LONDON CALLING (Make it Happen Monday! #15)

Sunday, October 26, 2014



No homework. No exams. 

A week of rest.

Or maybe not, seeing as how this week... it's finally here! 

My dad arrived yesterday evening. I would have taken a selfie with him... but he was pretty tired. Perhaps later today. :) We are going to spend the first part of the week in Caen, and then we're going to... wait for iiiittttt...


This is a city I've only dreamed of visiting... and in just 48 short hours, I'll be there! Land of The Beatles, Sherlock, and Harry Potter! I can get my fix of fish and chips, plus museums like the Victoria and Albert (!), Tate Modern (!!), and British Museum (!!!). 

Plus a grand ol' amount of wandering.

Join the link-up at The Nectar Collective!

Honestly, I only have one goal for this week, and one major wish (okay, two) for the adventure ahead:

Fully soak in the beauty in exploring a new place. Plus see some awesome museums.

So, I'm probably not going to post again until next week sometime, as I'll hopefully wandering and fully soaking in the wonders of this magical city. In the words of Albus Dumbledore (JK Rowling), 

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." 

This week, I'm going to live, and I'll update you on my dreams next week! 

Happy Thoughts

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Remember a few weeks ago when I fell down and had a really bad day? Well my knee is finally feeling better... but the crack in my phone is getting worse. Plus I was sick this week (I slept for 15 hours on Wednesday... which means I didn't study for any of my 3 exams on Thursday). I've been catching myself with negative thoughts, so I thought I'd take the time to remind myself how amazing things actually are. Being the list-maker I am, I made a list of all the things that make me happy. Sometimes a good reality-check is all that I need.

Tea at Memoranda.
Where there is tea, there is hope.

I'm in love with this one:

(Love After Love by Derek Walcott)

I'm going to see SO MANY in London. It will be grand.

Inspirational quotes.
I'm definitely feeling this one right now:

Talking to my parents.

Ain't nothing that can't be cured by a FaceTime session with the people I love most.

The office supply store.

But actually. New pens are the perfect cure for anything.

Wearing a scarf.
It's getting cold here in Normandy, so I've been wearing my scarves a lot. Nothing says fall like a cute scarf.

The beach.

Even just looking at pictures makes me feel good.

History. It's pretty cool. 

Researching cool things to do in London has given me a case of the history major chills.

Reading my friends' blogs.

I recently convinced one of my friends to start a blog. Crooked Heart is pretty awesome. :) Also, my little started blogging for Beautifully Unique, and I'm in love with her first post


Bread. And pastries. Need I say more?

The way rain smells.

I'm not sure how to describe it... just like nature and things being cleaned.

Hearing from my friends who are also studying abroad. 

I heard from one of my best friends who's studying abroad in Rwanda the other day, and it was great to talk to him!

My little got her own little!

They are just too perfect.

I'm in France. 
I'm in France... living in France... speaking a different language and eating baguettes and macarons, learning all sorts of amazing things. I'm finally living out one of the dreams I've had since I was in high school, sitting in French class with one of the best teachers I've ever had. What could possibly make me happier? 

What makes you happy?

Not all those who Wander...

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's a tired phrase, and one that is used by everyone who wants to travel, or who finds inspiration on pinterest to want to see the world, or who has no idea what they want to do next in life, etc.

But it's the perfect way to describe how this weekend was. 

I'm the kind of person who plans out every single minute of every single day. My agenda is chock full of lists, appointments, meetings, classes, assignments. I have a Moleskine bursting with lists of things I want to do, things I have to do, and places I want to see.

I have a detailed plan of every museum I want to see in London, including every exhibit, highlight, and painting broken down by day, and then further by morning, afternoon, and evening. 

So imagine this person, this overplanned, somewhat burned out, 20-something college student, getting on a train to go to a city she knows barely anything about, without a plan for how to spend the two days she will find herself there. 

That's what I did this weekend. 

While part of me cringes to think that I had zero plan for what I wanted to do in Rouen, it far surpassed any expectations I could have possibly had. 

I finally took my own advice and let my expectations be cast aside, and fully enjoyed every moment I spent in this beautiful city. 

If I had to summarize what we did this weekend, I would say we wandered. I wandered. I explored. I let myself be transported back in time to a middle age town, just screaming with importance and cultural excitement. 

I geeked out hardcore over architecture, and took pictures of basically every building we saw.

I stumbled into courtyards built to commemorate death, but full of light. 

I found inspiration in a square where a now-saint, Joan of Arc, was burned alive.

We climbed hundreds of many stairs up the Tower of Joan of Arc, where she was held and tortured (so I got my museum fix).

I ate a really, really good, dare I say American-style, hamburger before going to the cinema to watch a movie in English, which was amazing (Gone Girl.... crazygirlsaywhaaaaaa?).

