Saturday, December 20, 2008

Top Fives of London Experience


1. Portabello Road
I love markets in general, but this market combines those things which give my life passion: antique books, vintage clothing, young and talented fashion designers, fresh fruit, pottery and flowers.
2. National Gallery
I visited the National Gallery on Sundays after attending church. I love the intimate feel of this gallery and the excellent selections of art. Tears welled up in my eyes looking at the Van Gogh walking away and knowing it was the last time.
3. South Bank of the Thames
The south bank during Elizabethan times was a walk on the wild side full of bear baiting rings, contraband theatre and prostitutes. The south bank provides a pleasant view of the river side, architecture and houses the Globe theatre, Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre. I would walk across the bridge after seeing a play deep in contemplation while the river bank hummed with the activity of an outdoor used book sale, restaurants, skate boarders and adorable couples strolling along hand in hand.

4. 27 Palace Court
My home!

5. Hyde Park
Sunny afternoons in Hyde Park present a microcosm of London as people from all professions, nationalities and races join together to enjoy the weather. I would sit on the grass attempting to read my book and embracing the distractions of adorable children interacting with their parents and pick up football matches.


1. Gelato Mio
2. Amish Oatmeal
3. Fish and Chips
4. Amore yogurt
5. Indian Food

Dance and Music
1. Beethoven's 9th Symphony
BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
2. Bon Iver
It was my first week in London and I went to this concert by myself. We packed into an old English theatre and a hush came over the crowd as Bon Iver took the stage. They asked us to sing the line "what might have been love" during the song "The Wolve". The crowd got progressively louder and the music crescendo until the crowd and band let out a cathartic long winded scream. It sounds odd, but it was a spiritual experience.
3. Swan Lake
Royal Ballet
4. Evensong at Westminster Abbey
5. Beethoven's Violin concerto and Mahler
Royal Festival Hall with the Philhomarmonia Orchestra


1. Hamlet
The production included the two loves of my life: Royal Shakespeare Company and David Tennant. I already dedicated a whole blog/essay on this experience, but I cannot emphasize how life altering the experience was.

2. The Walworth Farce
I went on a Saturday afternoon by myself with the most uncomfortable restricted view I ever endured. The play beings with two sons and a father each consumed in odd activities: ironing a dress with a wig on, staring at a newly purchased sausage with disgust and the father listening to Irish opera while clutching a trophy victoriously over his head. They begin to perform a play for each other; the hilarious dialogue and the stage conventions of playing multiple parts keep the audience intrigued and engaged. However, as time draws on the audience beings to piece together why this family performs this play everyday. The humor progressively darkens shades by shade as the audience ironically becomes more enlightened about their history. Drawing towards the end the audience has been lulled into a foreboding and dark history which consumes this family. It’s the most extreme dark comedy I have ever seen: thought provoking, unsettling and hilarious.

3. Merry Wives of Windsor
Standing as a groundling in the Globe theatre was my first exposure to an excellent Shakespeare production. The light hearted comedy had us singing and dancing merrily after the curtain call. Shakespeare’s rich language often becomes difficult and time consuming to gather its meaning. However, in this production no modern translations were needed as the lines were delivered and enacted in a way needing no explanation. This play began my journey of understanding Shakespeare’s title of greatest English playwright.

4. Ivanov
It’s a lesser known play written by the Russian playwright Chekhov. I had little exposure to Chekhov before I saw this play but was drawn to the opportunity to see the talented Kenneth Branagh. Tom Stoppard adapted the play beautifully and the strong cast achieved a difficult task: performing Chekhov well. The story explores the early nineteenth century Russian dark and existential mentality through the life of a middle aged man who struggles financially and spiritually. I still remember the scene where Branagh crouches on stage cradling his face crying uncontrollably.

5. Love’s Labour’s Lost
Three men in Elizabethan dress lounged under a large tree; the one in blue nonchalantly covers his face with a straw hat. How does the famous Jerry Maguire quote go…"you had me at hello”? David Tennant did not have to utter a word, even with his face covered and the play had not yet began, his playful and boyish charm became irresistible to the female audience. The production was fantastic, but it’s the play where I fell in love with David Tennant and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Random Things I'm Going to Miss

1. Londonpaper

The Londonpaper is a free readers digest of fashion, world politics, celebrity gossip and sport. It gives the perfect amount of information to keep you occupied on the tube and I always feel satisfied after reading it.

2. RSC

3. Adorable British children in their school uniforms

4. "Please keep coughing to a minimum"
They actually tell you this before a performance...

