We woke up and enjoyed breakfast in our hotel, then it was off to the ever so adventurous parking garage! Getting out was easier than entering until it came to the last part...the garage door. We took too long with the turns so the garage door shut, meaning we had to sit there until another car came up the ramp to trigger the opener. It was too narrow to open a door and get out and there certainly was no way we could go in reverse to trigger it again. Luckily we only had to sit there a few minutes!
We went down to the pier which was BEAUTIFUL. The colorful houses on the hills leading down to the ocean were picture perfect. There were tons of runners and also bike riders flying by everywhere along the ocean.
Now we're off to find a castle on our way to Coimbra, Portugal. We had a Taylor Swift jam session on our way there. We also noticed that all the Euro change was different. Each country puts their own symbols or royalty on it. We started trying to figure what country all the different change was from.
Tolls are the hidden fee of Europe. Talk about expensive! It's a few cents here and a dollar there... It adds up quickly! The absolutely love roundabouts also, even double roundabouts! Turns out the castle we thought we were seeing was more of a 50 foot brick wall of some sort. Just another adventure! 😊
Now off to Coimbra. These two lane back roads that are all "unnamed" are an adventure to drive on as people fly around each bend. Shout out to the GPS for not letting us get lost though.
After arriving in Coimbra, Lynzee and I headed for the pool and laid out for a little bit. The UV index here is much higher than home. It was an 8 and we were fried within an hour! We went back to the room to get Steven and we're off to University of Coimbra. We stopped along the way to look at a bridge crossing the inlet. There was an amazing view of all the colorful houses up the mountain here.
Getting to the university on top of this mountain meant taking some very sharp turns and zig zagging our way up. After each turn was a VERY, VERY steep incline where we gunned it up to the next turn. We were all leaning forward up these hills hoping and praying the car wouldn't flip backwards. It was extremely steep and quite frightening. We were relieved to reach the top. Once we got to the University, we did a tour and found the history to be very interesting, not to mention the beautiful tile artwork we got to see along the way. It was incredibly hot on top of the mountain. You could feel the sun radiating off your skin. Lynzee and I took plenty of pictures, but Steven wasn't having any part of it!
After touring the university we were going to go to a puzzle room. After finally finding the address we thought it couldn't be correct because it was a random house. We went and found wifi to double check the website. Surely enough, it was correct. We looked 4 times to keep checking. After coming to the conclusion the puzzle room was in this random guy's house (creepy), we decided to pass on the game. Getting kidnapped didn't really fit into our week's agenda.
Instead we decided to go get dinner in our hotel. There was an amazing view from here. We were all STARVING. Food was our only concern. Dinner here is eaten really late. The hotel diner didn't even open until 7:30, so we had to wait a very long hour to get our food. From the hotel you could see the gorgeous pool, but this also meant you could see everyone swimming in it. Before our dinner, a group of people showed up, probably 16-19 years old. Naturally my cousins had a field day with this, making jokes as I continuously kept making awkward contact with them. I reached the point where I was crying while laughing, and at this point they knew we were talking about them, so the situation only got worse, lucky me! I'm glad I can be their comedic relief for the trip! No worries, I get even with boot jokes for Lynzee.
After dinner Lynzee was bummed about the puzzle maze, so we found brain maze. Same concept, just a different company. We made reservations online. After wandering the streets of where we thought it was, we almost gave up hope, but Steven came to the rescue and spotted it. Unfortunately, a black cat sprinted across the path we needed, a bad sign from the start. Once we got to the door, no one was there. It looked just like any other business so we kept knocking, but no one ever noticed. We were 0 for 2 on our search.
Back to the hotel again. We were going to play pool when we got back at the bar, but we think the bartender didn't understand what we were asking. The swimming pool and the pool table were both near each other. We ended up calling it a night instead. We were all sunburned and ready for sleep! We sat on the patio for a little bit with a beautiful view from our room and really nice weather.
It's time to head to Portugal! We woke up and had breakfast at our hotel. This was the best breakfast I've had my entire trip, hands down! It was a buffet with FRUIT (Oh, how I've missed you), endless coffee, sweets, and anything you can think of. Completely worth every pent. After stuffing ourselves till we thought we were going to pop, we headed out to the Taris. This is where we took pictures like my uncle had posed for. Terry's is one of my favorite pictures of him -- in a city he loved.
