Author Archives: Kelsita

About Kelsita

SoCal girl gone Spanish. Flamenco, anyone?

Adios, o Hasta luego? :(

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In the last few days I have become closer with my already close Spanish friends. I have had deep talks over Spanish snails and listened to my favorite music from the semester while browsing the Alcazar castle. Friends said goodbye behind teary eyes at CC-CS’s goodbye party, and gloomy hugs were accompanied with gifts when I said “Hasta luego” to my host family for the last time.

I spent a day walking slowly through every single one of my favorite places in Sevilla, and I couldn’t push away all the love I’ve grown for this place. Ivy and I always say we want to feel the places we go to in this world, not just see them. So, how has Sevilla made me feel?

It’s made me feel inspired. Seeing castels and churches carved with detail unimaginable to me before has give me reason to believe in everything great in us as people. There are artists, in the past centuries and today, who see past efficiency. They see beauty and life. They see a reason to spend their lives creating beautiful things.

It makes me feel humble. I am just one, normal person in the midst of this crazy world and for the first time in my life I’m content with that – because I know the right people will see value in me alone. We’re all more than simply the efficiency and things we can bring others. And I can feel the same about others now – I want quality over quantity in every relationship I have. I’ll take a café solo and a long talk over a red carpet event in Los Angeles any day. I hope to show the love I saw in people like Abdhul and Ibrihim from Morocco, the humor of my good Italian friend, the patience of my host family, the easy-going spirit of my favorite cafe waiters, the instant friendliness of our new French friends, and the amazing thirst for knowledge of Ivy’s art gallery boss, to others. They have now all become pieces of me, and because of this I have never loved myself more.

It makes me feel thankful. The first week I was here, my host mom Toni told me <<Nos disfrutamos la fruta de la vida más que dinero>>. I watched the dynamic of her family. They all love eachother so much, and Juan is gold in their eyes. Wow.. my mom did all of that for me. Every family has their problems, Toni told me. And you know what, I understand that completely now. Our family is the only one we have, and there is a certain part of our hearts that can only be fulfilled by loving them. We can’t change our families (not that I’d ever want to) but only accept eachother for what we are.

It makes me excited. I’ve met so  many wonderful people, and I only want to know what else is out there in the world. After Sevilla, I am traveling to Vienna to live with my cousin and aunt for the summer. I will be writing for a science company there, and I couldn’t be more excited. I want to see all the concealed treasure I know is waiting for us out there.

So now, as I realize it’s time to leave Sevilla, I feel absolutely terrified. I’m terrified I will lose everything I’ve learned, or that the pieces of this fairy tale will dissolve into the black spaces of my memory. I’m scared I will melt back into the habits that now seem so ridiculous to me. I’m scared I will look back on all of this and it will seem far away and hazy, or that I’ll just consider everything I’ve felt the whimsical thoughts of a study abroad student getting swept away by the moment. I fear I’ll deny this was the real world as I’m enveloped by my life at home. Will the family and friends I’ve become so close to here in Spain become has-beens in my life? Is this a life-changing semester, or just a college-changing semester? I don’t want to lose this.

My last few hours in Sevilla I went to Plaza de España and made a wish in that beautiful fountain I’ve seen so many times. I have never wished for something so strong, or so truthfully, in my life. I told myself not to forget.

Now as I’m sitting in this plane that will rip me away from everything good I’ve seen on this trip, I blink back tears. I feel almost panicked that it’s all going to be gone. Yet then I remember one of the first things I learned on this trip… the Sevillan city slogan.

NO8D0 – The city has not abadnoned me.

And I truly believe that it never will.

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Barrrrcelona (Insert rolling of R for fun)

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Barcelona had a heart that beat to an indie rhythm. For some reason, the image I had always envisioned of the city was a metropolitan jungle, with a blurry night life along the lines of Ibiza. Yet what I discovered was a mixture of fresh markets overlflowing with every healthy food possible, trendy vintage stores, and modern art galleries.

We saw more than just a few people with dread locks, and the entire population seemed to consist of avid tea drinkers (the market streets offering delicious tea samples were a plus). The beach that opened up to the Mediterranean ocean was beautiful, but certainly not the only reason to visit the city. When we saw the coast, we were too distracted by the huge Olympic structures from the world games that adorned it.

