España

Finally a language I can understand! Kinda. No actually I was rather impressed with myself as well as my friends for how quickly we picked our Spanish skills back up. Of course it was nothing like the Spaniards who were fluent in English, Catalonian, French, Italian, oh and well duh, Spanish! We docked in Valencia and Barcelona during our time in Spain, and unlike Italy I actually spent my time in these two places only.

I didn’t know what to expect in Valencia, just because I didn’t know too much about it. Well, let’s just say that Valencia definitely didn’t disappoint. This city is amazing! It has this crazy divide of new and old, with architecture and clothing and culture. They are very kept up with the times, with Starbucks and apple stores and contemporary buildings, but also rich with history in their skyscraping castles, fountains, churches, and food. Not to mention; Valencia is home to the largest aquarium in Europe, and aquarium is not the right word. It’s like a complete sea world adventure in the middle of Spain, with dolphins, whales, sea stars, sharks, and my personal favorite: walruses! My friend Allie and I turned into straight four year olds in that stinking aquarium (emotion: pure joy).

That night we celebrated Pat’s birthday. All 12 of us went out and stormed the first pub we could find. Fun fact: people party late in Spain; I’m talking 1-5 am ladies and gentlemen. So it’s safe to say that we were the only ones there at 10:30 pm. That was fine with us because we made friends with the bartenders and got stronger Wi-Fi (big commodity between us SASers). We stayed on the ship that night and woke up for a long train ride to Barcelona. We booked this adorable apartment for 10 of us to stay in. It was right on this amazing shopping street, and by amazing I mean extremely out of anyone’s price range: Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci. But still, it was cool to pretend we had money at these stores! We spent the day shopping and driving the boys crazy, (all one in the same).

If I hadn’t studied on Semester at Sea, then I would have chosen Barcelona. This city was incredible and rich and vibrant and full of life. The people there are so nice and friendly. It is a completely different culture than our own, yet I felt like I could have adjusted really well there. There is so much diversity within Spain that I could have never seen it all in 4 days. I wish I could just time lapse La Sagrada Familia for 10 years; just to see how much it changes over time. It was kind of a bummer that when we went it was under construction, but then I learned it is always changing and updating. The details on this architectural feat are unbelievable, not to mention the sheer size.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to write a whole page on food, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t. Tapas are the most genius invention ever and the flavors these people come up with are even better. The entire time I was there I was either eating tapas or thinking about tapas. You can never have enough.

So I have my first near-death experience to share with everyone; okaying I’m exaggerating. But this was the first time I was afraid since I’ve been gone. Let me preface this by saying that I’m fine so that all the moms reading this don’t freak out and call my mom asking questions (she would just love that). Okay here we go…

I signed up for this field program (so a trip organized by semester at sea) to go horseback riding in the hills of Barcelona. When we arrived, they split us into groups of five based on our riding experience. I for sure was not an expert but I used to ride as a kid and then occasionally after that, so I was put into the middle group. Our guide starting placing us with our horses, and it turned out that of my group, I was the most experienced. So, I was placed with the largest freaking horse of the group: Blind Date. Oh don’t even get me started on the irony. One of the professors was in my group and he was put on the next largest: Monster. We brushed them, “bonded” with them, put on their saddles, and then started to walk them around the arena. Our guide started putting us in order from front to back and put me at the back, right behind monster. Everything was going fine. We trotted around the arena, and when everyone got the hang of it we started up the hill to begin our trek. After a bit, our guide asked if everyone would like to try trotting, of course we all said yes.

One click of the heel and I was gone: blasting past everyone up the side of this hill. Blind Date and I galloped past the group and our guide. I couldn’t pull hard enough on the reins to stop him, and not to mention I was holding on for dear life. Just then my guide caught up and grabbed the reins as hard as he could. Blind Date crashed into a tree and reared onto two legs. I was able to stay on but the tree banged me up badly. Blind Date stopped freaking out and I was able to breathe again. I hadn’t had that much adrenaline pumping through me in a very long time. I’m just glad my reaction wasn’t to let go but hold on tight. If there hadn’t been a tree there, we very well could have tumbled down the cliff. I looked down at my hand bleeding from every knuckle. My wrist was already bruising with it’s own large gash of blood. My shirt was completely ripped down the side, something I didn’t even know happened until just then. (It wasn’t until later that I noticed the gaping cut across my waist.)

After slowing my pulse down, I told the guide I was okay. He calmed Blind Date down by speaking some soothing words of Catalonian. Turns out, Blind Date didn’t want to be last. He wanted to be leading the pack. So, after we gained that wonderful insight, I led the group the rest of the way. Blind Date tried to gallop ahead a couple other times, when Monster got too close to the front, but I was able to control him better than the first time. So, two hours later we made it back to camp and couldn’t have been happier to get off that horse. Funny thing was there were a couple times in the arena and before the galloping happened where something just seemed off. I would ask the guide if I was doing everything okay or if Blind Date was okay; he’d just shrug and say he’s fine. Ha! I should listen to my gut feeling more often I guess.

At the end of the day I still had a good time. I had a great story to tell, free wine, yummy tapas, and a broken knuckle or two. But I think it was safe to say that was the worst Blind Date I had ever been on.

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