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Oxford Adventures


First post of 2020! Let's see if I can get back on the blogging train after only having 5 posts in 2019 (how sad). 
This post is a LONG time in coming! It's nearly been a year since I first traveled to England and visited Oxford and I am just now getting around to sharing my Oxford Adventures. 
Oxford was truly a dream and I am so glad that it was my first experience in England! I had DREAMED of visiting England for years and as an avid British period drama enthusiast I couldn't wait to visit the places in some of my favorite shows and experience the British culture for myself. 
As I was planning my England trip in 2019 my sister and I were invited to visit some extended family that we had living in Oxford for the year. Oxford was not originally on our travel plans, as we originally were planning to just visit London. However, we decided to make our first stop in Oxford and stay for a few days & I couldn't imagine our trip without it. 
I don't think I would have fallen in love with England quite as much as I did if it hadn't been for Oxford. Don't get me wrong, I loved London (and will share my London Travels soon), but Oxford had a quaint magic to it that makes me miss it every time I see pictures and remember the memories. 
Oxford has a quintessential "small town" feel to it, while still being considered a city, though it is more accurately a county town in Oxfordshire England, and I think that is why I LOVE it so much! 
When we arrived in Oxford the first day I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep since having been up for nearly 48 hours. After landing in England my sister & I took a morning bus to Oxford and hit the ground running....and I immediately began to fall in love with Oxford. Oxford is such a historic place in England from its history, it colleges, architecture, and also its notoriety of having many British movies and TV shows filmed in its midst. 
Many may not know, but a lot of Harry Potter was filmed in Oxford as the Bodlean Library (Duke Humphry's Library) was used for Hogwards Library and the Divinity School at the Bodlean was used for Hogwarts Infirmary. Not to mention one of my Favorite British TV shows, Endeavour, is filmed in Oxford. 
I truly could write soooo much about Oxford because it really did capture my heart. The people were so nice and after walking around this city for a just a few hours I immediately felt like I belonged (and would totally move there). However, I thought I would share some of my favorite places in the city, as part travel guide / part trip overview!