We visited an Ice Barcelona – where even the cups and seats are frozen – but decided to spend the night in the sand of the Mediterranean coast outside of it instead. 

The city is characterized by everything Gaudi – an amazing architect that will change the way you think about architecture. His work does not consist of buildings or structures – it’s art. 

Also, funny fact… many Barcelonians want to be separated from the rest of Spain, so you won’t spot any Spanish flags flying. You will, however, see more than a few jerseys labeled “Messi”. 

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And she had a fan.

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Today I was walking back from class through crowded Tetuan street. I love this street. There is always a range of people from street side performers, to elderly couples with grandchildren, to young fashionable students roaming through its stores. I happened to see a glimmer in the corner of my eye.

And no, I hope I wasn’t hallucinating. With this almost-100-degree weather it’s hard to tell…

This little red flash came from the hand of a beautiful woman who had a floor length summer dress on and her wavy hair pulled back in a clip. She had a red Spanish fan in her hand, that happened to match the details of her dress, and was casually waving it front of her sunglass-adorned face. It was so beautiful, and so elegant.

Throughout the day I’ve noticed more and more people with these fans. For some reason, I had just assumed they were only for celebrations like Feria. But why not use them to stay cool – both in the heat and in the fashion trends!

Fan shopping, anyone? That’s one accessory I have never been on the prowl for before.

;)

Do you see the sea foam green?

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Sometimes Ivy and I like to give cities colors.

A color that describes their personality, their vibe, and the overall feeling you get from them.

Rome was orange. It’s agressive, loud, and exciting.

Paris was rose petal pink. It’s sophisticated, feminine, and peaceful.

Sevilla is a pretty brown. It’s historical, beautifully rustic, and charming.

The only way we could describe Mallorca was sea foam green.

This Mediterranean island of the coast of Spain was beautiful and made us realize that those beach vacation hot spots (always oh-so-abundant in chick flicks or romance movies) actually do exist. And they look just like Mallorca.

The entire island almost has a reggae feel to it. Vendors by the beach sale everything you would expect a beach bum to have stored away, and tiny bars line the shore behind them. The city of Palma is dotted with modern art and a beautiful cathedral that overlooks the ocean. Not to mention a street of extremely pricey shopping – probably for the many American celebrities that make the island their second home.

It’s impossible not to come across a pearl shop – Mallorca’s main industry – and the treats you purchase by the ocean taste as wonderful as the scenery looks. And yes, it’s somewhat geared towards tourists. Ask for extra parrot straws in your dessert – they won’t be able to say no.

P.S. Fun fact: They don’t speak Spanish in Mallorca. They speak Mallorcan – which is, indeed, different.

 

 

A few pre-sleeping thoughts.

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I just had the most meaningful conversation with two friends and a ton of churros. That is something I’m going to miss. We’ve all become so much more contemplative here, and so much more thoughtful about what our world is.

Yes, I’ve traveled more places than I can even keep up with in blogs (although I will try!). But it is not the places I have seen that have touched me. Castles aren’t structures without the careful touch of a person, and cathedrals aren’t beautiful without the devotion of a person. Oceans would have no bottles with messages to find, and art would have no emotion, without a person.

A culture isn’t a culture, without countless people.

Every story, every piece of advice, every joke and every bit of laughter I’ve shared with these people who live across the globe from me has opened my eyes in more ways than I can imagine. The more I learn from others, the more I realize how clueless I was before. I’ve met wonderful girls who live without a cent and sweet, hard-working guys that protest in Spain because it’s what they feel is right.

I couldn’t value that more. Travel is not the knowledge of the world, but rather of the people who change our view of it.

 

Firenze!! (Yes, I did go 5 weeks ago…)

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My last blog entry…

was a very long time ago.

But I will eventually tell every story of my Sevillan and European adventures. Even if it’s for my own sanity of remembering each and every one.

I think about the last 5 weeks of my life surrealistic dream.

The past month, like the two before it, has been so wonderful it must have been at least inspired by some of my daydreams.

And it must have cotton tree season in Florence. We floated through streets amidst white, weightless puffs that drifted through the air from flowering trees. The river twisted itself through the city nearby.

I inhaled deeply.

Ahh. That fresh smell of the river.

Exhale.

No…. I don’t want to exhale.

