This is probably going to be quite a large blog post since I was in France for so long and then had an AWESOME Sunday! I am going to subtitle areas, so just find what you are interested in and read that part. Or you can read the whole thing.
Paris - Day One - ARC DE TRIOMPHE, CHAMPS ELYSEES
As you can imagine, traveling with a big group of girls can be kind of loud. We try to be considerate of the people around us but sometimes our voices carry more loudly than we think. While on the chunnel (train that goes under the English Channel via a tunnel), we were all chatting with each other (there were also other people talking, too) when we heard a long Shhhhhhhh. The car suddenly grew very quiet and a man from the back said out loud, "I didn't mean for everybody to be quiet..." Turns out he was just shhhing his son next to him and we all heard and immediately became very, very silent. We all had a good laugh afterward.
We got to the French... it's not a nunnery, but it's ran by nuns... I will call it the French Hotel for Girls. FHG for short. It was already dark and raining, so we decided to just visit the Arc de Triomphe and walk down the Champs Elysees. France is beautiful. The sidewalks were wet from a recent rainfall and sprinkles were still dropping from the clouds. The sun set exactly under the Arc while people strolled along the Elysees. It was very romantic. I fell very much in love with Paris that evening.
The nuns were very kind to us and I even learned to say 73 in French and count to 10.
Paris - Day Two - CONCIERGE, SAN CHAPELLE, NOTRE DAME, MUSEE D'ORSAY, TUILIERES GARDENS, EIFFEL TOWER
Okay, first of all, I woke up and realized that I had dreamed about Robert Pattinson. He's Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and Edward Cullen in Twilight. I don't normally think about him and was very surprised that he showed up in my dream. Haha, it was great because he still had some of his vampire powers from Twilight (like super strength) and I told him that we couldn't get married until he was baptized and that he had to be in the church for a certain amount of time so that I would know he had a testimony. I woke soon after that and was happy to get that dream out of my head.
The rest of the day went very well.
I ate a chocolate croissant for breakfast. A pizza and Fanta (Lemon) for lunch and a McDonald's burger for dinner. I think the pizza was my favorite!
The first place we went to was the Concierge. This is where the French aristocrats were kept before they were executed during the French Revolution. It was very interesting to read the information and I even saw Marie Antoinette's cell!
Next was San Chapelle. This church was absolutely amazing. It is rumored to have the most beautiful stained glass in the world. I have pictures and you can decide that.
We then visited Notre Dame. There were many gypsies around it trying to get us to read postcards about their sad lives and give them money. I think I would have felt worse for them if I hadn't seen them congregate and look at each other's funds. Notre Dame itself was pretty magnificent! There were not any gargoyles that I could see, though, contrary to the Disney movie.
After eating near the cathedral, we went to the Musee D'Orsay and saw some pretty spectacular art. Among my favorites were pieces from Monet and Van Gogh and this beautiful room. It looked like a very ritzy ballroom with chandeliers all over the ceiling, panels, and crown molding with gold leaf.... And it had eternity mirrors. This is where you put two mirrors across from each other in a room and when you look into one, it seems like you are looking into an endless amount of mirrors. There was a random moment when I was in the large room all by myself and I tried to pretend I was in a Celestial Room instead. I can't wait until I am endowed!
At this point, we decided that a stroll around some gardens would be nice and we ended up walking the whole 6+ stops back to the FHG. Before we got home, I noticed a man selling paintings of the Eiffel Tower. I had already seen many men trying to do this on the way, but felt like I was too scared to try to haggle in French. This time as I looked at the man's paintings, he started to speak in English to me. I was surprised and asked him about the paintings and he helped me look through them. He said one of the big paintings would be 65 Euro. Well, I definitely did not have that to spend, so I said I would give him 20 E for the painting. He acted as if I were being really cheap and I said, "Nope, that is all I will spend. A man offered me a painting like yours for 30 Euro." This was true. The man reduced the price to 44 Euro for me and I gave a little and said 22 E. We then settled on 25 E. Now I have this beautiful painting of the Eiffel Tower and I wasn't even scammed! Yay! I haggled with a French guy!
