Friday, May 30, 2008


Saturday afternoon and I'm sitting at an internet cafe on O'Connell Street in Dublin. We got here last night and didn't make to our hostel until about midnight. All day we've been exploring the city. I'm getting used to the whole hostel experience, its pretty much what I expected; young backpackers making their way across Europe. The hostel we're at now is close to the center of the city and used to be the recording studio for U2, Van Morrison and The Cranberries (thats right Camille) and there are tons of musical memoribilia on the walls. It has a real funky atmosphere. My first impressions of Dublin are pretty good. It has alot of character. I feel as if the people are tougher than other cities I've been so far. They look like they mean business even when they are just walking down the street. The accent is more comfortable and easier to understand than the Scottish or even the English is. The city itself is much smaller than London, which means everything to see is in the center and easily accesible. Just like you would expect, there are quite a few references to Guiness and the Luck of the Irish. The people are friendly and helpful, more so than they are in London.
Part of our self-guided tour took us to Trinity College, which is the most important school in Ireland. I have a friend from middle school named Claire who I knew was living in Dublin so I contacted her awhile back and let her know I was coming. I wasn't planning on seeing her until tomorrow, but while we were contemplating a cricket game at Trinity College I noticed a girl that looked like her walk by. I called out and she flipped when she saw me. We had a good chat and we'll probably meet up tomorrow for some lunch before I fly out. I guess all of that living abroad has really paid off. All in all, I love Dublin.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

punting in Cambridge

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Buckingham and the surrounding area

Here are some pictures of my gray Sunday walk through the area around Buckingham Palace. I always manage to get there around the same time as the changing of the guard so it is packed with tourists. As we get closer to summer, there are more and more American tourists and less Europeans.

Monday, May 26, 2008

another long break

Wow, its been a tough week for blogs, hasn't it? There isn't too much to add from the previous days. I spent most of Saturday hanging out at the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. You all are familiar with Portobello Road, right? "Anything and everything a chap can unload, is sold off the barrow in Portobello Road". The market is massive, and stretches through many city blocks. It is packed with tourists and the goods are overpriced, but otherwise it is great for the atmosphere. Sunday was a gray, rainy day as was today. I spent the morning walking around Buckingham Palace and the parks in the area. Today was rather quiet. I had class for most of the day and then this evening we went as a group to watch a performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream in the restored Globe Theatre. The theatre is open air and in the form of a circle, with seats along the walls and a space in the middle for people to stand up right against the stage, called the groundlings. The stage itself sticks out further than a modern stage does, allowing the groundlings to be literally at the feet of the actors. It was probably one of my favorite experiences so far. I learned to appreciate Shakespeare this last semester, and it was fun to actually see it come to life in the same sort of setting as back in his time.
I promise that the next few days will bring more exciting posts. Tomorrow I'll spend at the British library drawing. Wednesday we head on a day trip to Cambridge and in the evening some of us will be watching England play the U.S. in football at Wembley Stadium, and on Thursday evening I fly out to Dublin.

Friday, May 23, 2008

an update after a short break

Its been a few days since my last post, and those have been full. Ready for a pathetic attempt at catch-up? Wednesday all day we spent at Hampton Court, one of the many palaces occupied by Henry VIII. It lies further along the Thames from London, and we were told that royal guests would take pleasure barges from London to Hampton Court to see the King. Some of the rooms have been kept in the Tudor style of the 16th century, and those were my favorite to walk through.
The largest room was the great hall, where Henry's guests would dine and sleep all together. It has high wood ceilings, and tapestries depicting the life of the Prophet Abraham made with gold and silver thread. Next to it is a long hallway lined with portraits called the haunted gallery, where they say the ghost of Catherine Howard runs down the halls, screaming for her husband Henry to save her from an execution at the Tower of London. I was hoping to see something, but nothing happened. Also on the grounds there was a hedge maze, and a working Tudor kitchen.
Yesterday morning I had class, and spent the day drawing and practicing and in the evening I went with four others to see a brand new play by the same man who wrote Billy Eliot. It was about a group of miners from Northern England who take an art appreciation class and turn out great works of art themselves. It was a great play. My seat was just on the side of the stage and I was probably two feet from the actors, whose emotions I can read very clearly. It was a fun night and when that play become popular, you all can remember I saw it when it first came out.
Today was spent entirely at the London Temple. About 30 of us went to perform Baptisms for the dead and then a few of stayed for a Session afterwards. The temple is about 35 miles from the city center, which meant a 40 minute train ride over and back. It is in a suburb of London with tons of land and gardens. I have to say that I love the British members. There is something great and comforting about being with those of the same Faith when you are far from home. We speak a global, church language. We left about 9 am and didn't make it home until 7:30 in the evening. So it was a full, complete day. Now I am unwinding in the classroom, while a bunch of girls are preparing to watch Amazing Grace on the projector. Tomorrow I hope to swim in the morning somewhere, and then spend the day at museums drawing and exploring. Another eventful British day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