We had a mini-photoshoot in a courtyard by a giant, beautiful cathedral.

I bought a hat.

We sat in a park and watched swans elegantly float on their mini-lake.

We ate. We shopped. We sat in cafés drinking café au lait and eating pain au chocolate  We comforted each other as we shared our feelings of the mid-study abroad blues, how much we miss our homes, our friends, our families, and our classes (I'm taking Gender in a New Era of Empire next quarter... which I'm anxiously looking forward to as the Saga of the French "E" continues).

But most of all, we wandered. 

We had a map, but we didn't use it. We had our phones, but we didn't use those either.

We wandered, but we were never lost. 

Thank you, Rouen, for being beautiful.

Thank you, friends, for wandering with me. 

Thank you, Universe, for helping me realize the beauty in the unknown.

Have you ever just wandered? Also, what do you think of my hat? :) 

Make it Happen Monday! #14

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Monday!

This weekend was truly one for the books. I had an amazing time in Rouen with some of my friends from API. It was relaxing, fun, and most of all inspiring, and gave me the energy I needed to really finish off the first half of the semester!

This week is going to be crazy busy, as it's the last week before my fall break (and Papa McLeese comes to visit!) so I have three exams, a paper, and a bunch of miscellaneous crap to finish before I can enjoy my time in London with my dad.

Join the link-up at The Nectar Collective!

Last Week: 

1. Write an awesome post about Bayeux and the D-Day Beaches. 

I accomplished this one. It was rather emotional to write, and even more emotional to read again. You can read it here.

2. Research Rouen.

Nope, and that's okay. One of my friends did some research about the town and all of the things related to Joan of Arc, so she led the way in terms of actual stuff we did. We also did a fair bit of wandering around, and went shopping. :)

3. Find a prettier pot for Normand Pamplemousse. 
Last week, I bought a pretty pink cactus and named it Normand Pamplemousse. While I didn't find a prettier pot for him, I think he's still pretty happy. This one might take a bit longer than I thought, and may require a bit more creativity.

October Goals: Revisited

I can't believe we are already over halfway through the month... there's only two weeks left of October! This week's goal is pretty basic: get to Friday. Therefore, I thought that instead I would revisit my goals that I made for October.

1. Have some cool adventures.
I feel pretty good about this one! You can read about my adventure to Bayeux, and my emotional experiences at the D-Day landing beaches, as well as my wonderful weekend in Rouen this week!

2. Figure out all the ways to pronounce the letter "e." 
Close. We're getting there. I actually have a Phonetics exam later this week, so we'll see how many ways I've actually learned.

3. Be nicer to myself. 
This one is always a struggle. Even when I'm editing pictures from Rouen, or just trying to think of new blog ideas, I'm hard on myself and sometimes really mean. All I can ask for is improvement, right? 

4. Dance more! 
This one was inspired by my feeling of needing to let go of my self-imposed restraints, and go with whatever feels right. Also, Tom Hiddleston. I tend to take things WAY to seriously (including myself), so I'm making it a goal to just dance. Enjoy life, enjoy my friends, and enjoy the moment. Also, maybe bust a move here and there. :) 

What do you need to accomplish this week? 

Hello History

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The last time I went on an excursion, it was an absolute blast and I took some of my favorite pictures ever. This past weekend, I went on another excursion with the University that I'm studying at in France, and we went to Bayeux, home to the famous Bayeux Tapestry (or Tapisserie de Bayeux), and then took a mini-tour of a few of the D-Day Landing Beaches and the American Cemetery in Normandy. Naturally, it was a day just full of history, which was basically heaven for me.

We began the day at 8:30 am to head to Bayeux. It's a very pretty drive, and only about a half hour away from Caen. I had stopped by the MacDo (the only place in Caen where you can get coffee to go) so I was incredibly hyper, much to the chagrin of my neighbor on the bus. I think my friends were simultaneously amused and pissed that I was so hopped up on caffeine so early in the morning on a Saturday. I digress. 

The week before, I had done a bit of research about the tapestry, and had written some notes in my little Moleskine notebook that I use when I'm out and about. I was carrying it with me, and when we went into the Bayeux Tapestry Museum (yeah, there was a WHOLE MUSEUM for this Tapestry), I was holding it so that I could reference my notes while I was looking at the actual tapestry. The professor that accompanied us on the excursion saw my little notebook, and exclaimed, "Voilà! Une étudiante serieuse! [A serious student!] Tu viens d'où? [Where are you from]?" I told her I was from Colorado, and she then exclaimed, "Ah! Bravo Colorado!" I was super embarassed but my friends from DU thought it was absolutely hilarious, even though I'm the only one in the group that's actually from Colorado. 

