The Bells of Notre Dame

I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes I’m shocked by how little people recognize the beauty of IDEAS. Read a poem, see a performance, have a conversation with an interesting thinker; concepts are magical, musical, full of light or darkness. A plot may not be the most exciting, but it could be full of the most beautiful ideas. Who are we? What is love? Truth? Grief? Fear? What does it mean to grow? How does grace change us? Beautiful questions.

This is something that I believe Victor Hugo mastered. I adore him. I have read Les Miserables multiple times. I love Hunchback. People often complain that he should “just get to the story already!” Victor Hugo isn’t trying to tell a story; he is trying to get us to feel the experiences that the characters have. We should understand the universal through the individual. (I am a total Romantic, so I love this method of storytelling.) A modern example: John Green will have moments like this. His stories aren’t the greatest, but he’ll have a chapter describing the emotions an experience drew out of the characters. I love those parts.

ANYWAY. Let’s just say I was a bit excited to go to Notre Dame. Not only is a magnificent cathedral, but it is the focal point of one of Hugo’s books. The fact that all this injustice takes place in a church? That outcasts and gypsies can have a relationship with God that bishops are unable to have? Whoa. I stayed for part of the mass, which was gorgeous. I lit my candle. It was amazing.


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It was incredible. I was in heaven.

There was one other place I got to visit that is topical for this post. Check it out:


To die is nothing; but it is terrible not to live. — Victor Hugo

An American in Paris

The American? That would be me.


It was a day at Versailles. Unfortunately, Versailles is ENORMOUS, and we went on the worst possible day of the week to go. It was completely packed. We did make the most of the situation though. I ended up with a group of about five girls and one of our faculty families. We explored the Queen’s House and Marie Antoinette’s shepherdess village. It was amazing. I cannot believe how much beauty is there. I will have to go back and explore more. I think Versailles is a several day trip. The Sun King went ALL OUT.

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We had a lot of fun in that gazebo. It’s called the “Temple of Love” because the statue is of Cupid. Prof. B is a humanities professor and Sister B is an interior designer. Between the two of them, I learned so much! It was really fun. I’m sure we looked like a strange family walking around. We kind of play off one another like family. I mean, we’ve lived and traveled together for five weeks.

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Little F is the sweetest girl. I wish I was that cool when I was 12. She also makes a really nice column. M is great too. I mean, just look at that beautiful “candid” photobomb. I’m sending that to a mutual friend of ours who is on a mission in Kansas right now. That’s not mean, right? “Look! We’ve met and now we’re chillin’ at Versailles!” Maybe I need to think of a better message…

I did get one picture for my mom…


That’s the dress, Mom! Finding modest clothing is so much easier here in Europe than in the States. Especially if I’m buying long term, I want to be able to wear it post-temple. LDS girl problems. It’s a good problem, though. I love it.

Versailles was my favorite part of Paris. If I go back, I’d love to see more of it!

C’est la Vie

Where was I? We had a little three day trip to France. It was a really neat experience. I had never been to Paris before — just the Riviera. It was so fun to see sites that I had always heard about and seen in pictures and movies.

We started at Fontainebleau, which was one of the great palaces of French kings. It was beautiful! I loved the library.

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That night also involved running into the Arc de Triomphe… at sunset. It was gorgeous.

IMG_6488 We also got to explore the Parisian metro. It was actually pretty dang easy to figure out without knowing any French. We handled it pretty well. We had one experience that was different. We had to wake up at 3:30am that morning to go to the train station. We had been awake for a very long time. We got a little confused and this sign has become very funny to us. Don’t “kwill da wabbit,” okay?

IMG_6496Overall, a pretty great first day in France!

More “Music Time with Sarah.” I love this song. It has been on repeat on my phone for weeks. This isn’t the official lyric video because I think this song deserves a better video than it has. Besides, this is one of the best fan-made lyric videos I have ever seen. Enjoy!


Halfway Done…

Can you believe that?! My program is halfway done. I have just about three and a half weeks left. It’s ridiculous how fast it’s going by. I’ve loved every second. That being said, “I’m not dead yet!” I’m not getting trunky at all. London living is so good.

Yesterday, we got gelato. Oh holy sweet somethings, Batman. It was good.

IMG_6374 I just had to share that.

It was hot today. Like, ungodly temperatures for England where no one has air conditioning because it doesn’t ever get this hot and it’s awful and oh my goodness. Even so, we did another walk. This one was the “Seats of Power” walk. We ran into some cool places, like a palace fit for a queen.

IMG_6392 We asked a girl to take our picture in front of the palace and this is what we got:

IMG_6396 I guess you can’t win all of them. At least we look fabulous.

This is an awesome place to be during major world events. There’s always a reaction by someone. Last night after the news of MH17 came out, there was a protest at the Russian embassy. People were waving hastily made signs and Ukrainian flags while shouting “stop Russian terrorists!” It was so exciting. The best part is that I’m literally one minute from the Russian embassy. I could hear it from my flat.

There was also a protest going on at Downing Street about this case. Britain is still dealing with the consequences of their involvement in Africa. So cool to learn about!

IMG_6413 It was a good day, even if it is hotter than Hades in my fifth-floor flat. It’s supposed to cool down a bit this weekend. We’ve got some thunderstorms coming in!

Feed the Birds

Today we visited St. Paul’s cathedral. It was beautiful. I love visiting such magnificent places of worship. Although I may not agree with every doctrine these churches proclaim, the buildings themselves are places set aside to glory and worship my Savior. It’s been a real treat to be able to do so in so many different places and ways. For example, I got to light another candle. St. Paul’s is another “no pictures inside” place, so here’s what I got.

