The Start of Spring Break: Adventures in Valencia
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
34Trip End Jun 07, 2009
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Consequently, Eric, Jon, and I booked a little trip to Valencia, "the whimsical southeast corner of Spain that proudly boasts a little of everything." We hadn't nailed down any exact plans except for the hostel we booked called the Purple Nest Hostel. Thus, we were, in fact, taking on whimsical qualities in the so-called whimsical city. Our hostel was actually pretty decent. We slept in bunk beds with some other people in the room, 6 in total. But the hostel had a little bar and a common social room where all their guests could hang out. They even featured a Nintendo Wii.
After orienting ourselves to our hostel, we just decided to walk along this park area where a river used to run through it. Although the river is gone now, we enjoyed a casual stroll among the greenery and eventually crossed a small little playground that featured a fallen giant type of structure. We felt childish, so we went down a little slide, which you should be able to see from pictures.
We continued on our walk towards the City of Arts and Sciences (as it's basically termed) which features very modern and urban architectural buildings. It comprises Spain's largest museum as it is divided into four buildings making this area into a mini-city: L'Hemisféric (resembles an eye), L'Oceangráfic (the aquarium), Palace of Art (stage performances), and the Museum of Sciences of Prince Felipe. Although we saw all the structures from the outside, we thought the aquarium would be exhilarating since it's the biggest aquarium in Europe. We only had an hour and half till it closed so we made sure to book it, but still see everything.
Although there were many interesting creatures in the aquarium, I think the highlight of our time there was observing a group of about 8 seals and 2 sea lions. They are honestly hilarious and ridiculous sea mammals. The seals, while very graceful in the water, seem relatively disgruntled once they reach open air. They always have their heads pointing to the sky as if they literally cannot look down. I think the just enjoy sunbathing. Their flippers just seem so out of place really but they utilize them very well to scratch and adjust themselves. The sea lions were even better...absolutely hilarious. For about 10 minutes, Eric, Jon and I watched the sea beasts just mope around, show their teeth at other seals, and eventually take a little snooze with their head against a rock wall. Priceless. It got even better as the dominant sea lion simply pushed a seal back in the water when it got in its way. The action culminated in a Sea Lion #1 vs. Sea Lion #2 all-out brawl to see who was really the king of the Aquarium Rock. Funny stuff.
After the aquarium, we walked about another 2 or 3 miles back to our hostel. After walking a total of around 6 miles (a mild estimate), we nap it up for about an hour and a half. After a solid bunk bed slumber (something I had not done since 2005 at Coleman), we embarked for a "Wine and Food Fair" that was just about a 5-minute walk from our hostel. This was the deal of the century in our minds. For 10 euros, we received tickets in return for 5 glasses of wine and 5 tapas-sized food servings. At around 9 pm, this placed was PACKED! While we only had to wait around 0-30 seconds to get a glass of wine, we had to wait about 10-15 minutes just to get a small plate of food that consisted of little bits of meats from local carnicerias (meat shops). I guess the goal was to nurse a glass of wine while you waited in line (sweet rhyme). We also grabbed a delicious plate of cheeses that featured Manchego, Parmesan and Munster, I think. Since it closed at 10 and we had some left over tickets, we went back to the next night where I a plate of delicious paella, a nice red wine, and even a glass of delicious Red Vermouth. On this night, a Dutch girl staying in our hostel taught us some ridiculous, meaningless Dutch expressions like we had picked up in Granada as well.
Of course, all the food and wine was delicious, but the atmosphere was even better-full of Spaniards and some tourists just soaking up the cultural ambiance of Valencia and the culinary experience that it offered. Some genuine Spanish music played really making it feel like we were engraining ourselves in the culture, at least for the couple days that we were there. Jon claims that it was "the best 10 euros he spent in Europe."
Later that evening, we went back to our hostel to kick it for a little bit in the common room area. We met some American kids as well as a new Australian friend of ours named Mick (short of Michael). This guy was seriously living the life. After working 10 years for his company in New South Whales, Australia, he received a 13-week paid vacation. This dude was 30 years old. He had already traveled to South America and some places in Europe, but defined the whimsical. He didn't really have any set plans to where he was going; he was straight up winging it. He came out to dinner with us to a nice tapas place not too far away. We enjoyed some delicious spare ribs, croquetas and some other ball-shaped, cheese filled dish or something. It was nice just to compare cultures and life scenarios with this badass Australian dude. We got back to our hostel, only to find another opportunity to go on a Pub Crawl led by 2 young Irish/Scottish girls. I felt like a Pub Crawl veteran at this point after hitting one up in London and Madrid. We had an eclectic hostel crew of American, Dutch, and Australian natives. We hit up some cool bars and even dance clubs as well. At each place, we received a free drink, usually Agua de Valencia, which is Valencia's typical drink composed of orange juice, cava, and other various liquids and liquors usually rum of champagne. It was very tasty, but also very sugary. I also took down a "Chuck Norris Round House Kick to the Face" shot. Let's just say after shooting it, my face did feel like Chuck Norris had indeed stuck a boot in my face. But Walker, Texas Ranger had nothing on me. I shook it off immediately after. The night continued at the other places, but it was getting late and I did a little combo of a walk/cab home.