We got back and slept for awhile and then went to see the Eiffel Tower. This was way more exciting to me than I thought. I was warned by reviewers that it would be boring, but I definitely didn't think so as I ran up the 100+ steps to get a good view from the middle of the tower. The view was beautiful! I loved being out there.
That night I finished the Book of Mormon. I could not put it down. I read through 3 Nephi, thought about stopping, then continued on to finish Words of Mormon and Ether and by then I thought, why not? And I cruised through Moroni. The thing is, anyone can read fast or sit and spend a chunk of time and finish the Book of Mormon quickly. People do it. But this was an amazing experience for me because it helped me realize why I love the Book of Mormon so much. I love it because I know that it is true and I know that when I read it I feel the Spirit. I know that as I read it, I am learning from the ancient peoples' stories and I will try not to make the same mistakes that they do. If I do make those mistakes, I have learned from the Book of Mormon that I can repent and be forgiven. I love the Book of Mormon because it is the word of God.
If you ever feel alone or lost, read the Book of Mormon. If you are discouraged and facing adversity, read the Book of Mormon. If you feel like everything in your life is good and you are happy, read the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is for every moment in your life: the bad times, the good times, and the ordinary times. It will teach you true things and you will live a better life because of it.
Paris - Day Three - VERSAILLES, THE LOUVRE
I definitely slept in until 8 am on day three, and it felt so good! I love those days.
I am going to write about the trip to Versailles like it is a movie trailer that tells the whole story:
NARRATOR (manly voice): Five girls (quick close-ups of Lauren, Janelle, Jazlyn, Candice, and Ashley) and one bug.... (very close-up picture of a giant fly/bug/thing)
NARRATOR: ...meet in a garden.
(Movie title appears through cool slideshow techniques. It says: BIT AT VERSAILLE. Fade out. Crazy, awesome music starts playing while scenes from Day Three randomly appear out of order.)
(Fast shots of girls roaming through big, beautiful house. A quick shot of them eating. Another quick shot of them about to take a picture next to a statue of a man with a square jaw (kind of like Brandon's!)
JANELLE: Ow! (close-up of Janelle looking intensely at her arm)
(A fast shot of Jazlyn looking up with bewildered eyes and another of Lauren slowly running toward Janelle.)
ASHLEY: What's wrong?
JANELLE: (close-up shot of Janelle with narrowed eyes) (Slowly says...) Something bit me. (She looks off at something in the distance and the other girls match her gaze).
(Shot of the sky with nothing there.)
JANELLE: It's swelling! (Shot of Janelle's arm as a red bite appears with a circular swelling around it and then a large diameter of general edema).
(Shot of Candice speaking in French to a museum man while Janelle holds up her arm.)
NARRATOR: In theaters August 2010.
So basically, Janelle got bit by some horrid bug and we decided to cut the trip short and not look at the rest of the gardens. This is too bad, but I like Janelle more than trees anyway.
Once Janelle felt better and the swelling had gone down, we decided to trek on over to the Louvre and see what we could find. We picked out these works of art and just saw those because we didn't want to spend the whole rest of the day there. These are the pieces we saw:
Code of Hammurai, Seated Ramses II, Aphrodite (Venus de Milo), Borghese Gladiator, Psyche and Cupid, The Wings of Victory of Samothrace, the Mona Lisa (of course), Napoleon III apartments, coronation crown of Louis XV, The Lacemaker, and Ruben's Room.
My personal favorite is the Psyche and Cupid statue. I am not normally into mythology, but this love story is so tender and so much like Beauty and the Beast to me, that to see the statue made me really happy.
The story goes something like this: Aphrodite doesn't like Psyche because she is very beautiful and many men fall in love with her. So she sends her son, Cupid, to scratch Psyche with one of his arrows and makes it so that she falls in love with a monster or something. Cupid turns himself invisible and is about to scratch Psyche when she is sleeping, but she suddenly wakes up and looks at him straight in the eyes although he shouldn't be visible. He is startled and accidently pricks himself with an arrow and falls immediately in love with Psyche. He decides not to follow out on his mother's orders. Aphrodite then makes it so that no mortal man can fall in love with Psyche, and Cupid retaliates by not shooting arrows at anybody.
