28 April 2016

traveling in the holy land, part one: one day in jerusalem


when the boy first suggested we go take a trip to the holy land over the easter holidays, i was hesitant. that reaction definitely seems weird, because i have a deep, deep love for that part of the world and had held a fervent dream of returning there with my husband for nearly a decade (after living in jerusalem for a few months as a student). but traveling to the holy land is daunting -- the logistics of getting around a very politically charged and foreign place coupled with a desire to experience a very spiritually and historically meaningful place in the best way possible is overwhelming! i tried to convince the boy that it would be better to go with a group of people we loved and a guide we trusted, some year in the future. but he was sure that we could figure everything out and have a really great time exploring on our own, and he eventually convinced me. 

and he was right. we had a really, really, really fantastic, multi-faceted, beautiful adventure. 

i think every traveler - religious or non-religious should have the holy land at the top of their to-visit list. all things considered, i believe this little part of the map to be the most significant place on planet earth. it is fascinating and beautiful and diverse and spectacular and so, so worth time, money and effort to experience. in my opinion it's just incredibly more worthy than any exotic beach, cute european town, or bustling modern city.

and so, i'm going to dedicate a little series of posts to help anyone out there considering travel plans to feel less daunted and more inspired to visit the holy land. to kick that off, today i'm quickly sharing some one-day-in-jerusalem tips i passed off to ian's brother, who was in israel for work the week after we returned. in the future i'll share some other suggestions for more days in jerusalem, itinerary ideas for visiting galilee and the judean wilderness (and into petra), and general tips for traveling around the holy land. a few readers have already left queries - if you have any specific questions please leave them in the comments section of this post so i can address them in the future! i hope this little series is helpful to at least a few of you out there! (in the meantime, it will be fun for me to collect all my thoughts and reminisce, and i plan to use these posts for when we return to the holy land one day!)

one day in the holy city of jerusalem: 
{some of these tips are catered towards religious folks - probably with some type of mormon bias. but i think they hold for anyone interested in the significance and brilliance and beauty of this crazy cool city.}
{this is just (mostly) copy and pasted from an email to my brother-in-law. more refinement to come!}

must-dos:
{all of this is very walkable (and can be found on google maps). the only exception may be the jerusalem center, which is up a big hill in east jerusalem. grab a taxi and bargain for a cheap price (probably about fifteen shekels from the old city.}

  • wander the old city. if you want to buy something, start at half price or lower (probably closer to quarter price). and eat lots of the gummies! we found a great place to eat that we went back to twice that you might want to try. if you walk inside lion's gate and continue until the road t's, the restaurant is directly in front of you. all the restaurants are pretty much the same (schwarma, pita, hummus, falafel, orange/pomegranate juice), but we really liked the owner of this place and he had good prices. make sure you walk through all four quarters of the old city. They are all so unique and awesome.
  • garden of gethsemane. go to the church of all nations. there is a beautiful manicured garden and a church with sensational mosaics. then, continue up the street that leads up the mount of olives and on the left (after about five minutes of walking), there is a wild grove of olive trees overlooking the city walls. hop over the wall (and the trash), and wander around in there a bit and think of the saviour. it's pretty amazing. 
  • church of the holy sepulchre. this is where the catholics believe both golgatha and the tomb were. it's cavernous and wild and you have to at least experience it. hugely historical and significant building in the middle of the old city.
  • garden tomb!
  • visit the byu jerusalem center. there are free tours every half hour from 10:00-11:30 wednesday-friday. it is a marvelous building and the views from the auditorium and terrace are unparalleled. worth a visit from any visitor to the holy city. attending church there on saturdays (10am) is wonderful (again, for any visitor of any faith). 
  • western wall. if you are there on a friday, go right before sunset. go down to the wall and watch the jews celebrate. it's awesome. 
  • temple mount/dome of the rock.
    it is only open for very limited hours each day (and closed fridays, saturdays, and sundays). check online and line up early. 

other recommendations:

  • do the rampart's walk.
    you can scramble around the top of the city walls and it's pretty neat. the north side is better than the south side (the highlight is being on top of damascus gate). note that the south side is closed on friday and the north side is closed on saturday. 
  • pool of bethesda/st. anne's/"caiaphas's palace"
    this is right inside lion gate (on the via dolorosa, traditionally considered the path that christ walked with the cross to his crucifixion) and is just ruins and a church (there's no actual pool anymore), but it's neat to go there and read the story of christ healing at the pool of bethesda.
    right across the street is a ramp that leads to a palestinian school built on the site of what many believe was caiaphas's palace and where Jesus was tried. there might be a guy there charging ten shekels so you can go inside the school grounds (totally unofficial). it's random but worth it because there is a spectacular view of the temple mount and the dome of the rock out a window up the stairs (which the guy at the door can direct you to). especially cool to check out if you are in jerusalem on a day when the temple mount is not open to visitors. 
  • top of the austrian hospice.
    this is right by the restaurant I recommended above where via dolorosa t's off from lion's gate. it's four shekels or something to go to the top and worth a visit if you are right there (especially if you don't get to the ramparts walk). A unique view over the varied rooftops of the old city. 
archeological/historical options:

  • city of david.
    they have 2.5-3 hour tours everyday (except saturday) at 10 and 2. it's very informative and really cool to walk through hezekiah's tunnel. you may not have time for this. the city of david visitors' center is really close to dung gate outside the city walls. you can buy tickets in advance (just google it). 
  • western wall tour.
    you go underground and see the excavations all along the western wall, including the spot very closest to the holy of holies and thus most sacred of all to jews. our tour guide was awesome and the history she took us through was really helpful for context. you need to buy tickets in advance, so if you want to do this, i'd go to the ticket office first thing when you get to jerusalem and see if you can get on a tour before you leave (i couldn't figure out a way to do it online in advance). the ticket office is off the western wall plaza. there are big signs.
  • jerusalem archeological park/davidson center.
    this is a really great option, considering that you don't have much time in jerusalem. you don't need to buy anything in advance, you can do a little self-guided tour, you can see herodian (from the time of christ) stones on the south and west sides of the temple mount (including some that tumbled down after the roman destruction in 70 ad) and walk on the original steps to the temple that christ undoubtedly frequented. 
  • citadel/tower of david.
    really informative museum right inside jaffa gate and the best view of the city that we found was there on top of one of the towers (they call it the "panoramic view" and you can't miss it). 
more to come soon on the holy land!

27 April 2016

happy things from a chilly wednesday in london

when i was a teenager, i got really into making "happy things" lists. i'd jot down random little joys from everyday life and loved looking back on them, especially when i was feeling a bit less-than-glad. i've continued listing happy things throughout the years at random times, and it always helps me to remember how much beauty is around me and how much there is to be grateful for.

i was a tad grumpy this morning because i'm so ready to be done with cold weather (which seems to have returned with a vengeance this week in london!) and because i have had a series of third-trimester-induced terrible night's sleep. but i jotted down a few random, small tidbits of life that were making me happy and immediately found a bounce in my step. i remembered how outrageously privileged and blessed i am and had a productive day.

i have a pile of draft blog posts in the works (holy land travel tips, thoughts on pregnancy and my transition into motherhood, a giveaway for cute maternity clothes!...) but for today i just wanted to share a few little things that are making me happy! what's on your list?!

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-one morning recently, when i came out of our front door onto the bustling street, i saw a tour guide on the corner with a few tourists. i overheard just one sentence that he said as i walked by: "...and this building is where charles dickens went to school..." tiny moments like that remind me how stinking cool of a place i live in.

-this weekend the boy and i excitedly opened up a big box that had arrived from amazon. inside was a little moses basket and stand - our baby boy's first bed. we were giddy about putting it together. we pulled the plush fabric  - which was advertised as being "cream/white" - out of the box and simultaneously asked each other ... "does that look a little pink...?" haha! we decided that our baby boy is going to rock his subtle pink bassinet! it's set up in a corner of our bedroom and pretty much every time either of us see it we freak out a little with excitement, considering there is going to be a little human - our little son! - to fill it up in just two and a half months!

-the project i've been managing at work has been evolving in really positive ways, and this week i've solidified with my colleagues how my work can best continue over the next few months and after baby boy comes. i'll be shifting my focus to an element of the project that is more schools-facing (rather than concerning the entirety of the large organization supporting the schools). this week i've presented at and participated in some really productive meetings and i'm excited for what's ahead and my opportunities to contribute.

-i have been able to stay super active during pregnancy. yesterday i relished a vigorous yoga class (which i've been doing about once a week) and held my five minute plank (which i've continued to do about three times a week). i'm really, really grateful for my health and that of baby boy, who is continuing to move around inside me so much! this week he has gotten the hiccups a few times, which is kind of a fun sensation but i hope he isn't too bothered! :)

-when we were in israel, my sister saydi sent me an email that revealed the best surprise - flight confirmation to london for both her and my sister saren! they are coming for a week and will be here for my baby shower! i am so so so so so delighted by their surprise and so so so so excited to see them and be in london with them.

-tomorrow night, we are flying to bratislava! we are going to spend a long weekend (hurray for bank holidays!) driving from slovakia and around slovenia, and exploring budapest.

