Peñíscola Excursion

On Saturday June 4th we visited a place called Peñíscola (“town by the sea”). It is known for its nice beach and castle, located on the highest part of the coast. This castle/fortress was constructed mostly between the 13th and 16th centuries, and was utilized by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Moors. In 1223, King Jaime I gave the castle to the Knights Templar who transformed it similar to how it looks present-day. For Pope Luna (Pope Benedict XIII), Peñíscola was his get-away castle. He retreated here when he realized he was no longer supported as the people favored Roman Popes Urban VI and Boniface VII. Here he established a court, chapel, library, a meeting room for the conclave, and his own chambers. He lived the rest of his life there from 1415 to 1425.


We walked around the castle for a couple hours taking numerous photos of the gorgeous coastline and city, along with a few selfies. The parts of the castle we visited included a kitchen, chapel area, a few lookout spots near the top and a dungeon at the bottom of a long staircase.


IMG_1562After this we had freetime to explore. Some made their way down to the beach to enjoy it for about a half-hour before it started raining. Then most of us gathered at a café to enjoy icecream and coffee. Once the rain calmed down to a sprinkle we roamed around the narrow streets of the old city, buying some souvenirs and postcards.


Finally, most of us ended our stay by enjoying the beautiful botanical garden attached to the castle that opened up an hour before our leave time. It was filled with tall palm trees and flowers that lined edge of the overlook along the coast and a winding path that had numerous tunnels and arches.


Though it wasn’t the best day for the beach, the views at Peñíscola did not disappoint!

The Saga continues…

The health behavior change has been simple as I had hoped. I have been craving Diet Dr. Pepper something fierce; however, they do not have it here. I am not a fan of Coke, so I can just walk by those. I have come across Fanta Orange and Fanta Lemon, which those are a little harder to walk by. I almost gave into temptation, but I was with Ruth and was able to overcome the temptation.

The fruits and vegetables portion has been awesome. Lucia normally cooks with fresh fruits and veggies, and if she doesn’t we have been able to stop at a local fruit stand and grab one. I even made Lucia fried green tomatoes on Tuesday. I was thrilled with the results and she truly enjoyed them, and even shared them with her neighbor. I cannot tell any difference in my energy levels as I had hoped, but I will continue to push forward.

A Change for the Better


It has been almost two weeks since I have made my health behavior change of choosing healthier snack options. This week, I noticed how my snacking habits change depending on my environment and the group of people I am with. For instance, I had friends who would actually offer me fruit, which made it easy to follow my health behavior change. Lucia, my host mom, also bought some fruits for us this week. She said she would get us something that we have never tried before. I like trying new things, so that was a fun way to pick a healthy snack! I tried nísperos (loquats) for the first time, and they are amazing!

On the other hand, I was very tempted to follow my old habits when I went to a supermarket called Consum with my roommate, Christy. She wanted to get a snack so I went with her to the snack aisle. I was very tempted to get some chips for myself, but I didn’t. I could have bought some healthy snacks, but honestly they were not appealing to me and they were just expensive. I feel like I can make so many excuses to not choosing healthier snack options such as cost and convenience. However, I know what is better for my health in the long run, and I need to remind myself of that the next time I go buy snacks. Next week, I should try to be aware of my environment and be active and mindful in choosing healthier snack options no matter where I am or whom I am with. Hopefully next week will be a better week in adhering to my health behavior change!



Got Water?

I never truly realized how much I love lemonade and iced tea until I had to limit how much I drank of it. Scratch that. I am fully addicted. There is no denying it. My thirst for those sugary drinks was so strong that I had a dream this past week that I was surrounded by pitchers of lemonade and bottles of Snapple raspberry iced tea. I think I have a problem!

I have been sticking to my new plan of breaking up my water consumption into small increments throughout the day. I drink 16 oz when I wake up, at lunchtime, 16 oz or more at dinner, and in between meals I drink 16 oz as well. As you can see that adds up to be about 80 ounces of water a day, which is well above the recommended amount. This is because I am an overachiever. I have set reminders on my phone to tell when it is time to drink water. This has been helpful especially on busy days. 

At the beginning of the second week it seemed that my cravings were getting stronger and the desire to change was slowly diminishing. With each sip of water I became more bitter towards this process. I began to lose sight of why I am doing this in the first place: to become a healthier version of myself. It is very difficult to remember our goals when we face adversity. I can understand know why people resort back to their old behavior. It is easy to do so. It does not require change or growth. But that is the sad part. I want to be healthier and make better decision when it comes to my diet and exercise but I am so comfortable with the status quo that it can sometimes be scary to quit. Before this change, I consumed so much iced tea and lemonade that my body is noticing a difference without it. With the increase in water consumption I have definitely noticed less headaches and more energy. Also, my skin is retaining more moisture and, not to be gross, my urine is actually clear! I know. I am a very weird individual. The cravings are still there and will be for awhile. But seeing these benefits increases my motivation to reduce my sugary beverage consumption. Now that it is the end of week three, the desire to drink lemonade has been replace with the motivation that I can do this. 


