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Proctor en Segovia: Travels to the Mediterranean

Farewell for a few days Segovia.  We are off to Valencia! (Photo credit: Tristan Stenzel)

First glimpses of the Mediterranean upon our arrival!

The spring air of Valencia, warmed by the Mediterranean, greeted us as as we stepped out of the train station. The train journey was pleasant, as always, speeding through miles of surprisingly-empty, yet pleasant, countryside. Trains are such a pleasant way to travel. I spent the ride alternately reading Black Swan Green by David Mitchell and looking out the window at the sunny countryside smoothly gliding by.

Upon arrival in Valencia, its Catalan heritage was clear from the start, at least for someone, who, like me, has lived in Catalonia. The architecture, the sounds, the cuisine, are all very different from those of Castile. It is as if we had boarded the train in one country and debarked in another. And indeed, many Catalans and Valencians would like that to be the case, but although Catalan independence is now looking to be a very plausible possibility, with a referendum scheduled for later this year, Valencia has no foreseeable future as part of an independent Països Catalans. The political barrier that Madrid has built between Valencia and Catalonia has held up despite the growing strength of the Catalan independence movement.

~ Liam McNiff

Strolling through the old quarter, Valencian pride is visible

Alejandro (our guide) gives us a tour of his city

Valencia fountains (Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank)

Valencia's main railway station (Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank)

Valencia's 15th century La Lonja de la Seda (silk and commodity exchange) a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered one of Europe's greatest remaining examples of non-religious Gothic architecture. This building dates from Valencia's golden age as a Mediterranean trading power.

Street art

We watched the Tribunal de las Aguas, the oldest surviving legal body in Europe.  Each Thursday morning this group of judges meets (as they have for more than one thousand years) and holds audience with the public to resolve any irrigation disputes between local farmers.

Group photo with our Valencian tour guide!

Orange trees abound (perhaps you have tried a Valencian orange?)

After a terrible flood in 1957 Valencia's Turia river was diverted.  The riverbed was transformed into five miles of open space, parks, playgrounds, bike and running paths, and athletic fields.

All students completed a solo project in Valencia.  They visited modern art museums, rented bikes and explored different neighborhoods, and visited Roman and military history museums.  While Michael was exploring Valencia's Mestalla soccer stadium, he was interviewed for a news program.  Valencians were thrilled (and surprised) to meet an American who knows so much about their soccer team!

Part of a solo project was to a visit to Bioparc, Valencia's "immersion" zoo (Photo credit: Liam McNiff)

(Photo credit: Liam McNiff)

Exploring Valencia's covered central market (Photo credit: Liam McNiff)

In the evening we managed to get tickets to a very exciting Valencia football match

Football. When I think of Spain, I think of football. 

I am at a late night Spanish football match which is one of the loudest events to attend, especially in Valencia’s Mestalla stadium which is known for its enthusiastic fans.  But Valencia still is not immune to my favorite thing about watching football live. The one second of pure quiet.  The second when the ball is in the air after a player has taken a shot.  The second when fans hold their breath to see if the ball hits the net.  The score is two nil and Valencia still needs a third goal.  Valencia must win by four to go the semifinals of the Europa League or by three to go into overtime.

A unanimous, synchronized sigh echoes throughout the stadium.  From six rows away from the field I can see the managers and the players stand when they think Valencia has scored but sit back down when realizing the struck ball has missed its target.  Being this close I can almost see the sweat drip from the manager’s brow.  His job depends on this game.  Soon applause follows from the dedicated fans reassuring the players that they are still behind them.

I sit here amongst the nervous, but excited fans.  When I yell, I am joining a chorus of thousands.  On my left there is a man in his forties with his mom who is never quiet.  She is always cheering or cursing the referee.  I would be able to smell the grass but the lady sitting next to me is smoking her second pack of cigarettes and is preventing me from smelling anything else and, if not the lady, it is the fat man in a suit smoking a cigar next to her.  And I wonder to myself, “will Valencia do the impossible?  Will Valencia be the first team in Europa League history to overturn a three goal deficit?”  Just minutes later my question will be answered.

It’s a corner kick for Basel on the side of the Valencian fans.  The Valencia fans whistle and shout  and insult the Basel players to drown out the Swiss fans.  The Swiss fans in the corner of the stadium are surrounded by security for their own protection.  The kick is taken.  The Valencian defender heads it out of the way.  It is collected by a Valencian player who runs it toward the other side of the field.  The Basel defender pushes the Valencian forward to the opposing corner.  The Valencian forward looks up and sees a teammate running toward the goal.  He brushes aside the Basel defender for long enough to pass the ball into the middle of the field where his teammate can hit it into the net.  The ball is moving slowly.  This lone giant waits.  Again.  The second of quiet until it is interrupted by the roar of the crowd.  Hugging the people sitting next to me, we all have an unspoken understanding that we witnessed history tonight. 

