Wow. I can’t believe it’s been over 3 months since I last updated my blog. I am such a lame blogger. No, really, life just got insanely busy, and blogging didn’t quite make it on my list of important things to do. I apologize. I do hope most of you have maintained yourselves informed via Facebook and/or Twitter.
Anyway, I’ll start this post by giving a brief overview of my summer:
Caroline’s Visit to Leeds
The first major event of the summer was our dear friend Caroline’s visit to Leeds. We were so excited that she came all the way to Leeds, UK to visit with us 🙂 We got to introduce her to the Leeds Market (where she bought her daily dose of broccoli and carrots), and we also got to take her to Scarborough (where she got a taste of the English seaside & found £10 in the grass) and to Harrogate (where she got to experience a traditional English tea room). What a blast!
Poole Family Comes to Europe
The second major event of the summer was my family’s visit. Ele and I got to spend 3 wonderful weeks with my mom, dad, brother, and sister. Their first stop was Leeds. I was so happy to be able to see them and spend time with them. We started out exploring Leeds (after the family had a day’s layover in Philadelphia when their flight was cancelled because of bad weather). We ate at Nando’s (a great Portuguese restaurant) and walked through the city centre, did a speed tour of the University of Leeds, and had birthday cake at our apartment to celebrate mom’s birthday (kudos to Hanna for the hazelnut cake recipe: 200g sugar, 200g ground hazelnut, 5 eggs, 180 degrees Celsius for35-40 minutes… don’t open the oven door in the first 20 minutes:::try the recipe, you won’t regret it. Oh! and be sure to cover the cake chocolate icing!). The family also got to meet Pam and Melvyn (my Rotary scholarship counselor and his wife) when they invited us over for a delicious and fun brunch, before catching an afternoon bus to London!
In London, we saw all the sites 🙂 We saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, survived a hail storm in St. James Park, went up in the London Eye, saw Big Ben, toured Westminster Abbey, climbed the millions of stairs to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, hung out in Trafalgar Square, and ate dinner in Piccadilly Circus. We also saw the crown jewels at the Tower of London, experienced the Tate Modern, bought a small something in Harrod’s, and browed the National Gallery. Although we didn’t literally see all the sites of London (I don’t think any tourists do), we had a blast seeing what we saw. Oh, and, of course, I made the family try fish and chips. Not all were in favour, but at least they can say they ate it!
After a few days in London we all hopped on the EuroStar to Paris. Paris was a beautiful city–beautiful buildings, parks, and museums. However, the dirty metro, poor immigrants, and dirty streets ruined the romantic city image. Don’t get me wrong–I LOVED the Musee d’Orsay; it was probably my all-time favorite art museum. Absolutely incredible! And, the view from the Arc du Triumphe, the Place de la Concorde, and Sacre Coeur were amazing. However… I often felt like I needed to be over protective of my belongings and overly aware of who was around me. Those feelings were validated 100% when my mom got robbed on the metro.
We did, though, have a good time in Paris and a great last day in “Paris.” We took the metro to Versailles. Versailles was pretty spectacular–it was where Houston really wanted to go. He was so cute with all his enthusiasm and excitement about going 🙂 We had a good time.
Dad left from Paris 😦 and mom, Holly, Houston, Ele, and I headed to Barcelona. I have to say Barcelona was probably my favorite city on this trip. Barcelona was amazing. From the beaches (where we found loads of sea glass), to the Picasso Museum, to Park Guell & la Sagrada Familia, to the sangria & tapas, to Las Ramblas, and the flamenco show at El Tablao–it was all 100% fantastic. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Barcelona was also great because we got to relax a bit (after a slight ordeal with our first accommodation) and not be so worried about sticking to a timetable or having too many places to be and things to do and too little time to do them all. I think we all got some much needed rest in Barcelona 🙂 We also go to help in the apprehension of a thief on Playa Barceloneta. It was a pretty incredible, adrenaline rush type event. Definitely one of the trip highlights.
After our relaxing time in Barcelona, headed for Madrid. Madrid was great–not as great as Barcelona, but still great 😀 We stayed in a wonderful flat right in la Plaza Mayor. We went to the Palacio Real, Parque Retiro, Museo El Prado, Reina Sofia, and more.
In Madrid, Ele & I were able to teach mom and Houston how to play Trios y Escaleras–a Colombian card game that, from what I’ve heard, has become an addiction back home! Houston was also able to pick up a bit of Spanish (from Ele mainly :)) and practice it as well–which he LOVED.
Something else that happened in Madrid was a protest. While protesters had been camped out in la Plaza del Sol for a while, they decided to move “protest sites” while we were there. They city was put on a sort of lock down and riot police were stationed at all corners of the city. Nothing ended up happening (other than the protesters blocking the main streets to stop the new mayor from taking office), and my siblings got to see their first protest up close.
From Madrid, we took a day trip to Toledo. Toledo was fantastic. It was a beautiful city. Houston got to buy himself a sword–which proved to be quite the ordeal when boarding our train back to Madrid, and we got to see the incredible cathedral and the painting “El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz.”
After Toledo, we all headed back to Leeds, where mom, Holly, and Houston unpacked and re-packed all their belongings before heading back to the USA.
With the family gone, Ele and I had only a few days to unpack, wash clothes, and repack for our backpacking journey through another part of Europe.
European Tour, Part 2
The first stop on mine and Ele’s trip was Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After an early morning flight we spent the day exploring the city. Our first stop was the house of Anne Frank. What a moving experience.