For this weekend’s excursion we visited Gandía. On our way to Gandia we made a quick stop at Albufera. This is a freshwater lagoon with an abundance of fish surround by rice fields. It was a beautiful morning when we pulled up, and we got to walk through a cute little town. We saw little Palace, then we walked inside. It was not so little anymore. Simply put it was gorgeous and there was a lot of history there. Colors and paints on the ceilings were vibrant, and I couldn’t help myself but take photos.

It was something you can only dream of seeing, and I got to see it with my own eyes. Inside they had a miniature of what the palace used to be. I took photos of that too. Over the years it had been reduced by battles, and other things. They even saved some of the tiles, and placed them on the walls for everyone to see.

From there, we got back on the bus. They drove a few minutes, and every piled out. We were at the infamous Gandía beach. Gorgeous. Sand, sun, and the Mediterranean…what more could we need? I know! Ice cold drinks, thank goodness they had a little resturant / shop on the beach. We stayed on the beach for a few hours, I got the chance to try some pretty amazing ice cream. I had strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream. Then we loaded the bus and came back to Valencia…to say I was tired was an understatement. I know I fell asleep on the bus…



The Dew Makes the Mountain More Slippery

Climbing mountains brings many surprises, some good and some bad. (However, I don’t know that much from personal experience because western Ohio is flat and Wisconsin is only somewhat hilly.) On this mountain of mine, one surprise is how many days I’ve gone without drinking soda for energy, although siesta time has become a good replacement.

But not everyday of climbing was successful this past week. The rain came down on the “mountain”, both literally last Saturday on our excursion to the beach and more figuratively on Sunday when I was feeling very home sick and missing my friends. The amount of projects for class started to become overwhelming and when I attempted to meet up with a friend at a café we got lost and were unable to find each other. I needed to get out of the house, but I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I walked down the “rio”, a big walkway through the city where people walk, run, bike, hangout, party, etc. I still felt stressed out after walking for a while and thought about what else I could do to shake the feeling. That’s when thoughts of resorting to my bad habit began lingering in my head. I eventually made it to the mall where I shopped just a few days earlier. People crowded the main walkways since it was the weekend and the crowds just bothered me even more. I knew the location of the grocery store and I made my way toward it. That’s when it happened – I relapsed.


I wish I could say I was satisfied by drinking that soda, that it was just the thing I needed, but that was not the case. I think it actually made me feel worse. I still felt stressed, and now I didn’t adhere to my goal of going without soda, only contributing to my already down feeling. I should have made another attempt to meet up with people, but I just waited for the feeling to pass, neglecting the work I needed to do. Since then, things improved and my addiction remains unfed.

Sometimes we learn the most from our mistakes, and I think that’s what happened for me this week. I realized that it wasn’t worth drinking that soda, and so now I’m more determined to maintain my health behavior choice. So there’s still hope, there’s still a couple more weeks. And now I’ll be more vigilant in avoiding the patches of dew on the mountain that make it more slippery.

Adventure Is Out There!!



Last week, I talked about how my walking around town instead of public transportation was a way I was attempting to informally get the exercise I needed while living my normal, 1-shower-a-day life. One of the things I just continued to fall in love with this past week as well was exploring. To discover old buildings and new paths to normal routes is one of my favorite things to do here!

Whether it be walking an 45min long rout to the Oceanografico (a Seaworld-esqe place here in Spain) or an hour plus of walking and jogging to the beach from my house, I seem to have a knack for adventuring. And by adventuring…I usually mean getting lost. Which usually winds up with me doing, MORE WALKING!! Although it isn’t going to the gym, I still typically come back to the house with sore legs (not just feet) because of how much I walked and moved around.

In addition to the other cardio exercise I did this week, I was also able to engage in some volleyball hitting around and soccer minigames for about 40 minutes or so with some friends. I didn’t expect it to be all that hard, but I definitely felt my muscles pounding afterwards!

As far as weaknesses in this past week go, I must admit that it was harder to accomplish than I believed it to be. Due to the midterms (after two weeks, LOADS to cover) and normal social outings  I go on that usually have me walking pretty far, it was pretty hard to find time to workout structuredly.I am starting to see that it is easier for me to rely on walking than to engage in weight training.

Next week training I plan to use the various machines in the Rio and continue my adventure there. Remember, Adventure is out there!



