We had to be at the bus stop this morning by 6:15 to catch our charter bus. This was an early 5:30 wake-up call after staying up so late! I had some last second things to shove into my carry on and got a nice refreshing ice cold shower... Not going to miss those! Then it was the joyful stairs of doom as we all rushed at the last minute, not that we're ever late! I was at the point where I was kicking it down three flights of stairs. After lugging our suitcases across campus to the bus, we finally were on our way to Manchester! We got our breakfast just in time to catch our flight. It was our last English breakfast. From here it was a smooth sailing 7-hour flight full of movies and school work! The jet lag and time change is definitely rough, I've been up for hours, but somehow it was only noon when we landed! We're now through customs and killing time on our 4-hour layover in Philadelphia. Playing cards, getting food, and exploring the airport.. fun layover things! Now it's just a waiting game until I arrive in Indianapolis at 7:45 and am reunited with my family and friends!
This trip has been a wonderful experience that I am extremely grateful for. I could not have done it without all the help from home I have gotten along the way from my credit card getting compromised to missing trains in foreign countries. I've been to 10 new countries now and learned so much about other countries. Portugal was my favorite country by far and my new dream job would be to teach there one day. Teaching in another country was challenging, but was such a learning experience! I guess this is goodbye, and until next time, Europe . . . I will be back!
Saturday morning I didn't get much sleep, but I just needed to power through! I woke up and got breakfast at a diner near campus, called Neighborhood, with Rachel. We ordered pancakes and they were WONDERFUL! I have an obsession with pancakes, so this trip was a major withdrawal for me and I could have cried tears of joy when eating them. After breakfast it was time to head back and start packing up our rooms.
After being here for 8 weeks, the amount of stuff I had has miraculously grown and I had no idea how it was all going to fit! After 3 long hours I managed the impossible. There was lots of packing, re-packing, throwing away things, Rachel sitting on my suitcase, me breaking the zipper, me fixing the zipper... Then magic! It all fit! Now, hopefully, it's all underweight as well.
We did some reminiscing while packing and this has been such a wonderful trip! We have a final dinner together tonight to celebrate the 4th of July together, but it's rather bitter sweet!
We went to dinner at Childwall Abbey, our professor's favorite restaurant. It was delicious. I got fish and chips, my final goodbye to British food! It was easily my favorite dish here. They prepare it differently from the states and I must say they do it better!
After dinner, Rachel and I went to Fiveways to say goodbye to our favorite pub and enjoy one last night together! We ended up having a little sleepover after I pulled my mattress next door to her room. I'm definitely going to miss her now that she won't be my dorm neighbor anymore! We stayed up a little too late, but why not end our last night with a bang!
It's Friday, meaning it was time to venture back to Liverpool. After enjoying my breakfast and feasting like a king, I showered and headed to Lisbon. I left rather early because I wanted to do some exploring in Lisbon and make sure I wasn't late to my flight. I took a short train ride to downtown and went exploring! Wow, was I overwhelmed. It was MUCH larger than any of the cities we had visited in Portugal. I walked around for 2-3 hours just seeing what the city had to offer, but I was so turned around and lost I made lots of unintentional circles. Not being able to read anything, having so much traffic, metros, cars to look out for, my huge backpack, and the extremely hot weather was overwhelming for this small town girl.
I was off to the airport a little sooner than planned, but I was dripping in sweat. I accidentally went to the wrong terminal, then when I got to the correct one I quickly realized it had no AC. I got to stand in a really long line to get my travel approved since I'm not an EU citizen. Ryan air had one person working the desk on a Friday afternoon as everyone is leaving to travel for the weekend.
From there I was off to security where I got through in one try . . . this was twice in a row! I knew something fishy was up because this was twice now... After waiting an hour after our flight was supposed to start boarding, we were informed there were technical difficulties and we were delayed an hour. After an hour passed, we all got to go up to our gate where we got to wait another hour because they overbooked the flight and had to figure out what to do! Once we FINALLY boarded the plane, two hours late, we were in for another treat! Someone left their suitcase unattended outside the plane so, naturally, security went crazy and brought out dogs and the whole shebang until the issue was resolved... this was another hour in the hot sun.. No AC... On the tar. What a treat! Three hours late, we finally took off around 5:30, our 2 hour flight landed and there was a back-up in customs, so we had to sit on the plane for 50 minutes until we were allowed off. Then the line for non-EU residents took an hour and 15 minutes! At this point I was nervous I was going to miss the last train to Liverpool for the night at 9:10. It was hot, people were annoyed, and I really had to go to the bathroom, but there was not a chance I was about to get at the end of the line and go through it all over!
