Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a Good Friday!

Hi all!

I hope you're having a wonderful Friday, especially because it's GOOD FRIDAY! When I was younger, I don't really remember being able to grasp what Good Friday was. We always celebrated Easter with your traditional brunch and candy, but as I got older and more into my faith, I was able to understand the real significance of this weekend. This weekend is the most important for Christians. Good Friday reminds us that Jesus actually DIED for our sins and Easter reminds us that Jesus conquered death and rose again! Easter is amazing because it's what makes Christianity different than any other religion--the founders of every other religion have a burial site, whereas Jesus doesn't have a burial site because He beat death! :D But the past few years I've also really taken Good Friday seriously, reflecting on what Jesus suffered because of me, because of you, because of all of our sins. He did it willingly and graciously. He was 100% innocent but knew this was the only way for us to have a personal relationship with God and spend eternity with Him! I am SO thankful for BOTH of these holidays because they remind us how much Jesus loves us and how awesome Jesus is! So I hope on this weekend, you're able to take some time and reflect on these holidays and what they really mean!

^^Maybe you've heard of this hymn by Isaac Watts! I love it :)
Feeling extra loved today as I reflect on my worth to Jesus :)

If you have free time and want to reflect on something, read "Dream of the Rood." It's an Old English poem I read freshman year in my English Lit to 1789 class. It's not known who wrote it or when, but it was definitely before the year 1,000AD. It's a great poem in the perspective of the cross that Jesus was crucified on and it's translated to modern English so it's understandable haha :)

I'm really thankful for this long weekend (we have today off and Monday) because it's been pretty tiresome getting up so early every morning haha! Today I slept in and then went into the city centre to do some shopping. I needed to buy a small carry on suitcase because apparently the one I brought with me doesn't meet regulations anymore, which caused me to have to pay $100 for it on the way here. Obviously I didn't want to pay that again, so I found a smaller cute cheetah one at a store in town for a good price! I also bought a cute dress and sandals because I don't have any thing for when I get to California that isn't jeans and a long sleeve shirt haha so now I'm set for when I get there until I can get my other clothes at the old apartment! After that, I went to one of the Oxford gift shops to find things for the fam, which was successful! Finally, I went to Blackwell's bookshop and got two F. Scott Fitzgerald novels for 7 euros (it was buy one get one free)! I was SO excited! So that's my big Friday night plan, starting The Great Gatsby and maybe moving onto This Side of Paradise. I'm really done with English lit haha that probably sounds stupid, but I've been studying it for the past year and a half, and it all starts to blend. It also bothers me that people mostly study English Lit. when American Lit. is so important to our history and is also just as awesome, if not better! For example, most people I know have never read Uncle Tom's Cabin. That's actually upsetting to me haha! I feel like people try so hard to make themselves more diverse and then begin to ignore their own roots, which is really sad! I LOVED all of the American novels we read in high school, so I've already made a list of American authors/novels I'm going to tackle this summer, or attempt because it's already to about twenty haha (as well as taking an American Novel class online). So we shall see what I'm able to get done :)
You know you're an English major when...haha!

Tomorrow evening, I'm heading into London to meet up with Amanda and her parents! We're going to Westminster Abbey for Easter service on Sunday morning, so that should be really neat! 

 Right now, I'm most excited about getting home in 17 days (and seeing Josh in 21)! It's all I can think about haha! I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I am just SO ready to be back! So this is how my face looks each day as I realize I'm one day closer to being with the people I love most in the world :)

Well, I'm going to start reading and continue listening to Blake Shelton's new CD :) I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Rome/Nearing the End!

So I just realized it's been almost two weeks since I returned from my mini mid-term break that was spent in Rome and I haven't blogged about my amazing time! I want to write about it before I forget :) So, here are the details of my trip to Rome!