a little bit of Theatre

This evening a group of us decided to hit up the London Theatre scene away from the big-budget grand musicals, and seek after some contemporary plays. We chose a Swiss play that premiered in March at the West End with Ralph Fiennes called God of Carnage (Wikipedia it to find out more about the plot). The play was itself was a pleasant experience, with witty lines and an engaging plot. But what really got to me was the whole experience of the theatre. There really is no other art form that equals it. As my professor put it on Monday, the attraction of the theatre is the audience participation; almost as if the actors and the audience are experiencing the story together. I loved climbing up to our seats in the top row, and feeling anxious as the lights dimmed and the curtains went up. You are skeptical for the first few minutes, unsure of whether or not it will be any good. Unlike a movie, the players are right there in front of you and they respond to your laughs and cheers. They feed off of your reactions. Thats why it has endured as an art form for thousands of years. There is something in the experience of the theatre that you can't get anywhere else. We are planning on seeing another play on Thursday evening called The Pitmen Painters, written by the same man who wrote Billy Eliot. It premiered this week in London after a successful run in Newcastle.
Another slice of British life that I have pondered over today is the adventure of riding the Underground system anywhere I need to go. A few days ago we were headed to Westminster Abbey to walk around and at one of our stops a man jumped on with a Ukulele and started to sing. The tube is a very quiet place. No one talks to one another; there is no whistling or smiling aloud. Its almost an unwritten rule. So this man jumps on with a huge smile on his face, strumming his ukulele and hoping that someone will give him a pound or two. He asked us all to sing along (no one did) and walked up and down the aisle trying to sing the Monday blues away. There were a few reserved smiles on the tube rider's faces but no open grins. I remember one lady in particular, perfect makeup on her face, who just stared up at while he sang with a slight smirk. It was neat to have an experience like that where the usual seriousness is blown away with a few corny songs and a grin. To my surprise, the tube riders were generous and the man stepped out a few stops later. This evening riding back from the play, I made a point of observe my fellow passengers. The woman across from me was reading a book called The Egg and I. I've never heard of it but she seemed to be enjoying it. There are a lot of readers on the tube, mostly newspapers but some book. However, every book I see appears to discuss some mysterious, intellectual topic like Indian Philosophy, and not be the latest bestseller. On the way over to the play, we were jammed into a delayed train, which forced us to be pushed against the walls with less than inch in between us and our fellow passengers, kind of like cattle waiting for the slaughter. Its kind of interesting to think that you can be pressed next to someone for a full 20 minutes and not know too much more about them than the type of perfume they wear or what they like to read.
Tomorrow we are going to Hampton Court, made famous as the residence of King Henry VIII and at least some of his six wives. It is said to be haunted by his fourth wife, Katherine Howard who was beheaded at her husband's order. We shall see.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Back home...well, sortof

I've spent most of Sunday sick and tired. We got home from York yesterday afternoon and I spent the rest of the day drawing for my class. I caught some sort of cold while staying in Edinburgh at the Hostel. Thats what happens when you live with close to 60 people. As I said in a previous post, Edinburgh is a great city, different from London. It is much more medieval with a darker feel. There are ghost tours, and massive castles to visit. We spent the day and a half walking the streets and going through the historical sites. York was a bit different. We didn't know of too much to do before we got there so we spent the first day walking the streets, trying to figure out what to do. The city was the birthplace of Nestle so the streets smell like chocolate. The next day we took a walking tour of the ancient Roman and Medieval walls which haven't seen too much change. There is an area of the city called the shambles which used to be the main meat market area of Medieval York. As you can see, the houses look like they are about to fall over. They would hang the meat on hooks outside of the door and throw the waste in the middle of the street. It was such a disgusting place that the saying developed that if something was a mess, it was in shambles.
Today was just a typical day waiting for church to start, going at 2:00 pm and hurrying back home for dinner. The picture is of a beautiful London sunset from my window. I'm a little tired and hoping to get some sleep and feel better. So until the next post.

pictures, pictures, pictures

Here are some pictures from my recent adventures galloping around Scotland and York. Enjoy.
This is a view of the Edinburgh skyline.