  • Caffe Nero (food/coffee) - Basically England's Starbucks! Caffe Nero isn't an "oxford thing" because they have them all over England, but there are a handful of them in Oxford and we frequented them quite a bit from the one in the local bookshop to the Caffe Nero along High Street. My standard order at Caffe Nero is a Latte with a traditional English Scone, clotted cream, and jam. Contrary to popular belief, Brits actually drink a lot of coffee (it's not just tea).
  • High Street - If you visit Oxford you will inadvertently always find yourself on or near High street, but it was one of my favorite sites because it greets you as you walk into the heart of the city! We were staying about a mile outside of the city centre, so every day we walked a mile into town and they were the best walks with historic views. High street is linned with colleges, shops, cafes, and the most beautiful and historic architecture I have ever seeen. 
  • Radcliffe Camera - The Radcliffe Camera is probably one of the most well known sights of Oxford and it's no surprise considering it is basically the heart of the city. It is also such a unique building as it is part of Oxford university/Bodelan Library and houses the Science Library. 
  • St. Mary's Church Tower - One of the best views in the city, this was one of the first things we did upon arrival to Oxford. St. Mary's Church sits directly across from the Radcliffe Camera and is not only one of the oldest buildings and churches in the city, but is best known for the view from it's tower! Admission to the church is free, but a treck up to the tower costs 4 pounds (which is totally affordable and worth it). There are 127 tiny stone steps on a winding staircase to get to the top, but once there the view is breathtaking! 
  • Bridge of Sights - The Bridge of sights is a very well known City Landmark in Oxford. It is a skyway joining two parts of Hartford College over New College Lane. It is featured in most British TV shows filmed in the city, but is also a must see spot when visiting Oxford. 
  • The White Horse (food) - If you are hungry for a traditional English meal this is the place to stop! We were famished after exploring Oxford on Day #1 and our Hosts took us to The White Horse for a late lunch. We ordered the Chicken and Leek Pie and it was absolutely Delishious! I am totally a fan of English food! 
  • Bodleian Library - Probably one of the most noteworthy places in Oxford, the Bodleian Library serves as the main research Library for Oxford University. While is is called the Bodleian Library it is really a collection of many Libraries. It is also one of the oldest Libraries in Europe and houses over 13 million printed items. The library is so huge that there are actually tunnels under the city which house many of it's books. The Bodleian actually has / receives a copy of every book and periodical printed in the UK...that is a lot of books :) Apart from it's history in the academic world it is also prominently known for it's appearance in Movies & TV Shows such as Harry Potter, Testament of Youth, Endeavour, Inspector Morse, and the New Aeronauts movie. 
  • Oxford Castle & Prison - Don't let the name fool you, it is really just a prison...LOL. It's called the Oxford Castle because the castle used to be there before it was destroyed during a war hundreds of years ago. What still remains of the Medieval Normandy castle is the prison, which is quite a fascinating tour full of unique stories. The Prison also has a tower that offers another (windy) view of the city. 
  • Westgate Shopping Center - If you want a break from historic buildings and need a bit of good shopping Westgate is the mall in Oxford and it is fantastic. We may or may not have visitied it 2 time in the span of 3 days....the main reason being they had a Primark which is England's Forever 21 (only better) and one of my favorite places to shop when I am in the UK!
  • Oxford Covered Market - If you are up for some window shopping, browsing, or want to soak up the British culture the Oxford Covered Market is the place to escape. It is full of vendors from meat markets, cafes, sweet shops, suit shops, hat makers, and more. Just walking around the covered market makes you realize how different England is from America, but I loved it! The best cookie shop is also in the Covered Market! 
  • Ben's Cookies (food)- If you stop at the Covered Market you have to try a cookie from Ben's Cookies! We stopped by on our second day and tried them and they are so good! They are quiet different from American cookies because they are almost like a giant goey biscuit. Plus they also have chocolate chunks and are Huge, so it's the perfect snack. 
  • The Mitre (food) - Our hosts took us for Sunday lunch at The Mitre, which is a very old pub on High Street, and it was fantastic. We ordered the traditional roast chicken and it was nothing like any roast chicken we have ever had back home. It was absolutely delicious and came with carrots & cabbage (that they cook to perfection) and Yorkshire pudding (which is a unique side made of an eggs, flour, and milk). 

Oxford truly stole our hearts & I would go back in a heartbeat! What I love most about Oxford is that it surrounds you with history, culture, and education at every turn. It is always bustling with people because it is essentially a college town, and what I found fascinating is that Oxford University is actually made up of over 39 colleges, all with their own dinning hall, common rooms, and libraries....you basically walk by colleges on every corner. 
If you ever get the chance to visit Oxford I can't say enough things about how much I love it! 
On second day in Oxford we visited Blenheim Palace, home of Winston Churchill, just outside of Oxford in Woodstock, which I will share more about soon!

Have you ever been to Oxford?

- Madison

My First Year of Teaching + Q&A

WOW....where has the time gone! One minute I was starting my first day of my first year as a teacher and then next thing I know I finished my first year teaching!
If you thought I had dropped off the face of the earth (due to my absence from the blog) this is where I have been....in the classroom. At the beginning of the semester I thought I would be able to balance teaching and blogging, but blogging quickly took a back seat as teaching became priority and all my time went into creating lessons or re-charging/sleeping. 
Needless to say life has been CRAZY......but a good crazy! I used to think college was the craziest time of my life, but teaching has definitely beat that! 
I truly don't think I have been more exhausted in my life! From early mornings to busy days it has definitely been an adjustment for this Introvert but I have loved every minute of it. 
It is definitely different having my own classroom where I am in charge, get to make the rules, and teach every day. My students constantly amaze me with their whit, humor, crazy antics, brilliant brains, nuggets of advice and laughter.
I feel like I could write PAGES on everything that happened my first year of teaching, but I wanted to fill all of you wonderful readers in on this new chapter of my life! On a quick note though, if you do want to read more of my thoughts on teaching I did create a teacher blog called The Frizzle File.

If i were to say one thing about my first year I would definitely say that it was everything I thought and at the same time so much more than I ever imagined. There were definitely hard days, but there were so many amazing days as well. There were so many tough moments, while also so many moments that made everything worth it!

I got some questions about teaching from people on Instagram and thought I would take some time to answer them here:

1) What was something that surprised you about teaching?