On Saturday morning (March 9th), Sarah and I got on our bus to the London Stansted airport (the same one we took to Dublin that unfortunately takes three hours haha). We got to the airport pretty early, and thankfully we discovered there that Sarah's credit card was being declined. Sarah had dropped her wallet two weeks before at the airport in Dublin and had just been sent a new card, but the bank didn't know she was overseas. So being the smart girl she is, she contacted her bank and let them know and the matter was resolved before we headed to our gate! We were so glad that was figured out before we got to Italy because that would have made things a lot more stressful and confusing haha! So we got on our flight and arrived about two hours later at around 7pm. Now, the reason ryan air is so cheap is because they usually make you fly into airports outside of the city, so we had to take a bus that took about 35 minutes to get into the main city area. But it was easy to figure out and it was cheap :)

The bus dropped us off at the Termini train station (the main station in Rome) and from there our bed & breakfast was just a five minute walk away! We found it easily and then checked in! 
Our cute room! Compared to some of the hostels we've stayed in, this felt like a five star hotel! We even had access to a hot shower and free use of towels! Haha!
The view outside of our window! A bunch of homes stacked high haha

Of course by the time we put our stuff in our room, we realized 1. we were hungry and 2. we had access to REAL Italian food!!! So we headed back downstairs to the restaurant that is owned by the same family who owns the bed & breakfast (and if you eat there, you get a 10% discount for staying at the bed & breakfast!) Sarah and I got amazing bruschetta (which I discovered is actually pronounced "brew-sketta", somehow we've messed that one up haha), which was a lot more simple than how it's made in the States, but it was so good and fresh! Then we had awesome bread, pasta, wine, and finally tiramisu! We weren't planning on eating there every night, but it turned out to be the best food we had while in Rome so we ended up eating the same meal every single night haha!
Spaghetti alla Matriciana (I think that's how you spell it?) with fresh bread and awesome white wine that I couldn't pronounce if I tried haha

^^Real tiramisu! I'm emphasizing the real because I don't really like tiramisu in the States, but tried a bite of Sarah's when she ordered it and it was like heaven! Sometimes, we mess stuff up haha but now I know I like real tiramisu :)

After our stomachs were happy and full, we went to bed early (for us) around 11pm. This ended up working nicely because then we were up at a decent hour haha! If you know me, you know I can sleep forever so the fact that we were up before 9am says a LOT! We headed down to the little eating area where we were served free breakfast every morning, consisting of two chocolate croissants, cappuccino, and orange juice. It was so yummy and nice! The man that served us each day was from Boston and had moved to Rome after meeting and falling in love with his now wife! He was so helpful and told us where to go and what not! He was missing home a lot so I think he appreciated our American bond :) After breakfast, we headed out to find the Coliseum, which was only about a 20 minute walk from us. We were excited to be outside because it was about 60 degrees and sunny, both things we haven't experienced in England haha (it snowed this past weekend and is still in the 30's). I was so excited to see it when we got there!

We waited for about 40 minutes to get in and it cost 12 euros, but it was SO worth it! It was incredible to see such an ancient building and imagine the gladiator-like battles that took place here. After taking it all in, we walked to the Palatine Garden.
So pretty!
In the Palatine Garden! I loved the trees in Rome!
View of the Coliseum from the garden

After seeing the Coliseum and the garden, we planned on walking to the Trevi Fountain. So we started walking and used a map...
In Piazzo Novano

We got lost after a while but turned back to the right direction and stopped for lunch. This turned out to be pretty funny...the waiter was quite infatuated with miss blonde Sarah (something Amanda had warned us about before). Not only is Sarah blonde, but she's also tall, two things Italians aren't haha so she stood out. The waiter liked her so much, he kept bringing us free things: wine, bread, and tiramisu. We ended up not having to pay for a lunch that by the end would've cost us more than 50 euros haha! We didn't hate it ;)
Wine for days

After our long and huge lunch, we wandered to the Trevi Fountain...
It was so beautiful! I loved it!