Me and some of the boys.

The Elephant House Coffeeshop where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter on a napkin.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

kilts and more

Well I made it to Edinburgh yesterday around mid-day. Unfortunately I can't post any pictures yet but I've taken plenty so far. It seems kind of odd that I'm sitting in the middle of the old-city of Edinburgh with Haggis in my belly and the blair of bagpipes still fresh in my ears. I've spent the past day and a half walking through the old streets with my buddies and touring some of the more historic sites. The city is built on the "spine" of an ancient volcanic moutain. The old city was only less than a mile wide and a few miles long, so it ran the entire length of the slope of the ridge to the bottom. It used to be walled with lakes (or lochs in Scottish) at either end. At the summit of the volcanic mountain is the Edinburgh palace where the Scottish Crown jewels are now housed. I had the chance to spend the morning there, and it was incredible. The palace is guarded by the Scottish military in full Scottish kilt atire, you can be assured I took lots of pictures of them. Speaking of Kilts, I'll be bringing back a little surprise with me to the States that I can only really get in Scotland. And believe me I look pretty good in this surprise.
The city has a very old feel, more so than London; almost as if time as stopped for awhile. I've got plenty more stories to share, but I'll save those for when I can illustrate them with pictures. Tomorrow morning we head to York for another day of fun and excursion until Saturday afternoon. By then, I should have tons of pictures to share.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Porchester Centre

Tomorrow morning we head for Scotland on a five-hour train ride (kind of like Harry's trip to Hogwart's). Therefore these past two days have been a lot of prep before tomorrow. However, this morning I had a pretty good experience.
My buddy Jared and I received a free day pass to a gym nearby called The Porchester Centre. We would like to join but they require a minimum three month contract. We took our day pass and worked out for about 45 minutes, changed, and headed to the pool. I've been waiting to swim in a heated pool since last week when I suffered through the pond at Hampstead Heath. I had a pretty good workout, granted that I'm out of shape. The pool was divided into three large lanes, slow, medium and fast, with seats in the stand for some meets or for curious onlookers. The building is over a hundred-years old which makes for a surreal workout. For a kid that never really got used to his knock-knees and barrel chest, and looks rather funny running on land, swimming is the best thing to do. It is the only sport that I feel completely at home in, and where I can totally relax. Before I left, a friend of mine asked me what I like to do. For the past year I haven't had any time to really figure out what I like besides school and the broad "hanging out". It made me think, and resolve to find the things I like and enjoy them while I can. No matter that ends up being, swimming will have to fit in somewhere. I may not be fast or sleek in the water, but I am a swimmer who loves the water. I can't go back to the Porchester Centre to swim, but my new found realization of how much I enjoy swimming might push me to keep braving the frigid ponds and lakes of London. At least until I leave, then I can take on more comfortable challenges.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

