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Adventures in Travel: SPAIN

By Miriam Rutzen

[Editor's Note: Using the opportunity between jobs to pursue her dreams of travel over the course of one year, Miriam Rutzen of Sciota is sharing this series of her thoughts on her travels and stops along the way over six months, sixteen countries, three continents, and "a great deal of jet lag", she says.

"I made a bet with my dad that I would make it to all seven continents by age 27."

Miriam already had ventured to Australia in 2009 and Europe in 2013 leaving her with only the most difficult-Antarctica. Her first columns were Peru, and Toyko, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore, Germany, London, Scotland and this week is.


It's a bit of a trademark, the curly hair pulled back in a hair tie and lovingly dubbed the "poof" by my college teammate; if you are looking for me, that's likely going to be one point of reference for how to spot me.

And let me tell you, it comes in handy.

No wifi, no cell phone service, a delayed flight, a delayed train, a street address but no way to contact anyone and no apartment number.

The clock told me it was approaching 1 am and I was running out of options on how I was going to connect with my old AAU teammate in Granolliers, Spain.

Trying not to despair, I finally found a quiet cafˇ with a friendly waitress.

I used various forms of nonverbal communication to convince her it would be a great idea to type in the password for their wifi on my phone.

A minute later I hear, "That's her!!" shouted with delight from the sidewalk.

The poof was spotted and my friends came in with huge smiles and hugs. What a moment!

Unfortunately, my efforts to stay calm, alert, and sane during those few hours of uncertainty wore me out.

So much so, that the next couple of days were littered with a few costly mistakes.

I say, with a very thankful, but rather chagrined shrug and smile that this article sources from the depths of pretty extreme exhaustion.

My Grandma responded to these stories (and many others I tell her) with the steady and true, "You know I pray for you every day!," followed by my response of, "Yes, Grandma, I do, and thank goodness, because I need it!"

Quick Facts:

Spain joins Portugal to make up the Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern corner of Europe, sharing other borders with France, Andorra, Gibraltar, and Morocco.

Spain is known for:its zoo. Its zoo? Yes, and that is all the further I made it.

Four hours and five miles of walking in circles around a zoo-that was nice, but not spectacular-then trying the aquarium next only to find a line that wrapped around for hours, capped off by heat exhaustion and the realization that my friend had no clue how to get back to her place, made for a rather stressful day in Spain.

Their subway and train system is incredibly convoluted and my least favorite to navigate in all of my travels.

The downtown area is a treasure trove of hidden nooks, the architecture is a study in and of itself, and I'm sure the beach would have been lovely:had I ever made it there.


Who do I know in Spain? Not very many people.

Various friends had studied abroad over there but no connections were strong enough to show up for an overnight stay.

Just before I departed on my trip, a former teammate from my AAU team posted on social media that she was continuing her basketball career post-graduation by joining a team in Barcelona and living in nearby Granolliers.

Perfect! I shot her a message and we rather effortlessly pulled together a plan for me to come visit for a few days.

I wasn't sure how long I would stay, but knew we could play it by ear.

She had just moved overseas a week prior and her mom was still visiting when I arrived.

Unfortunately, her mom had to head to the airport at 7am that same morning to return stateside, a mere four hours after we had finally gone to bed.

For of course after the miraculous "poof" spotting, we had to spend a few hours catching up on all of our AAU and college glory days!


Stick with me through the slight sarcasm here:I was tired! The bear at the zoo is the perfect visual for how I felt.

The alligator is quite memorable as you can tell from the photo.

Watching the gorilla family play was very amusing and heart-warming.

The reptile area had quite the variety in size, color, and toxicity levels.

The pasta place we tried was out of this world delicious: homemade spinach ravioli with shrimp and mushrooms. YUM.

Incomparably delectable fresh-squeezed orange juice at brunch, size extra large. Columbus Circle, a traffic circle around a tall statue of Christopher Columbus. Hmm:The marina was pretty?


After we made it back to Granolliers from Barcelona, my friend and I were exhausted.

She went to crash for a bit in her room.

I showered, packed, and tossed in the towel for adventures in Spain. Barcelona 1, Team Meems 0.

That evening I bought a train ticket to my next destination: a retreat house with a family in France that would make sure I made smart decisions.

When I arrived at the train station early the next morning I treated myself to a fresh croissant and hot chocolate.

Then I strolled into line. About $250 later, I made it on the right train.

Traveling when exhausted is dangerous and very unwise.

Traveling exhausted in an unknown land where you don't know the language is simply stupid.

So, the self-talking that I received, as I finally traveled in the right direction after being told the ticket I had purchased the night before was for the wrong day, was necessary.

The French piano man smiling and gracing travelers with his enchanting melodies calmed me down on a short transfer stop across the French border, as well as the trip getting refunded in part thanks to nice customer service.

Even in recounting these events I find myself rather agitated.

Picasso, Barcelona Soccer Stadium, Olympic Park (home of the 1992 Olympics), Basilica of the Sagrada, walking tours, bus tours, bike tours, food tours, wine tours, park tours, architecture tours...And the zoo.

At least if I ever make it back to Spain there will be plenty of other sightseeing to check off the list!

Photos of my travels can be found on Facebook or Instagram: mrutzen25 and more in depth stories are chronicled at