Tuesday, April 21, 2009

London Post IV

Jeanne and Emmy indicated they'd like to get some rest so Mary and I took a walk through Kennsington Gardens and a little of Hyde Park. It was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect and it was fun being with Mary. She was quite patient about my stopping to take pictures. I felt so blessed to have such a great relationship with a child. Jeanne and I have been so blessed in that regard.

We began by walking toward Kennsington Palace. This is where Victoria spent much of her life before becoming queen and where Diana lived after the break up with Charles. The Palace has lovely sunken gardens and beautiful grounds and it was on this walk that Mary began to educate me a bit about who Victoria was. It was a great introduction to later activities like touring the Palace, seeing the movie "Young Victoria" and visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Palace struck me as understated as far as palaces go. That was a sort of endearing thing about it. It looks smaller than it is from the outside. So, I guess if I had to own a palace, maybe this one would be it.

It was here in front of the palace that people left cards and flower arrangements and memorialized Diana after her death.

From the palace we walked toward Hyde Park. Mary took me to a "walkway" of sorts and told me it is the "Princess Diana Memorial Walk." Again, the blossoms were coming on, the flowers were blooming. It seemed we couldn't have come at a better time.

And fortunately, Mary is a pretty willing model.

We reached a point where there was a large memorial in the distance. Mary told me about it as we walked toward it. It is a memorial for Prince Albert. Albert was Victoria's husband and only love. A bit unusual for royalty. They married very young and although Albert died young (age 42 of consumption I think) they were married 20+ years and produced 9 children.

When a plan was hatched to create a monument for him, Victoria apparently told the planners, "If you're going to build him a monument, make it a real monument." This was the result. I saw many statues and monuments to Victoria, including in Birmingham, but none of them rivaled what they came up with for Albert. She really loved him and never remarried in the 40 or so years she lived after his death. She is the longest reigning queen of England and was pretty much universally loved. Albert and she were famous promoters of the arts and so Albert's monument recognizes the great artists and thinkers of the world to his time.

It was my first day in London and so architecture was thrilling to me. Simple views like this enthralled me. Actually, I never tired of the architecture the entire time.

Everytime I saw the chimneys it reminded me of the movie Mary Poppins.

I mentioned earlier how patient Mary was with my photography. One thing that compels me is helping people "all" be in the picture. Jeanne and Emmy and Mary could all tell you how many times they looked back to see me taking a picture of someone with their camera. On the way home, this couple was in the park and so I ask if they didn't both want to be in the picture. The young woman immediately and enthusiastically said yes, so while the young man was reticent, he had no choice. They were quite cute, he British and she American.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

London Post III

After our "on street" reunion, which by the way, included Mary running up to me and jumping up in the air, wrapping her arms around my neck and telling me she loved me (it could have been a TV commercial it was that good) we settled in a little, then took a walk down to the BYU center.

It was a beautiful day and immediately I noticed it was going to be a great week to be in London. Right on the corner of Palace Court was a gorgeous tree in full bloom. Kind of a sign for the overall beauty of the moment.

As mentioned, the BYU Center was just around the corner from our "Vacation Apartment." The beautiful old buildings offset by the deep blue sky and billowing white clouds was an awesome sight.

The BYU Center is quite a stately, historic place. It was once an embassy and has been inhabited by some known people.

Jeanne and Mary and Emily began a conversation that essentially lasted 8 days. These are the sorts of "tell me everything that's going on" conversations that remind us of the hope for eternal families.

The center was beautiful from what we could see and the faces we saw were smiling and comfortable. We could tell Mary had truly had a great semester.