Afterwards, we headed back to our bed & breakfast and called it a night. The next day, we decided it would be a good day to go to the Vatican. First, we stopped back at the Trevi Fountain because it's just that pretty :)

Afterwards, we did some little street shopping, which is always fun! Then, we walked to the Spanish Steps and found the street that is like the Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue of Rome. I don't remember what it was called, but I was loving it!

^Spanish Steps

After seeing the Spanish Steps, we hopped on the metro (which we are pros of by the way haha, even in a different language!) and headed towards the Vatican. I have never had so many people try to sell me things in my life than at the Vatican, which I find extremely ironic haha! Whether it be expensive tours, or crappy shoes, they WILL try to make you buy crap! But we were strong haha :)

The Vatican!

^The gelato place that my friend Sarah from APU who studied in Rome last semester told me I HAD to go to...with good reason! Cookie and coffee flavor = YUM! And it was right near the Vatican!

After walking around a bit and buying a few things, we headed back home and enjoyed our usual dinner at our restaurant downstairs and then headed to bed.

The next day, Tuesday, was our last day. We were HOPING that since this was the first day the cardinals would be voting for the next pope, that maybeeee, they would agree and then magically the Sistine Chapel would be open for us to see, but that didn't happen haha! So we split up the last day, as Sarah wanted to spend the day in the Vatican museum and what not. I didn't really have an idea of what I wanted to do, but I had fun wandering and felt really confident :) I took the metro to the Coliseum because it was raining off and on, and walked around the ruins.

It's so crazy to walk around these ancient ruins! Like, I couldn't even grasp how OLD this place is. I was thinking of how big the Roman Empire was and imagining gladiator-like scenes and I was just kind of laughing to myself, unable to grasp where I was. But it was SO great! I loved every second of it!

After wandering for a while, I walked to a little cafe and got pizza...and ate it all hahaha! But to clarify, their pizzas aren't regular sized. And I was walking a lot...whatever I was in Rome haha no justification necessary! It was great! After that I walked around some more and took pictures of cute buildings. 

Cobblestone & awesome architecture! Rome knows how to do things!
SO many birds that ALWAYS fly right at me haha!
A yummy thing I bought without knowing what it was (the Coliseum is the blurry thing in the back central of the photo)

After enjoying my day, I took the metro to the Vatican to meet up with Sarah. We headed back to the bed & breakfast. We thoroughly enjoyed our last dinner. Our catch phrase regarding Rome became, "how do you come back from this?!" The food was so amazing and the weather was awesome, we didn't know how we'd be able to come back to icky English food and no sun haha! But nonetheless, we've been back in Oxford for almost two weeks. I had such a great experience in Rome! It was so beautiful and full of history! I can't wait to take Josh there someday! :) p.s. In case you haven't been watching the news, the new pope was elected the night we got back to Oxford. A pope hasn't been elected in that little of time since about the 1930' about disappointed haha! But even more reason to go back!

So three weeks from today I will be on my plane flying home to the States!!! I'm so excited! This whole experience has been so good for me! I have grown so much, in ways that I don't even think I'll realize until I'm home and have settled back into normalcy. But I am so ready to be back in America! You really don't know what you have until it's gone haha! Cliche, true. But it's truth! I am so much more aware of how great our country is! I appreciate other countries and their cultures, but there really is no place like America :)

As for now, we're in "British Landscape" class. This means most days of the week we wake up early to head to Wycliffe Hall, watch an hour long video about some part of British history, take a break, hear a lecture for an hour, have lunch, and head home. Once a week we have a field trip, which is really a great way to see other parts of England! We've seen Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Salisbury, Porchester Castle, and Portsmouth! I just submitted my first paper for the course this afternoon that was about William Wallace (we get to choose our own essay topics and I picked Wallace because after going to Scotland and watching Braveheart, I'm kind of obsessed haha). We have one more paper due next Thursday (that I will write on how the famous war poet Wilfred Owen spoke for a generation, which is awesome because we read Owen last semester in my British Lit class). After that, we have our last week free of classes to finish our long essays that will be due that final Thursday. So pretty much, I only have two papers left and I'm so excited! Haha!

