Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Wrap-up of my Pre-Summer Adventures.

Can you believe I did all that in a month, before summer even technically started? I can't. What I really can't believe is that I have been home for seven months. It feels like it was all a dream, and none of it really happened. :( Luckily I have photographic evidence. So, after my journey concluded, I did some calculating of my mileage from my whirlwind month of adventure. Here are the stats:

From June 2 to June 5 (Nauvoo Student Tour), I travelled a total of 2,883 miles.

From May 2 to May 26, I traveled 13,314 miles.

For a Grand Total of:

16,197 miles
(~26,066 km)

And that doesn't even include foot travel, Tube travel, or Metro travel. If I was somehow able to calculate that the number would be much higher. Dang it! I should have worn a pedometer!

You have to admit, that's pretty impressive for a time-frame of 34 days. It was the best. It was exhausting, oftentimes miserable, but it was truly grand! I miss that month with all my heart. I miss it so much that I'm still wearing the leather bracelet I bought in Galway nearly eight months ago. I also continue to wear my silver Claddaugh/Trinity knot necklace pretty much daily. They were good times. I grew a lot, and I gained a lot. Ever since I have been home I keep thinking of things my adventures taught me. Here are some examples as quoted from my travel journal:

  • Other churches have some truths, and really amazing people, even if they don't have the fulness of the gospel like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • The saints in other countries are incredible people, and no matter what our political and cultural differences may be, we are brought together through the truth of the gospel.
  • The world contains limitless beauty, and Heavenly Father is the source of all of it.
  • We can learn to love and be happy in any situation that we are in. God and the Savior know what is best for us, and it's important to trust in them wherever we are led.
  • We can find thinks we have in common with anyone, and learn to see past differences. 
  • Every person on this earth is indeed a child of God, and each and every one of them should be treated as such. 
  • First impressions are almost always wrong.
There you go--some of my nuggets of wisdom. ;) Not really, but these lessons have really helped me to see myself and the world in a different light. In fact, reading them again now has been a good reminder for me to look for the good in my life, and in my roommates. :) 

And with that, I'm officially done with playing catch-up! Now I can get on with the present day! But, I warn you, it's not quite as interesting. :)

Really Quick: Nauvoo...


Not even a week after I'd gotten home from Europe, I was randomly surprised with a school trip to Nauvoo and surrounding church history sights for my birthday!  So I quickly unpacked, then repacked, then got on a bus! It was a really short trip: Thursday-Sunday I believe. There was a LOT of driving. I had forgotten what an adventure it is to sleep on a tour bus. Fun times. :) But it was totally worth it! Here are the pictorial highlights:
The weird seashell "temple" of the Community of Christ church, formerly known as  the RLDS church. 

The ceiling of the chapel in the seashell temple. I don't get it, but for some reason it's really symbolic for them. As for me, it made me feel like I was inside the conch in Lord of the Flies

The gorgeous Kansas City, Missouri temple under construction.  This building didn't have an interior yet when I was there yet the spirit was about a million times stronger.

Liberty Jail. Not quite what i was expecting: the jail is a replica, basically cut in half, within a typical visitor center. But it was still cool. It really gave you an idea of the living conditions.

Adam-Ondi-Ahman. The picture does not do it justice. It's this huge expanse of mostly grassy plains, but the Spirit is extremely strong there. It was incredible.

At Carthage. It was exactly how I remembered it from when I was little. And it was just as amazing.  I love this place. They let us stay a little longer in the room where Joseph and Hyrum was killed and sing Praise to the Man. It was a really powerful experience. 

This is in Nauvoo at an art gallery. That lady in the pink cardigan is a direct descendant of Joseph Smith. She was originally a member of the Church of Christ (another offshoot of the church besides Community of Christ), but the missionaries found her about twenty years ago and now she has a whole family of little Joseph descendants who are active members of the Church. Pretty amazing. :)
The headstones of Joseph, Hyrum, and Emma from the backside.  We went on the tour of church history sights owned by the Community of Christ. They don't own the park on the other side of this fence, so we didn't get to see the full view of the headstones. Sad :(

The first time I saw the Nauvoo Temple I couldn't breathe. Last time I was here it was a field with four rocks in the ground. Seeing it was like running head-on into a brick wall of amazingness. :) It was surreal. Doing baptisms for the dead there was even more surreal. You can feel the spirits of the saints who sacrificed so much to build it the first time. I would have slept on a bus for a week just for that hour in the temple. It was life-changing, and extremely testimony-building.

