Greetings from Sort, Spain! We have successfully completed the first phase of our adventure through Southern Europe and are gearing up for a challenging and rewarding trek along the Carros de Foc.
Barcelona blew all of our minds with its grandeur, beautiful buildings and architecture. Carson did an awesome job as out first leader of the day, fine tuning his map reading skills and guiding the group to see some of Gaudi’s most impressive works. As we toured the city, Madison helped the group branch out of their comfort zone by trying some authentic Spanish foods such as empanadas from the Mercat de Boqueria.
Park Guell was one of our favorite sights, with the extraordinary art work, flowers and views. Here, we continued group bonding activities and worked on our Spanish. Caitlin was particularly enthused by the unique architecture of the park and shared her knowledge and passion for art with the group. She and Jessica subsequently bought some paintings by a local artist exhibiting some of Barcelona’s iconic views and buildings. Sonora brought some fun to the group with exciting new games such as ninja, bob the weasel and bunny bunny.
Sellers has been a useful resource with his Spanish speaking skills and has taught the group numerous words and phrases. His ability to converse with the locals allowed he and Trevor to initiate a basketball game with some chicos in the park. Trevor has been an incredible motivator throughout the trip and is never afraid to offer a helping hand, even when in new situations. As an experienced traveler and NOLS alum, other students are naturally drawn to him and frequently ask for his advice.
Other highlights of the city were the Sagrada Familia church, Plaza Catalunya, Port Olympic and the Olympic stadium. In the cathedral, Ryan enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere of the alter surrounded by brilliantly colored stained glass. He then prepared our first Spanish lunch in the plaza nearby, introducing several staples of our new diet. We all enjoyed walking around the city, eating gelato, noting cultural differences and taking group pictures, yet were very excited to head to Palamos for our kayaking section.
Palamos was a big change from the bustling city of Barcelona. The quaint, Mediterranean town greeted us with open arms and stunning weather. We were fortunate to have lively and knowledgeable kayak guides to show us around the rocky beaches of the Costa Brava. At times, we experienced brief gusts of wind, but Elyse charged forth with strong strokes and led us into some amazing caves.
We celebrated the 4th of July on the water with glow sticks, American candy and several “Olympic Games” carefully crafted by our patriotic leader of the day: Jackie. Everyone enjoyed a bit of friendly competition in honor of our country’s Independence Day.
After 3 amazing days on the coast, it was time to head to the mountains. We found Sort and our new campground to be similarly welcoming and beautiful. Throughout our time in Sort and Palamos, we have been cooking our own meals. Emily truly stepped up to the plate by participating in 2 cook crews and preparing creative and delicious meals for the group. We all found it particularly impressive when she prepared a large bowl of guacamole for the group, even though she is allergic to avocados. It is a difficult task to shop for food and cook meals in a foreign country, but we have done swimmingly thus far.
Our campground in Sort is along the high flowing Noguera Pallaresa river and upon arrival, Reed quickly made a makeshift fishing rod and headed to the shore to catch dinner (fortunately we also had stir-fry in the works)! We cruised the city of Sort and were able to grab some gear and food for our trek. In preparation for the Carros de Foc, we organized several more team building activities. Sarah has been monumental in each game’s decision making process, with clever strategy and a strong sense of teamwork.
We can not wait to begin our trek and keep you posted along the way! The views have only continued to impress us and we can not even imagine what is in store for us. Hope all is well state side.
Rachel and Riley