Logi

Adventure Time: London, UK

5 best things about London, Logan’s list:

A few months back, Shannon and I visited Manchester, England. We had an awesome time. The food was great, and everyone thought we spoke with a funny accent. After a weekend there, we knew we had to dedicate another visit to the British Isles so we could see as much of the English capital as possible.

Overall we LOVED London…. the list could go on for a while, but here are my top 5 reasons why.

1. They speak English!

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Yeah, super obvious, but one thing that traveling and living in a foreign country teaches you is that language is really important. It connects you and your people, and you can instantly identify foreigners. While Shannon and I certainly don’t have a nice English cockney, English is more or less English. If you need to complain or ask for directions, you can easily do this in London, even if it involves using your dope American accent. Basically, it’s just comforting understanding everything.

2. Pubs, Pubs, Pubs!

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English pubs, and the accompanying pub grub, is by far one of the greats parts of any English city, and in London there certainly isn´t any shortage of quaint, picturesque pubs. I mean seriously, EVERY pub looks super cool. Imagine the coolest pub style bar you have ever seen in America and that is like ALL the pubs in London. Shannon and I spend a large amount of our time in London getting pints and sampling the eats. Like we´ve said over and over, the beer in Spain is boring and the variety offered in London is highly appreciated. We also tried our fair share of burgers, meat pies, and local classics.

3. The British Museum

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This place was up there on my list of places to visit, and it soared to the top after learning it’s a totally free museum. We only spent a few hours there, aka not nearly enough time to see everything, but what we did see was really cool. Our main goal was to visit the Rosetta stone (the stone that helped linguists understand Egyptian hieroglyphics) and the Egypt collection. There truly is a ton to see, and Shannon even told me they only display like 1 percent of everything they have. This one is a must for a first trip to London.

4. The sites

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We really only had part of the weekend to spend in London, so Shannon and I took advantage of the time by seeing as many different touristy sites as possible. My favorite by far was Big Ben and the accompanying Westminster Palace. We decided to see this place on Saturday morning, and it as a great way to kick off the weekend. It’s the classic London tourist site, and there are even some nearby red telephone booths so you can snap your classic American in London shot.

5. The Borough Market

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Saving the best for last. The Borough Market in London was by far our favorite place. It is the perfect combination of a standard farmers market (fresh produce, meats, and cheese) and restaurant stands (prepared food, sandwiches, drinks etc.) The place was PACKED with people because it was Saturday and it wasn’t unbearably cold. I think we visited almost every little booth and tried the prepared food at like five separate ones. All the food was AMAZING and it gives you the opportunity to try different local foods without the huge restaurant bill. Essentially, you get to spend the afternoon outside eating and drinking. What is better than that?

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Adventure Time: Rome, Italy

As profesores de ingles, Shannon and I get a well-deserved spring break away from the children. We decided to take advantage of all this time by making an extended trip to Italy. We figured Italy deserved a little more time because it seems like THE country to go to on a European vacay.  Stop #1 of 3 (and my personal favorite) was Rome, Italy.

We spent just over 2 days in Rome and honestly loved every minute. As usual, we stayed in an Airbnb, and it worked out really well for us. We tried to see as many sites as possible, but I think you could spend an entire week in Rome and still feel like you need more time.

Day 1

1. Vatican

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We got to our airbnb a little early due to a super early flight out of Madrid, so while it was being cleaned we decided to visit the Vatican. The man cleaning the room told us the pope comes out to speak at noon, so we thought it would be perfect timing. There were TONS of people there, but after waiting around for a while, we realized we were too late and he had already finished speaking.

2. Delicious Italian Lunch 

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On our way to the vatican, Shannon and I passed a really great looking local place close to our apartment. It looked authentic and not overly priced, our favorite. The food was by far some of the best we had in Italy.

3. Trevi Fountain  

Our next stop was one Shannon was really excited to see. Unfortunately, we were met with some disappointment because all the water is drained and they have built scaffolding all around it for extensive cleaning. We still managed to beat back the British tourists and get kinda close.

4. Roman Pantheon

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We actually found the Pantheon by accident while following the narrow and winding streets of the Roman center. We didn’t even find out what it was until later in the day. Its a really cool building, and like most ancient buildings in Rome, has been converted to a church of sorts. Every time you get close to buildings like this, you are completely amazed that people were able to build such things with out ANY modern construction equipment.  

5. Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland) 

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This was another site we really didn’t recognize, but we still really liked. Inside it’s essentially a military museum complete with guards that take guarding things super seriously and yell at tourists who step out of line. However, if  you climb to the stairs to the roof of the building, there is a really great view of all of central Rome and the ruins all around.

6. Gelato

This is obviously a necessary part of every Italian vacation. We repeated this step throughout the trip numerous times. Because, necessity.

7. Dinner

After wandering around Rome and getting around 3.5 hours of sleep the night before, Shannon and I were obviously super tired. We went back to the apartment for a quick little nap then headed out for dinner a little later.

We went to a great local pizza place (well one of a billion) that was recommended to us by anther teacher at my school. The pizza was obviously amazing and the 5 Euro liter of red wine wasn’t half bad either.

Day 2

1. Vatican (again)

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Our first trip to the Vatican was half hearted at best. Our apartment was only about 15 minutes away on foot, so we thought it deserved a second stop. This time we wanted to see the inside of the basilica, so we waited in a ridiculously long line for about an hour. But it was totally worth it, and we were really impressed by how much detail was in every inch of every surface.

2. Lunch…and more gelato

3. Colosseum 

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This was one of the big ones for both of us. We were really excited to see the Colosseum, and it did not disappoint. It was probably my second favorite site in all of Rome. There’s not much more to say, it’s the Colosseum and a must during a trip to Rome.

4. Roman Forum 

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When you buy a ticket for the Colosseum, entrance into the Roman Forum is included. This site turned out to be my favorite. It’s basically the old Roman marketplace, and it’s huge. You would need several hours to really walk through the whole area. Visitors also get to be a little closer to the ruins than you do in the Colosseum. You are pretty much walking right where ancient Romans bought and traded goods. It’s a really cool place.

5. Dinner and Dessert.  

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Much to Shannon’s dismay, up until this point, we had not tried ANY cannoli. After what I can only imagine was very thorough research, she located one of the best cannoli places in town.  We got one to go and decided to eat it after our dinner.

For our actual meal we went to a great little place that used homemade noodles in all their dishes and again was excellent. Rome did not disappoint on the food front.

Oh…and the cannoli were delish too.

Adventure Time: Manchester, England

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What? Manchester? Everyone knows London is THE city to go to England.  Before you judge our English destination, you should know two things.  One, we still plan on making a weekend trip to London, so don’t be worried we’re missing out. Two, Manchester is actually a fun, cheap alternative to London.

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Originally, instead of spending the whole weekend in Manchester, Shannon and I planned on taking the train from Manchester and spending Saturday in London.  However, we kind of missed our window to get the cheaper train tickets and decided it would be better to spend an entire weekend in London instead…especially after we sort of fell in love with England.

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Now down to the trip.  We stayed at a nice Airbnb really close to Manchester University.  It was a pretty central location and made it really easy for us to walk everywhere we wanted to go.  It also meant lots of drunk college students at night, but its quaint because they talk funny.

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We got in really late on Friday night, so Saturday was really our first day in the city.  We started off by getting the traditional English breakfast at a little place called Bowlers.  It consists of bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, mushrooms, beans, toast, and coffee/tea.  I admit the beans are a little weird, but I ate it all.  I wanted to taste English culture, and evidently that means eating beans on buttered toast for breakfast. After our healthy meal, we decided to walk around the center of town for a while.  We went to see a few sites like the cathedral and a little victorian era cluster of buildings, and later stumbled onto the shopping area.  Manchester has a really good shopping district and a huge mall in the center of town.  We spent a while wandering around the Americany mall and even went into Aldi to find some real peanut butter.

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We were still pretty full from breakfast so we decided to forego lunch and grab an English pint from a cool little bar in the center.  Naturally, I chose a Sam Adams because…America. After spending some time in our room relaxing from all the walking, we found a collegy place to get dinner.  I felt like we were the only ones eating because I’m pretty sure 7:30ish is a little late for dinner for them.

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After that, we went to a few more places to get a couple more pints.  We had to take advantage of the good beer because Spain has like 4 types of the same crappy stuff.  I have to say though, a pint seemed like a lot of liquid after spending so much time drinking cañas (200 mL glass) in Spain.  The bartender seemed baffled by the fact that I wanted a half pint and by the fact that I asked for it with an American accent.  I get the feeling they don’t get a lot of tourists there.

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On Sunday we went back down to the center to do some shopping.  We found the Manchester Primark, and I’m pretty sure it was Shannon’s shopping heaven. To be fair, the store is really impressive.  It’s like the size of a WalMart, but only for clothes. We also went and grabbed a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake, treat yo self – am I right?