speaker's corner and some church

By the time I got up this morning I'm sure the temperature was already 26 c because I was pretty warm and uncomfortable. Everyone else in the centre has church earlier in the morning than I do so the building was pretty much empty by the time I headed down the stairs. I had my slice of Nottinghamshire Cheese and some grapes and decided to head out on of my four more London walks I have to complete before we take off. It was a beautiful day so I hopped on the tube and got off at the Marble Arch tube stop right at the corner of Hyde Park. The tube empties out onto Speaker's Corner, where every Sunday anyone can stand on their soapbox and speak their mind while enduring the heckles and jeers of the crowd. The only ones there when I went this morning were an American Muslim and someone preaching atheism. When I walked up the Muslim man was discussing the roles of husband and wife within a family. Many of the jeers came from the various Scandinavian tourists scattered throughout the crowd, who must have a pretty lax view when it comes to traditional family values. The man passionately defended his beliefs. I couldn't help but imagine President Hinckley standing on that same corner defending the church. The thought was exhilarating. Once the questions and the discussion got to be a little ridiculous, I moved one with my walk to the other side of Hyde Park near the memorial to the Duke of Wellington. Along the way I passed what looked a group of British aristocrats protected by mounted horseman. There was also a group of paparazzi mingling behind the police line so I figured something interesting must be happening. Instead of trying to find out what celebrity was among the crowd, I continued on my walk to the Duke of Wellington memorial, which is a massive arch at the entrance to the park. As I was nearing the structure, I was told to get to the sidewalk by a policeman on a motorcycle. After him drove by a Rolls Royce with Prince Charles clearly visible in the back seat, about three feet away from me. Despite being sixty, he sure is a handsome devil.
After I finished my walk in the park I headed back to the Centre and then off to church at the Spanish branch in Kennington. This week was my first teaching a lesson in Elder's Quorum so I was a little nervous. The lesson went fine and I was able to teach an investigator with the missionaries during the following hour. There are no missionaries called to speak Spanish in the London South mission, so the two elders assigned to my branch learn it on their own. One elder is from Utah and is learning now while the other is from Italy and took two years of Spanish in High School. The lesson went great. I almost felt like a missionary again. After Sacrament Meeting we hopped on the tube back to the Centre for dinner and a mini fireside. Everyone is buzzing about our trip to Scotland on Wednesday. I've been looking forward to it for the past few months. I'll probably be incomunicado from Wednesday to Saturday evening but I'll be sure to take lots of pictures to document what will be a great trip.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

saturday in the park with Whetten

So I'm sure everyone out there in the blogosphere has their own idea of what a perfect day is like. I'll step past my lame attempts at witty comments and deep philosophical epiphanies to describe my perfect day, which happened to be today. Please indulge my dorkiness. At around 10:30 this morning a group of us headed to the Boroughs Market which is just south of the Thames river. I had heard bits and pieces about the market, which only convenes on the weekends ( don't quote me on this because I'm most likely wrong). We arrived just as every other tourist was and tried to navigate the maze of food stalls and little cafes. I had heard rumors that many of the vendors would give free samples of their product if you only lingered around their stall a bit and ask some questions. I have to say that my vision of heaven must include something like Boroughs Market. I stopped at every cheese vendor I could find, whether it be Dutch, French or Spanish, to try some cheese. At my third vendor I decided to buy a slice of cheese that tasted much like Bleu or Roquefort. It was a little too strong for my tastes but what sold me on it was that it came from Nottinghamshire, or the site of the ancient Whetten homestead. I had to bring a piece of ancestral cheese back with me. I'll most likely it for breakfast in the morning along with some organic grapes purchased at the next stall I visited. For lunch I chose a vendor set up next to a shop of Spanish gourmet food. He was serving chorizo sandwiches with roasted red peppers bathed in olive oil, which was a common lunchtime snack during my mission.
After an hour or so at the market I took the tube back to the centre and then headed towards Kensington Gardens to complete a drawing assignment. Kensington and the Hyde Park area on a Saturday are quite a sight, especially on a sunny day like today. Every inch of grass is covered with picnic-ers, pasty white Londoners hoping for a tan, cricket players and cuddling lovers. The parks in London are little wilder than they are back home. Most of the grass is left to grow, perhaps to give the parks a more wilderness feel. I chose to draw a figure on the Peter Pan sculpture that is just inside the park. J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, would spend lots of time in Kensington Gardens and it is where he first met the Llewelyn-Davies boys who inspired the story about the boy who refused to grow up. I sat in front of the statue for awhile, sketching a single figure, while tourists from all over the globe posed for pictures. I must've heard the name Peter Pan in a dozen different languages, but everyone loved the character enough to smile brightly when they came up to his statue.
To finish off the evening we went as a group to a Baroque music concert at the recently renovated St Martin-in-the-fields Church in Trafalgar Square. Out of all the churches and Cathedrals I've seen throughout Europe, this has to be my favorite. It was so uncluttered and simple compared to the rest. Each pillar was surrounded by lit candles, and for two hours we sat in the pews older than America, listening to Vivaldi and Bach (two hours was a bit much but it was great anyway). I'm not a huge classical music fan, only when I'm studying something that required deep thought like Math or Philosophy; but there is something incredibly relaxing about classical music when played by stringed instruments.
Basically, all those elements are present in my perfect day; great food, fun outdoors and something cultural and relaxing at the end. Give me those three, add in family and perhaps a swim in the lake, and I will stay happy.