Meanwhile, everyone except me is getting to see the cutest baby to ever be born! Okay, not everyoneeee. But my mom and Jamie got to fly to Florida this past week and meet the newest addition to our family, Luke!

He is seriously the most precious thing I've ever seen! I can't wait to meet him in almost a month and spend the whole summer watching him grow! Good job, Aaron and Cassie! Haha!

Well, with that, I'm off to socialize as I've been holed up in my room all afternoon trying to start research for my next paper but mostly procrastinating haha! Love and miss you all!


Monday, March 4, 2013


I feel like I've been a crazy person, doing all of this traveling during tutorials! I've had to cram in these trips on weekends because I'm not staying after to travel and if you're already in Europe, you might as well see all you can, right?! I have seen some of the most beautiful things, things that I never thought I'd see. Things that many people never get to see! I could cry thinking about how blessed and thankful I am! Oops, now I actually am crying haha! But anyways haha let me tell you about my weekend in Paris :)

On Friday morning, Amanda, Sarah, and I left our house at 6am to catch our bus at the end of our lane. Unfortunately, it was just the bus to the bus station in London where our bus to Paris was leaving from. But we made it to London at around 7:45am, checked in, and waited until our bus got there at around 9:45am. We were really nervous about taking another long bus trip, based off of our first experience to Scotland (still laughing about how horrible that was as I write this). But, we decided a few weeks ago that going to Paris for 55 pounds roundtrip was worth it, even if the bus ride was horrible! Thankfully, the bus ride was great! It took about seven or eight hours to get there, but not all of that time was driving (it included the time to go through customs as we came into France, the time in the chunnel/underwater crazy thing haha). We took up the last row on the bus, which consisted of five seats, so we all sprawled out and took turns napping on each other haha! When we got there, we were just excited to see the Eiffel Tower. We had planned on checking into our hotel, buying a bottle of wine, and walking over to the Eiffel Tower to celebrate Sarah's birthday. However, this is not what happened. Sometimes, things go wrong...

When we got off the bus, we took the metro (or subway) to get to where our hotel was (side note: we became masters at the metro this weekend, AND all the signs were in French! Impressive haha!). When we walked up the stairs from the metro, we saw the Eiffel Tower and cute little cafes all around. I felt like I was in a movie :) It was wonderful! We walked about five minutes to our hotel that Amanda had booked. It was on a cute little street and we found it pretty easily. But that's when it all went wrong haha! We walked into the hotel and waited as Amanda checked in. Amanda had booked a double room, something any smart and thrifty person would have done! We were fine trying to fit into a double bed, but apparently French law isn't so keen about that. They told us it is actually illegal in France for more than two people to stay in a double room (I'm not sure how accurate this is haha). We knew we couldn't stay at the hotel because the cost of a single room was really high and obviously that wouldn't be in our little budgets haha so I started freaking out, thinking about how we'd have to sleep on the streets and possibly be kidnapped--I think I've watched "Taken" one too many times haha! Thankfully, the man working at the desk was nice enough to call around different hostels for us. We were able to find a three person room at a hostel that was in a district of Paris pretty far away because the city is so huge. Because we weren't very familiar with the metro system yet, we walked...for about three the Paris...with signs that were only in a place none us had ever been. Haha it was quite the adventure! Before we headed out though, we stopped by the Eiffel Tower because it was right there and it was SPARKLING! The city was so quiet and it felt like it was just us there! It was so amazing!

Pictures really don't do it justice! It was so much bigger than I imagined! I was just in awe! So after standing there and admiring it for a while, we decided it would be smart to get started on our walk before us. We got to our hostel about two hours later, which was actually nicer than we expected! But at that point, all we really cared about was having a roof to sleep under. We all were wiped out and fell asleep after climbing into bed.