5. Attractive British men on the tube

Art Work

This does not include Paris and is a rough attempt to name my top five...

Pieter de Hooch, "A Boy Bringing Bread"

Wallace Collection

Diego Velazquez, "Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Mary and Martha"
National Gallery
Read A. S. Byatt's story about this painting...

John Singer Sargent "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose"

Tate Britain

Vincent Van Gogh, "Sunflowers"

National Gallery

Mark Rothko, "Red on Maroon Mural, Section 4"

Tate Modern

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finals loomed ahead of us; we enslaved ourselves to the cause and our manners became agitated and testy. At this point of breakdown a wise professor lead us from the artificially lit classroom to the balcony. We sat on grass, the sun reflecting the proof of God’s glory on the gilded roof of the Doom of the Rock. Our mole eyes retracted, blinded with true daylight we had not seen for days. In times of stress, instructed Professor Seeley, we have two options: fall in love or read poetry. He did the later and read the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manly Hopkins and “Jerusalem” by William Blake. With the melodious meters of English poets as our soundtrack we pulled the grass up with our hands to smell the sweet scent of moist, rich spring and viewed the city that still holds a part of my soul captive today. It’s springtime in Jerusalem, the celebration of Easter and Seder; pick the better half.
Looking back I do not remember my finals but this moment; tracing the ancient walls with my eyes desperately trying to seer the image in my mind. This week as finals loom ahead again I find myself tunneled in my bed with the artificial light of my lamp. I then remember Professor Seeley’s wise advice and I quietly scamper on the fire escape with only a thin layer of tights to provide warmth. I see my breath build particles of dew drops in the air. Looking out on the city of London I recite the poem that linked my personal pilgrimage from the Holy Land to London:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.

I prophecy I will not remember the finals that will take place in the next few days. I will recall perching on the cold fire escape reciting William Blake tracing the brick of the city I adore. I will choose the better part.

The Grandeur of God
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Typical Saturday Activities

Portabello Road
A new item sold at Portabello: Christmas trees!

One of A Kind
I happened upon this store. Dresses, hats, purses hang from the ceiling and racks are stacked full of vintage couture clothing. Browsing through you discover that the least expensive items are in the three hundred pound range. With such rare clothing there’s even a specific method to look through the racks to avoid pulling on the material. I don’t know if I looked especially rich yesterday…because for some reason they assumed I possessed a fortune because they honestly believed I could buy. They asked me what colour, material, designer and period I was interested in. I told them I wanted to browse. Later one of the girls who worked there wanted to show me the back room. The “back room” contains the expensive items; thirty thousand pound dresses expensive. Some items are on display but not for sale. For example, a Channel quilted bag (one of the fifty ever made in the world). I dared not touch anything but I asked her about the clothes, the owner and the business. Jeff -the owner who everyone apparently knows- dresses celebrities for the Red Carpet, designers for the runway and magazines. So I have decided to drop out of school, live in London and work for Jeff at One of A Kind. Don’t worry mum I will come home for Christmas before I begin my new job!
British Museum
I took a audio guide tour of highlights of the museum. This included the Elgin Marbles, Assyrian reliefs from Nineveh, Chinese pottery, images of ancient Indian gods, mummies and an Native American headdress. It's ridiculous that this museum contains such a broad range of artifacts. I guess it comes with imperialism...The highlight for me yesterday was a tablet containing the story of Gilgamesh! I got so excited. I wanted to see Cyrus' Cylinder again but it's in an exhibit! I saw King Jehu, but I got scared and could not pluck up the courage to touch him! Sorry if this only make sense to my fellow students in Jerusalem.
  • Tate Modern
Picasso, Girl in a Chemise

Matisse, The Snail
Mostly I enjoy imagining Matisse in his wheel chair cutting paper and yelling at his assistants as they a pin these paper sheets on the canvas

Brancusi, The Fish
Once again the Romanian makes it onto my list!

It's an emotional experience gazing at a Rothko. To understand Rothko you have to see his work in person; the texture, richness of color and the way the light reacts to the painting cannot be recreated in an replica. It nearly brought me to tears. Genius.
I realize at this point it's about ten thirty and I have not eaten since breakfast. I grab a few yogurts at Tesco with digestives and call it a night!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Best Day of My Life!

Abbey Road
The most famous album cover ever produced.