Inhale again.

Rivers are just so…… WAIT…

It was a different scent this time. Ivy and I grasped each other’s arms at the same time.

PIZZA!!!” we squealed, and ran to the corner restaurant that it was coming from.

And let me tell you…. pizza isn’t the correct word for it. At least, not if Pizza Hut or Dominoe’s Pizza are still in business.

Yes, it looked like pizza, but the many different pieces I savored in Italy were slices cut straight from heaven. Talk about a cheesy milky way… let’s just replace the stars with sprinkles of oregano.

“Ciao, Bella!” isn’t a cliché. Neither are singing waiters that seem incredibly happy, regardless of how many hours they’ve been serving pizza.

The old man with his round stomach and greying beard hummed as he lifted the wine glass from the tray, and rolled around the water inside.

“Give it a taste, Bella,” he said, with a swooping gesture of the hand.

I took a sip.

“Magnífico!!” I laughed. I had just tasted the most plain water in the world.

“Oh! I am so glad!” he smiled, and the humming burst into Italian singing as he filled up the rest of the glass. He then disappeared inside to leave us under the lush vines that were adorning the street side restaurant. Passerbys began to hold hands as the moon came up.

Markets overflowing with leather kept tourists busy during the day. Corner performers, fountains, and sculptures dotted the thin cobblestone streets.

Oh, and those oh-so-famous Florence bridges… they weren’t too bad either.

Zesty… “Can you use it in a sentence, please?”

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I used to think a Chipotle burrito with extra hot sauce (and extra onions, please!) was zesty.

I used to consider the jazz dancing you see in movies like Chicago, complete with sparkles and canes, zesty.

I used to call a pair of 6 inch, hot pink stilettos dunked in glitter zesty.

 

 

And then I went to a Flamenco show… and discovered that this, boys and girls, is what you call zesty.

 

Maybe it was that fierce expression on the dancer’s face (what is she thinking about!?). Maybe it was her lime green dress that she accentuated with bright flowers in her hair. Maybe it was that her feet were stomping so quickly I thought the stage was going to start on fire… I was almost surprised they didn’t have firefighters on call.

Whatever it was, I loved the zesty flamenco show I saw last night with my intercambio. The emotional singer, the suave guitarist, and the dancer of course. It was a platter of Spain served with fresh spices… and I am hungry for more.

 

Do you believe in magic… In a Parisian’s Heart? :)

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“When this falls off, you will find love.”

And old woman handed me a thin anklet with three blue beads on it. I glanced at it through exhausted eyes. My dad and I had just spent all day in Old Towne San Diego, which is bustling with Mexican markets and freshly made tortillas. At that point, I really only wanted a burrito.

“It’s only $1 for you. You will find love,” she pressed.

Well, I do like the color blue. I fumbled around in my wallet and dropped four quarters into her hand. I didn’t put the anklet on until after I had eaten, was well-rested, and had nothing else to do. Although I love good luck charms, this one was a little out-there.

This was four months ago, in the beginning of January.

On the last day of our stay in Paris over spring break, my “love” bracelet fell off. I stared at it for a second as it layed on the ground. I certainly wasn’t in love with anyone. Yet, I had just had a life changing vacation in Paris.

I glanced up at Ivy.

“Kels, you fell in love with the city,” she smiled.

Thank God for cheesey friends. She was right.

Ivy and I both had spent our entire lives pushing away fairy tale ideas while secretly wanting to believe in the magic and love of them all. In a way, reality had tied a hankerchief around our eyes, but never completely concealed our senses.

Paris is living proof that those magical fairy tales do exist, in real life.

But more about that later…

It’s a city obsessed with the concept of beauty. It sets up this perfect, ideal world in which lacy balconies should of course overlook gardens of tulips, and where fluffy white dogs trot aside immense marble sculptures on the streets. Snails are served with style, and incredible taste, while la crème brûlée clearly has the best taste under a glimmering Eiffel Tower.

Paris was everything, and so much more, I could ever imagine. We went to The Louvre museum and were blown away by every single corridor, ceiling art, and sculpted wall. That doesn’t even begin to cover the artwork inside. Once again I realized how much history does matter, and how much dedication thousands of humans have put into artwork and beauty for thousands of years. We saw the Mona Lisa, and walked by Napoleon’s personal items. The list could go on and on.

