The detailed posts of England have begun, and I’m recounting the trip day by day. After the delights of beautiful Derbyshire on Sunday, my mom and I managed to navigate the driving-on-the-left-side thing and actually returned our rental car without a scratch. We were pretty impressed with ourselves. We then took a train to London, where we stayed for the remainder of the week. But our sightseeing often took us an hour or so outside of the city, so we got good at the train and bus travel thing.

That said, Monday morning brought us to the train station, where we rode to the charming little village of Chawton to see the home of Jane Austen. People usually associate the city of Bath with Jane Austen, primarily because of the tourist-friendly Jane Austen Centre there. But I find this funny, as Austen was very open in her writing and letters about her dislike of Bath, and it’s well-known that she only lived there for about two years. This house in Chawton that we visited was where she passed the last eight or so years of her life and was also where she lived when she made major revisions to her books and then saw them published. The house is simple, quaint, and has been so amazingly well-preserved that it was like stepping into a time capsule. I’m so grateful for the glimpse it’s now given me into the life of this author who means so much to me.

View of the house from the road

The garden
There were bonnets and fans to try :)

There were also authentic quill pens to try. Took me about 10 dips into the inkwell just to write my name. Humbling!

Jane's piano :) 

Jane's writing desk :) Again, so humbling to think about all the writing she did with such modest tools!

I really liked this

Jane's room :)

Quilt and shawl that Jane made. Amazing to see how well-preserved things like this have been!

On a bench in the garden. Incredible to think that this little story was hand-written at this house more than 200 years ago. What would Jane have thought if someone had told her that people would still be reading it and visiting her house this long after she was gone? Okay, nerd moment over :)

After this lovely jaunt to Chawton, we made our way back to London for tea with the queen. Well, sort of. Kensington Palace and its adjoining gardens sit in a beautiful area of London that’s a true pleasure for walking and relaxation. The palace’s former greenhouse (of sorts, I think), has been converted into the Orangery restaurant, and their teas are simply fabulous. We got the afternoon tea and it was certainly one of the nicest afternoons we spent of our entire trip. The restaurant is thoroughly British, beautifully decorated, and as authentic as possible. Lovely classical music plays in the background, your tea and refreshments are served on intricately designed china, and you’re treated like royalty. I enjoyed every minute and felt thoroughly relaxed and pampered by the end of it. If you’re planning to go to London anytime soon, definitely make plans for this! Every bit worth it!


The lovely Orangery!

It just wouldn't be England without tea.


Complete authenticity. See what I mean about the gorgeous china?!


In my element


Mom got I more British than her?


The front of the Orangery


Kensington Palace!


The adjoining Kensington Gardens


It was such a pretty walk


This view was probably my favorite from the garden


The front of the palace with the Queen Victoria statue. Hyde Park sits directly behind where I was standing to take this picture and it was another lovely walking area! All in all, it was a beautiful and relaxing way to finish our second day. I suspect this will be a go-to place whenever I get back to London.
We’ve now come to the series of posts where I spend time on each stop of the England trip. Be prepared for a lot of pictures and a lot of gushing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you :) 

If I were to tell you we began our England tour in a quintessentially British county nestled among rolling green hills, open blue sky, grazing sheep, thousand-year-old trees here and there, the occasional cliff-covered landscape, and quaint country houses, would you think you were dreaming? Indeed, I did not make this place up. The county is called Derbyshire, and it’s home to quiet country life, ancient mansions, and spectacular scenery. Jane Austen features Derbyshire heavily in Pride and Prejudice as the home county of Mr. Darcy and his estate called Pemberley, so that sparked my interest in the area years ago. I knew I wanted to at least set eyes on the place when I finally went to England, so we maneuvered one lovely night there for this trip. I sincerely hope to go back for longer in the future, but I’m so glad I’ve now seen it! 

Chatsworth House was the primary goal for Derbyshire this time, and it was more than worth it! You may know that this sprawling country estate was used as Pemberley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and many speculate that Chatsworth was actually the house Jane Austen had in mind as she wrote Pemberley in the novel. Now that I’ve been there, I’d believe it too – the description of the house and surrounding park in the book could certainly be describing Chatsworth and its gorgeous surroundings! It’s all truly awe-inspiring. Chatsworth naturally made me feel like I’d stepped into the pages of Pride and Prejudice – I kept looking for Lizzy or Darcy to come around the corner. And I couldn’t get over the beauty of the English countryside. As I’m sure you can imagine, there is always so much to look at and you can’t ever quite take it all in. There’s a special kind of quietness too – almost as if hushed respect for the beauty hangs in the air. Here were my best attempts to capture it all in pictures!
Our lodgings for the night in Derbyshire. It's an old Victorian house that sits on land which used to be part of the estate of Chatsworth House! The English countryside experience was really enriched by getting to stay somewhere so authentic.

The drive leading from the house we stayed to the main road. Such a dream world.

Our first glimpse of Chatsworth House! And this was after driving through the park for a few miles. It really takes your breath away as it comes into view.

Anyone recognize this from the film? Think of when Elizabeth enters the house and gazes up at the ceiling.

The most portrait-heavy area of the house

View down into the main hall from the floor above

The glorious library. I kept thinking of how I once heard Julian Fellowes say in an interview, "I think the room the English get right is the library." I quite agree, Lord Fellowes.

Surely fans of the movie recognize this room! The song "The Living Sculptures of Pemberley" from the soundtrack was definitely playing in my head when I entered.

Elizabeth spends some time studying this fellow

And this one...