London Post II

It seems miracles have always happened in our family - ranging from Rodger living through a car accident to Annie making it home from Chicago for a wedding. Our London trip was no different. In fact, miracles began before we even left. Air India informed me that they had canceled their flight from London to Newark that Mary was to return on. They rebooked her on Virgin Atlantic. Mary didn't like her trip over on Air India, so it was a blessing to be on Virgin Atlantic AND originally Mary was scheduled to return 3 hours earlier than Jeanne and Emmy and now they returned at the exact same time! Mary really enjoyed her Virgin Atlantic flight and they all met each other at baggage claim! Back to London. Mary said she had class the day of our arrival until 11:30. By the time we got on the train, figured out the subway, dragged our luggage to our flat, got checked in and decided to walk over to the BYU center, here comes Mary around the corner and we have a big emotional reunion right on the sidewalk, on Bayswater, across the street from Kensington Park, on a beautiful day in London. It couldn't have been a more perfect reunion. Just another little miracle. Also, before we left we found a flat just doors down the street from Mary, literally around the corner. To boot, it was only 88 pounds a night and they gave us one night free. It was a miracle. Now sometimes, you have to accept miracles for what they are in your life and just know they are indeed miracles. Because, after spending many hours getting to London and functioning on essentially no sleep, there was a brief moment when we wondered just what kind of miracle this was.

The stairway was narrow, certainly nothing was fancy and the help at the desk was not exactly bending over backwards in the customer service arena.

Once inside it seemed a bit different than the internet pictures. Then I remembered the pictures I took of our house with a 10mm wide angle lens and how big everything can look. It was smaller than expected but had enough beds for the three of us, a table a shower and a small kitchen.

When I say "small kitchen" bear in mind that my lens zooms from 18mm-200mm and 18mm is pretty wide. These pictures are taken with a pretty wide lens giving the appearance of "bigger than life." But - once we got rested, and once committed that we could move to a hotel (for 4 times the price) if we couldn't endure, it really became our London home. We eased into a routine and the place returned to its "miracle" status. We could have "murmured" but I'm afraid if you reject miracles with murmuring, potentially bad things can happen and fortunately we never found out what those bad things could have been. We (ultimately) were just grateful for another miracle in our lives.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We're Going To London!!

We just can't believe the time has gone by so fast. When we sent Mary off to London for a semester abroad, we didn't even know if I'd still be employed. Now, we are about to pick her up from her London adventure and I'll be staying an extra 5 days for business with Belron International. Wow, how life is fun!

Our trip began on April 6th, 2009. We felt so blessed to be able to travel and take Emily with us, but there was something far more blessed about the day. It was a bit rainy in PA, and about mid-morning a friendly Jehova's Witness knocked on the door and presented me with a pamphlet about Christ. "A great day to be talking about Christ," I said. She looked into the sky, put her hand out, and said, "Well, the weather isn't that great." "No, I mean April 6th is a great day to be spreading the word about Christ. We believe he was born on this day." She kind of just looked at me (as usual) and moved on. But the message stuck with me. We were about to set off on a great adventure on the advent of the greatest adventure of all time. We felt doubly blessed.

We left for Newark at 3:45p. I had wanted 3:30, Jeanne thought 3:45 would be good and 3:45 it was. We were flying out of Newark at 9:05p on British Airways and would have a 7 hour flight if all things went well. The trip to the airport was flawless, taking only 2 1/2 hours which put us there in plenty of time to get some dinner before the flight.

Emmy opted for Philly Cheese Steak.

We were quite relaxed and satisfied as we boarded the plane and althought our seats were not beds (like the ones in the front of the plane - I've never seen anything like it) they were quite comfortable and even had little built-in head rests.

Each seat had its own little entertainment center with the choice of 7 movies, but we weren't too concerned about that since what we really wanted to do was sleep. Full tummies, comfortable seats, sleep should be no problem. Except that, as soon as we settled in, the attendants wanted to serve us dinner. It was hard to sleep over all the clatter, dinner service finally ended, but Emmy and I were quite awake by then, so she watched Inkheart and I watch Easy Virtue, until sleep finally came. It seems to have lasted at least a couple minutes before an attendant wished to know whether I'd like some breakfast. That couple of hours went quite fast and before you knew it, there out the window was the greenery of Great Britain.

The excitment began to grow as you can tell from the look on Emily's face.

After landing in London, customs was a breeze but a couple things were a little more difficult. Jeanne and Emmy went off to find Emjmy's Oyster Pass for the underground and I went to change my ticket back to the states to accomodate my stay for business. Both of those tasks proved a bit longer than expected and then we tried to meet each other about 50 feet apart, each of thinking we were in the right place and lost a few more minutes until we discovered each other, then we were off to London - on the train!

I just love European train stations. This picture is especially for Clayton who loves trains too.