A city that believes in beauty, simply for the sake of beauty, and nothing else…. Proof of magic #1.

We stopped by Notre Dame, which proved to be my favorite cathedral in Europe thus far. There, it was chilling to realize that those people who had spent their entire lives to build such a beautiful place really loved and believed in God. Believing in someone enough to love them is a risk. Having enough confidence in an idea to let it flourish requires courage. Yet devoting every bit of your existence to a power you have never met is something almost incomprehensible.

And there we stood, in 2012, feeling like we were about to be swept into a purple crystalized heaven because of them.

We did nothing, and those with so much faith 800 years ago asked nothing of us now. They believed in creating beauty for the god they loved. Regardless of if the universe is swept with unknown powers, or only with crumbs of lonely stars, that passion alone is an idea worth love.

Love strong enough to construct Notre Dame…. Proof of magic #2.

We made crepes with nutella thanks to the local supermarket, and had a picnic in Marie Antoinette’s palace pond in Versailles. The grass was lush and tall. A horse drawn to it’s owner by a single rope munched under a tree nearby. The lake was dotted with ducks and swans.

It was all so beautiful, and we fell asleep in the sun for an hour after our picnic. As dreams of real life started to invade my nap, I woke to the fairy tale we were in. I couldn’t ask for more.

Finally the Eiffel Tower – and the belief in love.

We Found Love in a Hopeless Place - Rihanna accomponied this moment for us.

Ok, so maybe Paris is the furthest thing from a “hopeless place” in this universe. Yet, as Ivy and I listened to this song (and all of our other favorites) at the very top of a glittering Eiffel Tower at night, we saw before our eyes something we had just begun to rediscover.

And we’re not just talking about some future, dreamy, romantic love here.

Instead, we realized that everything we had pushed out of our lives – the belief of magic, beauty just for beauty (and not efficiency), and the idea of love for life and for ourselves- was now drowning every feeling within us. It doesn’t matter what others consider “realistic”.

This was our reality.

A man proposed to his girlfriend a few feet from us, and delighted strangers snapped photos while clapping and smother the couple with hugs. Paris quietly bustled below us, and the hundreds of strangers (whose minds were undoubtedly noisy with thoughts) moved silently as black flickers. All those worries were insignificant and muted up here.

All we saw was beauty, love, and art in this city.

It all taught us that even in this world that likes to point out the negative and incorrect, those three things can still exist.

That moment taught us to find love… in a hopeless place.

…Proof of magic #3. :)

They Call it a “Bucket List”

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To write a bucket list, one must first realize that their time will run out someday. It’s not always easy admitting this to ourselves. However, those who prepare leave knowing they are taking the best parts of the world with them.

Okay, okay, I’ll spare you the front seat ticket to “Kelsey’s Philosophies”! The point is I made a bucket list, but for Sevilla. There is so much to see in this city that I had never even heard of, and it was about time to get started.

This weekend was like Sevillan culture on steroids… and I may just be addicted.

The Triana Market

The Sevillan neighborhood of Triana dates back to Roman times and adorns what many consider the face of Sevilla. It sits nestled on the other side of the river from my home in El Centro, and the quaint bars and restaurants of Calle Betis create a classic Spanish horizon at the end of the Triana Bridge. On this bridge you can find locks with the names of enamored lovers written on them. Couples will come to the bridge to attach a lock, and then toss the key into the river as a symbol of locking their relationship into place.

Ahh, only in Europe….. But, Sevilla is ranked one of the most romantic cities in the world. Hey, maybe my prince charming is hidden between the pork shops and flamenco stores in this city. ;) Just don’t come riding in on a white horse (see previous post…….)

The Triana Market is bustling with everything fresh! It is one of the places where you will feel like a true Spaniard, and it’s fun to imagine using the market as a grocery store every week. Products included everything like flowers, fruit, pig legs, fish, and pastries. Just a note of advice to the vegetarians or faint-hearted people out there: The meat in this market often still looks like an animal. This isn’t a prepackaged meat fridge in Savemart… and trust me, there’s no plastic wrap involved.

Hi, Triana!!

