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thursday, june 11, 2015 the adventure
If you know me even a little bit, then you will know that I'm a huge fan of roller coasters. Everything about them intrigues me: the physics, the design, the colors, the various kinds (inverted roller coasters are my favorite). When I was a kid I remember having two VHS tapes where amazing roller coaster rides were recorded from the front seat, and I would sit in front of the TV and pretend that I was on them. Then the 'obsession' went a little further, and I would draw my own roller coasters on paper. Thankfully Roller Coaster Tycoon came out for the PC, so then I could put down the pencil and paper and pick up a keyboard and mouse. I thoroughly enjoyed designing my own roller coasters and seeing how I could make them intertwine within themselves and each other. Oh, and I also enjoyed picking color schemes for them (this will NOT be a surprise to a lot you). In the 33 years that I've been alive, I've been on 70+ different roller coasters, and I always try to seek new ones to ride. Over the years, I have been curious and I've explored what roller coasters are in other countries, and I remember stumbling upon a Spanish amusement park called PortAventura maybe two years ago, and after seeing YouTube videos of the roller coasters in the park, I remember thinking Those look great! But I'll never get to go on those. They're in Spain.

Well, that changed as of today.

My journey this morning didn't start off smoothly. I did my research and saw that I could get a ticket into the park and a round-trip train ticket all for 45 €. I went to Passeig de Gràcia to buy the ticket, which is what the PortAventura website indicated I should do. Well there are so many stations on Passeig de Gràcia that I had no idea which one was selling this ticket. So just when I was about to throw in the towel and come up with a plan 'B' for today, I decided that I wasn't going to give up and that I could figure this out. I got on the metro, went to Barcelona Sants train station, and bought my ticket there. Easy. However, the ticket didn't tell me what time the train left, or what train it was, so I was completely lost on that. The guy at the information window told me to head to Valencia at 9:33, and that's what I did. No problems from then on.

The train ride to PortAventura was unbelievably beautiful. The train literally traveled along the coast, sometimes perhaps a little too close for my liking, but the view of the Mediterranean was incredible. The water was a brilliant shade of dark and light blues, and there were times when I could see water splashing up against cliffs. Perhaps that doesn't sound too great, but being from the Midwest and seeing a lot of fields, it was great to see this view. The train also took us through a lot of little seafront towns that looked like great getaway spots, though I imagine they're on the expensive side of one's budget.

The train stops weren't announced, so I had to make sure I paid attention and looked out the window to see where I was to get off, but there were a lot of people on the train that were dressed for an amusement park, so I knew I'd just get off when they did, and that worked out in my favor. Upon entering the park, I noticed that it was very clean. And I'll say that it's designed very well and does a great job of the "Cities Around the World" theme, though perhaps a little overdone on the stereotypes. I was fairly hungry when I got to the park, so I had a quick napolitana con chocolate and cortado before tackling the rides.

The first ride I was going to go on was Furius Baco (click here to ride in the front seat!). I approached the line and saw that the wait was 1 hour and 40 minutes, and I thought Umm, NOPE. So I turned around, bought an Express Max pass, and got on the ride in less than five minutes. In the front seat. Woot!! I knew before getting on the roller coaster that it was a very short ride, like less than 40 seconds, and I didn't feel that waiting almost two hours was a good use of my time. The roller coaster was good, but it didn't thrill me except for the part where the track rotates 360° and goes upside down. Only because it's too short for my roller coaster enthusiasm, I'll give it ★★★☆☆.

The next ride I went on gets a well-deserved ☆☆☆☆☆. "Ice Age: The 4D Ride" or whatever it was called was not a fun experience. The signs said it would be a 20 minute wait—OH NO. It was close to an hour that I stood (and sat) in line just to be thrown into a staging room where instructions were explained, and then we were thrown into ANOTHER room for loading. I was praying that the ride would be extremely cool, but it was dull. The 3D was hardly 3D, and the motion platform made no sense with the movie. I was extremely underwhelmed with this attraction. I did, however, try my best to take some snapshots of the television screens while I was waiting forever in the queue. I saw some Spanish tidbits that I thought would be great to use in the classroom somehow, specifically the one that was a multiple choice question about opposums. The shot of that was ruined when this kid pointed to the answer while I took a picture of it. And the kid did this for every trivia question. Ok, I get it, you've memorized all the answers, but please stop pointing them out. As you can tell, I was a little annoyed with him.

The two rides that deserve ★★★★★ were Dragon Khan and Shambhala (click their names to ride in the front seat). Dragon Khan was a very smooth, twister-type coaster that goes upside-down a bunch, and Shambhala is pretty much the same ride as Diamondback at King's Island. They're both designed by B&M (Bolliger & Mabillard), which is the king of coaster design, in my opinion. Part of the deal of the Express Max pass that I purchased was that I was able to go to immediately ride in the front seat of the three roller coasters I've mentioned in this blog. Considering how long some of the waits were for these rides, I'm really glad that I paid the extra euros to have this feature. It saved me a ton of time, and I literally walked onto these two coasters. I hit them both within a ten minute time span.

The rest of the day was spent having lunch in Mexico, taking pictures with my iPhone (I didn't want to bring my nice camera), and trying to hit a few more rides before the storm came in. Luckily, I left the park just in time as the thunder started right as I was boarding the train to come back to Barcelona. Overall, today was a success and a very fun, yet exhausting, day. I added five more names to my long list of roller coasters, and I plan to add a few more while in Madrid!! Stay tuned!!

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