Viva Valencia!

Trip Start Sep 01, 2013
Trip End Dec 20, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Valencian Country,
Sunday, September 22, 2013

This weekend was a school-sponsored trip to Valencia, Spain. It was combination vacation/ educational trip that allowed time for relaxation and the luxury of not having to worry about sleeping and transportation arrangements. Everything was pre-paid for this weekend through my Butler tuition, so that was nice also. 

The trip to Valencia Friday morning only took 90 minutes thanks to the high speed Spanish train system. At its top speed on the route from Madrid to Valencia, the train was going 300 km/hr (~186 mi/hr). The ride was incredibly quiet and I loved watching the countryside fly by the window. 

Valencia is a very old fishing city, originally settled by the Romans. It, like most of the rest of southern Spain, has a large Moorish influence due the 400 years of control they had there during the middle-ages. This can bee seen in the countless Blue-tiled domes scattered on top of buildings throughout the old portion of the city. The first activity was a walking tour of the Historical portion of Valencia. On this tour, we were taken to the border of the old city, formerly encased by a large circular wall with 12 defensive towers and doors scattered around. Today only one of these Towers remains open to the public. Climbing the towers allowed for a great view of the city. Continuing with the tour, we made it into the old market, the largest in Spain. This huge building is still full of the largest selection of fresh fish and fruit of any mediterranean city every day! It was very interesting to walk through the many stands and see live fish being prepared before my eyes! Also on the tour, we visited the old Cathedral in town where Valencians can come to visit the Patron Saint of the town. 

After the tour, Everyone stopped in a cafe to try the drink of Valencia, called Horchatta. It has a milk-like consistency but is made with nuts and sugar. It was served with a powdered pastry and tasted amazing! Dinner was also a treat because we were served paella, my favorite meal here. Spain in general is known for this famous dish of rice, scallops, fish, and other meats, but Valencia is thought of as the "birthplace." Nearly every corner cafe serves the dish. It can be seen being prepared in giant, 8 foot-diameter flat pans in certain portions of the city! 

Saturday was another interesting and packed day. In the morning our group took a tour of the l'Alfombra, A shallow freshwater lagoon-like area south of Valencia where the freshwater fishing used to take place. Our whole group boarded a small motorized sight-seeing boat and took the cruise through narrow water passages with reeds on both sides. Although I've never been to the everglades, it reminded me of pictures from there. 

After learning about the old-fashioned fishing trade, which is how Valencia came to be, the group went to the City if Arts and Sciences. This is a incredible area of the city that houses an Opera House, the Science Museum, an Amphitheater, and the Aquarium. The pictures say more than I can. Every square inch of this "city" within the city was designed by a single architect who specializes in modern looks that are themed off of sea life. I loved just being in the presence of these buildings, but what's more is we got to go inside several! We had a private tour of the modern Opera House and had two hours to spend at the Aquarium. The Aquarium, the Oceanographic is known as one of the best in on the Mediterranean. 

In the late afternoon on Saturday, we visited the Faller Museum. Faller is a long-standing Valencian tradition where once a year, each neighborhood of the city constructs some type of float. These gigantic floats depicting mostly ridiculous-looking people or cartoons are then burned in the festival in giant fires. Several of the smaller models of floats have been saved and are displayed in this museum we visited. 

Sunday morning was spent touring the house of a famous Spanish 19th century writer, second in fame today only to Cervantes in Spain. After the house tour, we had about an 90 minute free time on the Valencian beach! This was my first glimpse of the Mediterranean, and I can now vouch that it was one of my best beaching experiences so far! Jumping right in for a swim, I noticed how comfortable the water was. Late into September it is still a pleasant experience! 

The return trip left Valencia today at 2pm and thanks to the train's speed, I was back in Alcalá by 5pm, Giving me plenty of time to finish up homework, write this post, and upload some pictures from the weekend. 

Next weekend I'm headed to the Balearic Islands with several friends from Butler, and after experiencing the Mediterranean beach this morning I couldn't be more excited! 

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