Outside the studio on Abbey Road is a concrete whitewashed wall that fans can sign. It's difficult to think of something to write when they said so many wonderful things! I settled on "Come together right now" world, because "all we need is love". Not that original...
221B Baker Street
The most famous detective Sherlock Holmes lived here. No, I know he did not exist...however, some other people seem to miss the fact that he is a fictional character. When Canon-Doyle killed Sherlock the papers wrote a obituary. That is the only bit of information I have gleaned from my British Mystery class.

Lighting of Christmas Tree
Ever since 1947 Norway donates a tree to the city of London. This Christmas tree symbolizes the friendship especially during WWII. I did not see the lights turned on because....I HAD TO GO TO HAMLET!

Royal Shakespeare Production of Hamlet
Starring: Patrick Stewart and David Tennant

I caught myself listening solely to the phonetics and pronunciation of words; they were memorizing. Accentuating syllables or consonants brought a richness and depth to the words; “incestuous sheets” never sounded so perverted and disgusting. Beyond the sounds of the words was the descriptive and spell-binding diction and syntax of William Shakespeare. These melodious words described eternal themes that absorb our beings. The language and themes are carried on the shoulders of the director, costumes, lighting and the actors.
The modern dress costumes and setting displayed a cold calculating political family. The producer beautifully deconstructed these superficial relationships to reveal deep feelings and connections between family members. The bedroom scene with Hamlet and his mother -often is ruined by Freud’s oedipal complex- displayed a passionate scene that did not have any Freudian undertones. In fact it almost mocked such ideas. The scene ended up being one of the most touching as Hamlet and his mother break down facades and see each other truthfully. The tone of Ophelia and Hamlet love is established in the opening scene when a simple knowing clasp of comfort between the two characters.
Each character actor performed phenomenally. Ophelia, Gertrude, Claudius (Patrick Stewart) were wonderful to watch. And David Tennant…what can I say about David Tennant? Brilliant, ingenious, fantastic…From the opening scene he bewitches the audience. He brought a boundless energy with the stage as his jungle gym, leaping, sliding, and running about playing the mad fool. He also accentuated the wit and humor along with the sorrow and deep reflection of his soliloquies. The humorous interpretation of particular lines allowed the audience to release pent up anxious emotions. I’m a sucker for dark comedies and Tennant played it more that way. Ah…I must stop myself; I could go on forever!
After the performance Katie and I just sighed, smiled and looked at each other in disbelief. It was the highlight of the program and a night we will never forget. When I read Hamlet’s soliloquies I’ll see David Tennant in an empty black stage, not reciting, but being Hamlet. Not a bad image to dwell on…he’s quite fit.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ice Skating

My mom put me in ballet to develop grace. I got the grace but, it does not excuse my talent to fall and run into things. So, putting me in a pair of ice skates does not sound like the best idea. However, I did not fall once; beat that Oksana! It’s magical to go ice skating in your local park. I love Hyde Park!
Sitting excitedly on the tube!

Blades of Glory
Chazz: This guy could not hold my jock sweat.
Jimmy: I could hold it all day long, try me!
Chazz: Maybe I will.
Jimmy: Maybe you should.
Chazz: You challenging me, princess?
Jimmy: I'm not inviting you to the Skating Federation's annual Christmas party.
Chazz: Then bring it on!
Jimmy: It is on!


I’m awkward around guys; I know this. However, little interaction with the opposite sex for the past few months has intensified my inability to socialize with males. There is only one male in our study abroad and he no longer really even counts and British men are too private to even make eye contact (at least that is what I keep telling myself for comfort).
Today I got my father’s Christmas present and a male - somewhat attractive and under the age of thirty – politely began to talk to me. He asked me non-descript questions about what I was studying etc. I began to blush! I blushed for no reason! It was terribly embarrassing! This ugly event hopefully does not foreshadow my semester back at BYU. BYU boys, unlike the British, are not so private and definitely will try to talk to me. Let’s hope I improve before January.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Jane Austen and Jews

Location: Jane Austen's House
Activity: I'm making the shape of a "J" and Katie an "A"

Feelings: I am determined, more than ever, that Jane and I would be great friends if we met each other.

Thanksgiving Activities
  • Visit a synagogue

I thoroughly enjoyed our tour. Everything was a review but it was interesting none the less. I did discover my elementary Hebrew skills have slipped! I could not remember all the sounds of the letters or how to write the alphabet in script!

  • Have tea at Kensington Palace

We had the best looking server at tea! I think he was Spanish or something...I gave him my best smile. We had cucumber sandwiches -which reminded me of The Importance of Being Earnest- peppermint tea, clotted cream with a scone and a slice of cake. It does not sound like much but those dense scones with the heavy clotted cream can kill you!