It was time to hit the road for our six hour car ride to Porto, Portugal. After a little confusion with the GPS, it was smooth sailing. I certainly could never do this drive alone, too confusing in a different language with different driving laws. We played some crossword to pass the time. So happy to be with my cousins traveling. I got a chocolate bar, or at least I thought it was chocolate, but it was in Spanish... Turns out it was cooking chocolate. Quite the disappointment.
The drive was beautiful! Going through the mountains and the views were gorgeous. Once we got there we had to find our hotel in the middle of the city. It was quite humorous. Turns out what we thought would be a countryside hotel was in the dead center of Porto. We had to park in the parking garage which was small to say the least. The drive down to the parking garage was quite nerve racking. There was at most 2 inches on each side of the car with 2 right turns on the ramp. This made for roughly a 12 point turn. Lots of praying that we weren't going to hit a wall and a big sigh of relief when we finally got into our parking spot. Needless to say, we weren't getting out the car until we left!
I have no idea what WC stands for in Portuguese, but when you have to go to the bathroom there is always one when you follow the wonderful WC signs. I found this out quickly after getting to Portugal.
After checking in ,we ventured out to the streets of Porto. This is where all the corks from wine bottles are made. There were tons of wineries nearby. There were also lots of cute little shops to browse through. Plenty of leather stores full of purses, and lots of shoe stores (yes, dad, I actually resisted the temptation of buying shoes for once). I was about to get myself a Portuguese Ronaldo jersey. I just have a slight obsession with him... nothing major though.
No clue what we ordered off our dinner menus, but it was quite delicious and filing for sure! After dinner we chased it with some gelato, we Johnsons love our food.
Lynzee is currently in a walking boot after tearing her ACL and having surgery not very long ago. Having a walking boot while traveling Europe does not look too enjoyable. Although, from my perspective, its been really amusing. Having a walking boot on all of these old cobblestone roads is very, very amusing.
I'm loving Portugal! The people dress normal for once and it's such a nice relief. No six inch heels, fake eyelashes, fake nails, or hair extensions finally. I can finally wear sandals and shirts without sticking out like a sore thumb. All of the buildings are covered in gorgeous tiles or are pretty tropical colors, lining the hills along the ocean. What's not to love?
After cuddling on the soft, comfy airport floor for a few hours, it was a refreshing 3 am wake up call to head through security. My flight's gates opened at 5:15am so there wasn't any point in staying in a hotel when my train got there at midnight and I had to check in at 3am for my flight. This was our time to head our own ways; my travel buddies were off to the Netherlands and it was time for me to fly internationally alone for the first time. I was off to Madrid solo style to meet my cousins! This was my first time making it through security without being sent back through or getting my own personal pat down in a private room. I wish you could understand my excitement because it was getting rather uncomfortable being sent through security 3 and 4 times. For the first time, I had extra time, meaning no sprinting to my gate. I even had time for a cup of coffee. It's definitely the fuel that is keeping me going at this point.
Now here is where it gets interesting, we're all sitting in a common area waiting for our gate to be posted 15 minutes prior to the time the gate closes. Since London's airport is so big, there are 99 gates and 5 of the 99 gates you have to take a 10 minute train ride to get to. Keep in mind the gates aren't posted until 15 minutes prior to the gates closing. This gives you 5 minutes to get on and off the train. Out of the 99 gates, I was one of the lucky ones who got a gate that required a train, so my next 15 minutes were spent running knees to chest making it to my gate just in time before it closed. By this point I'm already sweating and the locals from Madrid said I'm in for a treat as I sit there fanning myself. At first I was confused until they informed me it's supposed to be 110 in Madrid today, and it was only in the 60's in London. I'm in for a rude awakening.
Chances are if your travel in Europe you're going to fly with Ryan Air at some point because they're truly the cheapest way to fly. Some things you'll get to enjoy for free on their flight are:
An additional treat to this particular flight was Madrid's luggage staff being on strike. What does this mean? No checked luggage allowed for anyone! How does that affect the flight? Luggage lined the isles, was in people's laps, and stuffed to the max in the overhead storage. This was just entertaining at this point!
After getting slam-dunked into Spain, it was time to begin playing Where's Waldo, the Johnson addition. First stop, customs. Everyone's favorite! Not being a European resident means a special line with extra questions, lucky me! In addition, we're back to the language barrier where, when you ask a question, people look at you like you have two heads and you have to repeat yourself a few times speaking a lot slower. Not having phone service in Europe makes for some challenges and finding my cousins after landing was an adventure! I hadn't seen Steven since Christmas break and since then he has earned his masters degree, graduated, and accepted his first job. This will be the last time I see him before he leaves for his big boy job in Wisconsin, which I'm still a little bitter about being 7 hours away, but I'm still happy for him, making this week together a little extra special. It's so nice to finally be reunited with family; there truly is nothing better!