The Triana Ceramic District 

Sevilla is known for its ceramics – and for good reason. These artists know quite a bit about what they’re doing. An entire street in Triana is dedicated to ceramic shops, and browsing will give you an entire new appreciation for the craft. The ceramics rang from items for the kitchen, to tiles representing religious scenes. Just be careful if you’re walking through the small shops… the ceramics are often crowded onto rickety shelves. It was enough to make me a little more than nervous about clumsiness.

Perhaps one of the oldest art forms we know!

El Castillo de San Jorge

Last stop in Triana: A castle! With these spotted all throughout Europe, I can imagine fairy tales began here. Unfortunately, this castle doesn’t necessarily follow the cheery Cinderella format. From 1481 until 1785, El Castillo de San Jorge was used as the seat of the Spanish Inquisition to reform the entire country to Catholicism. It served partly as a church, and mostly as a type of detention center for those who did not reform to the Catholic faith. Most of the Spaniards placed in the castle were Jews, but those of all religions other than Catholicism were sentenced to imprisonment there.

The museum that now is built upon the ruins of the Inquisition encourages visitors to reflect, and act as protagonists in the future when it comes to religious equality.

Oh, and there were tours in English. That means a thumbs up for this place.

Sierpes Street

Balance is good in life. It’s also good in shopping, and Sierpes Street seems to understand perfectly. This well-known shopping street in El Centro of Sevilla is known for its comfortable mixture of new, trendy shops with older and more classical ones. I set out to explore not only the street, but also a clock shop I had heard is 100 years old.

If you visit this place, be sure to set your watch to the right hour! Of all places, you can trust a 100-year-old clock shop. It seems to have withstood the test of time.

This place takes "Tik Tok" way further than Ke$ha.

Palacio de Lebrija

“This lady was the best interior designer in the world!”

“I know, I want to learn from her!” 

Anyone would say something similar after seeing this 16th Century palace that was renovated and designed by the Countess of Lebrija, Doña Regla Manjón. Passionate about Middle Eastern and Oriental designs, this Martha Stewart Jr. started decorating her home in 1901 and spent 13 years perfecting all that she could. Rooms include Moroccon furniture for smoking hookah and the pottery of Chinese royalty.

I can’t begin to describe the amount of detail this woman put into her home.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures during this visit. But, I will never forget seeing a collection of coins and books dating to hundreds of years B.C. in one of the rooms. Yes, B.C. The work of those who lived and loved and fought just like we do, yet thousands of years before us. It’s a lot to let sink in.

Casa de Pilatos 

Another palace!!  I was about ready to get a tiara and a pretty dress and call it a day. Then I’d just need to pack my bags and move in… Nobody would mind, right?

This palace introduced Renaissance styles to Sevilla during the 15th century. It was created for the union of two families which had deep-rooted relationships with Italy, and thus flaunted much Roman-inspired decor. When we went through this palace, I felt like I had stepped out of Sevilla and into a completely different country.

The gardens were lush and dunked in colors bright enough to be sugary candies. There were quite a few people touring through the courtyards, yet the only sound was a resounding silence that spoke in awe for all of us.

And I had never even heard of Casa de Pilatos before making my bucket list… Thank goodness for that list.

Spent 8 Hours with Friends by the River

….Why not? :)

El Museo de Bellas Artes

I’m an absolute sucker for Impressionist art. I just love it. And the Museum of Fine Arts, within a has-been convent dating to 1612, is filled with impressionist art and much more. Walking through the museum, I softly played music through my iPod and realized how much I loved a day like this. Art, sunshine, your favorite song. It was all more than perfect.

Outside of the Museo de Bellas Artes, there is an art market every Sunday morning. Artists from all over Sevilla bring their “obras” to sell, and there is something for everyone. Prices range from 5 Euro to the hundreds, and style ranges from the eclectic unrecognizable to the standard classics of Spanish art.

At the market, I smiled when I saw an Impressionist painting of a little girl staring off into the distance in a flamenco dress. Her suit was red and flowing, and matched a buoyant red bow in her brown locks. It was my favorite piece, because it made me think about myself as a little girl and how different my world was.

Although admittedly not all little girls in Spain dress up in flamenco dresses, it’s funny to think how her upbringing and culture will make that little girl either similar or different from me. She will grow up eating bocadillos de jamón york while I was provided nutrition with PB&J sandwiches for years. She will learn tales of Spanish “conquistadores” while I learned about American revolutionary heroes. Yet at one point we were both just little girls. We both wanted to dress up and pretend to be something we couldn’t be quite yet. Our dresses were just a little different.