I think there were definitely so many things that surprised me! You hear so many stories about teaching, but it doesn't become real until you become a teacher yourself. I was definitely surprised by how quickly I grew to love all of my students. I think so many of the things were less of a "surprise" and more so a confirmation of why teaching is so important and a rewarding profession. I was reminded of how important building relationships with students is and also how important it is to see students for who they are and encourage them to reach their full potential. 

2) What was the hardest part about teaching?
I think as an Introvert there are days where teaching is harder for me than other people. However, the hardest part about teaching is definitely dealing with conflicts within the classroom between students, or students not respecting your class, rules or methods. Thankfully I didn't have to deal with to many serious issues, but seeing students wrestle through their own battles (be it with friends, family, or life) is always tough. 

3) What is one thing that is different than expected?
I don't think I really expected to generally look forward to school every day, even on the tough days.I didn't expect to be this EXHAUSTED, but knowing my personality as an introvert it makes since...I seriously have not been this exhausted ever in my life! I also didn't expect to grow so much as a person. I was also blessed to be working at an incredible school and daily be surrounded by amazing people who really support each other as well as having some of the best administration and specialists who let me try new things and support me taking risks. 

4) What did you have to major in to teach the class you do?
I majored in "Family and Consumer Science" (what was previously known as Home Economics) and minored in Education. I got a major in the actual classes that I teach, but most Family and Consumer Science teachers often get alternate certification to teach our classes. When you are certified in FACS you can teach close to 15 different classes that all have specific career paths for students and are honestly really fun to teach! 

5) What are the best ways to stay organized?
I teeter between being very organized and not organized what so ever....it's more so organized chaos as I see it, but my students all think my room is very organized. When it comes to my classroom everything has a specific place and I Label EVERYTHING so that we always know where things are or where they go. I also like to use color coding to help me keep all of my many classes organized and keep track of student work. I have a planner that I try to keep updated with my plans, but often times I end of putting things into my phone calendar so that I get reminders. 
Also...I would be LOST without sticky notes...I seriously use them all the time and they help me stay on task & remember what I am supposed to do. 

6) Are the rumors true about how much the after school work affects your personal life?
Yes & No :) Honestly, if you are an organized person and take the time in the summer to plan things out you will not have to worry about so much outside planning during the year. However, a teachers job honestly doesn't stop at the end of the school day. I did work on lesson plans and activities most nights and weekends (but I also had 4 different classes I was teaching). Also, I don't have as much of a personal life as some people...lol...so it didn't affect it do drastically. I think this is where being organized is important and making sure you have things planned ahead of time. I think you have to remember what you can control, and the amount of after school work is definitely something you can have the ability to control, so be aware of that and know when you need a break. 

7) Do you have to deal with all the gossip and drama as a secondary school teacher?
Yes, but again, you get to control what you surround yourself with. The negativity, gossip, and drama are always a part of any school atmosphere, but you don't have to be a part of it. Thankfully my classroom is in a hallway at the back of the school so I honestly don't come into contact with a lot of teachers outside of my team every day, plus I never go to the teachers lounge. I am a pretty positive person and I like staying upbeat about things, so I never like putting myself in a position to be surrounded by negativity. 

9) How is it being an introvert and a teacher with kids who have a lot of energy?
It is definitely draining! At the end of every day I am always drained and exhausted and usually come home and rest for 1-2 hours. So yes, being an introvert teacher around energy filled kids can be crazy at times, but it also is amazing. As an introvert we have the ability to sense things in others that not everyone can see, so I am always able to tell things about my students such as their mood, their personality, and my favorite...their potential! While being a teacher puts me in an environment that triggers my weaknesses as an introvert every day, it also allows me to draw upon the strengths of my personality & I truly think that Introverts have superpowers as teachers! 

Do you have more questions about teaching? Leave them in the comments below! 