My patience was running short and I FINALLY got up to the customs officer. As soon as I gave him my paperwork, his boss came up to him and told him he needed to pick up a shift tomorrow because they were understaffed (this was after I waited two hours to go through customs). He refused to take the shift and then got into an argument with his boss. The last thing you want when going through customs is an angry customs officer!!! I knew as soon as he sat back down this was NOT going to be easy.
He instantly sent me to this huge plastic cube in the middle of the customs area where I had to wait for him and another officer to escort me to a private room. This is where the karma of going through security twice with no troubles comes back to get me. I wasn't nervous about the questions, more about missing my train! Poor decision #1 was starting off by telling them I was going to miss my train for the night; their response let me know there was no chance I was catching that train.
So now began my hour and 20-ish minutes in customs being questioned about everything under the sun! After getting released I noticed the time and missed the last train of the day to Liverpool.
It was time to advise a new plan to get home. Once I got off the train from the Euston, I tried to figure out a new plan to get to Liverpool. It was now 10 o'clock, I hadn't had dinner, and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find a way back to Liverpool. I ended up finding am 11 p.m. train to Manchester, where I arrived at 2 a.m., and I had a layover until 4:50 a.m. to get to Liverpool, arriving at 5:30 a.m. It was a long three hours filled with lots of music, coffee, and walking the halls to pass time. Turns out at 2 a.m. in a train station there is nothing to do! After I finally caught my train to Liverpool, I took a cab back to campus. My easy flight back turned into a delightful 20 hour trip... Oh, the joys of traveling!
Today was Lynzee's birthday! She signed us up to do a 9:30 boat tour to see dolphins and the caves. The caves were one of the main attractions in Albuferia. We got some pretty amusing looks as Lynzee climbed into a dingy wearing her walking boot to go out into the ocean. It already smelled awful, so surely salt water couldn't hurt it, right? The tour was a couple of hours and my favorite part of the trip. We got to see dolphins in their natural habitat for at least 30 minutes. There was a whole school of dolphins and they were chasing a fishing boat. Apparently, when the fisherman are collecting their nets, some fish manage to get away, making an easy meal for the dolphins. There were 10-15 dolphins in the school including some adorable tiny ones. We're talking smaller than the length of my arm. It was amazing to be able to see them swimming up next to our boat, just 5 feet away at times. It was so cool to watch them come up, then they would do a huge jump up before they would go down for a few minutes. AMAZING!
Once the dolphins moved on we went to the caves. We're not talking caves like Kentucky. These were caves in the ocean with crystal clear water that had bright colors. We went into them, or even through them if they came out the other side. It was amazing and the water was all so clear.
After we got back, we wanted Steven to see the caves also, so we went on a little adventure! We drove up and down the coast to show him all the different caves, like the lighthouse cave and cathedral cave.
When we got back from showing Steven all of the sights, Lynzee and I headed for the beach and laid out. Before dinner we played another card game and Steven tried out some of his favorite jokes on me... he's a sly one!
We had dinner in the little area through the cave we found yesterday! It reminded me of Bravo! The birthday girl got to choose the place, and she picked a good one.
After dinner we all did some shopping in the local shops and I got myself a leather purse. In Portugal they have leather everywhere and I found a cute one. I love all the different cute things here! After dinner we continued celebrating Lynzee's birthday in Portugal! This was my favorite day of the entire trip so far! I love being able to travel with my cousins!
Our time together in Portugal was coming to an end, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my cousins yet though! Steven would be moving to Wisconsin this weekend. It was a bittersweet goodbye after breakfast as they were leaving me in Portugal while they began their journey back to the states. I wish I could have flown back with them! I miss my family and wish I could go to our 4th of July cookout. Instead i headed up to the pool to lay out until siesta was over! After siesta I walked along the beach to cascais and went to some of the shops and finished up my Portugal shopping! It was a really nice day outside, the beaches were hoppin and there was a lot going on! I saw quite a few sand artists that were pretty good! One had a dog so it was obviously my favorite. I finally got to video chat my parents for a bit as well.
