Christmas in America

IMG_4774We spent our Christmas in Maryland and our New Year’s Eve in Virginia. It was a blast to see family and do a little tourist-ing in the area. Here are a few pictures of our jaunt back to the states: Continue reading

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My Mom & My Sister: Southwest (ish) England

With my mom and sister visiting for two weeks we had to get out and see more of England than just Birmingham and London. The first stop on our road trip was Salisbury Cathedral, where we got to see one of the original copies of the Magna Carta.IMG_3029 IMG_3041IMG_3033The highlight of the day though, was Stonehenge. We went to Stonehenge when we had family visitors last year, but there’s a new visitors center and exhibits with neolithic houses. IMG_3049IMG_3043We weren’t strong enough to pull one of the blue stones. Props to you, prehistoric man!
Prehistoric Huts CollageDaughter likes to get up close and personal with history. Walk a mile in prehistoric man’s moccasins, stamp out a fire, sleep in a hut; she takes it all in stride.
In addition to the huts and the visitors center, the set up for parking and getting to the henge is also new (I’d recommend buying tickets in advance since everything is more structured now). You park at the visitors center, see the exhibits, then either walk or take a shuttle out to the actual site. We chose to ride halfway and walk the other half. This meant we got to gradually get closer to the stones and we walked past some long barrows (prehistoric burial sites). The long barrows are the grassy lumps behind Derek:IMG_3055 IMG_3125 Continue reading

Ma Mère & Ma Sœur: A Weekend in London

For our first weekend with my mom and sister visiting we headed down to London. We started off with some classic sites: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square.Big Ben Collage As we walked from Big Ben/Westminster to Buckingham we stopped in St. James’s Park for an ice cream cone and a rest. Continue reading

Norway Travelogue: Bergen

Bergen has a big tourist pull (us included) in Norway. Both the old part of the city and a nearby fjord are World Heritage Sites and it is an all around lovely place. Plus, it’s the place that inspired Arendelle (not to be confused with Arendal) of Disney’s Frozen. IMG_3784 Continue reading

Norway Travelogue: Oslo

IMG_3644Our trip to Norway was significantly shaped by our first three days in Arendal (read about it here) where we spent time with a family from Derek’s Dad’s LDS mission. However, not wanting to waste our precious time in Norway we traveled away from new friends to see more of the country.
We got into Oslo in the afternoon and had plans to meet up with more people Derek’s dad knew so we only had a few hours on our first day. We took some time to walk up to and around the Royal Place and see a bit of the main area of town. Continue reading

Norway Travelogue: I’m a Mormon (Arendal)

IMG_3939After we have hit so many well-beaten paths in mainland Europe over the past year (Paris, Rome, Florence, Athens, Bavaria, etc.) a trip to Norway may seem, from an outside perspective, entirely random. I wouldn’t say its tourist attractions are among the most famous in Europe, it isn’t on the Euro, it isn’t a budget destination by any means, it isn’t necessarily known for its food, and it is such a big country that it was difficult to tackle in only a week. However, we went for a much more specific reason. Derek’s dad served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Norway from 1969 to 1971 and we four (Derek’s dad and our family of three) went together. (Side: If you don’t know much about Mormons check out the two links in the last sentence, see my profile here, or check out this website or these videos). We went with Derek’s dad to see some sights and to have some family time, but we ended up loving Norway and Norwegians along the way.
We flew into Oslo and drove a few hours south to Tønsberg on our first evening. Along the drive we recorded snippets of Derek’s dad talking about life in Norway as a missionary in 1970. Tønsberg had been one of the places he served. He had stories about having to walk to a bath house (that we passed) weekly to shower (!), how his landlord would kill rats by burning them (!!!), and how welcoming and wonderful the people were. The next morning he and Derek went to visit a couple the he knew from back then. That afternoon we drove even farther south to Arendal where we were welcomed into a home of a family that Derek’s dad taught while on his mission. Initially, before stepping into their home Derek and I felt slightly apprehensive. We didn’t know the people we were about to spend the next two days with, we didn’t know much about Norwegian culture, and I was worried about bringing a busy two year old into a new home – possibly not very accustomed to toddlers. Our worry was unnecessary. We were warmly welcomed, had a big family dinner, listened to stories, and made new friends. The woman that we stayed with was in her 80s and had been confirmed (after baptism) by Derek’s dad. She had 6 children, a few of whom we met, a few grandchildren there (our age), and a great grand son that was 2 weeks younger than Daughter (instant friends!). What a great legacy!

IMG_3457This is downtown Arendal, taken on Sunday after church. We’re not in our typical Sunday garb because our luggage hadn’t made it to Oslo. Boo. We thankfully had enough clothes (but not socks – whoops) in our carry-ons to last until we did get our suitcase that night.
IMG_3468Our visit to Arendal was about the people, not the sites. This is a change to how Derek and I have traveled the past year. We sat and ate (and ate and ate! That’s Norwegian hospitality for you. Though some of our own gluttony may be to blame…), played games, and got to know each other. It was really wonderful and shaped our entire trip.
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P.S. If you are interested in learning more about what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) believe, we just had our semi-annual general conference this weekend. It’s a chance to listen to true apostles and prophets of God and we always look forward to watching. All of it is online here.

Athens

After lovely sea breezes and spending our time jumping in and out of the pool in Crete, Athens felt unbearably hot. Plus two summers in England (where 74° F is hot) has made it harder for us to adapt to 100° weather. With all that though, I was still excited to see so much history, even if we only had 48 hours in Athens.IMG_2127 Continue reading