  • Make and eat Thanksgiving meal

Pumpkin pie is difficult to come by in this country, but luckily we found some!

We did not go around and say what we were thankful for and I missed that.
I am thankful for:
My family

Hearing the call to prayer everyday in Jerusalem at dusk


Religious Freedom

Royal Shakespeare Company

Markets (The suk, Portabello, Burrows, Pike Place etc)

Brilliant football matches

Andrew's Earth Wind and Fire impersonation

Kinder Bonous

My ward in London and the members that inspire me every Sunday

Art Galleries

Attractive British men on the tube

Opportunity to celebrating Shabbat at the Western Wall

Enthralling books


Bart (Our dishwasher here in London)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Haircut

Things it reminds people of:
Romona (Beverly Cleary)

An Egyptian

A character in a Fitzgerald novel

A Flapper

Tyson & Andrew: I do not want to hear anything negative...or I will remind you of the mohawks and mullets of the past few years.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Puppet Show that Changed My Life

I went to a puppet show tonight…now do not judge until you have the whole story. It’s about the friendship between a little boy and horse (you know how I love a good horse story). The horses in the show are puppets…but sophisticated puppets?! It’s brilliant; the horse’s mannerisms are so real that you actually forget that three people are behind it. Well, I got rather attached to the main horse puppet: Joey. There were quite a few touching moments (which is to be expected in a sentimental story about a boy and his horse…Black Beauty, National Velvet etc.) My connection to this puppet (aka three men) brought me nearly to tears at the climax of the play. We all know it does not take much to make me cry, but even the British (who show no emotion) were choked up. Seriously though, it was incredible. Any production which gets an audience to become more emotionally attached to a puppet rather than actors must be doing something fantastic. So parents do not worry and think I’m wasting my money going to London; sleep well at night and know that your daughter is attending life altering puppet shows in London.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Artwork of Paris

At galleries unexpected pieces of art touch you and stimulate your thoughts. Here are a few of the art pieces that I felt a connection to during my week in Paris. (It was difficult to only choose a few).

Van Gough
L'eglise d'Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet

Constantin Brancusi
Le Coq (The Rooster)

Amedeo Modigliani
Le Jeune Apprenti

Maruice Denis
Les Arbes Verts ou Les Hetres de Kerduel

Antoine Pevsner
Construction Dynamique
Marc Chagall
Le Marchand de Jornaux

Gustave Caillebotte
Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor-Scrapers)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The City of Light

My Week in Paris
Day One
Chartres Cathedral
Chartres's unique original stained glass and its congruent style make it an anomaly among Gothic cathedrals. Our tour guide studied Chartres for over fifty years and continues to be intellectually stimulated by this brilliant church. Our guide presented a brief glimpse into the importance of stain glass windows; medieval cathedrals use elegant symbolism in a colorful and pictorial manner that all people understand.
Eiffel Tower
I'm assuming that this European Union flag decor is temporary; I hope it is. The Eiffel Tower never excited me or entered my romantic daydreams... but it's stunning in person. Skyscrapers at ninety degree angle shooting upwards destroys your perspective; the Eiffel Towers slow slopping angles allow the eye to understand its towering height.

Day Two
“I have seen enough mansions and gardens to last me a baroque lifetime”
- Lauren Call

My Versailles experience suffered from a modern art exhibit that displayed artwork in every room of Jeff Koons. If you have never heard of him…you’re lucky. Jeff Koons envisioned the porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and subsequently Michael Jackson is one of the largest statues of porcelain in the world. Not only did it disturb us, but it covered up the Bernini statue behind it.

Rodin Museum

Strolling down the wide sidewalks of the Champs-Elysees you pass world renowned designers.

Arc d'Triomphe
Traffic roars around the Arc d’Triomphe as the major roads of Paris break siege on the monument. We climbed to the top to look out on the city of Paris at dusk and waited until night fell and the Eiffel Tower sparkled on the hour. Above the city you see the organized streets of Paris which differs with the mangled streets of London. Paris is magical from the sky!
Day Three: Museum Day

I found the Louvre too overwhelming; you have to sift through mediocre work to find the masterpieces. If you spent thirty minutes at every piece of art at the Louvre it would take you three months to view everything; twelve miles of artwork!

Mona Lisa Smile
We patiently stood in line waiting for the Louvre to open. The flood gates opened and we ran past the Asian tourists to visit the secretive lady: the Mona Lisa. If you Google the image of the Mona Lisa you will have a more personal connection with her than I did (a three inch thick glass case protects the lady, three security guards armed and willing to take you out if you breath to closely and a barrier about twenty feet away). Everyone prepared me for her small size, but with the distance it was impossible to even see if she was frowning or smiling.

