On our first day in London together, we journeyed to St. Paul's.
We also took goofy pictures of us reading British newspapers.
On our first Sunday, I decided to walk home from church with a few people. To save time (and to see some beautiful things), we cut through Hyde Park. Despite the shortcut, it still took us about half an hour -- and I was wearing brand new heels. I spent the latter half of the walk clinging to Jared's arm for support while I wobbled along on swollen, blistering feet. Lesson learned.
Hyde Park might be my favorite place in London.
Just outside Shakespeare's house in Stratford upon Avon. A few of us spent too much time talking to a tour guide and finding out some dirty secrets about William and his family, like how Billy Sr. was involved in black market trade and Billy Jr. was basically a player. We then got in trouble for falling behind the group. Worth it.
We paid our respects to the most notable and influential playwright of all time. RIP, William Shakespeare. You are missed.
But we will pay homage to you by naming our rowboats after your characters.
I can't remember where I was when I took this photo, unfortunately. Pretty though.
Westminster Abbey was a lovely time.
See that there stone froggy that I'm holding? If I'm remembering correctly, the museum man told me that it was over 2,000 years old. Cool. But this is also the very same museum man that didn't know you had to look through the lens -- he just thought my viewfinder didn't work. British people amuse me.
We saw this poster in almost every tube station we set foot in, and the only reason we wanted to see it was because it has two of our favorite actors.
This was such a happy day! 221b Baker Street, baby. And take a gander at how good I look in that hat!
After visiting my favorite fictional detective's made-up place of residence, we took a stroll through Regent's Park. And took lots of pictures on this bench. Natalie is too cute.
I feel so artsy looking at the sun come through like that. Mm mmm.
Good. Just how I like.
This was in Paris. I think this girl belongs in a mini cooper, don't you? And a French one at that? Beautiful.
Midnight in Paris. (It might have only been 10pm... Might have been.)
Hands down my favorite place in all of France thus far.
If you could only see how many notes, just like this one, covered the walls of a nook inside the bookstore. One little shop has touched so many people's lives, and it continues to do so. I've left my mark, and hopefully people who visit there will see how it's changed me. Then they'll be inspired too, just as I was.
Ms. Austen is gone, but her flowers live on.
Stourhead Gardens. I'm going to have to say that I think that's a misnomer -- it should be called Stourhead Kingdom of Dreams or something. Garden connotes something small. This place was awe-inspiring.
How can I ever repay the experience that I had here?
Breaking news: I will eat fish! As long as it's deep fried, drenched in vinegar, and smothered in brown sauce. And served with chips. MMM.
Scotland. You are so lovely.
These little gems were all over the side of the Scottish Parliament building. What a contrast to England's Houses of Parliament!
Of course I bought the hat, why wouldn't I buy the hat?
Fountain's Abbey. I could not have thought of a better way to spend my 20th birthday than to lie in that field forever.
I'm gonna go ahead and say that I'm probably just a happier person than everyone else. There is no other reason I would be making that face.
I did not get to spend enough Sundays with these people.
My dear Aunt Shirley and Uncle Graham. This blessed couple let me stay with them for 3 days, though they did much more than house me. They showed me the Welsh seaside, introduced me to my family, and told me all about the relatives that are no longer living. They accepted me immediately, though they'd only met me once before when I was nine years old. They offered me love and generosity and open hearts and minds. I love them so much and will never forget the time that I spent with them, short as it was. Cried when I had to leave.
I spend my last morning in London sitting on a bench in Hyde Park, listening to Sigur Ros, and writing in my journal. And snapping photos of random passersby.
27 Palace Court. A weird but comforting home for a short, but blessed amount of time. Sigh.
I'm not sure I will ever be able to explain the kind of experience I had in the UK. I felt like a different person a lot of times -- my behavior was often out of the ordinary, for me, and it was startling. For a time, I didn't understand myself, and I thought I was trying to be someone else, which was intensely frustrating, as you can imagine. But I soon realized that I wasn't someone else -- I was just letting a different side dominate my actions, a side that doesn't often get the spotlight. I was more reserved and observant, which served me well in those two months. I was introspective and inquisitive. I analyzed other people's actions and motivations and learned so much about others and, more importantly, about myself. I can safely say that after spending seven and a half weeks in London, I understand myself and my emotions. At least, I understand a lot more than I did before. There are still many things that remain a mystery to me, and they probably always will. I don't know. What I do know is that I have changed and that I am (hopefully) a better person now. I am forever grateful for the time I spent there, and even more grateful that I am now back. Good things come to an end, and that's okay. In the words of Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
See? I'm smiling. :)