Health Behavior Change-Christy

For my health behavior modification, I would like to have one fruit and one vegetable per day, as well as I want to avoid pop the remainder of the trip. I will be drinking water instead. I believe that this will help give me some energy and motivation to continue this behavioral change once I return home. I think this will be very simple because there are sufficient fruit and vegetable stands all around Valencia, and there are a lot of new fruits and vegetables that I might not have ever tried before.
The fruit and vegetable additions have been fairly simple because not only do I have an amazing host mom, but I have the opportunity of walking past several fruit stands on the way to and from school. Lucia has cooked every single meal since my arrival, and it has all been delicious. If there is not enough fruits and vegetables in her food I will be surprised because she has included several in every single meal. The super challenging portion of this will be to not drink pop. I love some diet Dr Pepper; however, they do not have that here. I think it’s a good thing they do not have it because I could have it every day and not even think a second thought about it. I do not like coke either so that is another positive thing about this challenge. Water is always refreshing, and it is available everywhere. I hope I am able to continue this trend for the remainder of the trip.

Snacks Galore


It has been almost one week since I started my health behavior change here in Spain. For an assignment in my health behaviors and beliefs class, I decided to try changing my habit of eating unhealthy snacks such as chips and cookies to choosing healthier snack options such as fruits and nuts. I decided to make this change because I often go for unhealthy snacks rather than healthy ones because, in my opinion, they are tastier and more convenient to eat.

The first week was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Every time I wanted a snack, I had to think about whether it was healthy or not. For instance, when we went on our excursion to Teruel last Saturday, Isabel, who is like the administrative assistant for the school, bought some rosquillas for the group. Rosquillas look like sugar donuts but have a texture that is more like a soft cookie. It was hard because I knew they probably weren’t the healthiest snack and I did not want to refuse her offer. Before making this health behavior change, I would have gone all for it and tried some. However, I decided not to eat them. It helped that my classmates were there to keep me accountable. I realized that day that having supportive people around you to keep you accountable is very important and helpful in adhering to change.

Unfortunately, I am not very proud of the snack choices I made today. A couple of my classmates and I went to a big mall/supermarket in downtown Valencia called Carrefour. There was a booth that was selling snacks such as Turkish delights, baklava, and dried fruits. Without even thinking much about it, I ended up buying 2 baklavas and some cinnamon covered nuts. I did consider whether baklava would go against my health behavior change, but I rationalized in my head that it was technically not a cookie. However, I still am not proud of my choice because I did have the option of buying dried fruits that did not have added sugar in them. My first instinct is definitely not to go for healthy snacks, but I hope that working on this change for the next few weeks will help me change my snack habits and make healthier snack choices.


Turkish Delights and Cinnamon Covered Nuts

Albarracin y Teruel

Albarracin, Spain is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Just when I thought Spain could not get anymore wonderful, I arrived at Albarracin and my breath was instantly taken away. As soon as I entered this small village I imagined being back in Spain during its ancient times. It has been beautifully restored back to its pre-Spanish Civil War era. The orange-red walls of the buildings give the village a nice contrast to the mountainous terrain. As soon as we arrived we trekked up the mountain to see the various components of the city. Now, for a girl with asthma the hike up the very steep stairs literally took my breath away so I am not kidding when I said this earlier. Even though there were many tourists, Albarracin seemed very peaceful. We took a tour of the village. We went into one of the historic homes and admired a different way of life. The ceilings were short and the rooms were small but the architecture and decor were simply amazing. The tour guide told us how the rich families imported their furniture from China. The tour was in Spanish and since I do not know any Spanish I mostly just nodded my head and smiled.

After the tour, we had free time to explore Albarracin for ourselves. Most of the group went to the castle that sits on top of the mountain but I stayed behind due to a fear of heights. So I passed the time wandering the village and snapping pictures of the beautiful scenery. It is hard to imagine that people live here because I did not see anyone in their homes. It almost seemed like I was frozen in time. After my exploration, I went to the park at the base of the village to relax for a bit before we left to go to our next destination.

FullSizeRender-1FullSizeRenderTeruel is remote city in eastern Spain. It is regarded as the “town of mudejar” due to many of its buildings having Moorish-influenced architecture. We took a tour of San Pedro which is a notable church museum that houses the mummified remains of Isabel de Segura and Diego de Marcilla. These two individuals are the main characters of an infamous love story known throughout Spain. Their love story is similar to that of Romeo and Juliet. See, Diego was a man who came from a very poor family and he wanted to marry Isabel, a maiden who came from a wealthy family. You can probably figure out what happens next. Isabel’s father refused the marriage proposal due to a lack of funds from Diego and Isabel went to marry someone else. Through another series of events which I did not understand because the story was told in Spanish, the star-crossed lovers died and now are buried in this museum. We were able to see their remains but the interesting part of the display was that Isabel and Diego were facing each other! Talk about true love.

amantes-teruel--644x362After the tour of San Pedro it was time to head back to Valencia but there was one issue. There was a bull run happening at the city center of Teruel. Now, I do not know about you but I was not about to be caught in the street with two bulls angrily running towards me. Some people in my group wanted to participate but our professors said otherwise. Since we could not go through the center of the city to get to our bus we have to take many detours. It was amazing to see so many people crowding the streets to watch the bull run. You can feel the sense of community these people have for one another and their city. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the run. It was such a nice ending to a day filled with beauty and awe!