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  • Welcome to our blog!

    We're Lauren and Leanna Winstead, and we're math teachers at Heritage High! We also coach the women's tennis team, and Leanna co-advises National Honor Society, while Lauren advises Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the sophomore Student Government class. But, every summer, we take trips around the world with our Huskies! On this site, you can find information about upcoming trips and you can keep up with us as we travel! Feel free to e-mail us anytime using the link above. Bon voyage!

…because I may or may not have blown a hotel fuse when I plugged my computer in last night. ūüôĀ Long story short, I tried to plug my computer into the wall using a converter (that has worked in every other country), and it immediately sparked and shut down power to our hotel room and the two beside us! ¬†Even resetting the circuit breakers didn’t work, so the hotel called in a technician and moved us to different rooms. ¬†Anyway, I’m a little nervous to try plugging it in again, so I may just wait until we’re back on American soil to share the rest of our pictures with you.

Until then, we’re off for a super fun day in London! ¬†Cheers!

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Believe it or not, we made it to our third country today!  Early this morning, we hopped on the bus for a long day of traveling, and we stopped every couple of hours to explore little towns along the way.  Our first stop was Windermere in England, which was the home of Beatrix Potter!  So, we saw plenty of references to Peter Rabbit and had a chance to do a little shopping before heading toward the Scottish border.

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I think I mentioned a couple days ago how they’re really into potatoes over here, but as it turns out, they’re into potatoes in almost every form. ¬†I think we’ve had French fries (or chips, as they’re called here) available at almost every meal!

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Once we crossed the border into Scotland (the home country of our tour director, Austin), we stopped in Gretna for some lunch and shopping at Gretna Green.  This particular spot actually has a two-year waiting list for weddings, because Scotland used to have a legal marriage age of 16.  So, teenagers would hop the border from surrounding countries to elope!

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Between Gretna and Edinburgh, we saw SO MANY SHEEP.  We even saw some being sheepdogged across the road by some really rambunctious shepherd dogs!  But the countryside was beautiful, and before we knew it, we were in the lovely city of Edinburgh!  We first drove through the Morningside neighborhood, which is known for being very posh and was where J.K. Rowling spent quite a bit of time writing her Harry Potter series.

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Greyfriars Bobby is a little pub dedicated to a small Scottish Terrier who worked with an Edinburgh police officer about 200 years ago.  When his owner died of pneumonia, he stayed by his graveside for 14 straight years, only leaving once a day to eat at the local police station.  When he passed away, the city honored him as a symbol of loyalty and friendship and gave him his own gravesite, where people still leave twigs, dog food, and stuffed toys.  Once a week, those items are donated to the local animal shelter.

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There’s even a statue of Greyfriars Bobby outside the pub! ¬†People believe you can rub his nose for good luck, which is why it’s a little discolored these days.

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After dinner, some of us had free time, but most of us went on a ghost tour with our awesome local tour guide, Esther!  She took us through a graveyard where J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time gathering inspiration.  Many of the names in the book are actually found in the graveyard!  We even went down into the underground vaults where many of the homeless lived several hundred years ago, and it was especially creepy.  But, Esther definitely knew her stuff and we learned a lot!

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On the way to our hotel, we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the river where a brand new bridge is located. ¬†Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to a local bus tour and some time exploring Edinburgh before we head out!

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Well, here we are in country number two! ¬†We were pretty early risers this morning, most of us up at 5:00 in order to grab some breakfast and be on the bus by 6:00. ¬†We took a short trip over to the ferry near our hotel in Bray, and from there, we loaded up our luggage and embarked on a three hour boat ride to Holyhead Port in Wales! ¬†Most of us were a little hungry on the boat, and the food certainly didn’t disappoint. ¬†My sister had some pancakes with blueberry compote and a healthy serving of bacon!

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Once we made it to Wales, our first stop was Beaumaris Castle, which was pretty much everything you could expect out of a European castle!  It really is a fortress, with a moat and plenty of those really skinny windows that were great for defending a castle.  The town where it is situated is also beautiful and sits right on the water!

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Even though we had left Ireland, we still saw plenty of harps!

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Most of us grabbed a late lunch in the town, and there were quite a few little shops to choose from! ¬†Everyone here is exceptionally welcoming and very friendly, so I’ve been really grateful that no one has been put out by this crazy influx of Americans!