Friday, May 9, 2008

kew and a little football

Part of our time in London includes a occasional trips outside of the tourist zone to obscure places like Kew Gardens in Southwest London. It a large area of Botanical Gardens with a few greenhouses and a former palace. Most of the group went and we spent the morning there, walking around and talking. Those of us in the drawing class took some time to do some quick sketches of some statues in the palace gardens.
Later on after dinner, a group of us decided to play a little football in Kensington Gardens to pass the time. We picked out a great set of parkland, divided up into teams and had a blast for the next hour and a half. We must have been quite a site; a bunch of Americans stumbling over each other while chasing a ball. I have absolutely no skill in my feet, and I resign myself to playing defense. Afterwards I grabbed two of my fellow students for a quick jog around the park. I was pumped full of energy and it seemed like the right thing to do. We passed the Prince Albert Memorial as well as the Royal Albert Concert Hall, both spectacular buildings. After a little bit I was completely out of breath and we headed home. Tomorrow we are planning on attending a concert at St. Martin in the Fields near Trafalgar Square, and I have three more hours of drawing to do before midnight.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

one more thing before I retire

A funny thing happened on the way back from Piccadilly Circus this evening. I had gone there with a few friends to buy a pair of walking sandals at the world famous Lillywhites Sport Store. Piccadilly at night is incredible, almost like Times Square with all the neon and constant activity. We hopped on the tube to Oxford station where we hoped to change to the Central Line for our ride home, but when we reached our car an announcement came over the PA system saying that the our station (Queensway) was closed due to a passenger assault. Immediately some passengers disembarked and we followed suite. We opted for a bus ride rather than wait for the business at Queensway to get sorted out, and we went street level to find the correct route. Our bus was late, and there must have been about 15 other people waiting with us. We crammed into the bus and tried not to breathe in the mixture of smells that are typical at the end of a long work day. At each stop more and more people tried to get on and we kept getting pushed further and further into each other. About five stops from our destination we noticed that there was a verbal battle at the front of the bus. Apparently a man forced himself and his small family onto the bus even after being told it was too full by the bus driver. When the door closed it apparently hurt this man's wife and almost injured his son. The man was furious and he started to yell at the bus driver. The driver stopped, ordered the man off the bus and yelled at him when he refused to do so. We couldn't hear too much from the middle of the bus but I could make out the angry customer saying to the bus driver, "this is not a cow bus, this a human being bus". The driver wouldn't move the bus until the unruly passenger and his family got off. Rather than wait for it to get sorted out, we took the next available bus and made it home. Overall the trip back took us a little more than an hour, when the trip over took us less than 20 minutes.

quick thought

So...mangoes in London? I thought it was not possible, but after dinner tonight I stand corrected. Globalisation has made it possible. We had mangoes, as well as strawberries and grapes which are NOT native to this frigid country of the north. I have to say even though they traveled so long to get to my plate in London, they didn't taste as well as they could if they had stayed in the warm Tropic climate. Globalisation might give you a taste of the world, but it probably won't be the best one.