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We worked up an appetite walking around the never ending land of Primark and decided to get some lunch.  We found a cool English pub with lunch deals and decided to get fish and chips and a beef pie.  They were both really good!  I’m not sure I’m among those who hate English food.

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After that we went to John Ryland’s Library to see some cool old stuff.  Basically it’s a really old library that looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie with old books and really great architecture. By the time we left the library, it was getting late, and we had to catch our flight back home.

Adventure Time: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Hello all! Its time for part two of our Christmas break vacation. If you haven’t read it yet, check out Shannon’s post about Cologne, Germany.

Shannon was by far the most excited about the Christmas Markets of Germany, but I was looking forward to going to Amsterdam the most. We didn’t have a ton of specific places to visit for this city, so we spent a lot of our time exploring and wandering the many canals of Amsterdam.

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On our first day our only real priority was seeing the Anne Frank house (this is the canal outside the Frank museum). There is an entire museum now that takes you through Otto’s old warehouse where he ran his business and the secret annex where the Franks spent their time in hiding. I read the diary when I was in middle school, so it was really cool to see the actual diary and to be in the building where Anne wrote it. All of the furniture that used to be there is gone, but you can still see the swinging bookcase that was used to hide the secret entrance and the pictures Anne glued to her wall as decoration. Overall the museum was super interesting and worth every minute we had to wait in line. (P.S. you aren’t allowed to take pics).

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After the Anne Frank house, we walked to a quaint little dutch cafe with a view of one of the many canals for lunch. Luckily EVERYONE in Amsterdam speaks nearly perfect English, so ordering food or asking questions was never a problem. We just walked in to places and ordered in English as if it were the US. When we finished eating, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city and wandering into stores and tourist shops.

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During our wanderings, we stumbled across this little stroopwafel shop. Stroopwafels are very thin waffles filled with a caramel sauce. This place was especially delicious because they made the waffles to order right in front of you so they were nice and warm.

 

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Later on in the evening we went out for dinner at a cool little Dutch pub and then checked out one of Amsterdam’s finest museums: the Sex Museum. In reality it was a super cheesy museum that looks like something out of a bad 80’s movie. You could say it wasn’t what we expected. We then ended the evening by walking through the Red Light District. Although it seems like it would be a shady place, the Red Light District is actually full of tourists and feels very mainstream. It’s another place where we weren’t allowed to take pictures, we even saw a lady of the night throw water on a tourist who took her pic.

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Our last half day in the city before our flight was pretty uneventful because it was Christmas Day. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, so there wasn’t much to do except walk around and see more of the city.

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A Day in the Life: Logan

Hi Guys!  As Shannon already explained, there is a lot more to our Spanish life than traveling and generously priced food.  We unfortunately do have to work.  Now that I have my weekly routine all figured out, I think its time I share what I do.

My official job title is Auxiliar de Conversación, and that basically means I pretend that I totally know what I’m doing in front of a highly critical audience made up of 11-18 year olds.  I have exactly zero teaching experience and was pretty much thrown into it.  Essentially, they pay me for speaking English with my “perfect American accent” (their words, I swear).

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7:30 AM: Wake up and get ready to educate the future of the Spanish people.  Schools here tend to be pretty relaxed, and like Shannon, I don’t have much of a dress code to adhere to.  I can wear jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.  I try and keep it moderately profesor-y with a minimum of jeans and a collared shirt.

8:40 AM: I (ideally) leave my house for my commute.  Its a grueling 15ish minutes…foot and on the metro (aka its super close).  I really lucked out with the location of my school, and the fact that I can walk there is almost unheard of in Madrid.  Unlike Shannon, however, I work Monday through Friday.

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9:00 AM: Start working.  Everyone at my school is amazing and the teachers have made me feel like a part of the team.  Everyone values the work I do, and it is really nice to feel like I belong.

I am mainly responsible for conversing with the students.  This can range from just asking them questions about their lives to creating vocabulary worksheets.  I do some lesson planning, but it is all based around conversation stuff and never anything like grammar.

11:00 AM: Break time.  I just go to the teachers lounge and hang out and practice Spanish.  I normally have between 1-3 classes between this break and when I start at 9.

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11:25AM-End of day.  My end time varies a lot more than my start time.  Monday-Wednesday I finish around 2, and Thursday-Friday I finish around 5.  I have anywhere between 3 and 6 classes each day, and I am anywhere between 50% and 100% worn out when I’m done.  Its not that the job is hard, but I spend most of the day on my feet using my “teacher voice.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays I also have private lessons that I do on the side.  I don’t really love doing them, but the money is good and I enjoy teaching the students.  Overall, its not too demanding, and I am enjoying things here in Spain.  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about my life here.