Musee d’Orsay
Most likely my favorite museum in Paris is the Musee d’Orsay. The renovated railway stations houses a fantastic collection of impressionist paintings.

Musee d'Orangerie
While going blind, Monet accomplished a magnificent feat by painting large canvases to be housed in a museum: Musee d’Orangerie. You sit in a stark white circular room enclosed by Monet’s famous water lilies; the perfect environment.

Day Four

Notre Dame
Notre Dome sits on an island (no one ever told me)! We peered at the top to see the famous gargoyle who cradles his face in his hands but we did not see the hunchback!

Shakespeare and Co.

My favorite bookstore in the whole world! I walked in the charming store to hear Beirut playing softly in the background! Could it be anymore perfect? This bookstore started as a library by an English women who loaned out English books to the Lost Generation writers: Gertrude Stein, Hemingway and James Joyce. Today it continues to lend out beautiful old books and house budding young authors. When you walk upstairs you see the makeshift beds of these young authors and one of them even shaved while we browsed the shelves. Also, they sell new and used books! It's a brilliant and wonderful place!

It’s a bit random; most people do not imagine bones when they think of Paris. We decided walking beneath Paris surrounded by dead bones sounded adventurous and different. Ironically Becky freaked out the first few minutes before the bones began; we offered to hold her hand but Becky declined.

Chopin's Grave
We hopped on city bus and took a free tour of the main sites of the city and the city took shape as we connected all the different sites. We jumped off at a large cemetery with famous people buried there (Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde etc.) Lauren lost her camera on the bus and with tears beginning to well up in her eyes she dashed off after it. Miraculously she managed to chase down the bus and retrieve her camera! The size of the cemetery caused some problems and we could only find Chopin's grave. We placed a flower on his grave and we listened to my favorite Nocturne on my i-pod.
We purchased wonderful ice cream at a local store and then bought two baguettes and treats at a local patisserie. We transported these baguettes on the metro and ate them by the Eiffel Tower. After finishing our carb dinner we floated on the Seine on a tour boat.

Final Day in Paris
We began the day with a trek to Sacre Coeur, byzantine style Cathedral built in attempt to atone for the sins of an evil Paris. We walked from Sacre Coeur around the more peaceful and bohemian side of Paris. We walked to the studios of several impressionist painters and began to piece together the Paris that inspired them. Our walk ended at the Moulin Rouge...we did the cancan have no fear! We visited the two famous opera houses in Paris and went to the mecca of malls. I never thought a mall could rival Harrods...

After a week of carbs we were craving salt and meat and our answer was McDonald's. My meal at McDonald's was the most expensive meal of my whole entire study abroad!
We walked around the fashionable part of Paris and witnessed the expensive boutiques. Most importantly we walked through the Jewish section of town! It was on the eve of Shabbat so things were closing down, but we grabbed some Challah bread and I wished the baker Shabbat Shalom! I was ecstatic after this and grinned the rest of the day. We finished our day visiting the Pompidou for a second time...
Au revoir Paris!
Paris & London Awards
A quick glance at the city of Paris compared with the city of London

Most Attractive Men: London
Whoever tells you otherwise is crazy!

Fashion: London
The general public in London dresses with greater style than the French. Walking through the local trendy districts of Paris I began to see that the upper classes dress extremely well. However, I enjoy the crazy local fashion of London better!

Friendly and Helpful Locals: Paris and London
Some Parisians are extremely helpful while others are straight up rude. Londoners may not have the warmth of some Parisians but they are just as respectful by honoring your personal space.

Pickpocket and Beggars: Paris
It surprised me the number of beggars in Paris! Several women forced themselves on us and persistently asked for money. I was almost pick pocketed in Paris but I had the good sense to feel the hand trying to grab into my purse behind me. Have no fear, I gave him a Hillary glare (which are quite unnerving) and he tried to play it off like he ran into me. Nice try!

Pastries: Paris
No surprises there!

Cleanest River: Paris
The Thames only stands a chance against the Nile…which tells you how gross the water is in the Thames.

Art: Paris

Architecture: London
I prefer the subtle elegant style of London buildings opposed to the Baroque frilly show of Parisian architecture!

Football: Premier League (England)
Henry or Rooney? ROONEY!

There is no denying that Paris is a wonderful, beautiful city with thousands of things to see…but London still holds my undying devotion and love!