One time when I was in London...

A long-standing mystery has been solved. The majority of seejaynerun35.blogpsot.com readers have seen the Disney animated movie Aladdin. Remember the part at the beginning where the merchant in Aggrabah is attempting to sell his wares? He says:

"Look at this! Yes! Combination _____ and coffee maker, also makes Julienne fries. Will not break! (taps it on table) Will not... (it falls apart) It broke! "

What does he say after "combination" and before "and coffee maker?" I have to admit that I've never really known. But my trip to London finally solved the mystery of the missing Aladdin word... it's Hookah! I'll explain.

My first night in London, my friend Sokphal took me to quite the international party--she has a Spanish friend who teaches her Spanish in return for teaching him English. He hosted a little party at his house out in Zone 3 (a little ways outside of downtown London) so we went and I met lots of great international people. Represented were the following countries: Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Colombia, Germany, and the USA. Most of them are in London working or studying, and are learning English through their associations with each other and the Brits. So, the hookah: on a table in the back of the room sat a large water pipe... now I know what a water pipe is (an Eastern smoking pipe designed with a long tube passing through an urn of water that cools the smoke as it is drawn through), but didn't realize that it's other name was hookah. Mystery solved--Combination hookah and coffee maker! You're welcome. And don't worry, there was no smoking of the hookah for me.

the hookah

The rest of my London excursion was incredible/fast paced. I tried to cram in as much as I could, starting with a walk through Hyde Park and Kensington Garden on Sunday after the Hyde Park Stake Conference that morning.

That night I saw the London tower and the Tower Bridge, and walked through a winding photographic exhibition along the Thames that featured large-scale photographs of natural landscapes (http://www.earthfromtheair.com/). On Monday I got an early start and visited Palace Court, where my sister took up residence for 4 months last year. Lucky dog. Then another walk through Kensington Gardens, where I saw the Peter Pan statue...

and went to the Serpentine Gallery. Their main exhibit was a 'project' done by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, contemporary Russian artists who are famous for their conceptual and installation art. This one was called "the house of dreams," where they "transform the Gallery by creating a series of distinct meditative spaces, and encourage visitors to enter into a world of fantasy and daydreams. The installation is a place for rest and quiet contemplation." If you want to know more about them, go to http://www.ilya-emilia-kabakov.com/. Very thought-provoking stuff.

Then it was on to Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards (if you've seen one, you've seen them all) but the backdrop was was incredible. There were about 17,000 tourists (give or take) there, so the next time you're in London and you want to see the COTG, I recommend getting their early to get a good seat.

I then made my way to the Westminster Abbey, the traditional place of coronations and burials of English monarchs since the beginning of time (well, since 1065, when the actual Abbey was constructed by Edward the Confessor). It is the burial place/memorial sight of many a great author/poet as well, in what is known as the Poet's Corner. It's times like these that I wish I would have been a History major in college. It was incredible to feel the immense historicalness of all that had taken place there.

Westminster Abbey with Big Ben in the background

A not-well-known fact: Big Ben is the informal name of the Great Bell of Westminster, the largest bell in the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster. We (I) always called the whole tower/clock Big Ben, but apparently that's a bit of a misnomer. Don't worry--I'll keep calling it Big Ben.

After Westminster I met Sokphal and we went to the Tate Modern museum, opened in 2000 to celebrate the millennium. I have to admit that I don't have the greatest appreciation of Modern Art, and the Tate did little to improve that, but I got to see my first original Andy Warhol and tried a bit harder to understand angry clowns on imaginary pogo sticks. Next time I'm in London, I would like to go to the Tate Britain. The museum did have a beautiful view of the Thames and sitting/reading rooms to ponder over the mystery that is modern art.

After the Tate we walked along the Thames again so that I could see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge during the day (well, dusk)--quite majestic.

Sokphal and I in front of the Tower Bridge

We then wandered over to Harrods (colossal department store) and then I went by myself to see Harry Potter: the Goblet of Fire at Leicester Square (where it premiered). I couldn't resist the temptation, and I thought it was the best of the Harry Potter series to date.

On Tuesday, my last day in London, I visited the Imperial War Museum where they have exhibits about every major war in which Britain has taken part, plus other special exhibits about the Holocaust, Lawrence of Arabia, and Kids in wartime, etc. The displays were incredible and I thought their treatment of the Holocaust and especially the history leading up to it so thorough. I wish I could have spent several more hours their.

I also went to a class on international war crimes with Sokphal... she is studying at City University in London. It rounded out the day. After class we went to see the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. Don't get mad at me, but I didn't know the full story line (what happens at the end) so it was great to have it revealed to me live in London. The costumes, scenery, and music were all superb, I guess as could be expected. Next time I'm in London (or New York, for that matter) I'm going to have to see Les Miserables.

Well, that's my London trip in a nutshell. I had a wonderful time and publicly thank Sokphal for being such an awesome and gracious host. Next time anyone is in London, look her up!


Danny walking

click on the picture to see Danny walking

After lots of research, I finally figured out how to post a video (well, link my blog to a video). So, after a brief period of anticipation, you can finally watch my nephew Daniel M. Jackson taking some of his first steps. This video was taken on my camera (why it's so grainy) about three weeks ago, and he's made rather large strides since then. Now that I know how to link my blog to videos, I'll post a new and improved walking video soon.


you ARE the weakest link... goodbye!