Psyche's parents are very concerned that no one is falling in love with her, so they talk to an oracle which tells them to leave her up on a mountain. They do and she is whisked away to a castle with invisible servants and is married to the man of the castle who is Cupid except that he is invisible.
She is allowed to stay there as long as she doesn't see Cupid, but she doesn't know who he is, so one night she creeps into his room and lights a candle and sees him and is whisked away to Aphrodite's castle.
Aphrodite decides to test Psyche and won't let her back to her husband unless she completes three impossible tasks. Through the help of many, she is able to complete the tasks and Cupid and Psyche live happily ever after.
After the Louvre, we ate at this amazing French restaurant that serves Italian food. I got lasagne carne (doesn't taste as good as yours, Mom!) It was still yummy, though. I went to bed happy.
Paris - Day Four - BOAT RIDE, SHOPPING/MONTEMARTRE, SACRE COEUR
This fourth day in Paris was supposed to be very relaxed and it was in the morning. We took a nice boat ride down the Seine and then had some crepes afterward. We shopped along the touristy places near Notre Dame as well and bought ice cream. It then took us about two hours of navigating to get to Montemartre and by that time, we were all pretty tuckered out. I got myself a cool Brazilian Jersey for any sports that I go to and a picture of Sacre Coeur. I hope Kevin U. is satisfied. It was beautiful!
The train ride home took forever, but I lived and we finally got back to home: London. I was surprised by how much I missed the familiar streets and the English language. In fact, I was so ecstatic, that I ended up having a weird conversation with the man at the register in TESCO. Since Janelle and I had both bought soccer jerseys, we thought we would wear them when we went to shop for groceries. I mentioned to her and Ashley while we were in line that someone would probably think I was Brazilian because of my skin color. Sure enough, the first thing the man at the cash register asked was, "Are you Brazilian?" This is kind of how our conversation went:
ME: No. I'm American. I just like Brazil.
MAN: (Smiles and continues to check out my groceries)
ME: I'm learning Portuguese and it's really hard, but I love it! I think it would be so fun to go to Brazil. I think I want to go there this summer and help some orphans there or something. If that works out. (I am very excited and passionate about what I am saying).
MAN: (Continues to smile) Good. (Leaves to try to find another container of grapes that will scan better).
ME: (Realizing that I just had a conversation with myself, I became very sheepish) Well, have a good day! Bye. (Runs to Janelle at front of store).
SUNDAY - Last Sunday at Hyde Park Ward.
First of all, I just want to say that I am serious about this Portuguese thing. I am going to learn Portuguese and then someday I am going to go over there and do some helping.
Second of all, I really want to write for the church, but I don't know how to start doing that. I have many things to say and reiterate and cool things to share, but I'm probably too young and inexperienced to write about those things and have Desert Book publish them.
Thirdly, church was amazing! In sacrament, a man from Salt Lake City spoke on feeling the Spirit. His name is Brother Ostler. He used one of Marion G. Romney's talks as a base for his talk. I think my favorite part was when he talked about serving others. He told us a story about Elder Eyring's father (the man the Eyring Science Center is named after). In his late eighties, Hal Eyring had intense bone cancer in his hip area. One day in church, they passed around a sign-up sheet to go weed some onion patches. Hal signed up even though his bone cancer would cause him pain. While weeding, the pain became so great that Hal was forced to drag himself around on his stomach. Yet, he still smiled and laughed and talked with the people he was serving with. At the end of the day, he found out that the row he had picked had already been sprayed and the weeds would have died the next day anyway. He laughed and made a joke out of it and then went on his way. When Elder Eyring asked him how he had such a positive attitude, Hal said, "I wasn't there to pick weeds."
I hope that in situations like that I realize that I am doing things for the right reasons (serving others to feel the Spirit).
Anyway, I am getting very tired now. One last cool thing that Janelle told me about: When people write Xmas, it's not bad. It doesn't mean that are replacing Christ's name with an "X." The X is actually a sacred symbol in Greek that means Christ. If we write Xmas with that attitude, then it is perfectly fine and very correct.