This tapestry (which isn't even actually a tapestry, as it's embroidered, not woven) is fantastic! It's basically just a really, really long comic strip about the William the Conquerer's Invasion (and Conquest) of England. It is dated aroudn 1077, and survived for hundreds of years, intact (mostly) and preserved in the basement of the Cathedral in Bayeux. I find it amazing that such an amazing tapestry from the Middle Ages was preserved in the basement of a church. It was also rescued several times throughout history, as it was going to be used as a banner during one of the revolutions, it was almost stolen by the Nazis a few times, and it was going to be cut apart and sold at one point. But it has survived, much like everything in this place, hundreds of years of war, violence, and pillaging. It's now beautifully preserved in it's very own museum, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site (hint: It's a big effing deal). Enough with the history lesson. 

Unfortunately, I couldn't take any pictures in the room of the actual Tapestry, but I took pictures of the pictures of the Tapestry. Enjoy the pictures. 

After seeing the Tapestry, I was even more excited and energetic than in the morning, and we were left to explore Bayeux a bit and find some lunch. We just ate at a little cafe, but we also visited the church and I got some good pictures. 

After lunch and some exploring, we headed back on the bus for a mini-tour of a few of the landing beaches from D-Day, which happened 70 years ago this year, and the American cemetery.

I completely underestimated how emotional visiting these places would be. I could describe them... concrete bunkers spotting empty fields, vast beaches, daunting cliffs... all of these are true. On any normal day, and if I didn't have any knowledge about what these places signified, they would just be beautiful beaches, beautiful cliffs. 

I could stand at the Pointe du Hoc and feel like I was at the edge of the world. 

I could stand on Omaha beach and let the waves and rocks tumble over my ankles as the blue of the sky stretched forever, and the blue of the sea melted together in the distance.

I could stand in a field overlooking Sword Beach and just be blown away by the vastness of everything. 

And I did. I stood in all of these places and just let myself be overwhelmed by the feelings. However, it wasn't just overwhelmed by the beauty of them, because they were truly beautiful. It was all the things you couldn't see... it was the history of the place, and every piece of broken cement, every marble statue, every grain of sand... they all radiated with historical significance. Not the type of historical significance that something like Mont St. Michel, or even the Bayeux Tapestry has. 

History became human.

When you read about wars in history books, or really about any historical event, you can easily detach yourself from it. It's easy for me to imagine these things happening when I read about them, or see pictures. It's a whole other animal entirely actually being in these places. 

That's something that strikes me every day here... history is not just an idea, it is very real. The United States of America, the country I call my home, is so young compared to these places... compared to the massive Chateau that sits in the center of Caen, or the tapestry that hangs unassumingly in a museum built just for it. But visiting these places where so much happened... standing in a bunker and imagining looking out at the ocean not even being able to enjoy or be blown away by the melting of the blue of the sky into the blue of the water, or the purple that is perpetually suspended over the horizon. Or not standing on a pristine beach where the rocks and the waves tickle my toes... but instead seeing a swath of red because your friends, people you knew and loved, were shot and laying on a beach as their blood literally rushed on the sand. I couldn't imagine... but then I could.

There were several points throughout the day where I found myself holding back tears, or where I just had to stop and think. History, so often an abstract entity for me, held only in books and the stories that are only relayed in my beloved museums... 

History is human, and flawed. It is bloody and gruesome and heartbreaking. It is full of terrible people doing terrible things, and I will never cease to be utterly terrified of the immense capacity that we have for evil.

But I will also never cease to be utterly awed by the capacity for beauty we have.

Because history, though human, is beautiful. And humans, though flawed, are beautiful too. 

As I looked out onto a sea of white marble crosses, stars, and crescent moons (predominately crosses, however) and listened to the peaceful waves break on the shore, and the wind whispering through the trees, I felt chills. Not because I found the American cemetery in Normandy creepy at all. I found it peaceful. I found it beautiful, that we can take so much care in honoring people who died in absolutely gut-wrenching ways. 

I felt peace in a place that made its name out of a place of war, chaos and ruin. 

I stared, overwhelmingly depressed, at the craters left by 70 year old bombs in the concrete bunker, and noticed that plants were now growing out of it. How appropriate that something that ended the lives of so many also created a place for new life to grow. 

So, after all of that, and if you are just reading the last paragraph of this post (and it's long, I wouldn't blame you), I leave you with this. History is not just contained in books that you have to read for the most boring class on earth. It is not just stones in a field, or crosses in a cemetery. It's real, raw, emotional, and changeable. Everyday, we are making history, and every day, we get to decide whether we make history terrible, or beautiful. 

Have you ever visited these places? What has your experience been?