The Importance of This Date

Today is July 28th. You might be wondering what is so special about a particular month and day. Well five years ago to this day, my family left Charlotte to go to London. We went from Charlotte to Atlanta to London landing in London on July 29th. When we arrived in London, I did not believe we were there. Eventually, I found the West End filers, and from those alone I really knew for a fact that we were in London. I ended up choosing the Les Mis filer because I would be seeing Les Mis on the 30th.

What are the things my family did in London?

Platform 9 and 3/4- my sister and I have seen Harry Potter growing up.

Les Mis- there are multiple things I loved about this night. Now only was my mom and I watching Les Mis, but my dad and sister got to do their own thing. Seeing Les Mis in the West End was my dream, which fit perfectly into what I was doing in England. From Valjean’s spiritual journey to my own.

Below are two pictures from London.

Windsor Castle- this is the first thing my family did will all the pilgrims. In total, there were 72 pilgrims. It started with changing of the guards before entering.

Walking Tour of London- while on the 29th, my family did walk around the Westminster Area, this time felt different. But this tour made me see things that were not seen and others closer. This is how I was able to see Buckingham Palace, and closer to the London Eye. We saw same of the same areas from before, but a closer view

Evensong at Westminster- all the pilgrims sat in the quire at Westminster. We went to Evensong to help prepare us for what to expect in Bristol.

Eucharist at St. Paul’s- we actually got to sit under the beautiful dome. After, there was some free time. My family walked to the Millennium Bridge for more Harry Potter fun- that was the bridge the death eaters destroyed in Half Blood Prince.

Tower of London- while there wasn’t time to go inside, there was still time to walk around. My family first walked on the Tower Bridge. While walking around Tower of London, I was able to see some jousting. .

Leaving London- I actually was kinda of nervous leaving London: the two buses met everyone at the Tower of London. One bus was used for choir members and the other family, parishioners, and friends. Everyone arrived to Bristol late all because it was chaotic leaving London. Here is what I do know: if I ever go back to England, I want to stay in London the entire time.

Connection Between Les Mis and Stonehenge

I find an connection to Les Mis and Stonehenge in such a special way. But why do they feel connected?

As some may know, I went on a trip to England in 2015. The choir at my church was in residence at Bristol Cathedral, which meant that they were going to be singing there. So, the church took the choir and other members on a pilgrimage to places such as Old Sarum, Chepstow Castle, Bath, Stonehenge, Berkeley Castle, and more. The year was 2015 and the pilgrimage began on July 31st. A pilgrimage is very different than a vacation. To me, a pilgrim goes to scared and spiritual places to create a deeper relationship with God and to find more meaning. A tourist on the other hand would just go to a place to explore and not so much to look for the sacredness and spirituality of a specific place.

The paintings below are pictures of Stonehenge and the Finale of Les Mis. They each played a part in that England trip and helped make that trip quite special.

But what does all of this have to do with Les Mis? Les Mis was not part of the pilgrimage, but was part of my trip to England. My parents took my sister and I to England two days early. So in those days, on July 30th, my mom took me to the Queens Theatre to see Les Misérables, a musical I dreamed of seeing in the West End. This was my first time seeing the musical professionally. Les Mis is such a special musical and it directly in a way was a great musical to see the day before a pilgrimage.

The picture below is a picture of me at the stage door with Adam Bayjou, who was my Valjean for the night and he was an understudy and was the best Jean Valjean I ever saw.  I always get nervous when I hear I have an understudy, but this Valjean was honestly so good. As a matter of fact, the entire cast was brilliant and due to finally seeing Les Mis in London, I found a bigger appreciation of a musical that changed the way I view musicals.

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Why would Les Mis be a wonderful musical to see before a pilgrimage? To start things off, Les Mis deals with spiritual themes and is a spiritual journey. Les Mis is a tale of love, hope, sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, humanity and redemption. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, goes on a spiritual journey when given a second chance at life. Seeing Les Mis in London was the best part of my trip to England.

Due to a pilgrimage being a spiritual journey, Les Mis fits perfectly. So the day after I went on Jean Valjean’s spiritual journey, I went on my own spiritual journey. Stonehenge was a “mountain top moment”. I really felt God’s Holy Spirit at Stonehenge. There was just something about the atmosphere that made Stonehenge so special. The strong wind felt like energy was going through you and felt like it was pulling you into Stonehenge. Stonehenge happened one week after I saw Les Mis in London.

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This is a picture from Windsor Castle. Visiting Windsor Castle was the first part of the pilgrimage. I got to see the changing of the guards. The first time I saw a guard in England was the day we arrived. My original reason for wanting to go to London was just to see a guard and that idea came from a child.

The pictures below are Tintern Abbey (Pictures on the right) and Chepstow Castle (Picture on the left).  At first, I thought Tintern Abbey would be kind of boring in a way. At first, I did not see the sacredness of it, but eventually did. I noticed a white dove nestled in the corner and a dove is symbol of spirituality so I got something out of Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey was in Wales.

In total, this pilgrimage consisted of ten church services. We saw Evensong at Westminster, Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Evensong at Salisbury Cathedral, and the other services, which consisted of one Eucharist and six Evensongs. Everything combined on this trip including the two extra days all provided something wonderful to this trip. There were the big memories such as Stonehenge and Les Mis and there were other memories, but those two things I did were quite special. As for the church services, my favorite ones were the ones sung by our Church Choir. As each service continued, the choir just got better and better. I actually cried twice during this trip. The first was during Les Mis and the second was at the last Evensong when the Anthem made me tear up. That reaction during that church service really showed just how transforming the England trip was.

The picture below is right in front of the Bristol Cathedral. Hidden throughout Bristol at the time, there were about seventy or so Shaun the Sheep statues as a fundraiser for a children’s hospital. Throughout my stay in Bristol, my family found about twenty one Shaun the Sheep statues.

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The best part of the pilgrimage was not any of the places that we went to, but was something that was created. Obviously Les Mis was the best part of the trip, but the best part of the pilgrimage was the fellowship created by all seventy two pilgrims. The fellowship is what made all the sacred and spiritual places we went to even more special.

Stonehenge in many ways really shows the meaning of a pilgrimage because it really is a place where you can strongly feel God’s Holy Spirit. Les Mis linked directly to the pilgrimage because of its spiritual themes and the fact that like the pilgrimage, it was also a spiritual journey. I honestly could go on and on why both Les Mis and the pilgrimage was as special as they were.