This blog post is slightly delayed – my apologies! I visited Valencia, Spain during the weekend of March 23rd-26th with a group of other students from St. Clare’s and had such a blast mixing things up and go on a trip with a different group of people than usual!
Upon arrival, Spain was not the impressive wonderland I’d dreamed of and I instantly got a little bit worried. The area that our hotel was in was really quite normal and didn’t look like I had pictured at all! However, when we got into the city centre, I figured out what everyone was really talking about – Spain is incredible!
On day 1 after a grueling early flight, we settled into our hotel rooms and a group of us set off for the aquarium! The Valencia Aquarium is really impressive as it is the largest in all of Europe. The architecture is instantly recognizable and the exhibits were amazing! We also got to see a dolphin show (who doesn’t love those??)
After a much needed siesta back at the hotel, we headed out to the city centre for some dinner before meeting up with the larger group for a Flamencó show. Dinner was absolutely DIVINE. I had a burger and of course, sangria. The meat in Spain was incredible all around and the drinks sure didn’t disappoint either! Agua de Valencia is also native to the region. Locals argue that even if you followed the recipe elsewhere, it could never taste the same because you don’t have Valencian oranges!
Even though everyone was exhausted by the time we made it to the (11pm!!!!) Flamenco show, the show itself was unbelievable. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but the frenzy of bodies and skirts moving, guitars strumming, and passionate singing surpassed my expectations. I’ll warn you ahead of time, the shows are NOT quiet. The dancers and musicians alike really put their all into the performance and there is really nothing else I’ve ever seen quite like it. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from this!
What I loved most about my brief time in Valencia was not the architecture or the history (even though those are pretty great), but the feeling I got just strolling down the crowded streets. In Spain, things happen LATE. An 8:30pm dinner out is considered early. Yes, that late. However, the Spanish are huge fans of siestas and I really enjoyed participating in this cultural activity. We’d get up at 9 or so, go adventure during the day, nap and rest from 4-6 or so, and then go back out to walk around and get dinner. Most shops and activities close during this siesta break time and then open back up in the evenings. It is typical for restaurants to be open until 2am or so!
On Saturday and Sunday, my time consisted mostly of strolling around, admiring things, shopping, napping, and simply soaking it all in. Not a bad way to live, really. Spanish people also love to stroll around in the early evenings. The weather during our stay was gorgeous (much better than England, of course) and the weekend was really a perfect break from the stress of school.
We took a group walking tour and learned about the city’s history, climbed up a giant tour for a great city view, and explored the Mercado Central (Europe’s oldest working market)! Valencia is famous for being used as a stop on the Silk Road, and they stay true to this tradition with a coin and stamp trade market that you can see in live action every Sunday morning.
I have determined that I must go back to Spain to do a longer train trip sometime in my life like I did in Italy! Check out this churro shaped like a heart, with hot chocolate of course! Even though my Spanish level is EXTREMELY low, I still had a blast fumbling around and trying to remember basic vocabulary. I managed to ask a store owner about her favorite restaurant successfully! Visiting Spain really motivated me to do some type of longer trip abroad to a Spanish speaking country someday to improve my skills!
Salud, Spain! I’ll be back! (Yes, I do say this about every country).