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We weren’t really sure what this game was, but there were a bunch of older men playing what looked to be Bocce Ball! ¬†I’m pretty sure they call this their version of bowling.

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After leaving the castle, we took a beautiful two-hour ride through the Welsh countryside to the town of Llangollen, where we are spending the night. ¬†It’s an adorable little town that really looks straight out of Epcot. ¬†All of the shops close right at 7:00, but the restaurants stay open a bit later.

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One of the most beautiful parts of Llangollen is the bridge, which displays a bunch of flags from other countries. ¬†If y’all know anything about my sister, you know she can name the flag of almost every country in the world! ¬†So obviously, she loved this bridge. ¬†I saw several of our kids doing little photoshoots there after dinner!
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That’s our hotel on the right! ¬†It really couldn’t be more picturesque.

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That’s the Welsh flag on the right, with the dragon on it. ¬†They’re pretty into those over here!

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Tomorrow morning, it’s off to Edinburgh, Scotland! ¬†I hate that we have to leave Wales so quickly, but I’m so excited to see what Scotland has to offer!

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Well, here we are! ¬†All of my apologies for taking so long to get started on the blog this year, but I actually just arrived in Ireland yesterday! ¬†The rest of the group has been here since last Friday, so I’ll share a few of their pictures before you’ll see mine. ¬†From what I hear, the Ring of Kerry was the most popular outing so far! ¬†As I write this, we’re actually on a ferry on the way to Wales, so there’s still lots of adventure ahead!

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Yesterday, we spent a bit of time near Grafton St., which is a really ritzy street in downtown Dublin.  We did some shopping before we headed over to Trinity College to see their library and the Book of Kells!

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One of the most beautiful parts of Dublin is all the painted doors.  Many of them are really brightly colored, but this one was especially detailed.

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Next stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral! ¬†Our local guide, Rosemary, was full of amazing info. ¬†She told us all about the war memorial inside, and all the flags hung from the ceiling were used in actual Irish wars.

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This monument looked just a little bit familiar to our kids, but it’s actually a monument in commemoration of the Battle at Waterloo.

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Near the Pope’s Cross is a little ice cream truck that was voted the best in all of Ireland! ¬†So, of course a few of us took advantage!

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Beautiful entrance to the American Embassy!  There is currently no US ambassador to Ireland, but that could change in a couple weeks.

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A few of us toured the Guinness Brewery, while others of us spent time shopping before we all caught up for dinner!

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Beautiful view of Dublin from the top of the Guinness Brewery!

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Dinner was roast chicken, green beans, and an apple pastry from Murray’s! ¬†All of the food here has been really, really delicious. ¬†The Irish are definitely into their meat and potatoes!

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Our last stop of the evening was the shoreline near our hotel in Bray. ¬†It’s rocky, but so, so beautiful! ¬†A few of our students hit up the local McDonald’s instead. ūüôā

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One of my favorite parts of Ireland has definitely been all the beautiful flowers. ¬†From the hanging baskets and the arrangements outside pubs, to the amazing landscaping outside homes, it’s all just gorgeous!

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Can’t wait to update you on Wales after our big tour today! ¬†For now, goodbye from the middle of the Irish Sea!

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Well, we made it to the end of our Roman holiday. ¬†Today’s post details the last day of our trip before we boarded a couple planes for home! ¬†But, it was definitely a full and exciting day! ¬†We finally made it to so many of the sights we’d heard about in Rome (especially those of us who grew up with the heavy influence of The Lizzie McGuire Movie), and we wasted no time getting started on our day!

I’m sorry, but don’t you kind of wish you drove a car small enough that you could do this legally? ¬†I’m jealous and also not at all.

Our first stop was a reserved tour of the Colosseum, and while Georgia was inside grabbing our tickets, we had a MAJOR photo shoot! ¬†We just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful background and morning light!

Chaperones’ turn!

To keep track of all our students on this trip, we put them in groups ahead of time and assigned each group to a chaperone.  That way, when we needed to do a quick head count, we each only had to count four or five people.  Heather was pretty attached to her group!

Group 2, throwin’ up deuces.

Leanna had Group 1…

…and Robert had Group 3! ¬†Somehow we missed getting pictures of Groups 4 and 5, but they’re well-represented elsewhere!

