Hi all! Just got back from Valencia, and you can read all about it!
Gains: Not sure exactly what I gained this week. Probably more knowledge. Yeah, I gained more knowledge. And some friends from Valencia and Mexico.
Pains: Traveling is hard! Don’t get me wrong, it’s so much fund. However, planning and getting everything together can be stressful. Also, awkward intercambios. They are a pain.
Foreign Food: Recently, I tried calamari, octopus, cheap caviar, rabbit and paella. Surprisingly, I like them all!
Trains: This week, we traveled to Valencia! It was a really short weekend trip that was full of mishaps and fun.
I always do this to myself. I get busy, and then I can’t remember what I did the past two weeks since I wrote in my blog! Since my trip to Valencia, Spain is fresh in my mind, I will start with it!
This past weekend, my friends Hannah and Nancy, and I, decided to go to Valencia. As of this time last week (last Tuesday), we decided to go. Yes, we only had two days to plan and get things in order.. A little stressful! We also decided to try out a different method of transportation called BlaBlaCar that is becoming very popular in Europe. This is basically organized hitchhiking. If someone is traveling to a certain destination and has room in their car, they advertise it on this site. Then, you can contact them and set up a place and time to meet them, and agree how much you will pay for a ride. We were VERY nervous to do this. We arranged to meet the driver, Fran, at a gas station near our houses and prayed he wouldn’t take us into the woods and kill us. Luckily, he wasn’t a creep! Him and his girlfriend, who was from Chile, both were traveling to Valencia because she is a singer and had a gig. I put a link below if you want to see her sing (she is the main girl singer)! They were extremely nice and very helpful. The ride was about 5 hours (in a bus it is 8 hours) and 60€ roundtrip (90€ in a bus). As you can see, this mode of transportation seemed much more efficient!
When we got there, Fran dropped us off at the apartment we rented through airbnb. This was also the first time I had used this site for accommodations! The room we rented was a room that a girl, Laura, rents out to travelers. She is a student in Valencia and gave us access to the whole apartment, including the kitchen and some of their food. We were under the impression that she lived there with her two girl roommates, but they turned out to be guys! One was from Austria and the other from Mexico. The kid from Mexico, Rodrigo, was studying to be a chef. We were teasing him about paying him to cook for us, and he actually did! He made us chicken parmesan (an American meal – he knew we would like it!) and crepes with nutella! It was so delicious, and better than anything we could have cooked. It was much better than the chicken pasta we made two nights before, which we also ate for breakfast the next two days. Rodrigo is planning on coming to Granada to visit, so we hope that he will contact us to show him around!
We got to Valencia around 6pm on Thursday night, and by the time we had settled in and cooked dinner, it was pretty late. That night, we ended up just walking around downtown and getting a little lost (which started the theme of the weekend – being lost). The next day, we woke up, cooked breakfast (scrambled eggs – we were craving them because no one makes them here), clogged the kitchen sink doing doing dishes and headed out to rent bikes. All around Valencia, there are these bike stations. To rent them, you buy a week long pass, and then you can check one out and return it as you please. There is no one at the kiosk – you simply enter your code and pin and check out the bike. These bikes turned out to be so much fun! They were our only means of transportation while we were there.
Our first stop on the bikes was to el mercado central (the central market). This was basically like a GIANT farmer’s market. Everything looked so delicious. We bought fresh squeezed fruit drinks (I had mango :) and a bucket of strawberries to take with us to the beach. On our way to the beach, we stumbled across la lonja, an old building where the silk exchange of Valencia was held, and explored it for a few minutes. Then, we passed los torres de serranos in order to get to the dried out riverbed, which was converted into a beautiful park! At the end of the park is la cuidad de las artes y las ciencias (the city of arts and sciences), which are five very impressive buildings that hold a science museum, an IMAX theater and the largest aquarium in Europe. Due to the price, we didn’t go inside the museums.
After passing these buildings, we tried to get to the beach.. and got lost. We were all a little frustrated with each other at this point, especially since it was 3pm and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We went the opposite direction to get to the beach, and after 2 and a half hours of riding the bikes, we FINALLY made it.. not long before the sun went down. However, we had to find a place to drop off the bikes. This proved even more difficult, because all the drop slots were full! We rode around for another 45 minutes trying to find a bike station! We finally did and got to enjoy the beach and our smushed strawberries for a little while. Food on the beach was really expensive, and even though we were starving, we didn’t want to pay for it. We found a place for cheap hamburgers (they were really chicken burgers) which weren’t the tastiest, but they did the trick. At this point it was dark, and we had to figure out how in the world to get back to the apartment. We also realized at this point that we had been charged extra for the bikes. Unfortunately, we missed the memo that if you ride the bikes for more than a half hour before returning them, you get charged more. Yeah.. we rode the bikes for close to 3 hours. Needless to say, we were all pretty frustrated and trying to figure out how to use the metro or the bus to get home. We couldn’t figure out either option. So we decided to walk, which we figured would take us two hours. Oh, I forgot to mention that Rodrigo was also planning on making us dinner, and we had no way to contact him to tell him we weren’t going to make it back. After we walked for a while, we saw a bike station, and decided to get back on them and ride home. Now, it was raining, and we were riding like maniacs because every half hour we had to find a bike station – oh, and we were lost! It was pretty funny!
