Today was spent like any other, with class in the morning starting at 9:30, our usual break for coffee and snacks, and another class starting at 11:20 and ending early in the afternoon. It is crazy to think that we only have two classes left!
The excitement in our day got pumped up at 3:00pm though, when we all met at Mester to get ready to go horseback riding! We walked a couple blocks to the bus stop, then piled into a van to head out of town. We watched the Spanish farms fly for about 45 minutes until we arrived at the ranch of Benjamín and Paco, who, with their family, own a huge patch of land – Paco told us that their family at one point owned over 5,000 acres! What’s most interesting is that the house in which the family still lives was built in 1470, before Christopher Columbus left Spain and sailed to North America! On the land now are lots of animals, including pigs, cows, a number of very well-trained horses, and a very large, very friendly dog. We were surprised to find that Benjamín, who was to be one of our guides on the trail, is also quite fluent in English, and taught Spanish literature classes at the University of Kansas for many years.
After being introduced with our welcoming hosts, we began to saddle up, those with the least experience with horses going first. After we were briefed on the basics of riding, we departed the ranch, and followed fenced-in roads on the family’s land. Luckily, the horses knew better than we did where to go, so we didn’t have to do much! The weather was wonderful as well, and we were able to ride for over an hour across the beautiful countryside. Some of us who rode slower horses and were in the back had a blast catching back up to the rest of group from time to time – Paco taught us to shout “¡Vamanos!” and squeeze our feet into our horses, and which indicated to our horses to gallop up to the group.
Once we returned to the ranch, we hopped in the van to head back to Salamanca. At 7:30pm, we all (minus John, who was sick) met Carlos at Mester for our ice cream tasting at Don Mauro, a restaurant on the Plaza Mayor. As we walked to Plaza, Carlos, our favorite person, explained that usually the restaurant has 30+ flavors of ice cream, but during the winter no one is crazy enough to buy ice cream (unlike we Midwesterners) so he had to specially request to have ice cream for our group. At the restaurant, we sampled chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, and deemed them all pretty delicious! The vanilla got the award for “most unique” by us, since it tasted more like eggnog than the vanilla ice cream we’re used to.
Today was an outstanding day – we’re all looking forward to the adventures we have yet to take here in Spain!