Sunday, October 5, 2014

Wale Wale Wale...(s). And Other Travel Adventures

On Monday, September 22nd the forty-five of us students and professors boarded a coach to set off on a six day adventure! Wales in the west and the Lake District up north (and everything in between) was calling our names. Crammed in with my backpack in my feet space, sleepy head against the window, and holding a bag of produce to hopefully last me the week, we departed from Palace Court ready to take on the world (or at the very least a new country).

Part One: Wales

Before reaching Wales we stopped in the city Bristol to visit a cathedral [obviously] and grab some lunch. On these trips they drop us off at what they want us to see and also where they will pick us up. Then they give us a time to be back on the coach and we are let loose on the city for an hour or two depending. It's wonderful; it gives each of us the opportunity to wander, see what interests us, go at our own pace, and get to know the part of the city we wish. Bristol is a semi-small university town. Not small town in the way Logan or Ephraim is, but it definitely isn't a Salt Lake or Provo. Maybe if Bountiful were to have a college that is what its American equivalent would be? Either way, I absolutely adored Bristol. There have been many cities/towns/villages we have stopped through that have been so fun or cute to visit, but this was the first stop where I exited the coach and immediately thought "I would live here. If I were British, this is where I would go to school." 
I wish I had taken more photos there... I only have this one, apart from the pictures of the cathedral. The town did not look like a tourist location. It wasn't super old and yet it definitely wasn't modern the same way London is. I don't know how to describe it other than clean, quaint, and home.
This is part of the town square. There were just fountains and flowers in the middle of streets and shops. A less modern version of Station Park, I suppose.

Here is a favorite shot of me and at the cathedral. I thought the door frame was so cool. Not that I have ever been to the Middle East, but it reminded me of it or something you would see in Aladdin.

It's safe to say that I am obsessed with cathedral interiors. It's fine. 

After leaving Bristol we continued our journey into Wales! We stayed the night in Cardiff, the capitol. We stopped at a castle on the way but didn't go inside because there was only a half hour until closing. That's okay though, we went to a different one the next day. I believe I counted three castles on this trip. 

 This is my main posse hanging at a castle because we are too cool for school.
[The joke is that this is actually our school and we are so lucky it is insane] 
((please notices and appreciate my gryffindor shirt. thank you.))

Outside the castle we found the greatest parking spot ever; I think I will need it outside my own future home. 

Isn't it genius? I vote yes. 

We spent the next day touring Cardiff city, castle, and museums before leaving to Snowdonia National Park in Wales. 

GUYS. It was so beautiful. I just really love Wales, it is such a cool place. They have their own language--which they put on every sign BEFORE English as a way to preserve it--and their own unique feel. I expected it to be just like England. 
Not so my friends, not so. 
It feels different even from the countryside of England. They have a different people, not just in accents but in attitudes, culture, and history. It's true that much of it overlaps, but much is also different. It was interesting to visit and compare/contrast the two. 

Snowdonia National Park was stunning. We drove all over the park in the morning and I had my eyes glued out the window and mouth open, trying not to let drool escape because the beauty was unreal. My camera out the window does not do the small towns or big fields justice, but I still tried. 

I would live in Wales. Does it not look perfect?

While in the National Park we took a train up Mount Snowdon to the highest point in the United Kingdom. If it looks like we were in the clouds it's because we were. Literally. 
Yes, it was unexpectedly freezing (we weren't really told beforehand of this excursion and therefore were not necessarily dressed for it) but it was so much fun. Windy as heck, but an adventure to be sure. 

Don't worry; me and Ellen definitely climbed (more like danced) to the top of the peak while playing "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons out loud on my phone; you could say we are doing life right. 

We finished the day seeing the last of three castles. This one we actually went inside to explore! 
I LOVE CASTLES. I've said it before but I'll say it again: castles are my jam. There is just something about their beautiful ruins that I cannot help but fall in love with. 

This is Conwy Castle; probably my favorite one so far. Ya'll should go. 

Sorry about the out-of-control hair; a minor sacrifice of traveling is not looking top-notch due to limited resources, zero time, and incredibly windy weather. It's a sacrifice I am more than willing to make! Traveling >>>> everything else.

The castle had a stunning view, to say the least. 

Another adventure of Wales was touring Big Pit Mine. It was a huge coal mine back during the Industrial Revolution and supplied much of the coal to the UK then and after. It was cool but unfortunately for safety reasons we were not permitted to have anything down in the pit that had batteries because they release things into the air that could trigger an explosion...? I don't know. All it really meant to me was no camera so no pictures. Lame.
I think my Dad and Grandpa would have really enjoyed it. Our guides name was Smithfy. No, that F is not a typo. Yes, that was his name. I didn't question. He was the bomb. He worked in the mine 30 years ago when it was fully functioning and told us a lot of history and stories. Suffice it to say I could have never worked in a mine and I am so glad I did not live during the industrial revolution. Those were not the best of times for the general population. They had little boys working in the mine for 10-12 hours a day in the complete dark. I can't even imagine. These are eight year olds we are talking about hundreds of feet underground in complete blackness for hours on end. *shudder* It was interesting to learn about though; it made me grateful once again for the home, life, and family I have been blessed with. 