Finally we made it back and collapsed into bed. The next morning, we grabbed the bikes again and went to el hemisferic, the building in the park that had the IMAX theater. We watched a documentary about las fallas, the festival that was beginning in Valencia the days we were there, in 3D. It’s fascinating! You need to look it up and read about it. Every year, they build these extravagant, beautiful structures that they put on display around town. Every day leading up to the final days of the festival, they have “una mascletá” somewhere in the town, which is basically a fireworks show in the middle of the day that is just for the noise and the rise in blood pressure. Then, on the final day, they burn the structures to the ground. Every year. It’s really interesting because the whole town anticipates these two weeks every year, and the festival is unique to Valencia. Below is a short trailer about them!
After the movie, we decided to head back into town to find a place to eat paella. Paella is a rice dish that is very typical to Spain, and I believe it originated in Valencia. After wandering around searching for a place to eat good paella for about an hour, we received a text from Fran (our driver) telling us to go to the mascletá. We originally weren’t going to go, but when he sent us the text we decided to. We were so glad we did! It was very interesting to hear! Definitely a blood pressure raiser. Also, I have NEVER seen so many people out in the streets before in my life. So cool. I put a video below :) It’s not the actual one we were at (which there are videos on youtube of), but this one is easier to see, and it’s easier to see how many people are around it!
After, we ended up wandering down an alley and finding a restaurant that had the BEST paella (I actually don’t know if that’s true.. I had never tried it prior to this experience). The meat was pollo (chicken) and conejo (rabbit) Paella with conejo is the most typical type in Valencia. We also had the best chocolate ice cream I possibly have ever eaten for dessert. After, we climbed a bell tower of the cathedral that claims to have the actually holy grail to get a view of the entire city, and then returned the apartment to sleep. This pretty much ended our trip, as we were very tired and then only hung out with our hosts for the rest of it. Sunday morning, Fran and Claudia picked us up, and we were home, sweet home by the time the sun set!
To just finish the story of the weekend, I have to add what happened when I got home. I walked in the door and into the living room and said “hola!” to a lady who I thought was my mamá. Then I looked at the lady again, and said “hola?” It definitely was not my mom. The three people got up off the couch and kissed me to greet me, but didn’t tell me their names, what they were doing or where my family was. I was so overwhelmed and confused that I couldn’t even speak Spanish. I just looked at them and said “cómo se llaman?” which is “what are your names?” I should have said “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE??” They told me their names and nothing more. So I just stared at them confused until they explained what was going on. I understand Spanish – I’m not an idiot. They sure thought that if they started talking I wouldn’t understand! Anyways, they eventually told me that Trini had fallen and broken her hip. She had to have surgery and was in the hospital. Also, they were my mamá’s brother, sister-in-law and niece. I originally got a bad vibe from them, and the vibe got worse when my real family actually got home. There was so much tension in the house! My family doesn’t care much for Rosa, the sister-in-law! I may not speak fluent Spanish, but I definitely knew why. I was relieved when they left. For the rest of the week, I have come home to new strangers in the house. I really enjoy the family that is currently staying with us! They remind me of my own. It is my mamá’s other brother, Pepe (grande-big), his wife, Theresa, and their son Pepe (chico-little). My sister, Laura’s, birthday was on Thursday, so we all threw her a surprise party! We had a great time. They really make me feel like I am a part of their family, and make fun of me when I say stupid things. For instance, they were asking me about my experience with Rosa (the disliked sister-in-law) while we were eating. What I didn’t realize was that my mamá, who was sitting next to me at the dinner table talking on the phone, was actually talking to Rosa! They thought it was the funniest thing! I was pretty red. This family is leaving tomorrow, which I am kind of disappointed about, but Theresa wants me to come to Calpe (a beach town) and stay with them!
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS (of the past three weeks):
- This past Thursday, I actually got to go skiing! Hayden, his roommate Loren and I went with our friend Fernando, who I met at an intercambio. It worked out nicely because we didn’t have to catch that crazy bus! When we first started skiing, the snow was HORRIBLE. I honestly have never skied on sheets of ice, nor have I ever been so terrified skiing! You literally could not stop. We would be going down a run, hit a sheet and fall. You probably could have gone iceskating on some parts. I took a pretty good spill and have a nice bruise on my backside. It’s my souvenir :) However, after lunch, the snow turned into slush, and it was 10 times better! We hiked up in our ski boots to the top of the mountain, where you can see the ocean! Also, on a really good day, you can see Africa. We weren’t able to see it though. It turned out to be a really fun day.