Canterbury, Rye and Beachey Head

Every morning the sun rises in England at about 5:30 which disrupts all of us who sleep in the attic. However, yesterday we all woke up just after the sun had risen and headed downstairs for our trip to Canterbury and its famous cathedral. As soon as we hopped on the bus the Centre had rented, I fell asleep in the back seat and didn't wake up until we were well into the English countryside. Canterbury is a medium-size city in the county of Kent in Southeast England. The Cathedral absolutely dominates the skyline and has so for almost a thousand years. It is the current seat of the worldwide Anglican church which gives it a kind of Temple-Square feel with guides at every corner. The Cathedral is also known as the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Beckett in 1170 who at the time was Archbishop of Canterbury.We had a couple of hours to walk through the massive building, contemplating the statues, stained class windows and relics. After Canterbury we headed to the medieval village of Rye which used to sit on the coast. Years ago, it was a haven for smugglers but now it only hosts the massive throngs of tourists who descend upon its quaint streets. After Rye we drove further along the coast to Beachey Head in Sussex. This is the eastern most point of what is called the seven sisters, or seven massive cliffs made up of white chalk. With a more than 500 foot drop to the sea below, the cliffs have traditionally been a favorite spot for suicides and daredevils. As a group we walked the sides of the cliff and endured the strong wind coming off the coast. It was an incredible view across the English channel. On a good day they say you can see France, but for us it was impossible.
Call me a dork, but the English countryside looks like the Shire in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It has rolling green hills, the occasional outcropping of trees, and a massive population of sheep.
Today I started my second class which is an Introduction to Drawing. Our first assignment was to head to one of the many museums in the area and sketch various sculptures. Myself and two others headed to the British Museum and sat in the Greek and Roman section for three hours sketching classical statues. We were asked by our professor to look more than we drew, and watch for the subtle differences in shading and texture. I produced a horrible drawing, but with more time spent among the classic works of art, I'm sure I'll improve.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

a play and Harrods

Tuesdays are free days without any classes, so myself and a few others decided to try another slice of West End culture with Agatha Christie's play "The Mousetrap" now in its 56th year. It is a staple of the theater scene and a must-see for anyone in London. For those not familiar with the story, it is a murder mystery set in a country guest house during an English blizzard. It has a bizarre ending that the audience is asked not to reveal to not spoil it for anyone else. The play was everything you would expect an Agatha Christie story to be; full of suspense and a twist ending. As someone who was once fascinated with plays, I had to wonder during the show how the actors could do it at every performance; say the same lines, and perform the same recycled characters over and over again? It seems awfully boring to me. Honestly, the performance seemed a little rushed and predictable, almost as if the actors had to get it over with to move on with their lives afterward. That reminds me of what the Professional Basketball player Travis Hansen once told me. I asked him one night in Vitoria, Spain if he loved playing Basketball for a living, to which he responded that it was a job like any other and had lost its fun. I guess we are programmed to hate what we do if it does not offer opportunities to improve or try new things.
After the play and dinner, we stopped into the world famous Harrod's Department Store for some light browsing and mingling amongst the uber-rich. The store is massive, with five floors dedicated to luxury shopping. While there I bought two books; Ian McEwan's Saturday and a guidebook to Italy. Tomorrow we wake up early for a trip to the English countryside to Canterbury, the town of Rye and Beachyhead.

Monday, May 5, 2008

an American in London

Each area of study has its great masters, who have laid the foundation for thought and philosophy for subsequent generations of students. These masters are often an inaccessible group; aloof from the common student studying their works. For me, they represent no more than spectacular ideas that sprung from a common source. It is hard to imagine them as anything else. Today I had my first class in English Literature and we discussed four of these great masters of my chosen area of study, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot all who lived and worked in London for some time. My Professor, Dr. Talbot, discussed how all of these men has some sort of relationship with each other and how they produced their works in London. Three of them, Frost, Pound and Eliot, were Americans who flocked to London as it was the cultural center of the English language. We talked about some of their poetry, much as I would have at BYU. But then we got up, walked a few blocks, and stopped at the house that Pound lived in for some time and was the center of the literary movement in London. Then we walked further down the same street and stopped in a church where T.S. Eliot was married. These giants of my college career where suddenly accessible and human. The streets that inspired them were the same now. The house was there, as was the church. You can't feel that closeness from Provo.
We left from there to get some lunch. Myself and a group of other students decided to try out the Cafe Diana across from Kensington Palace. The cafe is small and its walls are covered in pictures of the Princess with at least three or four copies of the snapshot when she visited the cafe once for a drink. I had the fish and chips again (it is more common than I thought). Afterwards I rode the tube with two others to Hampstead Heath in the borough of Camden north of where I live. Hampstead Heath is an enormous park that has some great views of the entire center of the city. I decided that I would swim in one of the three ponds they have set apart for public swimming. I changed into my suit and jumped into the coldest water I've ever felt in my life. There was a sign next to the pool that stated its temperature was at 13 degrees celcius. I thought I would get used to it but I couldn't. After three laps I tried off, and decided I would never ride that far to jump in water so cold again. I've I wanted to freeze I can just take a dip in the Hyde Park Serpentine Lake, which is much closer.
For the rest of the day we don't have too much planned. Tomorrow is a free day to explore and Wednesday we embark on our first excursion outside of the city to Canterbury and its famous Cathedral; which means more pictures and stories in the coming days.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