After making it to Toledo, Spain we hit up an interesting market and got some food for lunch. Since everything was in Spanish, it made for a good experience. Thank goodness Steven could do some translating. When we got back to our hotel we headed off to the pool. This hotel had an AMAZING view. Breath taking. It was on a hill overlooking the city. This hotel has extremely nice compared to anything else I've stayed in this entire trip.
We went down into the town and looked around some cute shops. We got there as siesta was starting, but after we got some drinks places were starting to reopen.
We got dinner at a place in town that a local recommended. We ate outside where there were water misters because it was SO HOT outside. It was right around 100 degrees all day. We each got a Spanish dish and swapped with each other so we could all have a taste. We also had some tasty desert. Loved it .😋 Toledo was certainly off the beaten path, but it was so pretty! I'm really glad we went there! After dinner, we did a little bit more exploring the sights and taking in the view before heading back to our hotel, which had the best view of them all! We played some cards and watched the evening news. This is when we found out that the United States had legalized same sex marriage nation wide. I couldn't be more proud and wish I were home for that, the second nation to legalize same sex marriage nation wide. When we were in Ireland they had just legalized same sex marriage nation wide and were the first country to do so. They had many parades to celebrate this big decision. Their citizens were so proud. Now I can say that the United States has joined them and I'm so proud as well. After an exhausting few days of travel, and not the best sleep, I was eager for bed!
I woke up extra early this morning to finish getting everything ready for the children for our last day together. The Buckeyes were packed up, the letters I wrote the students were complete, but I was not ready to go! Over the last 7 weeks I have formed such a bond with these children. Over time they may forget my name, but for me they have had a HUGE impact on who I am as a teacher. Teaching out of the country is a completely different experience that I would recommend for anyone. Teaching in a different country most certainly gives you the perspective of what being a minority student would be like. You have so many experiences that you cannot relate to until you have experienced them yourself.
We started off our last day together going on a field trip to a mosque. This was suppose to be for their religion class and learning about other religions practices. Although, there were quite a few kids who's parents wouldn't let them go to the mosque. The field trip was entirely informational, making no since for the kids parents not allowing them to go on this trip. It was a short field trip though, we were back before lunch. All through out the day the students were giving me little hand made letters and gifts.
After lunch I taught my final lesson on measuring the volume of cuboids. The kids enjoyed being able to build with the cubes and it was a good outlet for all of their energy. Having a field trip in the morning and then a party at the end of the day made it near impossible to keep the kids in their seats.
For the last part of our final day we went outside with the kids and just played games. The whole time all the kids were asking for my signature and my home address to become writing partners. I felt like a little celebrity. Each class had made us a card and signed it themselves, it was too cute! Some of the girls started crying on the way out, it broke my heart!
After school the head teacher (Principal) and staff thanked us for all of our work and partnership. It was really kind of them, and I couldn't have been any happier with my school placement!
From school it was a mad dash back to campus and time to pack for the trip, not that I procrastinated or anything. It was SO hot in school and there is no air conditioning, what a treat! So I showered and was off to dinner. This was our last meal on campus and it was... Interesting. We had steak which would normally be wonderful, but since it was in England it was a little different. Since mad cow disease wasn't all that long ago they still have their meet come from other places. Meaning that any kind of cow meet just wasn't quite how it was suppose to be.
After dinner I had about 20 minutes until my taxi would be there to go to the train stations and I just needed to pack my bag for a week, nothing too important. I was simply running around like a chicken with my head cut off. This was the last train of the night leaving Liverpool and going to the London airport, so it only determined if I was going to make my flight or not.. Once again, no big deal. After sprinting through the train station getting yelled at to stop running (catch me if you can) I made it onto the train just in time, phew!
From here it was a 3 hour train ride to London where I would then take another hour train ride to the London airport and get a great nights sleep on the airport floor! It was quite comfy. I had gone this far with another group who was also flying out of London at the same time, but to a different destination.