The evening we returned to England we stopped in the small town of Chester for dinner and wandering time. They have an old Roman wall you can use as a guide to walk around the entire city; it's strange to find lingering traces of the Roman conquest spread so far. They were ambitious people. It is one thing to hear of their influence and a whole other to see it, especially after having visited Rome a year ago. 
The town of Chester itself is all Tudor/Elizabethean style, so yes. I loved it.

We also found a store that sells American goods for the small fee of an arm and a leg. 
Seriously. A box of Lucky Charms? Eight pounds (14ish dollars). Care for some Twinkies? Twelve pounds. THAT IS TWENTY DOLLARS FOLKS.
I am sorry, but in what world is that worth it?? I would be willing to pay for some things. 
Such as pumpkin cookies. Europeans don't celebrate Thanksgiving and even Halloween seems pretty low key. They don't understand my need for pumpkin. If I found some pumpkin cookies, I would put down good money. 
But TWINKIES? I would not even eat one for free. Not even for payment. 
Okay. Rant over. 
I guess if you love Twinkies and come to the UK you may rest in peace knowing you will be able to find overpriced ones somewhere. 

Part Two of our Trip: Church History!

After touring castles, cathedrals, stores, and national parks we made our way to Liverpool, Preston, and the Potteries. These were all important early LDS Church history sites in the UK we have been learning about in class. [Yes, we have class. I know you don't believe it, but we do real school too.]

In Liverpool we visited the docks where the very first missionaries landed in England as well as where thousands of converts emigrated to America from. It was unreal to stand and look out over the water imagining all those who had gone before me. My family comes from Great Britain and I am certain at least some passed through those docks before joining the Saints overseas. I felt so humbled learning of the sacrifices of the early saints. Many gave up the very little they had to the work of furthering the gospel. It was the most important thing in their life (as it should be in ours..). They would be baptized in freezing ponds or rivers after only hearing a discussion or two from the missionaries. Some even had rocks thrown at them by mobs while being baptized but they continued anyways. They were almost all in poverty but found joy and peace in the gospel.

Many find it odd how successful the first missionaries were in the UK. As I said, people would join The Church almost immediately. This is only surprising until you understand these people. They were searching for truth. They were seeking peace. They were praying to discover what they could feel was missing in all other churches. They believed in a loving, merciful God who still cared about his people and would still speak to them. When they heard the message of the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints they went "That's it! That is what I have been looking for! That is what my church was missing!" Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has something that all other churches do not have. It has a modern prophet with real authority from God. It has more scriptures as well as present day revelation. It has a peace that is only found through the Spirit and from being the only true church today. These early British saints were humble enough to recognize that, and I love them for it.

Statue on Liverpool docks dedicated to the Saints who passed through

Preston was wonderful to visit as well. The town itself is now grungy and sketch. It was somewhere that for the first time they insisted we travel in groups of at least four for dinner.. but I loved it. The whole group met up with a church historian living nearby who took us on a walking tour of the city. He showed us the town square where not only the very first missionaries preached, but President Hinckley as well. Along the way we saw where the first meeting house was (now a 80's themed bar..) and the river where the first converts literally raced to be baptized first. As we walked and stopped at places he would read us segments from journals of the missionaries and testimonies of the saints; it quite was lovely and uplifting.

River Ribble in Preston

Part Three: The Lake District <3

Our last stop on this six-day journey was the beautiful Lake District. We enjoyed an afternoon in the sun eating world famous gingerbread, walking around thee most perfect village, and scouting out a future home before the brave souls joined my professor in racing down the dock to do his annual "Polar Plunge" challenge.
Luckily for me, I have already completed a polar bear plunge in the dead of winter. Not to mention my swimming in the frigid ice ocean of Maine.. So the Lake District had nothing on me. I definitely won the race to the buoy, nbd. I think the boys were a little surprised, haha.
I will admit; the first minute was a shock to the body. Legs freeze up, panic sets in, and embarrassing girl squeals escape your mouth before you become numb and get a grip on yourself. But hey, thats part of the excitement and fun, right? 

the brave souls before jumping in.

Aren't we so cute?
these are the moments we live for
The Lake District was so beautiful. I would definitely tell anyone planning a trip to England to make spending a solid day and night there a high priority. It is one of my very favorite places so far. That evening we after dinner we sat on the docks and started singing hymns. Only at BYU, right? Love it. We busted out perfect 4 part harmonies accapella and sounded good doing it. It was so peaceful to be in the midst of God's creations singing His songs. How Great Thou Art will always be my favorite. 


I would not mind having a summer home here.. just a thought. 

On the way back to London we drove back through Preston and got to spend a few minutes walking around the Temple grounds. <3 <3 I was so so happy to do so. Such a special place with my special people that have become my family here. 

And that in a nutshell was my week! If you actually read this all.. I am impressed to say the least. It was a solid novel and you are a champ. Believe it or not, I cut out over half my pictures I had originally picked for this and so many minor stops and details. Each day is so full I could probably do a post on it. But let's be honest, that just is never going to happen. Recaps are hard enough for me but I am trying to do better. 

Tomorrow morning we leave on yet another six day adventure to York and SCOTLAND. Never been so excited. Woot woot. Until then, 

Love Always, Aimee