After that, we headed to the Bloemmarkt, i.e. the floating market where flower venders come to sell their products. It was beautiful. There were so many flowers I wanted to buy. While browsing through the Bloemmarkt we came across the most amazing cheese shops. Oh my goodness. It was amazing. We couldn’t resist the temptation & bought two wheels of cheese–one pesto and one goats cheese with herbs. Delicious.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking about random parks and neighborhoods before heading to catch our overnight bus to Prague, Czech Republic.
The 15 hours bus ride from Amsterdam to Prague was not actually half bad, except for the fact that our feet were so swollen that we couldn’t get our shoes back on. Since we only had pair of shoes with us, that was bad. We managed to elevate them for the last 2 hours and were able SQUEEZE back into our shoes. Craziness.
Once in Prague, we were overtaken. Prague was beautiful. It is a city that still has its charm and isn’t overtaken by a suffocating amount of tourists. We stayed in a great little hostel close to the city centre, and had a great time. We explored the old part of the city (where you can find the astronomical clock and the city plaza/square) as well as Prague Castle (a BEAUTIFUL area of the city), and the Jewish quarter of the city. Ele says Prague is her favorite European city 😉
After a weekend in Prague, we boarded a bus for Berlin, Germany. This time, only a 5 hours journey 😉 We got to Berlin about 2pm, found our hostel, figured out how to manage the tram/bus/U-bahn/S-bahn system in Berlin and started exploring.
The first day we explored some of East Berlin, as that’s where our hostel was. We went to Alexander Platz, where we took shelter from the rain, stood beneath the Fernsehtum (tv tower), admired the buildings on museum island, and bought some trinkets in the Ampelman store.
Our second day in Berlin we went on a Sandeman’s free walking tour which was great. We got to see the Holocaust Memorial, Hitler’s bunker, Check Point Charlie, Humboldt University, parts of the Berlin Wall, and the Reichstag, among other things. I highly recommend these tours–there’s one in practically every city in Europe. They are free, but great!
We spent the rest of our time in Berlin exploring the Turkish market–amazing food!, the East Side Gallery (incredible), and finding some authentic German food.
While in Berlin we took two day trips: one to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and one to Potsdam. The trip to Sachsenhausen was a trip I’d always wanted to do–I’d always wanted to visit a concentration camp. Having visited, I still don’t understand the evil behind the holocaust… and never will. Seeing the physical remains of the holocaust effects you in a way you can’t quite put into words…
On a lighter note, Potsdam was gorgeous. We wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for the recommendation of our German friend, Hanna Frei 🙂
When our time was up in Germany, we headed back to Amsterdam (where our flight back to Leeds departed from) for one last day of adventures. This time, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, which was awesome. I loved the way the museum is organized chronologically so you can see the affects Van Gogh’s personal life had on his artistic development. We also ate at the Hard Rock Cafe (I was in need of some American food), and then headed to our hotel, because we were exhausted.
MJA & Stars Languages
Having finished my tours around Europe, I worked for 4 weeks at a summer language camp/immersion program in York, England (about 45 minutes from Leeds). I taught English classes for 3 hours/day to Spanish and Italian students (aging from 11-17). The camp was a lot of fun–my colleagues were great, and I learned a lot from the practical teaching experience.
*I also learned a lot of British English 🙂 My colleagues and I had way too many hilarious conversations over the differences between American and British English. I also got to introduce them to the Alabama accent, which they loved–my boss sort of became obsessed with it (love you, Caro :)).
When I finished my 4 weeks stint with MJA & Stars Languages, Ele and I headed off to Scotland with our friend Carolina, whose boyfriend is studying at the University of Edinburgh. We spent a long weekend (Thurs-Mon) with them exploring Edinburgh and hanging out. The famous Fringe was going on while we were there, so we were able to see a few street shows when we took breaks from sightseeing 🙂
Having, now, gone to Edinburgh, London, and Cardiff… we’ve only missed one UK capital city, Belfast.
Confucius Language Academy (CLA)
Once back from Edinburgh, I started (and am still) working at Confucius Language Academy. I teach about 5-7 hours a week, and work with a group of 5 teenage Chinese students who are about to start their A-levels here in the UK. They are intermediate, as far as level of English goes, and they have been excellent students. Working with them has given me even more practical teaching experience.
I am enjoying working with CLA, and will be working here until I leave the UK… that’s right LEAVE the UK… which I will do on September 2…
As many of you probably already know, I’ve been offered a position as an English professor/instructor at la Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia beginning in October 2011. I am so very excited about starting my professional career. I have been applying all over the globe for teaching positions and when I was offered this one in Colombia, I couldn’t say no.
We will be living in Barranquilla, which is on the Atlantic coast of Colombia. The weather will be likened to an eternal summer (there are no seasons there, as Colombia lies on the equator), and I will be living very close to the beach 🙂
As far as the teaching position goes… I will be working with university students who are either doing a B.A. in English Language or who are studying various classes of English as a foreign language.
If you want to know more about where I will be teaching/living, check out these pages:
Before I head off to Colombia, though, I will be in Birmingham, AL for the month of September to visit with family and friends. I am thankful I will have a month at home. I will need a bit of relax and family/friend time before I head to Colombia, and I have missed being home…
Ok. I am off to bed, and will likely be busy finishing up my final portfolio for my M.A. degree here at Leeds University. So, my next blog post may very well be written and posted once I am back Stateside 🙂 Be patient!