I guess we’ll never know how much that changed the rest of us.

Catholic Mass

Spaniards know how to be Catholic. There are Catholic churches dotted amongst the streets, and most are hundreds of years old. The interiors of these churches are astounding, and church-goers are crowded amonst incredibly detailed sculptures of Saint Mary and Jesus crisped with gold and silver adorations.

Because of this, I told myself I wanted to attend a service before I left. I smiled as I realized the church traditions remain the same. People wished peace upon each other, yet instead of shaking hands to do so they kissed each other’s cheeks. They received Communion, yet with a blessing of a different language. They listened to the teachings of good values, which tend to be universal.

And, the prayers that I was taught for so many years were exactly the same… but in Spanish. I suppose that when those of us who pray speak to our God, we’re asking for the same things. We’re looking for answers and asking for favors.

And all the while we’re hoping we’re speaking to a God that speaks every language.

Worked on Homework While Floating

Yet again, why not? A friend and I took the books to a floating cafe/bar on the river. We bought ice-cold, hot pink smoothies and sat on a table over looking the peaceful water. We smiled. Sometimes life seems to good to be true, and sometimes you feel like you’re watching yourself twirl through what should be reserved for movies.

Maybe I’m a bit dramatic. But hey, every day in Sevilla seems like a movie to me. So maybe I’m cut out for it. ;)

Please do not “Giddy Up”!

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Horses.


They’re always so calm and friendly in the movies. They peacefully lull Cinderella into her fairy tale, and they’re always there for the heroe in his moments of valiancy.

They’re romantic. They’re story book covers. They have hearts of gold.

HA… Too bad Dominoe the Spanish horse likes to break stereotypes. When we went to the beach town of Doñana two weekends ago, and breathed in the beautiful ocean air, it came with a taste of horse attitude.

It all started when he started pulling the reins away from the ranch men.

“I feel sorry for whoever has that horse….” says Cameron, one of the students.

Not me not me not me not me……

“Dominoe es tu caballo,” says the ranch man.

And….. it’s me. 

He handed me the reins like an ugly sweater gift at Christmas.

Ok, I’m not one to complain. Here we are, in the south of Spain, riding horses on the beautiful BEACH!!! That’s wonderful! I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks. I had a white horse! Sure, it was frisky, but it was my fairy tale image. I was sure we could become best of friends.

I hopped on top of Dominoe and he started trotting in directions that I didn’t approve of. Every time I pulled the reigns I got what I considered a horse growl.

Maybe he just needed some personal affection… I stroked his silky mane.

Another horse growl.

Okay, okay. We’ll be distant friends. That’s fine, because we’re cantering to the beach together! I’m sure once he gets a glance of the view he’ll calm down a little bit. 

With the rest of the group we wandered through lush green hills lined with trees. The sky was bright blue and plumped with pictaresque clouds. It was so peaceful.

Dominoe tripped once when we were walking through a muddy stream, but I forgave him. We both got a little muddy, but what can a horse do? I know I probably would have tripped too if I was walking through a stream. Dominoe and I are both clumsy.

The little stream opened into an endless beach that stretched into the horizon. We could see a ruin standing stubbornly in the waves, reminding the beach goers that it was older and wiser than our great-great-grandparents.

I was beginning to get lulled into the peacefulness of it all. Unfortunately, so was Dominoe.

My horse began to descend to the sandy ground. For a second I thought it was dying, and quickly stepped off of it. It then proceeded to roll over on the ground, and gallop off into the distance. I looked at the ranch man on his horse, my jaw fully dropped.

“Dominoe le gusta dormir!” he said, laughing.

My horse had just fallen to the ground, rolled over, and ran off into the distance because he was sleepy????

You could have at least warned me with a yawn, Dominoe…..

Once we coralled my horse, I climbed back on and finished the ride with only a few issues. The beautiful views were too distracting to be concerned about anything else.

We will certainly be planning a trip back to Doñana soon… minus the frisky horse. Who doesn’t love a day at the beach? (Regardless of which ocean it opens up to…)

Woman vs. Horse

 

Life's a beach... in Doñana.