the centre

here are some pictures of the BYU London Center and the area immediately surrounding it.
This is in the Notting Hill Area. The following pictures are of Palace Court which is my street and the London Center at number 27

the accidental tourist

Last Sunday I remember thinking that I would be somewhere in the London area today going to church. Then it felt impossible and far off. Its about 10 in the morning on a Sunday and I'm waiting to go to my branch in south London at 2. The meetings will be in a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese. I'm the only returned missionary who speaks Spanish, along with my buddy Jared who speaks Portuguese. Then we have one girl who is a Spanish major named Rachel and two others who took some Spanish classes in College. I'm way excited. Yesterday a son of one of the professors in the program was baptized. We rode the tube down to the borough of Chapham in south London for the service. I felt incredibly comfortable walking into the chapel and talking with the members. Wherever you go the language of the church is the same.
Chapham is quieter than the rest of London with more of a suburban feel which makes me excited to visit the countryside on our many excursions in the coming weeks.
The past few days gave us a chance to experience the weekend. We have an 11:00 pm curfew which doesn't give us enough time to hit random London hotspots. Instead, we went to a young Single Adult 80's dance at the Hyde Park chapel just across the park from us. There weren't too many people there but it made for some great people watching. I've noticed that the brits are bitingly sarcastic. At the end of the dance we asked one kid sitting outside how to get back home. He replied, "What, to America?" So everyone kind of has that sarcastic brat quality.
I'm posting a few pictures from my final walk yesterday through the area surrounding Buckingham Palace and St. James' park. We were there around 11 along with hundreds of camera-toting tourists watching the changing of the guard. There is alot of pomp and tradition associated with the monarchy, which is always fun to watch. The weather cleared up a bit yesterday and today, but there is a chance for some light rain tomorrow. We officially start our classes this week which means I'll visiting more of the national museums and libraries for a little research. Now that I've done most of the tourist stuff, I'm ready to move on to the more meaty, heart of London that I came here for.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

the city

Before I came to London I remember looking at a map and thinking that it wasn't as big as I thought it would be. Or else how did they manage to fit it all on one small map? The truth is, London is huge and today I saw more of it than I thought existed. We spent the day walking through the London financial district (when I say we I mean myself and three other students) and the Westminster area which is the seat of government. We joined the other throngs of tourists snapping pictures of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Here's a picture on the other side of the building in a place called Victoria Gardens.

Everyone in the financial district is in a huge hurry and are quick to push curious American tourists out of the way. I guess they have the world's economy to run so they have no time to wait behind slower pedestrians. The center of London called the city, is incredible. It has some of the earliest churches in the area like this one dedicated to St. Michael.

For lunch we stopped into a fish and chips shop close to the Centre for some deep fried bliss. Apparently you can stop into any pub in the middle of the day and order some fish and chips that ares supposed to be out of this world, but only before the evening when the drinking starts. During the afternoon we took a walk through some more of the banking area. All of us in the group are following a series of walks in a sort of mini-textbook guide that we received last semester. We have to complete eight of them before Saturday evening and each last anywhere from one to three hours long, so that is how we have spent our time so far. It has been a great way to get to know the different areas of the city that the tourists normally never see. Tomorrow we'll go on a walk on the South Bank of the Thames and through the West End theater district. Only three more to go before we are finished.
This morning I decided that I couldn't stand another day of no exercise so I pulled on my running shoes and headed out to Kensington Gardens. I told myself that I wouldn't run, that swimming was more of my thing, but since it has been raining all week swimming was out of the question. I started through the gate for a quick run into the center of the park. It turned out to be an incredible morning! It was the first time I had seen the sun the whole time I've been here. There were tons of people out who ran funny like I do, so it encouraged me more. Later, I stopped on the grass for some pushups and situps and I realized I was right in front of Kensington Palace where Princess Diana used to live. Right then, it hit me how incredible that was; that I was halfway around the world in a place I had only heard about for so long, and it felt great. Looks like I'll be going on more runs in the morning.