The End of the World

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Cape Sagres is, to the people who thought the world was flat, the end of the world. If you walk out to the end of the cape, you’ll understand why. The sea seems to just… end, and the clouds form directly where the world curves out of sight, giving it a, well. end-of-the-world effect.

In the middle of Cape Sagres lies a 15th century fortress that blocked fired artillery aimed at the bunker there. The building also houses a small church about 10 meters away. Also on the cape are three sea caves that stretch from the 30 meter high cape down to the ocean. These sea caves were formed by waves corroding the rock of the cliff, and then the dirt/sandstone surface falling into the cave.

This end-of-the-world was an amazing trip and I suggest that everyone in the area should attempt to go and see it.

Sintra Castles

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The train ride to Sintra was dirty and loud, but after the day was over, it was worth it. The small town of Sintra is twenty miles northwest of Lisbon and is home to, in my opinion, the two most amazing castles I have ever seen. After we got off the train we headed in the general direction of the huge hills capped by the magnificent castles. The first and highest perched one; the Palacio Pena, was originally a monastery, but later it was turned into a palace for the royal family. When first viewed from the outside, it looks like a disney castle, but inside, the rooms are themed much like any other Portuguese palace. The second historical monument; the Moors Castle, is a watch tower built in the eleventh century, and also houses ancient silos (ancient houses made simply by digging into the ground) that date back to about 3,000 B.C.E.

After the three mile road up to the Palacio Pena, our first stop, we were greeted with a palace that resembled a disney castle, with fantastic colors of red and yellow, and enormous arches with crazy looking trolls on the top. The Palacio Pena was a home to the kings and queens of Portugal from the 1830’s to 1910. Originally a monastery, when the civil war ended in in 1834, the church no longer had so much power, hence the building was vacated and was available to the royal family. Prince Ferdinand was the one who decided to build the magnificent castle.

Our next stop was the Moors Castle, an 11th century fortress made completely out of stone. We were actually able to walk everywhere on the entire fortress, even on the edge of the watchtower. The ancient silos here are much older, dating back to 3,000. These holes were homes and storage places for the prehistoric settlers.

Overall, this fantastic and historical buildings are an amazing example of the old and magnificent architecture in Europe.

Santa Clara Convent and Conimbríga Ruins

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Our apartment is in the walled city, on a large hill, and across the river, but getting over to the other side of the river is not actually that hard. What’s on the the other side of the river? Well, there’s a park and the other half of Coimbra, but our main interest was of the 1000 year old convent, and after that, thousands of acres of roman ruins, 30 miles away.

The first things you notice when you step into view of the convent is; thats an old building, and that building is really low in the ground. What happened to this amazing building is that is was built on frequently flooded, sinking ground. this doused the building to, over one thousand years, sink about thirty feet into the ground!

Our next stop was the Roman ruins in Conimbríga these amazing ruins date back to 100 B.C.E. Near the end of this amazing civilisation, the Romans thought that they were going to be invaded, and quickly built a 13 foot thick, approximately 15 foot high wall surrounding their city. This wall is beautiful to us, but definitely does not meet up to the standards of the rest of the ruins. this is because the locals built this wall as quickly as possible to protect themselves. The invaders never came. The rest of the ruins are incredible and stretch on for miles (i’ve really got to start using kilometres). You could wander off into unrestricted ruins for hours…       ….      …       ………..

Susie’s musings on Porto

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The 13 century Cathedral directly in front of our flat.
The 13 century Cathedral directly in front of our flat.

I must be forthright in admitting that this is the first real experience that I have had in a foreign city, and I am in awe. This does beg the question; Is it my naiveté, or is Porto really that beautiful of a city? I think the latter, and argue my case here:

Our arrival included a very fast taxi drive with a driver who spoke only a little Spanish (which helped) but did not know where our street was located! So, we weaved through these TINY cobbled streets into a sketchy part of town trying to find our flat. We finally found our spot and were relieved to see that it was a lovely location behind the Cathedral with many local residents surrounding us. You’ve seen our apartment in Isaac’s video, so you know what a delightful place this is to be- and at a fraction of what we paid in NYC and Austin!

