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Valencia: Spain in a Tuxedo T-Shirt

21 April 2008

This past weekend was spent in the relaxing Mediterranean resort city of Valencia, due to our twin desires to A) see the third largest city in Spain, and B) get the hell out of our wretchedly dirty apartment and take a real shower where we weren’t afraid to accidentally bump our naked butts in to the wall and come down with some bizarre skin rash.

We caught the train on Friday after class, and although it was advertised to take 3.5 hours, for some unknown reason it actually took 5.5, putting us into Valencia at roughly 2:30a on Saturday morning. Upside: we weren’t in the smoking car!

On Saturday we rose around noon and headed over to the Mercat Central, a sprawling public market offering aisle after aisle of vendors selling all sorts of fresh produce, meat and seafood, all in a cool 1920’s modern style wrought-iron and stained glass building. After a “most satisfying repast” at an outdoor cafe in the courtyard of the market, we took advantage of the density of the old city, hitting all the major sites in only a couple hours. These included visiting: the Lonja, a 16th century neo-Gothic mercantile exchange built by the local silk merchants; the Cathedral, including surmounting the ridiculously tall Micalet, its Moorish minaret re-appropriated as a bell tower; the Ceramics Museum; the city’s oldest Horchateria, and strolling along the Rio park, which is the old course of the diverted Turia River, repurposed as a central green / park area. And since most of the monuments are only a few steps from each other, we ended up passing the same group of Italian tourists 4 times in different parts of the city. Weird

After such an exhaustive tour, we opted to take advantage of the general cleanliness of our hotel room and ordered room service and watched a movie. It was actually really good, except for the damn exchange rate. I swear, it gets worse and worse every day. What’s going on in the States that’s screwing that damn thing up so badly for us (I mean aside from that whole War on Terror quagmire thingy)?!?

Sunday was another gorgeous day (in contrast to the rain, wind and general misery experienced by Madrileños this weekend…hehehe), so we took off intending to go to the Aquarium part of the City of Arts and Sciences, a super-modern complex designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava which looks like a cross between the Death Star and Sea Lab (I tried to take some pix of it, but the scale prohibited me doing it justice. It’s wicked cool.). We never actually made it to the Aquarium, however, because as we were leaving the hotel, it dawned on us that our return train to Madrid was of the 6-hour regional variety, departing from a station on the other side of town. Though we originally decided this would be a good idea, as it saved a couple of euros, we figured out that between the cab fee to get to the station and the misery of sitting in an uncomfortable short-haul seat for 6 hours (or more, based on past precedent), it wasn’t worth it. We subsequently had to go back to the train station and fix our tickets to get on the 6:50a train this morning. That chewed up the time that we had planned to spend at the Aquarium, and as we were walking up to the ticket counter (which took about an hour of walking around the complex to finally find…damn construction), they were shutting down. Oh well. We took it as a sign that we should go to the real Aquarium—the beach.

We sat on the rocky retaining wall of the jetty by the beach admiring the vistas for about an hour, after which, we opted to continue sitting by the beach, but instead of on a hard rock, we sought out a comfortable chair. In a bar. With cold, cold beer. This locale also offered us a good 45-minute game of “Guess the Nationality” of the boisterous crowd of Aryan-looking tourists across the way from us (we settled on Dutch).

Later on Sunday evening, as we were walking back to the hotel after a fantastic meal of paella in this dope little 8-table restaurant right next to the Cathedral’s bell tower, we were talking and realized two things:
1. despite the two bottles of wine we enjoyed over dinner, we were not in fact, drunk. Rather, our perpetual immersion in Spanish has rendered us linguistically handicapped. We’re not drunk, we’re just losing our English.
2. Valencia is a really cool city. It’s similar to Savannah, GA, but less rednecky and more cultured. It’s a beach town / college town, but with the size, cultural opportunities and industry to offset the potential limitations of your average beach / college town. It’s kinda like a tuxedo-print t-shirt. It can be formal, but it’s here to party.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. K.peters permalink
    22 April 2008 4:51 am

    Traveling 5.5 hours in the dead of night? Sitting in uncomfy chairs on tours? Trying to find humor in not comprehending a new culture? And STILL getting along?

    I’ve decided you two are a shoe-in for winners on the Amazing Race this season. You should totally try out.

  2. Countess of Cava permalink
    22 April 2008 12:07 pm

    These two are winners in any contest!

  3. mme. hoolaha permalink
    22 April 2008 12:20 pm

    Salut, Countess! I couldn’t agree more!

  4. conison permalink
    22 April 2008 2:30 pm

    Yeah! We are winners, we are! We’re good enough, we’re smart enough and gosh darnit, people like us!

  5. Spirit of 73 permalink
    23 April 2008 6:49 am

    I can only assume your query about the pitiful state of the dollar was meant to provoke a response from me. What’s happening to the dollar? What’s happening to the dollar!? WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THE DOLLAR!!!?


    Vote Ron Paul.

  6. Molly permalink
    23 April 2008 7:56 pm

    love the pics – and i knew you’d love the science area! you can see why i loved running along the rio casi cada dia!!! echo de menos a ti!

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