When I had barely got my feet under myself as an ultra shy freshman
in high school, my parents announced with excitement that our family would be
moving to England for six months. As I remember it, there was no
lead-up to this announcement.
was set in stone the minute it fell nonchalantly out of their mouths,
their lips smiling in what seemed to me to be pure mockery of how it
made me feel inside. Didn’t they know I was painfully naive and
insecure? Did they not realize that I had barely settled into school
and made a few noble friends who I adored? I was barely starting to
breathe let alone to thrive, and just like that they were going to
snatch the rug right out from under me.
Knowing them, I
know they did it lovingly, and although I’m sure they were aware of my
sobs and wailing about the move, they knew what I know now: change is
But it took the “refiners fire” of living in England for six months to realize it.
I grew more in those six months than I think I grew the whole rest of my life up to that point put together.
Sure it was hard.
Sure it was uncomfortable. I cried every day as I feverishly wrote letters to my friends back home and listened to the “Stand Alone” cassette tape that they sent with me. I held on to every shred of home for dear life. I detested the brown school uniform I had
to wear to Rosebury School for Girls and felt uncomfortable every single day. I longed for the freedom and safe
harbor I had created back home.
But my older sister
Saren and I were somehow allowed to explore London on our own. We knew “The Tube” like the back of our hands. Somehow those
endless escalators bringing us down into the belly of the city and the
warm wind announcing the arrival and departure of each train whisked in and out of the station to
take us on a new adventure invigorated us.
loved Picadilly Circus and shopping and all the connections we made
through Victoria Station with it’s wall of flipping departure, arrival
and platform information.
And somehow, somewhere, something inside me started to wake up and uncurl from my burden of being displaced.
Somehow that city became “mine.” And I survived those six months in spite of myself.
That time our family spent in England was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
England was the place I started to emerge from my shell of
shyness. It was where I started to gain more confidence in myself.
Do you know why? It
was because England was the first place where I learned, truly, that I could do hard things.
the reason I personally pine away to move to England…or China…or
Singapore…or Australia…at least just for a little while. It made
such a huge difference in my life I figure it will somehow miraculously
do the same for my kids…much more about that back here.)
So, although we have been back a handful of times since that dreaded six-month stretch so long ago, it always feels incredibly rejuvenating to get back to that place I finally, reluctantly fell in love with.
Although we only had one day in the city, we utilized every minute of it.
Here we are at Victoria after our overnight flight:
We were brimming with excitement to get out there and see everything we wanted to see.
I was a little sad that the old flipping letter/number display had been digitized. I loved hearing the whirr of those numbers change to announce a platform change or a new schedule.
We had a joyous reunion with my sister Saydi who is living over in London with her family for six months. (Yes, she’s living the dream over there 🙂She was the best tour guide we could have ever asked for.
Our first stop was Buckingham Palace
Then we took this picturesque road…
…over to the Birdcage Walk:
…and then over toward Westminster Abbey
I had been there before, but all those little details took my breath away.
I am in love with architecture. From modern straight lines to this ultra decked out stuff. I couldn’t get enough of that ceiling.
We walked that place with our little “audio tours” pressed to our ears leading us past all the tombs ensconced in that building. I found myself imagining the days of those old kings and poets, how their funerals went, what was said, how the weddings were planned, how the brides felt as they walked down those isles, trains trailing behind them.
This is “Poet’s Corner” where so many famous poets are immortalized.
I found myself wishing I had paid more attention to the royal wedding that happened there last year…
Next we went to Big Ben
…and took a cheeseball picture at the phone booth because you have to do that when you’re in London, right? My question is, will they keep these phone booths forever? I mean, phone booths are pretty much obsolete these days.
I sure hope they never get rid of those things. I adore them.
Same with the taxi cabs. What’s up with so many of them being all colorful now? They’re supposed to be black. I guess I’m just such a sucker for tradition.
But I digress…on to Big Ben…
Again, wow, I love that architecture.
The London Eye
I talked my mom and sister into doing the London Eye even though they had done it before. I figured since we only had a finite amount of time in London we better see it from a good vantage point.
It didn’t disappoint as far as I’m concerned.
The weather held out until the last couple minutes.
We walked to Trafalgar Square to find it all fenced up ready for some sort of festival the next day. It’s a good thing I’m tall so I could take this picture on my tippy-toes over the fences:
I just liked this picture of my sister and mom amidst the Londoners…trying to navigate us around.
We whisked into the The National Gallery and tried to hunt down my Mom’s favorite picture there with no luck.
