Valencia is one of those understated, cool-hip places, that you least expect; like when you find out that your grandmother organised a boxing match in her 1930’s nurse’s lounge. I have a lot of respect and admiration for this place – Vah-len-thee-ah!
My welcome was up several flights of stairs lined with dusty flyers of events. The scuff marks pointed to my hostel room, that I shared with two other beds. Over three nights my roomies transitioned; the friendly college student on the tail-end of her study programme, a young barely English speaking student whose moved-in look exposed her first travelling experience, and a girl who swooped in late at night and left just after breakfast, before insisting on taking my ‘I’ve only just woken up face’ picture.
Our room had one socket, with two power points. My bed was in front of the painted windowed door. The water from the shower crept out and down the hallway toward my bed. The wifi did not reach from upstairs. The breakfast room was cosy and cheerful, looking out to the architecture of the church next door. These idiosyncrasies make for the most characteristic of memories.
I spent my first morning roaming along the web strands that made up the streets of touristic Valencia. It was quaint. There were palm trees affront white buildings, and familiar brand chain-shops, and ‘old as the hills’ churches. It all appeared so ‘nice’, until I got lost.
I got lost amid the life-sized statement mural pieces that were speaking loud and clear; a buxom older woman standing proudly in a paella pan, wearing a crimson draped gown and matching nipple tassels. I got lost in hanging jamon legs in a bustling market place. I got lost admiring the humorous shop displays and signs, like the picture of a bicycle with the sign ‘Put the fun between your legs’. I got lost talking about travelling to the Italian guy who was making my icy drink, in a simple sandwich store.
Hours later I found myself, with the aid of a shopkeeper, nearly off my map. I am unsure how or where I managed to cross over, down and around, over to a different part of town.
In the evening, Barely English and I walked down to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences). If you’ve ever searched Valencia online, you’ve probably seen photos of that big eye and futuristic fish-like buildings, jumping out of the water. In amongst the remarkable architecture is Oceanografic, the aquarium.
Fortunately we had picked the best time of day to visit, when the sky was transitioning from blue to peach. The ticket lines were low, the queue was shuffling, and it didn’t take long to get in. There is something intrinsically wonderful about being in a quieter space, when otherwise it would be hectically crowded – winning at life! There was enough time to cruise alongside the sharks and make wishes about having sleepovers or dinner parties ‘under the sea’.
Valencia hosts a lot of sneaky spots to explore, yummy things to sink your teeth into, and there is always an opportunity to bump into someone that you may know. I spent one afternoon being confused by a subway ticket machine, before delivering a gift from Conil de la Frontera, in an off-the-grid suburb that surprised me with its rugged charm. BE and I dined at the recommended Sargadi, with tapas looking like individually wrapped gifts, savouring each bite. And once again, I happened across my Aussie companion that I had met in the backseat of our blablacar trip from Seville to Granada. That night I scoffed back some of the local cuisine, a plate of oily paella and a glass of creamy horchata.
I feel like there are so many facets of Valencia to explore and three nights didn’t quite cut it, but it was enough to satiate my curiosity for this creative city. Next, I travel up the country with my ‘we didn’t realise we were going to watch bulls die’ friend, from Seville, and end up at one spectacular beach. Until then, X