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

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.

Easter in England (and Wales)

I love Easter and springtime! Who doesn’t? I also love that since Easter is a more important holiday to this country Derek had both the Friday before and the Monday after off of work. Friday we took off towards Wales.
IMG_0005We stopped at Tintern Abbey on our way. We’ve seen a lot abbeys lately, but I was interested to this one because of this pin I found right after we moved here.
IMG_0010IMG_0023Derek was really excited to find some original (medieval!) stained glass.
We drove farther into Wales to Cardiff, where we stayed the night and saw the castle.
IMG_0048 Continue reading

Navigating North: A Spontaneous Sojourn

Last week (that’s a lie now – more like 2+ weeks ago…) Derek and I did a little planning for a trip to Wales. We were going to go to Cardiff, find a beach, and maybe do some hiking with an ocean view. We had reserved our car rental, but we (thankfully) hadn’t booked any hotels. On Thursday night we were talking to some friends who had gone up to Chorley to see The British Pageant (if you’re familiar with the Hill Cumorah Pageant: like that but about the Mormon church in England, and, since it was written this past year – more updated). We didn’t have tickets so we hadn’t planned on going, but our friends said that they were told by someone (maybe not the most reliable source!) that no one who showed up for standby tickets had been turned away.  We decided since this is a pretty historic thing that it would be worth it to try to get standby tickets. After a what was supposed to be a 2 hour drive took 4 hours… we made it and we did get tickets!
PageantThe show was excellent. Little L was stellar and played on our laps rather than freaking out (answer to prayer right there) that it was way past her bedtime, seeing as how the show was from 8:30 to 10. If she had gone bonkers…oooh it could have been bad. We were in the middle of a looooong row of folding chairs that were zip-lined together. Anyway. The story was excellent, the dancing made my heart happy, and the spirit was felt. I’m so glad we went.
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Since we were already up north we decided to make it into a weekend trip. From Chorley we kept going north to some of the English Heritage castles and sites. We were basically just googling things on our phones and looking stuff up in an English Heritage membership guide and our Great Britain guidebook. So we didn’t necessarily know where we were going until we got there. Ha!
On Saturday we saw Brougham Castle and some un-inspiring Roman mounds.
IMG_6024IMG_6049IMG_6058The Roman Mounds (i.e. King Arthur’s Round Table) below. I don’t think we would have visited these if we had had a better idea of what they were/looked like. But I guess that’s just part of going on an entirely un-planned trip.IMG_6067We also drove along Ullswater and hiked to Aria Force.
IMG_6093IMG_6114IMG_6131 IMG_6128 IMG_6135Are those mountains not breathtaking?
Then we stopped by Castlerigg Stone Circle at the perfect time of day.
IMG_6194Little L was clearly getting some bad vibes from her first prehistoric stone. The second and third must have been better. : )

Rocks

IMG_6166The situation demanded some jumping pictures. Derek assures me the first rock is higher than it looks…IMG_6179
IMG_6174IMG_6183Saturday evening we hadn’t booked a hotel yet, and were starting to feel a little pressure since all of the B&Bs in Keswick had no vacancy signs. I found a random hotel online that was 20 ish miles away and we headed there, hoping to see dinner on the way. There was nothing by way of food, or much more than farms, really, so the fact that our hotel had a restaurant/pub attached was a blessing. We were put in a room above the pub, and while we tried to have L eat with us, she was out of her mind tired so we put her to bed. We ended up being able to have a date night downstairs thanks to having the foresight to bring our monitor. I love when things fall into place like that.

Sunday we went to church and then started our drive home. On our way we drove past more lakes and stopped at Beeston Castle.
IMG_6215IMG_6247We saw some more medieval enactors on our way up to the Castle.
IMG_6217It was a bit of a climb to get up here, but the views were better than I expected for how short the hike was! We felt like we were on top of the world.
STB_6226And another jumping picture to celebrate our king-of-the-world-ness : )
IMG_6241Dear Lake District,
You have taken my heart.
I can’t wait to return to your misty, glimmering crags and your peaceful, lapping waters.
Hope to see you soon,
Shantal

P.S.
A little more info about the British Pageant here, more about Mormons here.
I would recommend traveling without plans like this only if you really don’t care how much you see. While it’s fun for weekend trips or a few days here and there it may yield a really disappointing trip overall if you’re coming to the UK for a specific amount of time from the States or elsewhere.
Tune in soon for another travelogue, this time to York!