Our local guide, Krisztina, was actually Hungarian but had lived in Rome for 20 years. ¬†She said she had wanted to complete a doctorate in anthropology and Italian Studies at the University of Rome, but it was just too expensive. ¬†She’s been giving tours at the Colosseum and every other museum in Rome for about seven years now! ¬†And, she has children about the same age as our students, so she knew what she was getting into. ūüôā

She explained which parts of the Colosseum are part of renovations and which are original.  You can kind of see that about halfway up this wall, the bricks are less smooth.  Those are the originals!  Everything else was added later.

We were standing approximately where the middle class would have sat during a show at the Colosseum.  The upper class (and the emperor) sat down low, the slaves sat higher, and women and children were on the top rows.

Here’s the Arch of Constantine!

And our view of the Roman Forum from the Colosseum.

As we made our way over to the Roman Forum, Krisztina explained how the Romans kept building the ground up higher and higher, essentially covering things up as they went along. ¬†It’s taken a long time to excavate all of that!

Here is where Julius Caesar was cremated. ¬†Every March 15 (the day he was assassinated), there is a remembrance celebration held here. ¬†Sometimes, people lay flowers here thinking this is his tomb, but he’s not buried here.

On to some free time!  Most of us were pretty hungry at this point, so we headed to lunch!

I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of my Caprese salad before I nearly finished it… oops.

Somehow I managed to wait until the last day to get Italian gelato! ¬†But I picked caramel cream, and it was SO GOOD. ¬†It was pretty much just like birthday cake ice cream, if you’ve ever had that!

About a third of the group had signed up to do the extra excursion to the Roman Catacombs, so I accompanied them for that little trip! ¬†We passed by the United Nations on the way…

…and stopped at the Basilica of St. Paul¬†before the catacombs as well. ¬†I actually really enjoyed seeing this church, because Paul is one of my favorite apostles. ¬†It’s been really neat to be so close to all the cities for whom he wrote letters we find in the Bible!

Here is the tomb where Paul is buried.

Paul was imprisoned for a large portion of his life, and I believe these chains were used in his imprisonment (but I don’t remember exactly)!

As is the case with most churches in Greece and Italy, the church is shaped like a cross, withe the apse in the center and smaller chapels on the sides.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures in the catacombs, because it’s so dark and the ground is so uneven that it’s dangerous to be distracted by a camera. ¬†But it was pretty fascinating!

Afterward, Georgia took us to the Trevi Fountain! ¬†We were fortunate that it’s been reopened, because it’s been under reconstruction for quite some time. ¬†You’re supposed to turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. ¬†If you throw one, you’ll come back to Rome, you throw two if you want to get married, and you throw three if you want to get divorced. ¬†Most of us just threw one!

After visiting the fountain, we had some time to spend near the Pantheon, where we shopped, got snacks, and spent some quality time with each other before dinner!

Dinner that night was SO GOOD!  When we arrived, they already had our salads ready, and they brought out four pizzas per table.  We had ham, cheese, and two mushroom pizzas.  All were amazing and so fresh!

Pretty much how Chris greeted all the Italian girls (just kidding… maybe).

Before we took our Rome by Night tour, we stopped back by Piazza Navona to explore what we hadn’t seen the day before. ¬†And of course, we took time to all get pictures with our favorite tour director, Georgia!

It is impossible to express how amazing she was. ¬†She handled all of our logistics effortlessly, all while being kind and sweet and mothering to our kids. ¬†They can all impersonate her now, too! ¬†I’m pretty sure that, given the opportunity, we all would have followed her home to Crete for a few days!

The last thing on our itinerary was a Rome by Night tour!  Seeing these monuments during the day is already something amazing, but seeing them all lit up just adds so much more to the experience.  It was the perfect way to cap off our trip!

And that’s all she wrote! ¬†I’m so glad that all of you have enjoyed these blog posts and that so many of you have been kind enough to mention it to me! ¬†It’s my pleasure not only to document these amazing trips that Leanna and I are privileged to coordinate, but to help give you an inside look to what our students are up to! ¬†I hope you felt like you were there! ¬†I’ll be uploading all of these pictures to a separate gallery (including the ones I didn’t post) in case you’re a parent or student and want to download them or order prints.

We’re already looking forward to our trip to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England in 2017! ¬†If you’re an HHS student and want to come along, email me!

Ciao!

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