Valencia is the
favorite band of the boy I had a crush on in middle school third largest city in Spain and the site of the Imperium reunion. This is gonna be good…
After a glorious night on the town in Madrid, the biggest case of déjà vu ever set in as I boarded the bus at 9 am with the kids from my seminar, and of course our faithful guides Jose Luis, Alfonso, and Elena.
I slept most of the hours-long bus ride, but woke up between tracks of John Mayer’s Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles playlist just in time to catch glimpses of the rivers, rock formations and manmade tunnels that brought me back to driving through the mountains in Colorado a couple summers ago. Like the drive to Barcelona, the way to Valencia through the eastern Spanish countryside is breathtaking. Shades and textures of browns and greens laid perfectly unevenly beneath a blue sky.
We arrived in Albufera Park in Valencia in the early afternoon, where we were treated to the most delicious paella (famous in Valencia) lunch I have ever consumed. Rachel was especially in her glory. Paella is her spirit animal. Mine is croquetas.
After lunch, we toured the estuaries in Albufera that used to be a major fishing spot where the salt water of the ocean meets the freshwater rice fields. The temperature was perfect at the golden hours of the afternoon, and all I wanted to do when I got off the boat was take a nap in the sun.
Once we checked into the hotel, Allison, Rhiann and I had about an hour of downtime to
digest lunch rest before we set out to explore. We met up with Rachel, Hailee, JenBundy, Amanda, and Michelle and took the bus across town to walk along the beach before dinner. The moon was full and bright and you could feel the humidity in the hair air. We took some classic jumping pics, then sat down at a restaurant for some sangria and tapas for dinner. Allison and I split shrimp croquetas and an order of shrimp sautéed in garlic and olive oil, followed by homemade cheesecake for dessert.
We spent the hour waiting for the bus back across town discussing the wonders of Disney World, explaining the rules of “Mafia” (ask Hailee, I still don’t get it), and laughing about #sh*tJenBundysays, which I think will be my next blog idea. Hilarious. The best thing about that night was that after we got back to our room, I had almost the same feeling I get after spending a night out to dinner with my home friends. It was really nice to come back to the same group of people I started this whole “study abroad” adventure with, especially after we’ve all had a chance to gain a little more world experience on our own.
On Saturday, MY “LITTLE” BROTHER TURNED 17! I can’t believe it. Seems like just yesterday I was writing this note about him…
In-class writing assignment, circa 2001.
BFFs, May 2013.
ALSO on Saturday, we had the most delicious fresh squeezed orange juice (Valencia is also famous for oranges…Go ‘Cuse) and hotel breakfast. DEFINITELY beats
the crap out of the plain cereal and coffee I get at home in Madrid.
We saw the cathedral in Valencia where the Holy Grail is kept… casual. And while a young handsome Harrison Ford didn’t come to sweep me off my feet, there was a demonstration about fighting pobreza in Spain that had some really awesome drum lines.
After, we set off to the L’Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe. I had a great time reliving childhood field trips and babysitting outings to the Boston aquarium, but this place was on another level, with each building dedicated to one of the nine main marine ecosystems. We also got to watch a dolphin show. Is it too late to change my major?
After the aquarium, we took a tram tour around the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias that looked like some new age space park, with a giant model of Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels that serves as a children’s play park…casual.
Our “SWEET SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!” on the itinerary was horchata, a traditional Spanish beverage that tastes kind of like very sweet and nutty almond milk. You can drink it straight or dip in a pastry, either way it’s very good!
After exploring a little more of the area around our hotel with JenBundy and Maya, it was time for dinner at the hotel, where we had more paella. Score. At night, Hailee, Rachel, Rhiann and I bought some bottles of wine and enjoyed an evening of pretty deep conversation about dreams and after-life on a bench outside a church near the lively downtown, until we were approached by four entertaining Spanish suitors all slightly resembling Christian Bale. We ended up with almost all of the other Syracuse kids at a local bar/club Bolsería Café and danced until it closed at 3:30 am to the best DJ I’ve ever heard. Wow, what a great night.
The next morning we walked to the Lonja de la Seda, a late Valencian Gothic building which was used as a major trading house for oil, silk (seda) and other types of business and conveniently located next to our infamous church bench of the night before. Culture truly is all around us.
We strolled through a local flea market on the way back to the hotel before boarding the bus home to Madrid. I had an exceptional weekend in Valencia. Great food, great music, great company, and another fantastic Spanish city to check off my list!