From Piccadilly we took a double-decker bus through the curvy streets down past Hyde Park…
…and then back to the beginning to Victoria Station to take a train to North Hampton where the Bardet-Biedl conference was starting with a dinner that evening.
More on that tomorrow.
I’m so grateful for a jam-packed day in that city that stole my heart in the midst of my homesick sorrow all those years ago.
OMG. London is my home away from home. London is my place where I learned to stand on my own 2 feet and feel good in my space. London is where I became brave and knew I had it in me too.
Ah.. these pictures feel so familiar. Thanks for sharing.
I adore London and can't wait to go back. Thanks for the beautiful post! It looks like the perfect day!
Oh my heart is racing.. How i miss London. When you mentioned the tube, i closed my eyes, and i could hear the wizzing, feel the warm wind, and the "mine the Gap"..
Oh, how i love London.
Thanks for Sharing!
This is my first time commenting on your blog. I look forward to your posts and the beautiful perspective you have on life and motherhood.
When I saw London today as your post I was so happy! I studied in the UK for a summer and it was one of those 'coming out my shell' experiences for me too. London was the first city I visited and all your pictures and descriptions make me ache to go back. I know I will go back one day, once my little ones aren't so little. 🙂 That place holds too many positive and wonderful memories for me to never go back.
Thanks for the beautiful reminder!
My parents took me to England for my high school graduation. I fell in love, I felt like I was coming home. I have so many ancestral connections to Great Britain and I felt at home. I too would LOVE ot live there with my kids someday.
If it's any consolation, the uniforms at Rosebery are still awful…kilts! Fabulous pictures of an amazing city 🙂
Shawni, I am a faithful long time follower of yours and this is my first comment! I love this post in so many ways! I am young mother of 2, born and raised for 18 yrs in England, now living in Hawaii! As much as beaches are beautiful, I crave and long to go back to soak up all that history and rich beauty, and I hope it is soon! Thanks for posting such beautiful pictures and taking me back home! Much Aloha!
I have to say I find myself in tears looking at your beautiful pictures! My son is serving his mission in London right now! I long to see where he is and what he is experiencing…thank you for the beautiful glimpse of London!
Brilliant pix of London:).
I hope they never get rid of the red phone boxes (booths) either or black cabs. I don't like change much either.
Really glad you had a great time over here.
By the way, do you remember much about when you lived here when your Dad was the mission president?
I can't re call seeing anyone using a red phone box in the last few years but they are iconic and i hope they'll keep them. Also very good to cram inside with lots of kids during london downpours x
Shawn, how in the heck are you so on top of things! I haven't even downloaded these pictures from the memory card, let alone blogged and written about that magical day. Seriously, when will I ever catch up on my blog?
That was a pretty amazing day. I love that I've had the chance to fall in love with London like you and Saren were able to when we were here 25 years ago. I was just too little to really really get it.
So great to be back there together. I just wish you were here living next door to me, living London day to day is so amazing.
I've always wanted to go to London. I was serious about it 7 years ago but ended up buying my condo. I'm in Boston so not too far away; I hope to get there someday.
Great post, as always. It's funny about the country you've listed as they are all the places we've lived in too. Presently we are in Singapore and I must say, it's a great place to bring up children. I was quite glad that the kids were older when we lived in China because of the pollution. Australia on the other hand is our "first love" and is also a great place to bring up kids, but then the culture isn't so much different from where you come from.
Just curious, what made your parents whisk your family to London when you we younger? Work? Church? or purely just for the experience?
My brother served as a full-time missionary in the London South mission…he so enjoyed it there. I've always wanted to go and visit. Maybe someday. 🙂 Your photos are breathtaking. Thanks for sharing.
I've never been to London so seeing your pictures felt like I got to visit there myself. Thanks for sharing!
of course it is painful for me to look at this pictures because i wish i was with you, but it is also a pleasure because they are so pretty! i love you three ladies more than anything! i hope i get to see the pic you took of mom with her cake and me on the computer skyping 🙂 miss you shawn.
Shawni, your pictures are gorgeous! I visited London a few years ago – I had always wanted to go – and I loved it. Thank you for letting me revisit vicariously!
Oooh you are so brave for taking photos inside the Abbey!! I wish I had snuck some when I was there : ) All of your photos are absolutely lovely!
Your pictures of Westminster Abbey are wonderful but I have to ask: how were you able to take pictures inside?? I was just there a week ago, and the workers were on people like white on rice if they tried to take photographs. So yeah, just wondering. Thanks!
What does white on rice mean?
Is it similar to "they'd be on us like a ton of bricks?". Do you say that in the states or it just a British saying?