It’s been a while since my last post, but I have plenty to share since my last update. Now on the homestretch of this grand adventure of mine, I’ve expanded my horizons within Spain beyond my family apartment in the heart of Alicante.
Last month, I took a day trip through to Valencia. And what a day trip it was; there was so much city to see, and only a few hours to do it. The trip wall all sightseeing, finishing with a trip to the Aquarium of Valencia. Early that morning we got up to take a 3 hour bus ride to the capital of the Valencian community of Spain. We stopped once at a cafe on the side of the highway, somewhat like a visitors center. It reminded me of a Midwestern diner, with the exception that there were only Spaniards in it; and slot machines? Slot machines are everywhere here. In every bar, restaurant and lounge. I guess Spain doesn’t seem to mind gambling as much as the states.
When we arrived in Valencia, we began at the Train station. Inside the train station, there are trains to every part of Spain, and by extension, Europe. They have plaques throughout the entryway that say “Have a nice trip” in many different languages. They are all ornamental and well sculpted, as if to welcome and give good wishes to all of the travelers in the station. Not 3 blocks from the Station is La Catédral de San Miguel, which is the Cathedral of the City. Valencians affectionately call it “El Miguelito” or the Little Mikey, which is deceiving, because it is HUGE. It encircles several blocks, with gates at each entrance. It was likely once a castle where the barracks and the majority of the city was based. We went inside, and it had many of the outstanding features of European Cathedrals, stained glass, pillars, and sculptures everywhere the eyes can see; ornate altars and painted ceilings. It was filled with as many tourists as parishioners.
After we visited the Cathedral. we visited the former throne of the Valencian community. Before Valencia was a city, it was once its own kingdom. and the Castle of its royalty had to match. It wasn’t what you’d expect a castle to be though. It was much smaller than the Cathedral, but no less ornate. They had removed all of the furniture so that tourists could walk freely in the rooms.
When it came time to eat lunch, there was only one place we had to go: the Central Market of Valencia. This Market is a very large, aircraft hangar sized stone building in Valencia. It is filled with all sorts of Delicatessen vendors, and stands that sell all sorts of varieties of foods. From jamón Ibérico to vegetables and spices. If you needed it for Spanish cooking, it was there. All throughout the city, there were places that sold paella pans. A good Paella pan is very thin and very flat. And some of these paella pans were bigger than gongs. As if to make a paella big enough for a hundred people. Paella is a local staple for the Valencian Community, and every place sold their take of the traditional Spanish dish. In the Market there are restaurants that have no menus. They prepare the food that you buy in the market in many ways, so all you need to do is pick the freshest ingredients right from the vendors, bring it to them, and have a drink while they cook something up for you. It was really interesting to see, but I brought my own lunch.
Walking back to our bus, we went by the narrowest house in the world. It literally is the width of the front door, with about 3 feet on the side. And this house has five floors, and stretches back with living quarters, certainly interesting to see, but I could never imagine living in it.
We hopped back on the bus to take us to the Aquarium, which is on museum in a string of museums in the Valencian Seaport. They have a History, Science and art museum all along the same stretch of port. Each building is an architectural wonder in itself. They all have huge white metallic arms stretching them into amazing forms, like bids nests, dinosaur skeletons and geographic forms. The Aquarium was a Large white cup shaped building, surrounded by water features and small ponds. From the surface, it seems like a pretty small facility, with a few exhibits, like penguins, seals and birds. But the real spectacle was that everything was below ground. This Aquarium was a huge underground system of tunnels that go right through the exhibits. With exhibits showcasing the world’s oceans and the wildlife in it. There were so many cool tanks, I could write several updates just describing them.
When we left the Aquarium, it was sunset, and there was a 3 hour drive back to our slice of heaven. The highway system of the Costa Blanca of Spain weaves its way through small towns nestled in the mountain ranges that line the Mediterranean. And seeing these farmlands and orchards fade into mountains and valleys at sunset made for some great sightseeing. It really gave me a good contrast to the city life I had been a part of for the last 2 months. I was beginning to think that Spain didn’t really have and nature to it! It was dark before we got to the city, and for the first time in some time I could clearly see the stars, uninterrupted by the lights of the city. As the bus neared Alicante, I could see El Castillo de Santa Barbara illuminated from miles away. It shines like a beacon at night, and it surely was a good way to end the day.
That was almost a month ago now. And the hot dry days have given way to more temperate temperatures. Our daily highs are resting comfortably in the mid sixties. And the mornings more near the low fifties. It rains about once a week now, and breezes are common. The season finally changed, much to my relief. It is hilarious though, as a New Englander, 65 degrees is T-shirt weather, and to these hot-blooded Spaniards, it may as well be five below. Every day when I go to school, I’m wearing a polo and jeans, and the locals are gussied up in coats, scarves and gloves. Leafy trees have dropped their leaves, much like back home, but the palm trees don’t seem to be fitting the images of Fall all that well. Though My family has a wonderful tradition of “la comida llueve”, where they specifically prepare warm foods, like soups and casseroles so help them warm up. Which to me just says comfort food, and I’m ok with eating that nearly every day!
Classes end in a Month now. Classes are now starting to stress that their final projects and tests are fast approaching, and the students are shifting into 2nd gear. I still take regular walks to the beach, though they don’t have many people on them anymore, I guess it’s too cold now. It’s weird to think that a bit more than 30 days from now (not nearly as long as one would think) I’ll be finishing up classes and shoving off for home. A scary thought, seeing as two months ago that seemed like an impossibly long time. But I’ve more adventuring to do yet.