~ Michael Hovem

Valencia's manager directs his players (Photo credit: Michael Hovem)
Valencia made history by being the first team in the Europa league to overcome a three goal deficit (in a best of two series)!

Walking to Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences (Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank)

Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences (Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank)

Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences (Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank)

While exploring the City of Arts and Sciences some of the boys tried walking on water

On our last morning in Valencia we visited Europe's largest aquarium (Photo credit: Ethan Johnson)

Then we began to head south.  We stopped at this beautiful fortress in Valencia province, the Castell de Xàtiva.  Xátiva is most known as the birthplace of the Borgia Popes.  It is also where Ibn Hazm’s Tawq al-Hamama, a Moorish philosopher and physician, composed "The Ring of the Dove" a treatise on romantic love.

Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank

Patrick's image of the flags of Xátiva, Spain, and Valencia

Photo credit: Patrick Bauer-Blank

As we approached Cabo de Gata the lanscape began to look like this.  (Photo credit: Faith Kenyon)

Beautiful sunset in Almería.  Almería (in eastern Andalucía region) is Spain's driest province.

Adorable little house our group shared in Cabo de Gata


Enjoying the warm weather

Ethan's sea glass collection

Faith saw a story on the news about this Cabo de Gata hotel, built very close to the ocean.  There has been a great deal of controversy (and legal battles) as to whether the construction, inside the boundaries of a natural park and close to the shoreline, should continue. (Photo credit: Faith Kenyon)

We went in search of this hotel which many have described as a scar on this beautiful earth. (Photo credit: Faith Kenyon)

Graffiti all over the building left by Greenpeace activists and others reveals the opinions of both activists and locals.

Dignified death, demolish it now

Making money at nature's expense....After enjoying beautiful Cabo de Gata, one of the least developed parts of Spain's Mediterranean coastline, we were glad to see people fighting to preserve its wild nature.

On our final night in Almería Tristan became head chef and worked to prepare an excellent meal.

Sous chef Liam keeps an eye on the meatballs and pasta sauce

After Valencia we traveled south to Almería. We had rented a hotel room that was more like a house; it had three rooms and a kitchen. The kitchen was what first caught my eye. I walked in and it felt like I was home again. I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom and dad.  I asked everyone what they wanted for dinner on the final night of our trip. We all decided on spaghetti and meatballs. Later that day Liam and I went to a grocery store to look for the things that we needed to make dinner. Once we got home Liam and I unpacked and began to cook. I had seen my parents make spaghetti all the time, but I had to do it differently from them because I was cooking for two vegetarians and a gluten intolerant person. I sauteed the onions, carrots, and celery all together till the onions were brown. Then I tossed in two cans of stewed tomatoes, I added a few spices and put Liam in charge of making sure that it didn't burn. When making meatballs you have to use a binding agent to make sure they stay together while you cook them; I had a problem because the binding agent is bread crumbs (gluten). I had to find a substitute for the bread crumbs. I knew that there was gluten free bread laying around in the house so I decided that we could toast it and crumble it up into bread crumbs. I tried toasting it, frying it, baking it. The bread would not crumble! Finally, I managed to get a few crumbs into the meat. I made the meatballs and took the pasta and sauce. I laid out the table and called everyone in to have dinner. We sat down and had an amazing dinner.  Conversations were flowing. The food was good, and we were all happy. After dinner we went up to the roof of the house and had ice cream for dessert. I think it was the best trip we have had and will have.

~ Tristan Stenzel

Dinner was absolutely delicious.

Ethan's Cabo de Gata night photography (Photo credit: Ethan Johnson)

As I was sitting alone, in the dark, on the roof of our house in Cabo de Gata, looking up at the stars, with the sound of hawks screeching in the background, I decided to lay back, turn off my iPad and iPhone, and try this type of meditation that I had read about, and attempted before, while looking at the stars. What you do is lie down, with your eyes open or closed, and from a first, or third, person view, picture your spirit rising out of your body, noticing every detail possible, then out of your house, or in my case, roof, out of your neighborhood, then town, noticing all the people and lights as you fly higher, out of your state, then region, country, out of your continent, off of Earth, into space, then as you accelerate even more, you see the moon and its pock marks, then each of the planets in order, even Pluto (which, no matter what those foolish scientists say, IS a planet), past more and more stars, nebulae, planets, out of the Milky Way, past other galaxies, out of our universe.

~ Ethan Johnson
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  • Mike Henriques
    This is an amazing post with some terrific writing and stunning photographs. So impressed with all the living and learning. Enjoy these last weeks and know we miss your energy on campus!
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