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Part of the fun of St. Paul’s is daring to climb 300+ steps to the Stone Gallery or the 500+ steps to the Lantern Gallery. We took the challenge and made it to the top! London is incredible.

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We’re pretty cute too.


The staircase is scary. It gets really tight in some places, spirals in others, and some steps have holes between them (which freaks me out like no other).


Of course, there is a classic song about the steps of St. Paul’s. While you can no longer feed the birds in that particular spot, you can take a picture in homage to the little old bird woman. That’s exactly what I did. Mary Poppins is too fabulous to pass by.


As a child, I would fast forward this song because I thought it was boring. Now I can’t believe I ever zoomed passed Walt Disney’s favorite song. It is a powerful piece. I’ll always remember seeing Richard Sherman play this song for a rapt audience at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in DC. Being at St. Paul’s makes it that much better.

Return to Wonderland

When I was in high school, I did a summer program at the University of Oxford. I studied Shakespeare and I loved it. Yesterday, I got to go back to Oxford. It was wonderful. It really feels like home. I actually was surprised at how small it feels now. I remember feeling like the city centre was huge and I could get lost in a minute there. It also seemed like walking places took forever. I guess I’ve grown since then. By that I mean my perspective has expanded. I’m used to wandering Provo and London on my own. My world is so much bigger now, but the familiarity makes it seem smaller than it was when I was at Oxford. Is that what growing up means? Some of us don’t really grow up, but grow out. I feel like the world is mine to explore. I love my hashtag #thisgirlmeetsworld. It’s so accurate for my experiences right now. I hope you all don’t mind my pontificating.

One of the places we visited during our afternoon in Oxford was All Souls College. There are no undergrads attending All Souls at this point. Everyone who attends is made a Fellow of the University. But it was beautiful.

IMG_6329 Then it was time for my flying lessons. The Ministry of Magic worked it out so Hogwarts has a satellite campus at the Uni of Ox, so I got to try it out. I’m a proud Ravenclaw, but I think I need some more practice. My form wasn’t awesome.

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We also visited Narnia, which I was obsessed with when I was Matthew’s age. What am I saying, I still love Narnia. This is the door that inspired The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

IMG_6327 There is a classic Oxford experience that you can’t leave without at least attempting.

IMG_6326 …And I was totally talking about attending Evensong at Christ’s Church! I was talking about the milkshakes. In all seriousness, Evensong was amazing. The music was gorgeous, the cathedral was magical, and I had a lot of fun. It’s interesting to see how similar the Anglican service was to a Catholic mass. If you didn’t know them well, you might get them confused. My homeschool friends educated me on Catholic mass so well that I was able to have intelligent conversation about it with Prof. Underwood. Points for TORCH!

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I already used up my sentimental writing for this post, so I guess I’ll just say that I love Oxford. I want to go back again. And again.

And again.

“I Could Build Myself a Castle…”

If only it were that easy. The Churchills got Blenheim Palace by winning a major battle that everyone still talks about. I don’t see that happening to me anytime soon; I can’t even play Risk. (I do play a mean Ticket to Ride, though.) Maybe I can marry a military genius. That doesn’t turn out to well generally. (Pun absolutely intended.) Prof. Benfell says I need to become independently wealthy. I guess I could do that.

I don’t really need to live in a Palace. Visiting one for a morning is enough for me.

IMG_6301Shout out to KB for a fabulous attempted photobomb on the left hand side. I appreciate your art. Also, I got some air in this picture. Not bad for a short white chick. I’m also wearing my flappy shirt, which makes everything more fun.

It was a lovely place, but it had a twinge of sadness. We learned about sweet Consuelo Vanderbilt. She was a 18 year old bride who married a man she didn’t love. She was one of the richest heiresses in the world and could have married anyone she wanted to, but her mother liked the much older, much shorter Duke of Marborough. Consuelo lived lavishly, but unhappily. She was beautiful. I need to learn more about her.

IMG_6307 Just take a minute and check out how ridiculous this place is:

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I haven’t even gotten to the gardens yet. The gardens are very picturesque. We just talked about Claude Lorraine in class, so it was fun to see the huge manor estate. Of course, my pictures are in the formal gardens which have nothing to do with that.

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That’s just the backyard gardens. No biggie.

Wait, I found a Claude picture!

IMG_6324 Add this to the list of amazingly romantic places in England. It is beautiful, grand, peaceful, and Romantic. (Not just romantic.) Can you imagine the backyard games you could play as a child in an estate like that? Incredible…

It was a really fun morning at Blenheim. Here’s a picture I stole from Madeline K:

blenheim1 One last fun fact: the fictional Elizabeth Bennett toured Blenheim too! No wonder I felt so Austen while walking the grounds.

In Other News…

My family is all over the place. At one point this week, the six of us were scattered across four continents. You read that right — four continents. We were in North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. We should send E to Africa for a week. Here is a picture of my 13yo brother being way cooler than me in Costa Rica.

matthew costa rica 2014 Yes, he is leaping of a cliff into a river. In Costa Rica. I know. Apparently he’s acquired some minor injuries as he high-adventures (Is that a verb?) through Latin America. He’s fine though!

This adventuring thing must run in the family. I’ve always felt it was in my blood. Maybe I make more sense to you now. We hadn’t heard this phrase until Walter Mitty came out, but now we love it.

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

If that’s the case, then we are doing pretty well. Adventure is out there!