This past weekend our study abroad group had an excursion to Valencia, which is south of Barcelona!
It was a really exciting trip, and it was refreshing to have a short visit to a different city for a change of scenery. When we arrived, we went on a walking tour of the city and as we strolled along the streets I felt the difference in the atmosphere of the city (it was more laid back and homey) compared to fast paced/crowded huge international big time touristy Barcelona.
Our tour took us to all of the major points in the city including theCiudad de las Artes y las Ciencias with its famous sparking pool out front and afterwards a trip to the blue flag beach where the sand was amazingly soft and the mediterranean water felt warmer than my bathtub.
Our tour guide recommended a paella restaurant on the boardwalk called La Marcelina and I swear the Valencian Paella (featuring rabbit meat and chicken, yes RABBIT!) was one of the best meals of my life so far.
On Saturday, the second day of the trip, my roommate and I started off the morning with a trip to Mercado Central de Valencia. Each city we’ve gone to has had its own main market where locals shop for their fresh fruit and meats rather than just hitting up grocery stores, which I think is really cool. Valencia’s market was smaller than La Boquería, but it was indoors and the building was decorated with beautiful tiling and an ornately decorated central dome in the middle of ceiling.
After the market we were given a “Valencia Street Art“ tour where we walked around Valencia and looked at the various drawings and paintings on the sides of buildings and walls that artists have drawn there. They are meant to be art rather than just graffiti.
There are a few main well known street artists which each have their own unique style and it was interesting to see the different works of art around the city on the tour and recognize which artists did each work of art.
When the tour ended we broke off and explored the city and its main edificios, including the massive main catedral (I’ve seen more cathedrals in the last few weeks than I had seen in my whole life before this trip) with a view of the entire city (and only 200+ steps to climb to the top!). When we got to the top it was exactly 3pm and the bell began to toll very loudly right when we stepped underneath it, which scared the crap out of us but it was amazing to hear in person (great timing!).
Next we visited the Museo Nacional de Cerámica y Artes Suntuarias González Martí which had an interior which had the most lavish and colorful rooms I have ever seen and would give the Madonna inn a run for their money…
We took a climb up to the top of the Medieval gate towers of Valencia and it was interesting to picture the old defenders of the city as enemies tried to invade the city some while time ago, standing in the exact spot where we were standing.
That night we visited the Valencia Marina to see the best fireworks that I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m sorry USA, but this show severely outshone every Fourth of July fireworks show I’ve ever seen in my life combined and put them all to shame. The 20 minute long spectacle was so incredible and choreographed with international hit songs that I was hoping it would never end. Also Valencia just loves fireworks. They were shot off outside of our hotel at dinner and at the outdoor beach club we were at at 4am.
On Sunday, rather than take the CEA bus back to Barcelona at 11am a few of my girlfriends and Conner and I decided to take a 9am train to a town called Sagunto and explore the Roman ruins of the city.
We bought the tickets on a whim hours before, and getting to the train was probably one of the most stressful situations of my lifeeee. We ran the entire mile to the train station from our hotel with our backpacking backpacks on our backs (say that ten times fast) and we got to the station as the train was LITERALLY pulling away. (uh oh, right?!) I ran alongside the train hitting it, until a bystander yelled “VERDE! VERDE” at me which means “green” and he meant I should hit the green button on the side of the train car which opens the door. I did, and it miraculously stopped and let us on. Dios Mio.
The smaller town of Sagunto was very interesting to me culturally because it was so different than the other cities I have been to in Spain like Pamplona, Barcelona, and Valencia. It was old timey with small streets lined with crumbling walls covered in ivy flowers and felt incredibly authentic. This town is home to Iberian and Roman buidling ruins which date back to pre 219 BC.
I’m smiling in the pics because we made it to the top in the 100 degree heat without passing out. It was awesome (I’m not being sarcastic!). Everyone in Sagunto ONLY spoke Spanish and the locals were extremely friendly to us. One lady gave us a ten minute spanish sheil about her ten gatitos.
It turns out Sagunto’s annual patron saint festival just happened to be celebrated while we were there, which we found out when we heard gunfire (uh oh!) and then proceeded to watch a bunch of bulls run by. We followed the crowd to an arena protected only by a few vertical crow bar poles. We were 5 feet away from these massive bulls, watching the locals try to tag them and then run away without being gored. Personally I didn’t understand that game but then maybe I just didn’t appreciate their style of celebration…
Sagunto felt like the kind of town where people are born, make their lifelong friends, meet their love, have their kids, and then live out their lives there until they pass away and their kids live out their legacy there as well. They also really like the song despacito (see bottom of post). I tried my new favorite fruit for the first time for lunch in Sagunto: “piel de sapo” which literally translates from Spanish to “toad skin.” Because its outside kind a looks like a toad’s skin… It’s also known as the”Santa Clause Melon.”
It’s a local melon which is harvested in Spain in June and July, and is currently known as the “in season” fruit of the Summer. It was the sweetest refreshing treat in the hot Summer day’s sun of southern Spain.
The train ride back up to Barcelona along the coast was beautiful and I was more exhausted than I could put into words when we got home, but it was an amazing adventure. It just goes to prove that the best adventures you have are the ones that you don’t plan.
P.S. Everyone is obsessed with the hit song “Despacito” in Spain. But the trick is that they loathe the Justin Bieber remix of it, so just a heads up on that… Also they like it when you know the actual words to the song and don’t try to yell random Spanish words because that’s not how you sing songs anywhere. DESPAAAAACITO