markets.

It is no wonder this area draws the younger generation in as the vocal point for their social life. I was enchanted by the quiet energy in the air. Driving though it I don't think one would notice anything particularly memorable or different about the district. But, take a nice walk and you are quickly pulled in and lost in the magic that is market alleys and hidden churches. I am fairly certain I could make Mayfair my home for good.  Or at least spend a good number of nights exploring it.

There are flowers all over London. I love it. Why doesn't Salt Lake follow suit? I will never know. You can walk down any street and spot flowers either in a shop, hanging from pubs, or in flower boxes outside of windows. If you are really looking you will get lucky and spot little paths that lead to a sanctuary of sorts: paths lined with enough foliage you momentarily forget you are in one of the biggest cities in the world. If you are ever lucky enough to come through this city make sure you really do WALK it; none of that taxi business. This walk really showed me it has so much to offer to those willing to be curious enough to look for it. 


Don't you just want to wander down every alley and go in every shop? 

It's mix of natural beauty and aging buildings still full of life make it the perfect hang out and young adult atmosphere. It's trendy, fresh, and energetic while managing to show off it's old charm and traces of history. What more could you ask for on a Friday night with someone special or a free afternoon with friends?

Another favorite part of the walk was finding the markets. Here is Piccadilly Market outside of St. James's Church; a return trip will be planned soon for sure. If you are willing to talk to those selling you can learn so much about the area, life in Mayfair, and things going around London. They might even lower their prices if you're cool enough ;) 

So obsessed with these hand-painted bowls. I would buy enough for my future home if I A) could actually get them home and B) wasn't a poor college student, haha. Really, these markets are as good as finding buried treasure in my opinion. 

Three cheers to Mayfair for having alluring alleys, delightful scenery, and an ambiance full of zest and (possibly) some magic. Now go take a walk around your own town and discover the secrets its been hiding in your own backyard all along!

Love Always, Aimee

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Walk Through the City

Our first Saturday we were given the opportunity to walk through the financial district of downtown London.

I have three conclusions from it:
1. They save so much road space with double decker buses. Seriously, just think about it.
2. College means I can only afford to stare through the shop windows there and drool because #poor and the exchange rate is killer
3. The juxtaposition of this city is unreal.

Let's focus on number three, because it is what is draws me to this place (and Europe in general quite frankly).

Swiss Reinsurance Tower. Totally fangirled hard over seeing this building because I definitely studied it last year in my interior design class. Dreams come true in London folks. 
You can walk down essentially any street and see the most modern buildings and design, but right next to it is a church (or something) dating back hundreds to a thousand years ago. The contrast is insane. It's beautiful and amazing to see not only how far we've come as a society, but how much still remains of those who came before. It is incredible to think of what their life was like hundreds of years ago and realize they left us little clues. The streets of England were not built in the most logical way; there's no grid pattern, no 100 east 200 east etc that I am used to back home. Instead their streets are build right on top of the old ones. They just paved over the carriage tracks and kept the same names. The street names themselves further your view into their world because you will find "Wood Street," "Grocers' Hall Court," and "Cheapside" just to name a few. It isn't hard to guess what used to be found on the streets a couple hundred years ago.

King Street

Shout out to all the "Knight's Tale" fans out there

Again with the juxtaposition.

Minister Court. Wicked combination of Gothic and Modern architecture so again, I was swooning. 

Want a change in your life? Take a walk through London (and it's alleys).

Ancient jewish church with stunning new garden.

Lloyd's building; another fan favorite.
London is a city where you can see pieces of the past set next door to hints of the future.
London is a city where your imagination is free to go backwards or forwards, because here they are one in the same.
London is a city for anyone and anything and I am so happy I get to call it my home for this short time.

Love Always, Aimee

The Heart of the City; the Roman looking building on the left is the Royal Exchange so yes, there were lots of classy business men walking the streets. It was pretty sweet.