Monday, May 23, 2011


It’s now very summery-feeling here in Alicante, and as the thermometer is now reaching over 80°F on a daily basis, I’ve been feeling pretty beachy-keen.  Truth be told, I was feeling beachy-keen at 65°F when I arrived in March, but even more so now.  In celebration of the season and as another opportunity for meeting more people from around the world, I signed up for a pair of day trips here in Spain this past weekend.  
On Saturday morning, I arrived bright and early at the Puerta del Mar in Alicante to meet up with other university students at the catamaran that would take us to the Isla de Tabarca.  Tabarca is a teeny tiny island located about an hour and a half (by catamaran) from Alicante.  For much of it’s history, Tabarca was famously known as a refuge for pirates (!), but is currently a protected Marine Reserve with 98 people living in it’s “town.”  

Upon our arrival to the waters surrounding the island, I was so excited about the snorkeling experience I had ahead of me.  When I was younger and other kids were answering the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with “princess,” and “movie star,” I was saying “a Marine Biologist.”
I know what you’re thinking so I’ll just say it for you.  Nerd.
I’ve spent many-an-hour, begoggled and snorkelfied, floating on an inner tube at Swan Lake with my head stuck in the water, and I was soooo (nerdy) excited to extend this experience to the Mediterranean.  And there was something so luxurious about this particular trip: sunbathing on the deck of the catamaran, drinking sangria, and surrounded by crystal clear blue water.  I felt like a Bond girl, minus the generally unfortunate name and the hankering for double-crossing people on a regular basis.
And this water was so clear and beautiful, that you could see straight through to the bottom, even though we were anchored quite a ways off shore.

The problem, though, with clear, clean, blue water, is that you can see anything that may be lurking in the depths...
Or really...
Ploop-ploop, ploop-ploop, ploop-ploop

Great oogley-boogley!
And though I must admit that the teeeeny-tiny jellyfish, or medusas, were kind of adorable (no, I didn’t call any of them my “squishy” and proclaim them to be mine), when there are TONS of them EVERYWHERE, one tends to see them as bringers of evil rather than cute little invertebrates.
Even with the carnivorous beasts with poisonous appendages ploop-plooping around our catamaran, I couldn’t resist the urge to don my goggles and snorkel and take the plunge.  I mean, how often does one get to snorkel in a Mediterranean Marine Reserve?  So into the sea me, and my fellow travelers went; all braving the jellyfish for the sake of this “once in a lifetime experience.”  
Well, it turns out I’m absolutely terrified of jellyfish and my fabulous snorkeling session lasted approximately four minutes.  Don’t get me wrong, the sea floor was lovely for the estimated three seconds I could forget about the predacious land mines ploop-plooping everywhere, but really, I spent most of my time in the water nevously looking around, trying to find a “spot” in the sea that was jellyfish-free.  As you may have guessed, jellyfish can move, and therefore, no such place exists.  Also, it’s very difficult to look like a Bond girl when you’re constantly splashing about, ducking your head in and out of the water, stifling screams when you suddenly look up and there’s one of the little demons 3 inches from your goggles.  Needless to say, I have not gotten any cooler in Spain.
After I emerged from the sea, unscathed and breathing a sigh of relief, I spent the rest of our time at Tabarca looking mournfully at the water, wishing conditions had been different.  I longed to continue snorkeling but knew I would not enjoy myself because of my paranoia.  Much like my nights spent on the trail in the Adirondacks often go unslept due to “bear-anoia,” my urge to dive back into those crystal clear waters was sequestered by my fears of what lay beneath.  It‘s the jellyfish complex.
Relieved to be jellyfish-free.
Upon my return home and after telling my family here about my disappointing “snorkeling” experience at Tabarca, Amparo informed me that there generally aren’t jellyfish there until September.  I told her, don’t worry, it’s not global climate change, it’s just the Alicia Vortex.  As soon as I go back to the States, things in Spain will be normal again.  Also, Borja promised me we’d make a return trip to Tabarca to reattempt Mediterranean snorkeling before I leave.  I told him thanks, that will be wonderful, but really I’m just bringing him as jellyfish bait.
Yesterday, I headed out even brighter and even earlier to the center of Alicante to meet up with the same group of fellow students for yet another day trip.  This time our destination was the city of Valencia with the main attraction being L’Oceanografic, Europe’s largest aquarium.  Being the nature girl I am, I’m always game for a good aquarium, especially where I can view the jellyfish behind glass rather than tickling my toes.  In total, L’Oceanografic was not my favorite, but the disappointment of the exhibits was COMPLETELY outweighed by the absolutely amazing dolphin show we saw.  Literally, I was so happy.  My face hurt from smiling through the entire thing.  Complete with leaping, flipping, hula-hooping, and dancing (and those were just the trainers, you shoulda seen what the dolphins could do), as well as some spectacular high-diving, it was just awesome.  So to end today’s post, here are some photos from Valencia, L’Oceanografic, and the dolphin show. 
I’ve also added even MORE photos to my Flickr page here.

I'm not the only one enjoying the sunshine.

Tandem high dive
And finally, I've added a new video to my YouTube channel here.  The video itself is of fish near Tabarca eating bread thrown from our boat but that isn't all that important as I wasn't even paying attention while filming it.  The important part is that you get to witness me:
1. Ask a question in spanish (that is probably done so incorrectly)
2. Not understand the answer
3. Laugh like a huuugggeee dork (typical)
4. Totally fail at being flirted with by an English guy
And those four points, folks, pretty much sums up my trip in Spain thus far.  

As always, thanks for reading,


  1. Ploop ploop, ploop ploop, hmmm. Not so much fun when the medusas are around! At L'Oceanografic didn't you find the aquarium tube to walk through super cool? Gorgeous fishes! Well, even if you didn't love the aquarium - your pictures of Valencia are wonderful!

  2. Aww. Sorry that your snorkeling didn't go as planned. I've had the same experience in the Chesapeake Bay, but thankfully for an awesomely sexy (or not) spandex suit, we could go in with only fear for hands and faces.

    Good thing you didn't get stung.. do you know what you're supposed to do if you do? *TRIVIA ALERT*

    PEE ON IT!

    Enjoy the beach for me!