Port St. Joe, Florida: The Forgotten Coast

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Port St. Joe is a tiny town on the panhandle of Florida, on the stretch of land that is coined as the “Forgotten Coast”. Right on the Gulf of Mexico, the town is an ideal vacation spot for any beach bums that crave seclusion and white sands. What used to be a booming tourism industry on the coast is now a sleepy, easy going beach town that makes any vacationer feel welcome.

Getting there

Drive! It is really the best option. There is not really an airport close–there is Tallhassee which is two hours away–but you will definitely want a car while you are down there with all your beach gear!

Where to stay

  • Moon and Stars house, rented out by RealJoy Vacations, is the most fabulous getaway for large families (sleeps 6-8 comfortably) or even just for couples. It is in the Windmark neighborhood, a short walk on the boardwalk to the beach, and close enough to the city of Port St. Joe to make a quick errand if you need. The hardwood floors make it easy to come in from a sandy day at the beach, and the large living area lets in happy sunlight.
  • The Barefoot Cottages, also rented out by RealJoy Vacations, is a great neighborhood for families. The cottages are large and airy, and there is a pool in the middle of the neighborhood. These are the most bang for your buck–they are usually the same price as a hotel room in the summer, but you get the entire house to yourself to cook, come and go as you please, and not have to worry about cleaning crew coming in!
  • The Driftwood Inn is a cute boutique hotel that is right on Mexico Beach. Its cute outside speaks for its adorable inside.

What to do

  • Yoga on the beach is perfect anywhere, and is a great way to wake up, even for non-yogis! If you are looking for an organized class, the El Governor Motel in Mexico Beach has daily classes and Windmark Beach clubhouse has a couple classes a week
  • Parasail over the Gulf of Mexico! Perfect for all the adventurers out there, parasailing is just like flying–except over the Gulf! El Governor Motel does parasailing for $115 for a double–so grab your friend and fly!
  • St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is miles of secluded wetlands and forest areas right on the the bay. Perfect for walking the dogs, taking the kids on a hike, or finding some peace and quiet.

Where to go

  • The Marina at Port St. Joe is a fabulous place to walk, fish, or sit and ponder your life. There is a restaurant on the dock that overlooks the yachts, fishing boats, and little boats parked in the marina, serving great seafood.
  • Mexico Beach is the place to be for waves and lots of people! It’s not overcrowded
    Mexico Beach--white sands, seclusion, and waves

    White sands, seclusion, and waves

    like Panama City Beach, but it has just the right number of beach bums to make it seem lively.

  • Windmark Beach is a secluded, natural beach with an abundance of critters and sea life. Fisherman love to walk down to the pier on this beach because they catch anything from stingrays to sharks, and dolphins often make an appearance around 9am. Crabs are everywhere, and there is almost no one around during any time of the day. Because it is a part of the beach that is on the Bay of St. Joseph and not on the Gulf of Mexico, the waves are subtle and soft and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom even when it is 5 feet deep. It is a perfect place to have some serious alone time on the shore, or to rent a kayak from the Windmark Beach clubhouse.

Where to eat

  • Toucan’s Restaurant at Mexico Beach is happening restaurant and tiki bar that sits right on the sand. The food is fried, the servers are Southern, and the covered porch is a dream come true for people of all ages.
  • Indian Pass Raw Bar is the dirtiest, most secluded, scariest shack of a restaurant I have ever seen. You absolutely HAVE to go there. Despite its terrifying outside, the seafood and fried food is DELICIOUS and the service is GREAT. It is renowned for its food along the coast, and is the only restaurant for miles. It is worth the trek out to the Indian Pass part of the Coast.
  • Provisions Restaurant and Wine Bar is the best fancy food that you will find in downtown Port St. Joe! Its menu includes a fabulous three-cheese penne and the best bruschetta you will ever have. The wines are fabulous as well, and on Saturdays, you can get two Sangria for the price of one!
  • Dockside Seafood and Raw Bar is right on the dock of the Port St. Joe Marina. Its interesting location and fresh seafood makes it a MUST for dinner one night. Families love it, couples go on dates there, and its unique atmosphere makes it a great night out away from the rest of town.
  • Pepper’s Mexican Food is classic Mexican food, and the only Mexican restaurant in Port St. Joe. It is always full of people, but you almost always get seated right away. Try their chimichangas, they are fantastic!

Non-profit startups and education: how your dreams will both fuel and betray you

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Part of what I love about teaching is autonomy. I love that I can build unique and creative lessons based on what I can do, and what the kids can do and like. I enjoy creating something from scratch and then implementing it. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes, my ideas are more of a success than I realized. Sometimes, I start an idea to implement, but my brilliant students take the idea and make it better. I am the teacher, but the kids are my collaborators.