Today is Spanish day in the school! All the kids are out of uniform dressed in yellow and red from head to toe. They were bouncing out of their chairs with excitement. We started out the day singing Spanish songs and coloring Spain's flag. Next we went down and did some baking in the kitchen. The kids made from scratch a loaf of Spanish bread each! 28 kids with flour and baking, just picture the disaster the classroom was after a day full of baking. In the afternoon we managed to squeeze a literacy lesson on scripts out of them. Although, after their playtime they got to have all sorts of Spanish sweets just in time to send them home to their parents! I'm sure they appreciated that! The kids got to have a non-alcoholic sangria where my teacher did a mini lesson on what normally goes into a sangria, alcohol and all. All of the kids knew what he was referring to, it's such a different culture when it comes to alcohol.
After school it was time for the final step with the Buckeyes, the chocolate! It took a lot of self discipline not to eat all of them myself.
After dinner we did some laundry and packing (depressing). We decided to end our last school night in Liverpool at our favorite pup, so Rachel and I headed down to five ways!
Today was my last day teaching a USA lesson for my unit. We discussed American sports. I started out by introducing all of the popular American sports with them, then I had them tell me about popular English sports ( cricket, rounders, polo, ext. ). Then we completed a Venn Diagram over the differences and similarities of the sports. From there we talked about American football and baseball more in depth, learning some of the rules and concepts of the game. For a fun end to the lesson, I took the kids outside for a game of baseball. The kids enjoyed it, although the hand eye coordination wasn't quite there; it made it rather humorous to watch!
After school I went to their football practice. My teacher is the school's football coach. This was actually quite impressive. Their school team starts at 2nd grade to and goes up to 5th grade. The kids practice twice a week for their school team. Several of them play for a club team as well. The kids were impressively talented. Most certainly well above players of their age in the states. At recess they're constantly competing for who can juggle longer. I wish soccer was this big in America!
For our class party on Thursday, my last day, I am making buckeyes for an Ohio treat! I spent a majority of my night making 60 peanut butter balls in preparation for Thursday. Here are some pictures from my walk to/from school. It's so pretty!
Today is our last week of teaching. Where has time gone?! On our walk to school, with about a mile to go, it started down-pouring out of nowhere. Luckily, Rachel and I aren't made of sugar so we didn't melt, but we sure were soaking when we got to school. Great start to our Monday! The kids started out their morning with assembly. In the afternoon I taught my lesson for the day on angles in nature. Can you tell my parents are math and science teachers? I had the kids measuring angles of leaves, fish find, flowers, and so on. Kids constantly ask when am I ever going to use this? So I thought using items from nature would be a good application. The kids loved the activity and were upset when they had to go out for play time so I told them we would finish it tomorrow! Currently the older kids playground is being remodeled. This means they cannot go outside for all of their playtime's, every teachers worst nightmare. This has made for a lot of games. I think that I could easily get gold in the Olympics now for heads up and hangman. The kids had never heard of heads up before and now they want to play it every chance they get. Tuesday is my last USA lesson that I teach and it's going to be over American sports, Wednesday is Spanish day(we're suppose to wear all red and yellow so this will be interesting), and Thursday is our field trip to mosque as well as our last day in the schools! It's going to be quite a busy week, but on Friday I am meeting up with my two cousins in Madrid and I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THEM! With 6 weeks under my belt and two to go the three things I miss the most are family, campfires, and the warm summer sunshine! Outside of that I would love to spend the rest of my summer traveling Europe, I'm definitely nowhere near ready to leave.
Happy Father's Day!
Today was a day for exploring! It was most certainly a last minute trip, but I was looking for a beach day and Wales is only an hour away by train. I caught a bus to the train station and was on my way! I had a hefty stack of grading and school work to do so I brought that along with me to do on the train. Not having wifi has its pros and cons, but it certainly eliminates any distractions.
Once I got to Llanduno I started out by walking along the beach to Happy Valley Gardens. This was an adorable garden along the side of a mountain. When you turned around you could see the pier, beach, and the ocean. I slowly worked my way through the garden to the top of the mountain where I had a nice little picnic that I packed and did some school work. Let's just say that the seagulls are way too comfortable with people, especially when they have food! On the pier were retired old men playing jazz music. You could hear it on top of the mountain, echoing off. This was one of my favorite spots so far on the trip, it was so pretty and relaxing.
After my little picnic I went back through the garden and played life size chess with an elderly couple on holiday (also known as vacation). They were so kind. They were with a group of elders who were all retired, traveling across Europe for a few weeks. We have ran into several groups like this since we have been in Europe. I know that my Muzzy would love to do something like this! Every time I stumble across a group of them, they're always cheery and enjoying the cities at their own pace while getting to know other couples on the trip. Now if only we could talk my Papaw into going with her!