- Madison

Booking & Choosing an Air bnb for travel

My first time using Air bnb was January 2018 when I visited New York (picture above), and since then I have stayed in an Air bnb in Paris and in England. Booking an Air bnb for the first time can definitely be NERVE WRACKING, and I can't tell you how many HOURS I spent browsing listings online to find the perfect place for my travels, but in the end I have become more comfortable and confident with Air bnb and wanted to share some of the tips and lessons I have learned along the way:

  • Look At All Your Options: Air bnb can seem overwhelming at times, and to be honest there are so many options to choose from, but if you are on a budget or looking for something specific you really do have to take the time to look at all your options. Make sure to save your top places in a folder for that trip so you can go back to look at them. Once you have narrowed down your options then you can choose from those. If I am being honest I probably spent over 2 hours finding our air bnb for NY and about an hour for my Glasgow trip.
  • Thoroughly Check Reviews: Reviews are my lifeline on Air bnb....granted, I have only used air bnb 3 times, but I never add a place to my list or book unless the reviews are good. I always look to see if the host communicates well with guests, is available to help with questions or once you arrive, give you plenty of information, has the place clean, etc....
  • Check To See How Long They Have Been A Host: I also like to see how long they have been a host on Air bnb....it will tell you on their profile, but also if they have been a host for awhile they will have more reviews which helps you narrow down your choices. The crazy thing is that when I booked our Air bnb for New York the place we chose was very new, there was only 1 review and the host had only been on for about 6 months....it was kind of nerve wracking and I almost didn't book, but everything seemed perfect and the host got back to me in a timely manner and thankfully by the time our trip came around here were many more reviews (which were all good).
  • Message Them: Always reach out! I never book a place or even seriously consider it until I message the host and see how long it takes them to get back to me, even if it's just a simple general question like "Hey, I am thinking about booking your place and was wondering ___________". I like doing this simply to see if they are really active and if they would be able to answer questions if I need them to. It also shows them that you are interested and sometimes they will go ahead and put those dates on hold for you. 
  • Make Sure it Offers What You Need: Air bnb always lists what the place offers like, wifi, and extra bed, coffee maker, etc....look to make sure it has all the amenities you need for your stay, especially if you are staying for a longer time. 
  • Location, Location:  Always consider the places you are wanting to go and see where you are traveling. I always like to try and pick a place that is in a central location to the sights I want to see. On air bnb, you can see the general location of the place, so you can visually see where it is in regards to sights you want to see. However, don't book a place just because it is cheap if it is super far from the places you are wanting to go. Also, if you are booking an Air bnb in a place that uses a Subway system as it's major form of transportation I like to find a place to stay that is near a subway station, bus stop, or train. 
  • Mapquest and Research The Neighborhood: On air bnb they never give you the exact address of a place until you book it, so when you look on their map you will only get a general idea of where the place is at. For my New York trip I actually asked the host more about the neighborhood and location and they answered some questions for me. The helpful thing is that on air bnb they show you a map with the star of the general location, but you can actually zoom in to see a 3D google earth view and sometimes see the street, which is helpful in determining a location.
  • Pay Attention To Security Deposit: Air bnb always gives you a price breakdown for each place, but when you are searching places they only give you the general amount, so if a place says it $87 a night you won't know that it could have a $20 security deposit and $10 cleaning fee until you look at the price breakdown, so in total you would nto be paying $87, your total would be $117. This sometimes causes me to take places off of my "potential list" because when you add up all the costs it is more expensive. When I traveled to New York last January our apartment in New York was a higher price per night than some places, but the security deposit was lower so it evened out. 
  • Check In and Check Out .... always ask if they are flexible with it: some places have self check in which is helpful so you have a lot of flexibility there but others have a specific time frame which might not always work with your travel schedule. A lot of hosts are flexible with times and are usually accommodating so ask before you decide. If you needed an early morning check in because of an early flight I might suggest booking the day before that way the place is already yours, and just communicate this with your host. Some hosts even have "self check in" where they give you the code to a lock box with the key to the apartment, that was the case for our Air bnb in England and it was so helpful with out weird schedule. 
  • Communicate With Host & Arrive When You Say: Air bnb has a built in messaging interface (you are not supposed to contact them outside of the app) for you to contact and communicate with your host. Let them know your arrival/departure time frame and make sure to arrive when you actually told them you were arriving so that things are ready for you :) All the hosts I have had so far were great about communication and super helpful with my odd schedule. 
  • Leave The Place Better Than You Left It: I have always been taught to leave any place I am visiting better than when I first arrived, so make sure to clean up after yourself when you leave so that there is less work for your host! 
  • Go With Your Gut: It can be a bit nerve wracking booking on air bnb because you are choosing to stay at a random persons house/apartment. If something doesn't feel right stick with that feeling. Sometimes you might find a great place with perfect pictures and an awesome price, but if it is new to Air bnb and has no reviews yet I would be cautious. 
Following these steps has helped to relieve any uncertainty about booking an Air bnb and I hope it helps you when planning your next adventure!