A statue of Joseph and Hyrum looking on towards the temple for the last time before riding on to Carthage. Favorite.

Me with a moonstone.

Again- surreal. I can't believe it's actually there. I love that building.

This statue is of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards--the second First Presidency of the Church. It is at the Kanesville Tabernacle in Iowa, where they were called and sustained as the new First Presidency at the first general conference since the martyrdom, December 25-27, 1847. 
The famous statue of the Pioneer family. I think this was at Winter Quarters, but I'm not 100% positive.

The Winter Quarters temple in Nebraska

Independence Rock! I love this place. This picture was taken at the highest point of the rock, on a boulder at the top. You can't tell from the picture, but standing up there, if you ignore the rest of Independence Rock, it feels like your floating on air. 

Climbing down the backside of Independence Rock, I jumped down from one rock to another, right over a bunch of rattlers in stealth mode, who evidently I startled, because they all rattled at me. I don't think I have ever moved so fast or so gracefully in my life. ADRENALINE DUMP. Here's a mug of one of the little buggers.

Martin's Cove! Love. It. 'Nuf said.

Me in the Cove. This is a really gross picture of me, but it gives you a good idea of what I look like after about thirty hours on a bus, a mini Trek up a mountain, exposure to a LOT of sunlight, and a minor case of heat exhaustion/dehydration. Good times. It was worth it. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Les Derniers Jours de Paris

I didn't get many pictures from my last two days in Paris, so I'm combining them in to one post. Day four was AMAZING! It was pretty perfect. Why? Because it wasn't actually in Paris. :) We left the city! I didn't realize just how muggy and smelly the Parisian air was until I got some truly fresh air in the French country. It was very refreshing and relaxing and a nice break. Anyway, we left the city to see the home of Alexandre Dumas (you should read about him--he's pretty insane)! He is the author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers and such. Basically, he was really cool. His house (aka le Chateau de Monte Cristo) is really kind of crazy.

There are three levels, with four rooms on each floor. The layout on each floor is the same. The most defining feature about his house is the colors. Each room is a different color. It's definitely the most colorful historical home I've been to. 

Another very interesting thing about it is Dumas' "Chateau Dif."

This is where Dumas would write. No one was allowed in but him. The inside is really small. There's a dog statue guarding the entrance, and a moat around it (and by moat I mean a small stream that's a foot wide and four inches deep).

The absolutely best part about Dumas' home is his gardens! They are by far the best French gardens that I saw. I didn't get many pictures, but he had a ton of land, and most of it was like a mystical forest of wonder and beauty. :) 

That's pretty much all we did on Day 4. After we got back in to the city, we were craving real food--like meat. All we'd really had in Paris is carbs. Lots of bread and pastries. Oh, and cheese. Lots of stinky yet delicious cheese. So we went to this place on the street where we were staying called Paris Istanbul. They had lots of meat, and it was delicious! And the owners were the most friendly people we'd ever met. They really like Americans, and even though we had the language barrier, we had a really pleasant and funny interaction. It was the best. :)

Our last full day in Paris was quite the adventure. It was probably my favorite day in France, even though it started out pretty crummy. That morning we went to Versailles, which is not my favorite place in Paris. I don't get it. It probably had something to due with the unpleasant nature of standing in line in direct sunlight in gravelly, dirty sand for 3 hours, to get into a place that you're really not that interested in. Luckily we had our baguettes, nutella, and French yogurt to help us bide our time. Once we finally got on the grounds. We walked around the gardens for a while discussing how unpleasant French gardens are. Then we went in to the palace and swam through a dense sea of sweaty tourists to see all the gold extravagant rooms. That place is biiiiggggg. Finally, we made it all the way through, and Kaity, Mary, Juan, and I decided to go make our last day of the trip count! 

