I’m sure I don’t need to give you three guesses to work out where I’ve been this weekend! Yes, I’ve been to the land of sunshine, paella and oranges: Valencia! – Appropriate photo incoming…
I’m sorry for the lack of photos in last week’s post, I hope to make up for it with lots this week!
My friend Ciara has been studying in Valencia for the past few months, and having ended all of our recent conversations with “I really must visit you soon,” on Wednesday I finally decided to seize the day and made the semi-spontaneous decision to visit at the weekend!
It takes almost seven hours to get to Valencia by coach, which was an ordeal but definitely worth it to get some sun, see a different city, and most importantly my lovely friend! The idea of long distance coach travel is something that seems to horrify us Brits, but that the Spaniards don’t bat an eyelid at! I have colleagues who travel much further every other weekend to see their families. It makes me appreciate England for it’s size!
Having been on too Scout and Guide camps in my time to ever fail to be prepared, I was already sat on the bus twenty minutes before it was due to depart. I seem to have one of those faces that just begs crazy people to sit next to them and strike up conversation, so I really thought my luck was in when a seemingly normal old lady got on and opened a book. About 4 hours in, however, the book must have got boring because she took out an album of family photos and started talking to herself at several decibels above the norm (even for the Spanish!) about them. I felt a bit uncomfortable for her and tried to take an interest. “!Que mono (How cute)!” she was saying/shouting for the whole bus to hear, looking at a picture of a pre-teen girl dressed in heels and a red sequinned body-con. I don’t have the vocab for “Your granddaughter looks like a baby-prostitute,” (and even if I did, I’m far too polite to have used them!) so I had to settle for a grunt. After attempting to get my family history out of me, she eventually fell asleep.
You can imagine my relief at finally arriving in Valencia on Friday afternoon. After a quick pit-stop at Ciara’s flat to fuel up/catch up, we headed out to see the city. Valencia has a scheme similar to London’s “Boris bikes,” so we travelled around the city by bicycle! I haven’t been on a bike since the summer, so I was a little bit rusty!
George Clooney was in town filming a new film. We kept a look out but didn’t see him, although we did notice some roads closed off by the City of Arts and Sciences. I’m not sure if it’s been on the news back home, but here’s it’s quite a big story; the buildings are falling apart. It doesn’t rain much in Valencia, so the architect can perhaps be partly forgiven for not factoring in the chance that his building might get wet which – you guessed it – it recently has. It was dusk but you can just about see the missing panels in my pictures.
Whilst I’m aware this is really tragic, and I promise that I appreciated all the culture and I really was impressed by the City of Arts and Sciences (and it’s shoddy architecture!), Friday was full of highlights and one of those includes finding home comforts! Valencia is Spain’s third biggest city so it has lots of international residents and it’s supermarkets cater for them. We stopped off on the way back to pay through the nose for curry and my beloved Robinson’s fruit squash!
It’s the little things!
After this minor slip in a cultural-weekend, we really made the most of Saturday. In the morning, we cycled to the beach, passing an area which was really badly effected by Spain’s economic crisis. The houses just behind those looking directly at the beach used to make up a really affluent area but they’ve fallen into states of disrepair recently. They still kind of charming, though.
Ciara’s parents are also renting an apartment in Valencia, and they really spoiled us in the afternoon by making us lunch and taking us out for a merienda, which I suppose is Spain’s answer to afternoon tea. We had fartons (yes, we laughed. I am doing again, now!) and another traditional Valencian cake, as well as a traditional drink made with nuts and milk but which somehow tastes a bit like mouthwash.
In the afternoon the sun came out and we saw the city in a lovely light. It reached 24 degrees and at one point I felt too hot, which is something I don’t think has ever happened in January before! Being in the sun really improved my mood… I’m coming to the conclusion that maybe I have that SAD and should live in beautiful, hot places! Valencia is a really lovely city to wander round, there are so many beautiful buildings and some great street art too! It really felt like being in a different country – everything is so different compared with La Rioja. The weather is better, the people more tanned, and there is a different dialect too.
Finally, I’ve come to what is possibly my favourite thing in Valencia. It’s a bit of a hidden gem as it’s not in the tourist guides and I didn’t hear any foreign people on it, but beating paella, fartons, and even the beach is this:
It’s an absolutely enormous “Gulliver;” perhaps the people and flats in the distance give you some perspective as to how big it is! You can climb on it and lots of the contours of his body are slides. Anyone and everyone was playing on it, from toddlers to grandparents, and you could here people shrieking and laughing from quite far away from it. It was lovely to see so many different people enjoying something together, and I think it’s quite artistic too! It’s sad; health and safety wouldn’t let this exist in the UK.
Needless to say, we didn’t just observe:
I’m back in rainy Logroño now, wishing I was still livin’ la vida valenciana like Ciara! At least I have my Robinsons for comfort!
Hasta next week!