I could LIVE in Spain, in fact I plan on doing just that someday…not just because I love the Spanish language and the scenery, but because their culture and lifestyle is right up my boyfriend Jason’s and my alley! Everyday they have multiple coffee breaks and siestas. Everything shuts down between 1-3pm to just chill and relax and everyone is happy and relaxed. You don’t see anyone walking around with a Starbucks cup or “to-go” food, because people actually take the time to sit and enjoy it for a while. The other huge thing I noticed was that NO one had their cell phones out at a cafe. People were actually looking at each other and having conversations. It was something I thought was a lost art in the world, but alas no, JUST in America. The other part of their culture that I LOVED other than their amazing food “Tapas and Paella” everyday and walking all over the city (yes WALKING), was their great obsession with soccer! We made it a point to experience a couple of games in person and although they were WAY better behaved than the Brits at a game, they still sang and cheered non-stop for 90 minutes. Pretty awesome. Jason and I traveled with two great friends of ours, Paco and Sara. Paco is from Mexico and it was hilarious because every chance he got he would ask Taxi drivers or locals what they thought of the Mexico Soccer team, to which most replied..”Mexico has a soccer team?” :), no, but they pretty much admitted to only watching European Soccer, because to be honest, they are the best!
Valencia is sort of the “forgotten city” in Spain with the tourists, which suited us JUST fine. In fact, there were times that we felt like we were the only people there…which we didn’t realize how wonderful that was until we later visited Barcelona which is overflowing with tourists like Times Square! It is a very sunny, warm city. Situated right on the Mediterranean Sea, the weather, landscape and climate actually felt like we were home in LA! Valencia is a VERY old city and dates back to pre-Roman times. Valencia is also just a ferry ride away from the famous party island, Ibiza..which I definitely want to go back to someday:) Since we only had a few days to spend in Valencia before we left for Barcelona, I decided to find out what I thought would be the TOP 5 Things to do that gave you well-rounded flavor of the city. We managed to do it all and I felt like I was on ZERO sleep and we walked for miles, but here is our “must-do” list:
- Visit the Cuitat Vella, or the Old City of Valen– It is SO fun to get lost walking around the narrow, medieval streets of the Cuitat Vella and finding hidden plazas with great cathedrals and beautiful old buildings. You could almost picture what life was like back then in the 17th century and some buildings, like their huge market, still have the same purpose today, but have been perfectly restored. Surrounding the ancient fountain of Turia, you can find nice places where you can enjoy a drink, or a local specialty, while admiring the square, with the Valencia Cathedral, the Miguelete Tower and the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados
- Visit the City of Arts and Sciences-This seven building architectural wonder designed by Santiago Calatrava, was so ridiculously awe-sinpiring to walk around and photograph. I was a bit obsessed. These building house a 3-d Theater, Opera House, Science and Art Museum, and a huge Oceanic Institute. We watched a short film about “Las Fallas” the huge Valencian Patron Saint Holyday that happens every year in Mid-March (I really enjoyed it), but to be honest the museums were NOT worth going to. I think walking around the promenade of buildings was good enough:)
- Walk through the Gardens of Turia– The garden is a long snake-like park that circles the Ciutat Vella and then cuts across the city of Valencia almost to the Mediterranean Sea. It used to be the River Turia, but now is the empty, sunken riverbed covered with green grass, huge trees, sport fields, playgrounds, and is a great way to cross the city by foot or bike.
- Go to a Corrida, or Bullfight-Since there is only a 3 month season of bullfighting, we did the next best thing which was do a Tour of the Plaza De Toros. It was walking distance from our hotel and the Cuitat Vella and was really interesting. We actually caught real matadors practicing their moves with a fake bull, AKA a cart with horns attached to it. Not QUITE the same thing, but you could really appreciate the art and dance of what they do by watching them practice.
- Go to a Soccer game!– Soccer here is like breathing and eating, so we HAD to do it:) This game was so much fun and to be in the crowd is such an energizing experience. Way more intense than watching it on TV. We had hotdogs and baguettes, but we made sure to eat the REAL traditional Tapas and Paella before we left the city.
I HEART VALENCIA!!!