Llanduno was a quiet little town that had adorable little shops lining the beaches. It was also very dog friendly, even better in my eyes. There were dogs everywhere. I think this is what I imagine paradise to be like... countless dogs and the beach! Can it get any better?!
I wandered my way down the pier and listened to the retired men play jazz music and enjoyed some ice cream along the way; it was everywhere, so I couldn't pass it up! The pier was filled with little ice cream shops, carnival rides, and people fishing of course. From the pier I got comfortable in the beach where I spent quite a few hours relaxing and doing school work. With a view like this, I was in no rush to get back to campus. I'm relieved to say that I'm nearly finished with my projects and have almost all of my lesson plans completed for my time here. I'm not that glad about only having a few lessons left, I'm not ready for my time here to be done!
It was a perfect day to go to the beach. The sun was out, but it wasn't humid. There were lots of families out enjoying Father's Day and cooking out on the beach. I was heartbroken when it was time to head back. I caught the last train back to Liverpool for the day, procrastinating leaving as long as possible! Best part about this day trip? It was completely free! We have rail passes making the train ride free, and I packed my meals for the day. All except for the dollar Ice Cream I bought, but I thought I could splurge and treat myself after hiking the mountain.
On the train ride I finished my school work and took a much needed nap. Something about these trains puts me to sleep every time! When I got back to campus I was relieved to see Rachel and catch up on our weekends travel! Finishing my day up with a long relaxing run. It was summer solstice, making it daylight even later than normal here. The sun didn't set until after 11, but that meant more time to go for a run. Just like that our last weekend of travel is over. How bitter sweet.
It was time for another futbol stadium tour, so I was off to Anfield! They're currently expanding their stadium, but I finally got to see the stadium all my students constantly talk about. My students go to their games like its nothing, but I would give anything to be able to make it to one game! Unfortunately, by the time we got to Europe the futbol season was over. From the stadium I went down to the docks and had some fish & chips and sat along the water. I already know I'm going to miss fish and chips when I go back. I'm not a big fan of it back in the states, but it's completely different here. After eating, I went to an African festival that was going on at Sefton Park. This was a HUGE festival that I completely under estimated. There was live music, tons of booths selling anything you can imagine. There were so many people there it was standing room only. I had heard about this from locals, everyone who asked what my weekends plans were insisted that I needed to go. I'm so glad that I went. It was a great time and very relaxing. People watching was really entertaining. I spent the afternoon here and it was a lot of fun!
After dinner we went to city center for the night and had a really good time. I had no idea that Liverpool had a night life. It was quite different!
It's Friday, Friday 🎶🎶
After waking up WITHOUT an alarm clock for the first time on this trip, I got ready to head to city center before the shops all closed for once! We headed downtown to Central Perk to get some breakfast. Yes, Central Perk, as in the TV show Friends. Sadly, the power was out on that block, though, so we had to wait until later to come back. We still got our big Orange couch pictures though, no worries! From there we went to Liverpool One. This is the big main pedestrian drag through the city. It's filled with every store you could imagine and a Starbucks about every 500 feet. Sounds like heaven, right? I did enough window shopping to make up for everyone who reads this.
Everywhere we have been in Europe there has been this store called Primark that everyone goes crazy over, so today was the day I jumped on the band wagon. Wow, it was a mad house in there! Four floors of clothing, but it was all really cheap. It wasn't bad clothing, either. There were some cute things, especially since they had a whole section dedicated to minions. I now understand why they are everywhere and everyone goes crazy for it. If you can think of it, they have it, and in every color too.
We headed down the the docks to do some looking around and went to the Beatles museum! There was a cafe attached that had everything you could ever want in Beatles and some delicious food!
We went to the Liverpool museum, which was the highlight of my day! I had been wanting to go to this museum since we got there, but it's only open 10- 5, so we can never make it there during the week after school. This museum was all about the history of Liverpool and how it got to where it is today. I thought this was so interesting to develop an understanding of where I've been living. I learned Liverpool had a lot to do in the beginnings of sugar. I had no idea, but it all started to make since. There are a lot of historical places with "Tate" and it is all in reference to the sugar industry in Liverpool.
After leaving the museum, I went back to Central Perk. I got a Joey-sized coffee and watched myself an episode of Friends on the big orange couch! I don't think it could have been any more perfect, even if I wanted it to!
It was a great day and I'm extremely glad that I finally got to explore Liverpool. It was much overdue.