The next day we got up around noon-the beauty of being on Spring Break. No wake up times. Today was our beach day. We took the 15-minute bus ride to the beach area that seemed a little bit in the "hood," at least where we were. We hadn't eaten anything yet, and we wanted to get our fix of Paella Valenciana [paella originated in Valencia]. We sat down at a café on the beach and ordered a portion for each of us. While Maruja definitely puts up a fight with her version of paella, I think Valencia's version has her by a little bit. The shrimp was so fresh and much more edible than Maruja's. The steaming yellow rice had a little more of a crispier texture that enhanced the meal overall. I felt extremely cultured once again for indulging in the delicious Spanish tradition of Paella.
After having our scrumptious meal, we headed for the sand. While very different from say, Clearwater Beach, the sand was very smooth and had more of a beige color. It was obviously a little cooler in Valencia as well than perhaps Palm Harbor, FL. It was probably high 60's and felt like 70 or so. We chilled on the beach for about 2 hours or so, taking in the sun and doing some solid people watching.
One man in particular caught our attention quite a bit. Before we could even sit down, we see this man (we'll call him Banana Man) just strutting around the beach as if he owned every grain of sand.
PLAY SONG NOW (to enhance the experience)
However, perhaps he felt so confident due to his sun-tan that had he probably accrued over the past week by sitting in the sun for about 6 hours a day. Or, maybe it was the fact that he was strutting around in a man-thong, thus giving him the name Banana Man due to the popular and hilarious beach term Banana Hammock [if you don't get it, think a little harder]. This guy was getting himself out there, simply walking about 100 yards, stopping, looking around, and continuing to seek out more on-lookers. On the hand, it was absurd that this man was doing this while clad in his scarce clothing. However, it might have been more absurd that people couldn't take their eyes of this guy because it was just TOO funny because he was so serious in the way he went about his "business." I think he really should have had a theme song--"Da ya think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart would have been my choice.
As gross as it sounds, it might have been the highlight of our beach day. Cheers to Banana Man!
We got back later that day to the city center and went to a Smoothie place that was recommended in my beast of a guidebook. We each ordered a smoothie that absolutely hit the spot due to the refreshment that our smoothies gave to our palates. I also ordered an extremely rich, tasty banana, chocolate, caramel, and whip cream crepe. I didn't care if I was spoiling my appetite.
Later that evening, after getting back from the Whine/Food Fair again, we kicked it in our hostel for a good while, chatting it up with our friend Mick and some kid from Washington State. We eventually started playing Kings, a popular 'consumption' game among many American college students. It got so popular that we brought in 3 Canadians that were also hanging out in the hostel. They were actually really cool people with hilarious accents (specifically on words like 'about', 'well hey thurr', etc; it felt great to acquire an international experience in the hostel, meeting all sorts of different people, and sharing a little bit of American college flavor with them. I guess this hostel thing is pretty cool after all. I am definitely glad we did it. Solid, easy-going night overall.
The next day we woke up and checked out at 11. Once again, with no real plans, we just decided to walk around. We grabbed some breakfast that consisted of toast with ham or tomato spread. As we were sitting outside at this café and delving into people watching once again, we realized it was Palm Sunday in a rather Catholic area in Valencia. Turns out we were right next to a Romanesque Cathedral in the city center. We were lucky enough to see the Palm Sunday Procession as many people followed the Church clergy while carrying nice palms (a la a Lulav Branch-but not lemon/etrog, Zengel. Sorry).
We walked around the city some more, finding some cool places near the very center. After sitting in a park for an hour or so, it was time to head towards the bus station. We gained a legit appreciation for the city of Valencia and felt like we had done as much as we could in the short time we were there, and we did it all by ourselves. I am glad I expanded my knowledge of Spain, and can't wait for Ibiza, which will obviously be a different experience than appreciating Valencia, but I am pumped to see my friends from WashU and rage it up on the crazy party island.
Where I stayed