But I had my eyes peeled for this one the whole time! :)

My favorite view! This is actually the side of the house, though it's viewed as the front in the film.

Bridge on the front drive

Yes, I'd been planning this picture for a while.

So picturesque

Countryside shots

I'm officially in love with you, Derbyshire. I shall return.
Hello from Washington DC! Since last writing, I now have under my belt: a trip to England, a pile of British souvenirs, a move to Washington DC, a new internship begun, many new friends, and a few books read (though likely fewer than I’d prefer). It’s been a whirlwind last few weeks full of various excitements and difficulties, but I’m grateful for it all. It was truly a dream to travel to England after having wanted to for so long, and though Washington DC is overwhelming in many ways, I’m so glad to be here and to now know the people I’m working with. They have already encouraged and challenged me in such unique ways and I can’t wait to make more memories with them this semester.

For now, here are a few pictures to summarize the last few weeks speedily. More posts are coming, never fear! I promise I wouldn’t pass up the chance to show off my detailed pictures of Westminster Abbey and Jane Austen’s House :) But with so much having happened lately, I wanted to do a speedy catch-up first and then go back through slowly. So, welcome to the whirlwind version of the past few weeks of my life.
Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, England. It played Pemberley in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. What a dream world!
Oxford's Radcliffe Camera, a library only open to students.
Welcome to Downton, everyone... what a dream come true to walk in the footsteps of Lady Mary herself ;)
Hello London!
Pretty neat that I now see this every day as I walk to and from work
My fellow FRC interns for the semester!
Stay tuned! Detailed England posts are coming soon!

Photo Credit: Wallpapers Wide
Every two years, we’re treated to the epic talent and competition that comprise the Olympics, and I’m a huge fan. I love the summer and winter games alike and follow a few sports from each pretty closely. Whether it’s this seemingly magical flipping from the gymnasts, this incredible artistry from ice dancing and ice skating, or this superhuman speed in the pool, we can all agree that the Olympics showcase truly admirable skill that’s worth noticing.

So, I’ve been enjoying the Rio games over the past week or so, and the athletes are wildly impressive as usual, and it’s also offered a nice reprieve in a way. It’s fun to see the Olympics all over the news for a little while instead of violence, terrorism, and politics, and they also get me hyped in a good way. Since the games are concluding soon, I started thinking about inspirational sports stories that would fit well with the Olympic time of year and make the hype last a little longer! These are some of my favorites here as well as a few that are on my to-do list. Let me know what you think! 

To Watch

The Blind Side 
Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, I wanna know? She truly shines as this well-known, successful mom and designer who took in Michael Oher, a young man who was born in the Memphis projects and spent most of his childhood in foster care. Leigh Anne and her husband Sean adopted Michael during his late teens and encouraged his unique gifting in football, eventually seeing him play in college and professionally. 

A masterfully told account of Jackie Robinson, the first African American man to play professional baseball. Harrison Ford turns in a particularly quality performance as Jackie’s team manager. The film is thoughtful, honest, emotional, humorous, and addresses difficult content with excellence. 

Cinderella Man 
One of my favorite movies, and probably my all-time favorite inspirational sports film. James J. Braddock was a successful professional boxer in the 1920s, but a hand injury and the Great Depression threatened his career, as the movie so poignantly tells. As the film unfolds, uncertainty and poverty become new normals for James and his wife Mae and their three children. But the Braddocks cling to perseverance and family unity even when the odds are sharply against them. Yes, this is a story about a man who made a remarkable comeback and left a mark on professional boxing, but it’s also a film about hardship, courage, and how family love can sustain the human spirit through incredible difficulty. Russell Crowe and RenĂ©e Zellweger are true joys to watch as James and Mae.

To Read

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 
This is a book I’ve mentioned before (it made my list of good book club picks!) and will likely keep mentioning, as I now consider it one of my favorite books ever. A riveting account of the nine-man American rowing team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, The Boys in the Boat is a true underdog story with spirit and suspense. The nine boys on the team were from the University of Washington in Seattle and entered the Olympics with many factors against them, not to mention that these particular Olympics were staged for Nazi propaganda. You will cry and cheer from your reading spot as you see the courage and incredible teamwork on display through these guys. 

For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton 
One of my current reads and I’m loving it! Most of us know Eric Liddell from the film Chariots of Fire – he was a remarkably fast runner known as the “Flying Scotsman,” and he shocked the world when he withdrew from his best event in the 1924 Olympics because it interfered with Sunday worship. He further stunned audiences when he won gold in an event in which he had considerably less skill. But what the movie lacks this book brings to light – after his Olympic success, Liddell bypassed opportunities for fame and money and served as a missionary in China for the rest of his life. Even in his final years in a Japanese internment camp, he was known for his kindness, prayerful attitude, and sacrificial service to those around him. I’m looking forward to better “knowing” this Eric Liddell through the pages of this book. 

Greater than Gold by David Boudia 
On my to-read list! This one came out just this month to tie in with the Rio games; current Olympic diver David Boudia shares his personal testimony in it. This is his third time to represent the USA at the Olympics, and what I’ve read of his story so far is equally encouraging and challenging. He shares in detail in this book how he used to dive for fame, human praise, and pride in himself. But he came to know Jesus after the 2008 Beijing games, and that has radically transformed his motivation and focus in diving. I can’t wait to read his story in full. Check out this interview for a taste, and watch David and his teammate Steele Johnson in the individual diving events tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday during NBC’s prime time! 

What are your favorite inspirational sports stories? Have you been enjoying the Rio Olympics? What have been your favorite parts to watch? I'd love to hear in comments!