I'm moving to Europe to begin a new life. I'm taking a course to get certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL Certification) in Prague and then I'm hoping to get hired in Prague to teach English. My adventure began with a two week vacation thru England and the Netherlands. Below you see the British Airways 747 that took me to London Heathrow on August 22, 2017. It was an overnight flight and I landed in London just around 11:30am.
I spent a week in England. I visited my friend Neill in Plymouth for the first two nights. He took me on a wonderful tour of the waterfront of Plymouth the first night and then into Cornwall to see some neolithic stone circles and a Norman castle called Restormel Castle. We also stopped at his parents house for afternoon tea and we had a wonderful talk. Neill also introduced me to the Cornish Pasty. What a wonderful type of meal that was. I'm sure I could open a Pasty food truck in the states and make a gazillion dollars.
Next, I travelled on Friday up to Oxford to see my friend Darrell. We only had one day together, but we started in Oxford and ended up exploring some of the locations used for the BBC show Downton Abbey. Getting to see some of the places they shot some of the most iconic scenes and standing IN the "sets" which were really places that are in use today (the kitchen and surrounding parts of the Yew Tree Farm and the outdoor scenes depicting the village near the Abbey, including the church, inside and out, where several weddings and other scenes were filmed was a terrific way to spend a day. Darrell also brought along his sweet five year old daughter Kara. She warmed up to me quite quickly and even wanted to hold me hand as we walked around. When we finally said our goodbyes, she asked for a hug and with great solemnity pulled both of her hair clips out and put them in my hands so I'd have something to remember her by. Needless to say, I shall cherish them forever.
The next day, Sunday, I made my way via train to West Bromwich which is outside of Birmingham to see my friend Jon for a few days. He and his wife were both off of work and their son was on a school break. We were able to spend two whole days together. On Sunday night, Jon cooked dinner for me and I joined his family for dinner. It was lovely. The next day, we explored Warwick Castle and ate at Mad O'Rourke's Pie Factory. I had a grill sampler that was served on a real shovel and featured a bunch of traditional Birmingham foods including blood pudding. I can say that I tasted the pudding. It wasn't bad. Just a bit salty but not too bad and was really a small cake.
The next day we drove out to Stratford Upon Avon to see Shakespeare's birthplace, the birthplace of his wife Anne Hathaway and the house Shakespeare bought as a successful playwright. It was quite a nifty experience. We ate at a great curry house that night.
The next morning was my flight from Manchester to Schiphol airport near Amsterdam. I was staying with my friend Sebastiaan in the eastern city of Zutphen. I spent five nights with Sebastiaan. We spent a day just relaxing at his place and then it was out to the southern coast of the Netherlands to explore the Delta Works storm surge barrier project. This was undertaken after a tragic "perfect storm" caused massive flooding and many deaths in the area known as the Zeeland in 1953. The Dutch spent 40 years or so building dams, raising the height of dikes and building several different types of storm surge barriers to control the inflow of flood waters into the inner waterways of the Zeeland. To walk among some of the barriers and consider the massive project was quite awe inspiring. I really urge you to explore the area if you ever visit the Netherlands.
The next day, Sebastiaan had plans with friends. This allowed me to explore some of the sites of battles during Operation Market-Garden which took place in mid September 1944. I was able to walk thru some of the sites and imagine how it was 73 years ago when lightly armed paratroops were thrown up against heavily armed panzer troops and managed to hold them off for four days before running out of ammunition and other supplies. The village of Oosterbeek was the center of some of the fiercest fighting. The Dutch later honored the British as "brothers" and to this day in mid September they hold a day of remembrance and invite surviving members of the British Division who fought there to partake in the festivities. In total, I visited the bridge in Arnhem, the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek and the bridge in Nijmegen which was captured by elements of the US 82nd Airborne Division. I really hope to revisit these sites someday with more time and better guidance to explore the actual sites of battle. The last full day I spent with Sebastiaan was spent wandering around Amsterdam. He was there to cheer on some coworkers who were participating in a swim event in the canals to raise money for ALS research. Amsterdam was simply beautiful.
My adventure continued the next morning with a long train ride from Deventer, where Sebastiaan works, down to Munich in Germany. I arrived in the evening and found a great restaurant close to my hotel where I enjoyed a mixed plate of bavarian sausages and mashed potatoes. The next day was my only full day in Munich. I was about 15 minutes walk from the old town center known as the Marienplatz which is where the old Rathaus sits on the market square. The Rathaus (german for town hall) is known for the giant glockenspiel which is a special kind of clock tower that has a large two level display of mechanical "people" that dance and ride horses and joust. Think of a cuckoo clock on super steroids. I walked around old town and had some great german food: käespätzle for lunch and turkey schnitzel for dinner. It was a perfect day to see a small part of Munich.
The next morning, I boarded a train for Prague. It was supposed to be a straight thru train. Unfortunately, due to track maintenance work, we had to detrain at the last German station - Firth um Wald, board a bus and then board a new train in Plzen in the Czech Republic. I arrived in Prague at 3:45 and was met by a car service that delivered me to my student housing apartment. I found an awesome pub right around the corner called Belzepub and had an amazing chilli burger.
This brings us to today. I explored a small part of Prague and found a mall to get some needed items and groceries. I then met some of my fellow course-mates and we had a wonderful dinner at another local restaurant and ended up, at my suggestion, back at Belzepub for another drink before we headed back to our flats. I have one more day on my own and then we have a two day orientation and then classes start on Monday, the eleventh of September.