This past weekend I traveled with my entire study abroad program to Valencia on a "study journey." We departed at 8:45 a.m. (Well, we were supposed to but someone arrived late.) Much to your surprise, that someone was not me! Generally, I function on "Madison Time." How do you calculate "Madison Time" you may ask? It's quite simple: just tell me to arrive 15 minutes before you actually need me and then I will be perfectly on time. Tell me the exact time and you will find yourself waiting approximately 15 minutes. It's a fail-proof formula that my best friends have down perfectly. However, Spain has turned me into quite the punctual person, which is ironic because Spaniards are the opposite of punctual. It's about time though, right?
We boarded a coach bus that was not built to accommodate a 5'11'' girl. It was a lovely cramped 5-hour drive to Valencia. Luckily, we made plenty of stops along the way. Our first stop consisted of a tour and wine tasting at Torres Vineyard.
Like the rest of the tours throughout the weekend, it was all in Spanish. This was both interesting and frustrating at the same time. I was amazed at how much information in Spanish I could actually decipher and understand. However, when a certain topic of history intrigued me, it was annoying only being able to comprehend 3/4 of the information. Thank goodness for Google to bridge the language gap and fill in all the blanks for me.
We arrived in Valencia at 5:30 p.m. and checked into the magnificent Holiday Inn. The DOUBLE bed was incredible and the HOT shower was glorious. When you're confined to a tiny twin bed and a miserably cold shower every morning, you really start to appreciate the little things.
Once we settled into our room, my roommate Akanksha and our other friend Jessica didn't waste any time to go exploring. Right outside our hotel stood a line of giant buildings called La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias --> The City of Arts and Sciences. These buildings consisted of an aquarium, an IMAX theatre, a science museum, an event hall, and a concert hall. The modern architecture was impressive to say the least.
Parallel to the buildings was a giant park with lots of fun findings including an outside work-out park and a slide-park designed using "Gulliver's Travels" as its theme.
After playing in the park, we returned to the hotel for dinner. Dinner was a giant buffet with the most delicious food and unlimited FREE water! Free water at restaurants is non-existent in Spain. At some restaurants, an alcoholic beverage is cheeper than buying water. Ridiculous, right? Needless to say, I ate myself into a food coma. It was amazing.
The next day we were dropped off at the largest aquarium in Europe: El Oceanografic. If I'm speaking honestly, Seaworld does it better. It was still a lot of fun though. Plus, I got to watch a dolphin show. I will never complain about an opportunity to see dolphins.
After El Oceanografic we walked back to our Hotel and admired all the architecture and crazy designs of La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias.
We then embarked on a tour of Old Valencia. I took an unreal amount of pictures. The buildings were beautiful and there was just so much to see! It was overwhelming.
Orange trees were on every corner. Valencia is famous for its oranges.
I even picked out my dream Spanish casa.
We toured the Cathedral Llotja, which houses one of the many believed chalices used by Jesus in the Last Supper and the mummified hand of a saint who was killed and chopped into pieces.
After our tour ended, we went on a hunt for the traditional Valencian drink: "Agua de Valencia" which consists of cava (Spanish champaign) and freshly squeezed oranges. We went to bar after bar and had no luck in finding this supposedly famous drink. Ironically, we found it on the menu in an Irish Pub. It was delicious.
The next day we we left Valencia bright and early and travelled to Tarragona - the home of many ancient Roman ruins. My favorite was the colosseum located right next to the ocean. It was beautiful!
Lunch was an interesting experience. They crammed almost 200 students into the upstairs of a restaurant that specializes in serving authentic calcotadas. A calcotada is a grilled onion. You have to remove the charred outside of the onion and then dip it in a sauce made of different kinds of nuts. It was definitely messy, making the bibs entirely necessary. The lunch consisted of a traditional Spanish three-course meal that took over 3 hours to complete.
Overall, the weekend excursion was wonderful. It made me incredibly excited for my other travels coming up.