- There is a Bohemian Jazz cafe in town that we discovered, which is just about the coolest thing. It reminds me of the General Mercantile in Helena. They have tons of old pictures and books, and it is a neat atmosphere. The milkshakes there aren’t to shabby either :)
- Joaquin took Hannah and I to a tapas bar to try some new food! We tried pulpo (octopus), calamare (calamari) and gazpacho (a cold vegetable drink with tomato, garlic, vinegar and probably olive oil). I really liked everything except for the gazpacho… not a fan of vegetable drinks. If I could have warmed it up and eaten it with a spoon it would have been better. He also took us up behind the Alhambra to explore some trails, and to our surprise he made us sandwiches. We refer to him as our Spanish older brother. One of the sandwiches was smoked salmon and cheap caviar. He told us it was his favorite, so I choked it down… not my favorite! The caviar wasn’t bad though! Another fun fact: Joaquin has a beach house. Yup, you read that right. And we have been invited to go. Woo hoo for Spanish friends!
- I signed up to be contacted for intercambios through my school. I was contacted by two people, and decided to meet with the first. It was NOT fun. His English was pretty bad, which wasn’t the problem. The problem was how critical he was of my Spanish! Usually in intercambios, you both realize that each is learning and is going to make mistakes. Anyways, after this interaction, I decided not to email the other guy who sent a request to me back. Well, my friend Hayden ended up having an intercambio and told me how great his was! The guy loves to go climbing and spelunking, and he is going to take Hayden. I was so jealous and asked if I could maybe come. Well, Hayden ended up going climbing and had a great time. He also told me that his intercambio partner emailed two people for an intercambio, him and another girl. The girl never emailed him back. I then asked Hayden, “is your intercambio’s name Carlos?” Yep, it was Carlos. They guy I decided not to email back. That’s what I get. I emailed him explaining what had happened, and hopefully I will get to hang out with both of them and do something outdoorsy next week!
- My family made pasta one day! My mamá got a pasta maker, so everyone came over to help cook! It was so much fun and really delicious. We had noodles hanging off of broomsticks! After we all ate, my brother Javi goes “anyone up for crepes?” I was like “claro!” (Translation: Um, yeah!) So we made crepes. Seriously, it was the longest lunch of my life, coming in at about four hours.
It’s been about four weeks since my regular classes started, so I have a pretty good feel for them now! I do enjoy them, but I don’t really like starting at 8:30 am and ending at 8:00 pm. I haven’t decided whether it is worth the two day school week or not. I wake up every Monday and Wednesday and have to say to myself “you can do it!” Oh, update on the bed situation. I am not buying a pillow. They must stuff them with feathers from a bird made of gold, because it is expensive for a good pillow! About 40€ (more or less $55). I am just sucking it up. Back on track. Here is a quick synopsis of my classes and teachers (I may explain more about the teachers – they are the most interesting part):
- Literature: Good class, but not what I expected. I am a very black and white thinker, so I am not a huge fan of analyzing literature. The teacher is very sweet and understanding, however, which definitely helps! This is also the class I have the most homework in.
- Islamic Culture in Spain: I was really excited for this class, but it, too, was not what I expected. The teacher lectures all through the class period and is all over the place. It is more of a history class and less of a theology class, which I am bummed about. I really wanted to learn about Islam. Also, this teacher smells SO bad. He has a nasty combover, smokes between every class and doesn’t really shower. I sit in the front of the class, so on a good day, I get a little bit of a shower (if you know what I mean..). He also likes to emphasize his “s” sounds for every word that ends with an “s,” so he sounds like a snake. All in all, he is a very interesting character.
- Spanish Culture and Civilization: This class is very interesting! We are learning all about Spain and cultural norms of the country! I really enjoy learning the material in this class, but by the time it rolls around, I have been sitting in class for three hours without a break, so I am sleepy. The best way I can describe the teacher is the photo below. For some reason he just looks like Bert – I think it’s his head shape. He also is very openly gay and married, which is interesting because I have never had a teacher talk about this so openly.
- POE: This is my language class, where we practice the speaking and writing parts of Spanish. I really enjoy this class! The teacher is an interesting lady, but I really like her! She is a hippy. Also, her favorite thing to teach us is how to use bad words (tacos) and slang in Spanish. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, so I feel a lot more comfortable talking in class.
- Grammar: By the time this class rolls around at 6:30 pm, I am dragging. When the class first began, I thought the teacher was going to be super strict. He is the biggest nut of a teacher I have ever had. I wish I could take a video of him, because trying to describe him doesn’t do it justice. When we make mistakes or say something funny in Spanish, he stops and laughs with himself for a few minutes. He doesn’t laugh at us though – we definitely join in. It’s hilarious! He also always uses the names “Eva” and “Luis” as example names. Finally this week, we finally asked him why he uses those names. He goes “it’s my ex-girlfriend” and laughs. So we thought he was joking. Nope, he was serious. Luis is the name of her new boyfriend. He tells us all this while he is laughing, which is a little strange, saying she broker his heart. He is a strange, sad little man, but a very entertaining teacher! This is how we all describe him (mannerisms, stature and teeth):
Well, that pretty much sums it up! Again, I apologize for my lack of editing.. Have a good week!