- Madison

A Day In Paris

 This post might be late in making it to the blog, but better late than never :) 
Back in December when I went to Scotland my friend asked if I wanted to go to Paris for 2 days. Once you are in the UK it is fairly easy to travel to Europe so of course I said YES!! Paris had always bee on of my Bucket List places to visit and going there was a dream. While our trip was quite short, we managed to fit A LOT into our short time there and completed most all of it in just ONE day. Keep reading to see what we did on our Day in Paris: 

Arc De Triomphe - Apart from the Eiffel Tower this is such a central landmark to this city and totally worth seeing! If you ride the metro or stay in a hotel or apartment a bit on the edge of the city there is a good chance you will walk by the Arc De Triomphe. This is such a great place to stop and explore, even if it is only to take a few quick pictures in front of the iconic structure. However, if you want to see more of the city and explore it then you could actually schedule a time to go up in it.
Place Du Trocadero/Tour De Eiffel - If you want to go up in the Eiffel tower that is definitely an option, but if you are short on time your best option is to stop at Place Du Trocadero early in the morning to take pictures on the ledge and steps with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The Place Du Trocadero is between the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and is seriously the most visited spot by photographers in Paris (and its a top blogger spot too). We stopped here around 8:20 our first morning in Paris and it was the perfect time to take pictures and not to overly crowded by people.
Louvre - The Louvre is such an iconic museum full of such treasures and art that most of us have only ever seen in pictures. We all know the Louvre as the museum where you enter through a class pyramid but what you might not know is it is a HUGE museum that is partly hidden underneath the pyramid and also takes up the buildings around it. I never knew the Louvre was so HUGE! You could probably spend an entire day there and still not see everything, so if you are trying to fit it into a short trip I would suggest choosing your top 4-5 things you want to see and focusing on those. We really wanted to see the Venus De Milo and Mona Lisa, but in the process of trying to find where those were located in the museum (signage is confusing) we actually got to see a good bit of other artifacts, sculptures, and art.
Palaise Royal - This is a great place to stop if you are already at the Louvre. If you have ever seen the pictures of people in Paris standing on black and white columbs this is at the Palaise Royal and it is just a few streets over from the Louvre and is totally worth checking out for a picture spot or break place.
**Tourist Shops**
Musee D'Orangerie - If you are a fan of Claude Monet or simply want to take the #cliche picture standing in front of the Waterlillies than you have to go to the Musee D'Orangerie.....plus depending on the time of day that you go the line for this museum might actually be shorter than others and the museum is small enough that it won't take all of your time and if you simply want to stop in just to see the two rooms of Claude Monet's Waterlillies than that in itself is worth it.
Musee D'Orsay - So this museum was on our list to visit and we actually had tickets for it (we got a combined ticket for the D'Orangerie and D'Orsay) but we didn't consider that even though we bought tickets online we might still have to wait in a line so when we got there and saw the line wrapped 2 blocks we took that stop off the list.
Tuileres Garden (Jardin des Tuileries) - Definitely not as stunning in the winter (Even if there was the Christmas market) but still a beautiful place to explore or walk through from the Louvre to the D'Orangerie.

BONUS (Day Two):
Notre Dame - We wanted to visit Notre Dame but were not able to fit it into our main day so we managed to stop by the famous Cathedral on our departure day, early in the morning before we headed to the airport. We were not able to go up in the tower, but we were able to look around inside. Going inside the Cathedral is free, but you had to pay to go in the tower. The sad thing is that Notre Dame just caught fire a week ago and now most of the inside details are destroyed....seeing the famous cathedral on fire was so sad, but it also made me appreciate the opportunity I had to visit it in December.

Have you Visited any of these places in Paris?

- Madison