That's when the real adventure began. We decided to head to le Musee de ArmeƩ (the Army Museum). After we got off one train to get on another train, Kaity and I were halfway across the moving sidewalk to the next train when we figured out that Juan and Mary weren't behind us. So, rather than getting to the end of the sidewalk and turning around, we naturally decided to run backwards on it. Kaity lost her hand sanitizer along the way, which was tragic (we were in Paris after all). In the meantime, Mary had just discovered that she had lost her Metro pass and was stuck at the gate. So Juan sneakily let her use his and we were back on our way. Once we finally got out of the Metro and to the Army Museum (a good half hour later, Mary realized that she hadn't just lost her Metro pass. She had also left her camera with half of her pictures from the trip on the first train (which meant it was loooonnnnggg gone. Poor Mary. :( It was really sad. We were standing outside the Museum entrance for a few minutes consoling Mary for a few minutes (she was very upset, understandably), then Juan decided to go in. I stood out there a tiny bit longer before I decided to follow. There was no use wasting our time looking for it. So I went in, and Kaity and Mary stood outside, saying they would wait for us.

The Musee de l'Armee was AMAZING! By far my favorite museum in Paris. Fine art is cool, but I've always been more into historical artifacts, and wars. :) This was my favorite thing:

If you can't tell already, that piece of armor has a huge hole blown right through the chest and out the other side. Stuff like this makes my mind reel with stories: who this man was, who his family was, did he have family, etc. I didn't get many other pictures in this museum, but it was incredible. Plus, while we were there,  Juan told me a bunch about the Marines (he was a Marine for a while--he's not anymore though) and it was just really cool and interesting. He also knows a lot of French history so it was like having my own personal tour guide. It was great. 

We spent probably about two hours in there, and when we headed out, Kaity and Mary were nowhere to be found. We looked absolutely everywhere around the museum, and around Napoleon's tomb, which was next door: 

That's not Napoleon's tomb. We thought it was at first, but we were wrong. This is Napoleon's tomb:

It's at least three times bigger. It's pretty insane. Anyway, back to Kaity and Mary, we still couldn't find them anywhere, which was kind of frustrating- not only because Kaity had the 20 euros we were supposed to share for dinner, but also because we knew they went to look for Mary's camera, while Mary still didn't have a Metro pass. We weren't really worried about them getting lost, but we were really worried that they would get caught. Parisian police don't look too kindly on train jumpers, which is what they were doing. Mary was literally jumping over turnstiles. It stressed Juan and I out quite a bit, but we couldn't do anything about it. So we went on with our day. 

After we finally stopped looking for the other two, we sat out in front of the Museum to decide where we wanted to go next. At first, Juan couldn't find his map, and I didn't have one, so for a little while we thought we were lost in the middle of Paris. But he eventually found it, and we decided to go to the Aquarium. We didn't realize how far it was from where we were though. The train ride ended up taking like and hour and a half. It wasn't all bad, though. The train was relatively empty, and it was kind of nice to just sit and relax and talk. 

We finally arrived, and were both really impressed with the building. It was amazing!

The aquarium itself wasn't that impressive, but it was still fun. :) They had fish that looked like Dory, which Juan got really really excited about, and they had cute turtles and alligator babies and really really teeny sharks. While we were there we ran into a few of our comrades, Brynlee and Chellie, so we decided to get dinner together. We went to this really cute little French cafe. It was nice having Juan there, because he speaks French and was able to help us order. Oh, and because he paid for my food, which was great because my dinner money had run off. :) 

After dinner we headed back to the hotel. On our way back we spotted Kaity and Mary eating dinner at Paris Istanbul- they were in one piece and they weren't in handcuffs, so that was a relief. We spent some time eating ice cream in our hotel room filling each other in about how our respective adventures went, then we headed back out for our final Brit Lit sob fest... I mean meeting. It was at the most beautiful park  I have ever seen in my life, which was only two blocks away from our hotel. Kaity and I were really upset that this beautiful, non Paris-sy place had been so close to us that whole time and we never knew about it.  

I was really sad that the end had come. I still am kind of sad. In my three weeks abroad, I learned more than I ever thought possible. It truly was a life-changing experience. I would definitely say that I've been bitten by the travel bug--HARD. I miss England and Ireland and Wales sooooo much! And, believe it or not, I've even caught myself missing Paris on occasion. I'll go back there someday. :)