-amidst our so abundant and advantaged life, i've been working on discovering different ways that we can serve more. i am so jazzed about gojanegive (in case you can't tell!) and am devising two different fundraisers using that platform (more information coming soon!). in the meantime, i'm inspired by my friend meg and my sister saydi's fundraisers. check them out, especially if you are interested in expert tips on homemade baby food or portrait photography. if you live near boston, london or salt lake city, donate to book a photo session with my brilliant sister and contribute to refugee relief at the same time. {here's her blog post about her fundraiser. she articulates so well there how i too feel about perspective and my cushy life and wanting/needing to give.}

25 April 2016

afternoon tea + musicals with rick + linda

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last week, my mom and dad came to visit us! it was so so so wonderful to have them around and we had some pretty awesome london adventures together.

(<—aren’t they just the absolute cutest, with their fish n chips?!)

since their flight here was free (after a fiasco with norweigan airlines last time they came over…) and since my mom’s birthday was coming up, dad suggested we do some fancy things to celebrate the forthcoming birth of baby boy wright and the blessed birth of his grammie! so we went to not one but two super posh afternoon teas and not one but two musicals. what a treat!

we also enjoyed some other fun london excursions (even though the glorious springy weather had given way to a chill and some rain). but the best part of linda + rick’s visit was just being together, showing them around our life, and having great conversations. i love my mom and dad so very, very much!

just after mom and dad arrived in london, i met up with them at the ritz on picadilly – which is so so lavish and posh! – for the first of our two planned afternoon teas. (my parents, having lived in london twice and visited dozens of times, had never had afternoon tea! aaaaand, i’m obsessed, as has been chronicled on this blog…) ian came straight from work to meet us there (the only available reservation was at 7:30pm, which kind of messes up the “afternoon” part of “afternoon tea”…but we’ll take it!). and we all four throughly enjoyed the fanciness and scrumptiousness together! there was a string quartet playing, everything was perfectly pretty and proper and the atmosphere was just dreamy. it was so great to catch up!

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^^ scones and clotted cream! the crown jewel of afternoon tea, in my opinion (and i realized i got that taste from my dad, who probably had half a dozen scones!) // and an extra treat for the birthday girl – the violinist serenaded her with “happy birthday”! ^^
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we were stuffed when we left the ritz (afternoon tea is all-you-can-eat, and when you’re paying quite a lot of it, you take advantage of that little fact!), and so happy!

the next evening the four of us went to matilda the musical, which i have been wanting to see since we moved here. we had nosebleed tickets but still super enjoyed the darling show. if my dad and i share a scone-loving gene, my mom and i share a cry-at-the-end-of-musicals gene. all that music and drama is just so moving!

for musical number two, a couple nights later, i went with my parents to see glenn close in sunset boulevard. this production was only happening for a few weeks and the theater is literally across the street from our flat, so we figured we had to go for it and got last minute (nosebleed again!) tickets. it was cool to see glenn close and there was some amazing staging and music in the show, but overall it was really quite bizarre – haha! but check out the grandeur of the coliseum!

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afternoon tea number two was at the savoy, and we actually went in the afternoon for that one! it was way less fun without the boy with us, but i used the opportune one-on-two time with my ‘rents to ask for advice and share feelings, and that time together was really wonderful. the food was amazing and the ambiance was quietly gorgeous – we actually all three agreed by the end that afternoon tea at the savoy > afternoon tea at the ritz! it was pretty sublime, and we left even more stuffed than we did the ritz (which we couldn’t have imagined was possible!). 

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^^ mom and dad both went for the high tea, which came with that beautiful savory dish. i kept with afternoon tea because i wanted to try the pastries. they did not disappoint! ^^
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^^ another extra treat (as if we needed more calories/sweets!) for the birthday girl! ^^
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besides our afternoon teas + musicals, we also got to a couple favourite places around the city: harrod’s, where we marveled at the splendour and picked out a few gifts from mom and dad for me to open at my baby shower next week. the baby section in harrod’s is pretty fun. and it includes a 42,000 pound rose gold and lush leather pram. i think we might go for something a little more conservative for our baby’s stroller…!

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we also spent some time in the boy and my backyard of trafalgar square. there’s nothing like going to a good museum with my mom! we both looooved this new monet on display:

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and one of my very favourite parts of the parents’ visit was a bike ride i took with my dad to show him the hospital where our baby will be born in a few short months. it was exhilarating and happy to cruise london’s streets with my beloved pops. and he was so excited to see where baby boy (who he has decided to name “oliander” while in utero…) will enter the world. this is literally the view from outside the hospital doors:

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we also rode a bit along the thames and then through st. james’s park together. that rick - he’s always up for a good adventure.

so crazy that the next time ian and i see my mom and dad, we will be someone’s mom and dad! so so glad they could come for a visit.
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