Besos y abrazos,

logan

Adventure Time: Segovia

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Shannon and I have officially passed the one month mark here in Spain. That is just enough time to start to get the hang of things around here.  We have our work schedules down, we’ve figured out how to order food in a restaurant, and we know where to go when we need to buy something.  With the basics of Spanish life covered, we decided it was time to start exploring.  For our first trip, we decided to start small: Segovia, Spain.  Its only about an hour bus ride from Madrid, so we thought it would be a good first traveling experience (you know, less opportunities to get lost).

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Segovia is a smaller Spanish city with lots of history.  It has been around since Roman times, and at one time was the home of Isabel of Castile (do a wikipedia search).  The biggest attractions in the city are the Aqueduct, the Alcazar, and the Cathedral. The city center is very walkable, so Shannon and I were able to visit all three sities.  When I say walkable I still mean like 2 Kilometers between sites…I guess thats really dependent of your definition of walkable.

The Aqueduct was very impressive.  No one knows exactly how old it is, but about 1,500 years is the rough estimate they give. The whole structure was built without mortar and is held in place by precisely cut stone.  It was really cool to see and touch something that was constructed way back when.

Next stop was the Cathedral.  We didn’t actually go in (because it cost money), but we walked around almost the entire thing. I’m no architect, but I’m pretty sure this church is an engineering marvel and a work of art, especially when you consider its age.

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Last stop was the Alcazar.  While I’m not exactly sure what Alcazar means, I can tell you the structure is basically a castle. (Maybe Alcazar means castle? I don’t know, the dictionary is so far.) This was by far my favorite part.  It looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, with a draw bridge and tower included.  Shannon and I decided it would be fun to take a risk and climb the tower despite the tourism warning that it includes 152 steps and “is only for the healthy.” To get to the top, you have to go up several sets of staircases that are made of hand-cut stone and very narrow.  The main staircase is cylindrical and you half expect to find a princess who has been locked away at the top.  When you finally reach the top, there is an amazing, 360 degree view of the city and countryside (last picture).

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Overall, it was a great trip, and an awesome way to kick off a year of exploring!

Logan

 

 

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times: Part 1

If you’ve been following any of our social media accounts you would think living in Madrid has been nothing but sunshine, rainbows, and happy feelings. But obviously reality is a bit different. While we do love Madrid, there are just some things that get on our nerves.

Peeved:

1. Cash Moneyz 

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Everyone knows Spain uses the Euro. And thats fine, the Euro is great.  My only problem is that €1 and €2 are coins, not paper. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when I give someone a €10 bill and get back 3 lbs of change, it makes me a little upset.

2. Light Switches

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Why are they so big?! Its like the country is full of people with poor vision.  Also they put the bathroom light switch on the outside of the bathroom…call me American, but that does not seem ideal.

3. Power

I just feel like it would solve a lot of problems if everyone just followed the same system.  Then you wouldn’t have to buy these stupid things to make your electronics work.

4. Nutrition Labels

EVERYTHING is per 100 grams.  Thats fine if you are looking at something like meat, but terrible for something like salsa.  NO ONE EATS 100 g OF SALSA!  The entire jar is like 70 g, so why would the nutrition label be per 100 grams?!

5. Hard to get around (crazy street layout)

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I guess this is also part of Spain’s charm, but when you are trying to get somewhere for the first time, the winding streets are mega confusing, especially in comparison to the good ol’ Chicago grid system.

Love:

1. Madrid’s Metro 

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Everyone loves Chicago’s el, but the Metro here wins by far.  Its fast, efficient, and clean (none of which can be said about the el).

2. Tapas/Cheap eats

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In no other country do they give you free food with a €1.5 drink.  You don’t really get to choose, but its guaranteed to be Spanish food…and that means its going to be good.  Plus the drinks are  €1.5.  Thats like 1/4 the cost in Chicago!

3. The people

People here are great and love to meet new people. When introduced, you exchange a quick kiss on each cheek.  It really feels much more personal than the standard handshake back home. (when 2 men meet they still shake hands, aka no kissing)

4. Language/// Idioma

I studied Spanish so obviously I like this part of the country.  Its pretty much the reason we’re here.  Also tapas…that’s the other reason we’re here.

5. Architecture/History

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Just google image Madrid and you will see what I mean.