After talking with them I went to a wine tasting in our hotel that was quite fun! the Europeans sure do know how to drink though, there was no way I could keep up with them! I followed up the wine tasting by having dinner on the beach in Cascais and watched the sunset on the ocean. It was a wonderful day with lots of pretty sights, but it was time to repack my things and head back to the hotel. I wasn't ready to leave, but it was time. I watched tv until I passed out for the night!
It was our past full day together in Portugal! How sad, but no time for rest we had a full day ahead of us! We were off to Sentra. Sentra was my uncles favorite city in the world and now I know why. It was gorgeous! Sitting up on top of a mountain with castles all among the trees. There were tons of colorful shops and buildings. So many buildings were also covered in Portuguese tiles. It was quite breath taking! We spent the daytime there then headed off to Cascais, our last city.. So sad! It was really close to Sentra.
In Cascais we went out for dinner together along the docks and the beach. Such a pretty town and really friendly people! I have now fallen completely in love with Portugal. It's my favorite country throughout my whole trip. After dinner Lynzee drove us out to some cliffs nearby that were breathtakingly beautiful. You could hear the waves crashing into them below and it was just as the sun was setting. In the background was a mountain, where the peak was covers by voids. We tools lots of pictures and finally a group picture in memory of our time together traveling Portugal. Just the drive along the coast to get to it was relaxing, but the views once we got there were even better. On the way back we listened to some of our favorite new songs we discovered during our trips and each talked about our favorite part.
When we were driving back from dinner we pasted this festival near our hotel, while Lynzee was figuring out how she was going to make it all fit Steven and I went to check it out!
It was all lit up with Christmas lights and had a group of elderly men singing in Portuguese the whole time. There was LOTS of fresh seafood to have and lots of hand crafted arts. Steven and I began talking to a lady about her tiles and were quite intrigued by all the time and effort that it took! We ended up getting a few things from her and I cannot wait to unwrap them when I get home. We both told her about our long flights home so she wrapped them all up in bubble wrap for us!
When we got back to the room we were all exhausted! Lynzee's leg was killing from all of our walking and it was getting late so we played some card games and called it a night. When laying in bed we noticed that most the channels were in Portuguese and if they were you could get subtitles... In Portuguese!
Where is the week going?! Monday already? I guess when you're having fun, time flies. I'm most definitely enjoying Portugal more than any other country I've visited so far. It's so beautiful. Having family has been nice, relaxing, and as it always is with the Johnson Clan ... humorous!
We had breakfast in the hotel this morning. It was a buffet, which is always wonderful. Go figure the pool boy from dinner last night had to be there as well *prepare self to get embarrassed* ... Countless jokes were made during this humiliating breakfast. What would one expect from a breakfast with Johnsons? Surely not a peaceful meal. Just remember, Karma.
After breakfast, it was off to the next city. Watch out ,here we come Algarve! Algarve is the Florida for all of Europe. It's a huge tourist destination because of their beautiful beaches. Thank goodness for the ocean being nearby because it was already above 100 degrees before we left. It was supposed to be 107 when we got there with a high of 112 degree! I am really excited. I enjoyed our jam sessions until we got there.
The highways in Portugal have zero cops patrolling them, but in places they have cameras that are discrete to catch you speeding. Much more cost efficient and I'm sure gets more people than a cop patrolling the roads would.
First things first, after arriving in paradise, aka Algarve, we went to the beach. Our view was AMAZING. Seaside, with an outstanding view, props to Lynzee! It was siesta soon after we arrived, so Lynzee and I went out to the beach to catch some rays! After we got back, we all showered and played some card games before we headed to dinner on the beach of our hotel. It didn't take long for Lynzee and Steven to figure out how awful I am at card games! It was quite amusing. After an hour or two we went to dinner.
It was gorgeous outside and we managed to get there just in time for sunset! It couldn't have been planned out any better. We had a little visitor at dinner that Lynzee loved and Steven didn't appreciate so much. Our visitor had 4 legs and resembled Ronaldo, Lynzee's cat, so she kept feeding him each time he returned and Steven didn't appreciate it too much. We all were starving and got huge delicious sunset pizzas!
After dinner Lynzee and I went through a tunnel under our hotel that lead you to a square full of live music, shops, entertainers and so much more! It was adorable. There were flags everywhere and it was all lit up! Lynzee and I did a little bit of shopping, but decided we wanted to save some shopping to do tomorrow as well and come back for dinner there. We ventured back to the room and passed out! It had been a long day with lots of traveling plus we were quite sunburnt!
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!