It is like running a business–each day, I come in early and check data to see how everyone is doing, the kids come in an hour later and some are in great moods, others are ready for lunch, some don’t like each other, some work together really well, but we all have a reason for why we are doing this. For me, I have to keep this business afloat and performing highly, otherwise I am out of a job. For the students, who serve as volunteers in this business, are in it for different reasons–whether it is to better themselves as people, to take a nap in a safe place, to impress all their friends by knowing all the answers, to make their parents happy…no person’s reason is the same. Continue reading

Photos of Valencia, Spain

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Valencia, Spain: Best city for young people

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Valencia is home to a beautiful beach and an enormous university, but still manages to not be too “touristy” like some other major European cities.

Getting there

If you are coming from any other city in Spain, hopping on a Renfe high speed train is your best option. Look up timetables online and book in advance if you can figure out the mess that is the Renfe online booking. If you get frustrated easily, STAY AWAY FROM THE RENFE WEBSITE and just go to your nearest train station and buy a ticket at the kiosk or with a customer service representative. Any way you do it, you will need to use that useless high school Spanish chapter about train travel in order to book tickets. (Not so useless anymore, is it? Yeah, you, kid in the back throwing spitballs!) 

Tickets sell out pretty quickly in the summer, so buy them at least a day ahead.

What to do

Valencia is teeming with university students, clubs, and excitement. The old city is beautiful, you have to see: Continue reading

Barcelona, Spain: Best Art, Culture & Nightlife

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Art thrives and mosaics flow in the city of famous architect, Gaudi. As seen in the Woody Allen film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it is easy to unleash your inner artist and follow your passions in one of the prettiest and laid back cities in Spain.

What to do

Art thrives in Barcelona, and one of the most famous artists from this area is Gaudi. He hated straight lines, so his works are curvy and flowy. He loved to design around St. John’s tale from the New Testament, which includes St. John fighting a dragon and slaying it. After observing a few of his works, it seemed to me that he was just obsessed with dragons, and wanted to add a little more spark to the contemporary art age. Gaudi might be the star of the show in Barcelona, but there is art from many people. Below is what you should do: Continue reading

Andorra La Vella, Andorra: Best road less travelled by

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Andorra is the tiny country between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. I know, I know, most of you are probably thinking “hahaha there is no country between France and Spain! What are you on?!” But I know all the geography majors can back me up. Look at it on a map (break out your binoculars)…

Map of Andorra

Map of Andorra

It might be small, but it is there! As a principality, the country still uses euros as the currency, but does whatever it wants. The official language is Catalan, but most people speak Spanish and learn some French in school.

High season is winter, when avid skiiers and snowboarders flock to the Pyrenees for the slopes.

We went in summer, anxious to see what it was like. After a few Google searches, we knew as much about Andorra as we knew before–not much.

So we hopped on a three hour bus to see the road less travelled by. Continue reading

Photos of Montserrat

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Montserrat is a beautiful mountain overlooking the city of Barcelona. Clean, fresh air, serene isolation, and an altitude reaching to the heavens made this a perfect place for monks to build a monastery. There are walking paths and little markets and two cafeterias for hungry voyagers. Only an hour by train, this is a great afternoon trip from Barcelona. The mountain is so high that you need to take a cable car or a funicular to the first stop, then if you want to go all the way to the tippy top, there is another funicular for $7 more.

The Supremes rule in favor of same-sex marriage NATIONWIDE

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GO AMERICA! What a victory! On a country that prides ourselves on being the land of the free, this should have happened a long time ago, but we are finally catching up to our own Constitution.

Today at 10:04am, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. #LoveWins

Until today, each state had jurisdiction over who could marry who. For a solid chunk of states who have a hard time separating church and state, same-sex marriage was not permitted because the Bible says that holy matrimony is only between “a man and woman.” You can imagine what kind of discrimination happens in the states where the government does not see all love equally. Continue reading

Photos of Barcelona, Spain

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Duolingo: The best free app for language learning now has “Duolingo for schools”

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Excuse me while I geek out over free, game based language learning software that I can now incorporate into my classroom!

Want to learn a new language without dropping hundreds of dollars on software? Duolingo is the free, interactive app for language learning. As a game based learning strategy, you earn “XP” for each lesson you do. When it comes time to refresh those lessons, the app lets you “practice skills” so you don’t forget all the vocabulary. Set up like other social media platforms, you can follow your friends and see each other’s activity.

Perfect for travelers who want to learn a little bit of the language, but even more perfect for high school French students with smartphone addictions, Duolingo now offers a school account. Continue reading

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