Matt's home after 5 days in Munich for HILTI training. It's good to have him back, mostly because he brought me German chocolate. But Erin and I had fun watching movies and the British (harsh) version of "The Weakest Link." Anne, the intimidating hostess, has lots of opportunities to make fun of bad teeth. Speaking of, Daniel was teething (aka not sleeping well and feverish) but has improved a whole lot, and is walking like crazy. I'll try to post a video if I can.
Erin, Danny and Matt in Venice about a month ago--just thought I'd throw it in
Erin, Danny and I also took an afternoon trip into Zurich--the largest city in Switzerland. It is beautifully old and has cobblestone roads, giving it a storybook feel (but a storybook filled with well-dressed Europeans and all the best shops). We visited St. Peters Kirche (church), did a lot of window shopping, and ate Sprungli's heavenly Luxemburgerli (little chocolate sandwichy things) while we sipped hot chocolate. We stayed until it got dark, which was neat because all the Christmas lights and decorations are starting to be hung with care. There is definitely more to see and do there (some great museums, etc) so we'll be heading back for sure.

Me, Erin & Danny in Zurich--you can see the clock of St. Peters Kirsche behind us

Aerial view of Zurich

Yesterday Erin, Danny and I went to Schlos Sargans (Sargans Castle) dating back to the 1200's and ate the perfect meal--schnitzel and streudel. Sargans is a little town about 10 minutes from where Matt & Erin live. The temperature has dropped quite a bit in the last two days, and yesterday we awoke to lots of snow on the mountains and hills surrounding the apartment. Winter has arrived in Switzy, and I have a feeling it's going to be much colder in London (see next paragraph)--better pack the leg warmers. But when I go back to Florida, we'll probably still have lows in the mid 60's, so I should take advantage of the cold weather while I can.

Sargans Castle from the back

a view from Sargans Castle on an overcast day

And... I am going to London this weekend to visit my friend Sokphal who is studying there! (I love RyanAir and cheap intra-European flights.) I should take notes while I'm in her presence--she's the ultimate thrifty traveler, and has introduced me to a new method of traveling called couchsurfing (see link: www.couchsurfing.com). She just returned from a trip to Portugal, and is quite the inspiration. She has a blog as well: www.carpediem16.blogspot.com.

I just finished reading a good book recommended by my friend Rita (and borrowed from my friend Ashley) called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It's about the coming of age of a girl in Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century and I found it a stirring social commentary. My favorite anecdotal advice was given by the main character Francie's illiterate grandmother (in response to the question: what must I do to make a different world for my daughter?)

"The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day. I know this is the secret..."

And a different world was made for Francie. The two books Francie's mother read to her over and over again were the complete works of Shakespeare and the Holy Bible. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn compelled me to work harder and find fewer reasons to complain. (But I still woke up at 11am this morning... I love vacations and staying up late to read). Now it's time to dedicate myself to 1776 (still working on it) and A Concise History of Germany.

Aside: My sister Klarissa has gone and created her own website (to fulfill a requirement for her ISYS class, I think). She posted some beautiful pictures and some other inspiring items... if you know her (and even if you don't) and would like to see for yourself, the link is: webpub.byu.net/kj257/

I'll be back in a few days to tell all about my London adventures.


streudels and bratwursts and raclette, oh my!

Turns out I really love Switzerland. And Matt, Erin and Daniel live in a charming little rural farmy town, so farmy that today we nearly got sprayed by the cow manure spraying machine--instead, we just got to smell the manure. But it really is lovely here. They live close to lots of other towns which we have spent the majority of the last week visiting. Yesterday we went to a town called Cohr and tomorrow we'll go to a fair in Liechtenstein and then visit a city called Opfenzell.

On Wednesday I ate my first authentic Bratwurst--on a piece of bread (no hotdogs buns for the Swiss!) with mustard. It was so incredibly good. And last night we all made raclette, a famously Swiss meal where you melt cheese in a grill-type thing and then pour it on your food of choice (ours was potatoes and salami). And then this morning I had a great apple streudel (a recommendation from Erin).

I'm thinking about going to London while I'm here to visit a friend who's studying there at the moment (I've never been) and I might also take a little side trip to Rome (also never seen the sights there). And then Matt & co and I are planning on going to Munich/Augsburg, Milan, and Bern during the rest of my stay. Cheers!


Hallo von der Schweiz!

I arrived Thursday, 3 November and Matt & Daniel picked me up from the airport in Zurich. They live about one hour away outside a little town called Buchs and have a great apartment and a beautiful view. Everything here reminds me of the German part of Epcot center--but so much better. That night we busted out Boggle, which Erin has since become addicted to and drempt about. Yesterday when Matt was at work Erin and I took Daniel to the doctor for his MMR shot, and the doctor took all his measurements. Matt was pleased to hear that Daniel's head size is in the 25th percentile of average baby head sizes. He's perfect. Then we went shopping (grocery and otherwise--they have H&M here!) in Austria and passed by Matt's work in Leichtenstein. Erin's a great mom and Matt cooks great pasta (and is a great dad, of course). We don't have any concrete plans yet as for things to do while I'm here, but for the moment I just love being an aunt. I'll keep you posted.

the view

Daniel at breakfast this morning

A few highlights from my week in NY:

~ seeing old (but incredibly good) friends--Rita, Ashley, Simmy and Jason
~ going to Cathleen's soccer game (Columbia beat Yale 2-1 and Cathleen scored the first goal of the match)
~ dressing up as a road for halloween (thanks for the idea, Gillian)
~ the NYC halloween parade
~ eating pork rolls and having pearl drinks in China town
~ going to church and to the Manhattan temple
~ going to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I had such a good time that NYC has also been added to the list of cities to which I want to move. It's that or the Palouse. According to Chef Neve, the city of New York has more restaurants than any other state... or something like that. It has wonderful culture and diversity, and there are always so many things to do and see. Thanks to my accomodating friends who made my stay there so great.

from l to r: Lisa, Will, Don, Jason, Ashley, me, Simmy, Jack, Sarah -- at Cathleen's soccer game