On Saturday, we woke up and get ready to head out to find our free tour company (the one we used in both Edinburgh and Dublin). We didn't want to walk to wherever the tour was meeting, so we figured out how to take the metro there and made it just in time! Our tour guide's mom is American so although he had a sweet little French accent, he knew how to relate things to us, especially because he had lived in Florida for five years. He was funny and we really enjoyed him! We didn't learn as much about the history as we have on the other tours, but it was still helpful and time well spent :)

The beautiful river!
Fun bridge where people "lock" their love and throw the keys in the river!
We learned this began after an episode of "Sex and the City" when Carrie and Mr. Big
were on the bridge together haha! So many people do this that a man comes around
and breaks locks so the bridge doesn't break haha!
The Louvre! Such a beautiful museum!
Me, Amanda, & Sarah :)
Proud to be a tourist haha
A view of the Eiffel Tower from afar!
We got to go inside this museum for free with our Oxford Student IDs and see the 360 degree "Water Lilies" by Monet! I didn't take this picture haha but it was amazing!

After the tour, we found a little pastry shop and got dinner/dessert to go. We were freezing (the wind/being by the river had us so cold during the tour!) and wanted to get back to the hostel asap! Sarah and I both got chocolate eclairs and oh my goodness it was so wonderful! Maybe it was the fact that I haven't had any good dessert since being in England (no offense England), or maybe it was just that amazing, but I was wishing I had more! Mom, you would've been all over that haha! We got back to the hostel and called it a night.

The next day, we woke up earlier because we were on a mission to see the inside of the Notre Dame and the Mona Lisa inside the Louvre before we had to head back to the bus station at 1pm--and we succeeded! We walked inside the Notre Dame just as mass was starting. Sarah wanted to stay for mass, so Amanda and I headed out to the Louvre after a few minutes of taking in the beautiful Notre Dame. We got to hear some of the amazing singing before we! Just incredible!

It was only about a fifteen minute walk from the Notre Dame to the Louvre, and it was a beautiful sunny day so we were happy to be outside! Apparently the first Sunday of each month is free museum  day in Paris, so we were afraid we wouldn't get into the Louvre in time before we had to head to the bus station. The sign said the line took about 90 minutes, but thankfully it only took 30!
Such a beautiful day!
The wonderful Louvre!

Mona Lisa! Success! 
I can't remember the name of this statue...but I'm sure you recognize it haha
The ceilings inside the museum were so beautiful!
Famous little bookshop called "Shakespeare and Company" :)

After checking off the Notre Dame and Mona Lisa, we were ready to buy baguettes for lunch and get back on the metro to head to the bus station. We got there and successfully made it back on our bus (although on the way back it was packed with people and we had to wait forever to get through customs at the border haha). We made it back to our home in Oxford before midnight!

I'm learning more about myself as I travel! I'm learning that I'm less of a city person than I thought. I came to this conclusion after realizing Ireland has still been my favorite place I've visited, which seems so crazy! Ireland doesn't have any big fancy monuments or beautiful architecture like Edinburgh or Paris, but it makes up for it in its people and beautiful scenery! I loved Paris and thought it was a beautiful city! I did find the stereotype of the people to be true though haha and the more I travel, the more I appreciate the warmth and hospitality of people, something I feel like is a LOT more common in America than in Europe. I know when I see someone in the states who looks like they're lost/a tourist or asks me for directions, I get so excited to help them and begin to list off places they should eat at or things they should see! The only place I've been that resembles that hospitality is Ireland, which is another reason I appreciate it that much more! You can live in the most beautiful place in the world, but if you're just a "blah" personality or believe tourists who come to see your beautiful city aren't worth your time or effort, then who cares where you live! Your city might be visited even more if you valued that people want to understand and see your home, just saying ;) I appreciate people so much more than ever before! So thank you kind people who help lost tourists all over the world! You are greatly appreciated! :)

I really enjoyed my trip! It's hard to grasp that I actually just went to Paris for the weekend haha! And in four days, I'll be leaving for Rome! So exciting! First, I just have to write two papers and then I'm ready to go! Yay! I hope you all have a wonderful week! Love and miss you! Counting down the days until I'm home! :)