The amazing view from every room of our flat.
The amazing view from every room of our flat.

We’ve relished the fact that we have not taken a train or taxi for four days. Each day we walk in a different direction and discover more treasures that this city has to offer. We’ve shopped for shoes (there are a plethora of stores, as many fine shoes are made in Portugal), gone to a huge farmers’ market, bought new cell phones and sim cards, and consumed more pastries and espresso than I’d like to admit. The kids learned the word Pastelaria very quickly! While the coffee and pastries are delightful, we have had a little trouble embracing the heavy meat, lamb, pork and seafood that make up the main dishes here. We actually found an Italian restaurant one night, an Indian food place another night, and gorged on a fresh salad and bread from the market another!

espresso con lechemmmmmm

Walking back to our flat after dinner.
Walking back to our flat after dinner.

The age of this city is certainly evident in the buildings and streets. The charm and beauty can be found in both the grand avenues with extravagant buildings and carved façades, as well as the tiny stair stepped streets with tiny cafes and curious shops up every slope. Some doors are only four feet tall along the stair stepped streets as a normal sized door just wouldn’t fit! We can hear older couples chatting or arguing behind the doors as we pass by, so we know locals live in there!

The bookstore is a marvel in stained glass and beautiful arches, but the staircase is the highlight, as you can see from this overhead view.
The bookstore is a marvel in stained glass and beautiful arches, but the staircase is the highlight, as you can see from this overhead view.

We’ve spent a few hours in the famous Livraria Lello that was the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. We took a boat up the river and saw old monasteries, walls that are 1000 years old, and 6 bridges of different designs and eras connecting the two river banks along the way. We visited a famous palace today, El Palacio de Bolsa,  with a room covered with 18k gold leaf. We have gotten all over the city using our own power, up and down and up and down every Rúa and Praça with awe and delight.

A statement of Freedom and Liberalism from the church, the palace is testament to the wealth of the country at the end of the 19th century.
A statement of Freedom and Liberalism from the church, the palace is testament to the wealth of the country at the end of the 19th century.

Tomorrow we are taking the train up to the Historic city of Braga, which Ben has read about. We will just go for the day, as it is only a one hour train ride each way. Perhaps after visiting a few more cities, Porto won’t seem that special, but then again…

Our First Few Days in Porto, Portugal.

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This little city is so amazing! The people are so nice and the cobblestone streets are absolutely amazing. By the way when Susie said that this house was built in the 1700s she was wrong, it was built in the 1670s!

New York!

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Sorry about the delay, we had some technical difficulties

” Lets hear it for New York! Concrete jungles are where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do!”, my sister and I sang as we landed in the New Jersey airport. Our final destination thas week was New York. The reason; My mom, Susie, is running the New York City Marathon. This was her third attempt since the fist time, she pulled her achilles tendon, the second time the marathon was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. But as we all know, the third time’s the charm.

Very well, so Halloween came and past while we were here, and we ended up going to the Village Halloween Parade. Boy was that a mistake. There were so many people that for over an hour we were bumping up against people non-stop. After we were done with the only okay parade, we found the nearest subway station, Only to find that there were so many people coming out of the subway station that the police lady wouldn’t even let us go in. Eventually, we found another subway station and took it back to our place.

Freedom Tower
This is the Freedom Tower. It’s meant to be a replacement for the world trade center.

We toured the city until sunday, (that’s when the New York City marathon is) where my mom left the house at 6:45 am to go to the starting line. We all gave her our luck and she was off to run her 26.2 miles! Dad, Edie, my grandparents, (who came to see Susie) and I ended up seeing her in two locations which is quite lucky considering that there are 45,000+ runners in this race. Susie finished the race in three hours and fifty minutes, which is absolutely fantastic!

The next day, we left for Portugal at 5:30 looking at each other thinking… wow… we’re actually doing this…

Austin!

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Yesterday was our first day in Austin, TX, and boy was it amazing! We are down here because my 18 year old cousin, Olive went off to college this year, so we hadn’t seen her in over 5 months.

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Austin is a funky town!

We were able to fly out of San Luis Obispo to San Francisco (thats pretty rare because our airport is tiny) And then from San Francisco to Austin. When we got off of the smallish regional Jet in Austin (it was about 9:30pm) we were greeted with a humid 80 degree forecast, not to mention the thunderstorms. We walked through the deserted airport, looking at all the gated shops and restaurants, fairly amazed at the humidity of the city. When we got to the exit, we were greeted by a nice worker in a reflective vest, “Hiya, welcome to Austin!”. We grabbed a cab and drove over to our 1 room apartment (Edie and I slept on the couch bed) which is quite nice. The next morning, we slept in until 8:30, and then went down to South Commerce st. and checked out some incredible shops; Allen’s Boots, and Uncommon Objects, an amazing antique store.

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Uncommon Objects: the fantastical vintage shop. We especially liked this armadillo floor lamp.
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Allen’s Boots: us trying on some $714.99 boots

After that, we went over to this wild ice cream shop called Lick. I got the coconut avocado and the coconut peanut butter chocolate in a homemade waffle cone. Yum!

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Lick: wild and delicious hand crafted ice cream. (many dairy free options)

That night, we had amazing and delicious tacos….. TORCHY’S TACOS!! and as their motto says, they’re “DAMN GOOD!”. Torchy’s Tacos has two locations; one is a restaurant, the other is a food truck. By the way, Austin is the land of food trucks. There are at least 5 food trucks around every downtown block! (Torchy’s is still the best.)

I can’t believe that we are already on our trip!

Please stay tuned to hear about New York, our next stop…

Packing our Bags

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Hi, I’m here to show you that this is all that we’re bringing. Each of our bags only weighs around 15 pounds, and therefore will not be all too bulky for us. The reason for our light packing is because, first off, they’re so much easier to carry and re-pack with, and second off, since we are going to be riding the train a lot (the Eurail is the main form of transportation in Europe) and the train stations are often far away from where we may want to stay so light packs will be by far more advantageous than heavy roll alongs.

An Introduction to the Lerners

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This is us. (Order from left to right). Ben, the dad. Eden, the annoying sister. Me, Isaac. Susie, the mother
This is us. (Order from left to right). Ben, the dad. Eden, my sister. Me, Isaac. Susie, the mother

Hi, we are the SLO Lerners. It is a mere two and half weeks before we leave on the plane to Austin, Texas, then New York, and then Europe. We have plans to travel in Europe for eight months; renting apartments as we go, staying in each town for about a week, and exploring the history and culture of Europe. We are a family of four, with two parental units at the ages of 42, a son at the age of 12, and a sister at the age of 9. I am Isaac, the fantastic son, running this blog as part of my school. We go to a very unique school that combines homeschool with public school. We go to school two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday) and homeschool the other three days. For this trip we are going to use the homeschooling curriculum so that we can continue our education while we travel abroad. Posting on this blog will be part of my language arts. But don’t worry, this won’t be some website where I always just write about language arts stuff and non-fiction narratives about portabella mushrooms. This will mostly be just about our travels and a bit about how we incorporated our homeschooling into our average day. Action coming up; we are moving out of our house for the last week in our beloved town of San Luis Obispo, and staying at my grandparent’s place (their house is only a few miles away from ours). Then, on October 26th, we depart on the first section of our grand adventure…

Hoover
This is Hoover, our wonderful dog. He will be staying at my parents’ best friend’s house. We are going to miss him SO MUCH!!!!!!

The SLOLerners have a Grand Plan

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ImageWelcome to the SLO (acronym for San Luis Obispo) Lerners’ Blog! We are creating this blog to tell the tale of our grand plan to travel throughout Europe from Summer of 2013 through the Fall of 2014. Our planning is in its infancy stages, but Isaac and I wanted to start up a blog to record even the planning of this grand event in our lives!