València

Travelling is not all relaxing, exploring and partying.  Being away for 6 months means we need to do things on the cheap wherever possible. So that means public transport, no taxis and very few hotels in the centre of the city.

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To get from San Sebastian in far northern Spain to Valencia on the central east coast (about 500kms – or roughly Sydney to Coffs Harbour), we needed to do the following:

5:45am – Wake to pack up at our San Sebastian accommodation
6:15am – Walk 10 minutes in the rain to the central bus plaza
6:30am – Catch first airport bus of the day to San Sebastian Airport (which is 35 mins away)
7:10am – Arrive at San Sebastian Airport
7:30am – Check-in for 8:30am flight to Barcelona
8:10am – Board plane
8:35am – Take off
9:35am – Land at Barcelona Airport and collect luggage
10:30am – Catch Aerobus to central Barcelona
11:15am – Use McDonalds wifi to find address of new accommodation in Valencia, respond to emails
1:00pm – Catch Metro Underground seven stops to Sants Estacion
1:30pm – Exit Metro to Renfe Overground Train Station (dragging our luggage up at least 5 flights of stairs where there was no escalators)
2:00pm – Find Renfe Ticket Machine to print online purchased tickets
2:30pm – Board train to Valencia – Aaron writes new blog, Karina enjoys a relaxing in-train movie
5:30pm – Arrive at Valencia JS Station
5:45pm – Collect Valencia City Map and Metro Map from Tourist Information Centre, walk 10 minutes to Valencia Metro Station
6:05pm – Catch Metro three stops to Colon Central Metro Station
6:15pm – Walk seven blocks to accommodation
6:35pm – Arrive at address with owner who doesn’t speak any English, eventually she finds us on the street and shows us in
6:45pm – Dump bags and lament another 13 hour day in transit
7:00pm – Connect to internet and try to find a restaurant within walking distance that opens before 8:30pm (Spanish dinner time)
8:00pm – Find restaurant with some English on the menu
9:15pm – Return home exhausted and fed

Not that I am complaining at all (I most definitely am not!), but every couple of weeks we have a huge transit day like this.

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After a big sleep we wake to find the lady who we are staying with has set up her outside patio area for us to have a big breakfast. As she only speaks Spanish, we cannot understand what she is asking us so we keep saying ‘si’ which ensures we have a full stomach for the day ahead.

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We explore the city and notice it has the most beautiful architecture. The city had a stylish charm to it, a very different feel to its older siblings Barcelona and Madrid. Unlike Barcelona and Madrid though, it felt like there weren’t many tourists in Valencia.

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We visit the Valencia Cathedral (Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia) and walk the extremely tight spiral staircase to the top, which provides a beautiful view over the city. This cathedral is home to a chalice which is thought to be the chalice used in the Last Supper, the Holy Grail.

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We discover the Gardens of Turia situated in the old sunken riverbed of the River Turia, which used to find its way to the sea right through the centre of the city of Valencia until the 1960′s. After a severe flood which resulted in the death of many people, the city decided it was best to divert the river to the south of the city, in order to prevent future disasters.

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The Gardens of Turia is a long park which has sport fields, children’s playground, bike tracks, fountains and green spaces and allows you to cross the city by foot without any traffic. We walk through the gardens, and take some time out for a laydown and relax. We have been walking on average about 8-10 kilometres a day for the past 2 months full of excitement, but now our bodies are slowing starting to feel tired.

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We continue our walk down the bank of the gardens to find the City of Arts and Sciences building – which has the most striking architecture and is by far the most modern tourist destination one can find in the city of Valencia.  Its construction began in 1996, and was opened in 1998 to be an entertainment based cultural complex, and among many things has an opera house, performing arts centre, oceanographic park, IMAX, museum of science and sports and concert plazas.  We walked around the outside of the whole complex, and from every angle it looked different and was very impressive.

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The Spanish lady we were staying with had the most gorgeous little dog called Paola. She would greet us when we came home each evening and would be waiting for us to open up our bedroom door in the mornings. It was nice to have a little companion for a while.

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The main reason I wanted to come to Valencia, was because it was the original birthplace of Paella. Paella is a rice dish, which consists of seafood and or other meats of chicken, beef and rabbit. This traditional dish is cooked over an open fire in a shallow steel pan that has two handles. Then this pan is shared by two or more people depending on the size, and is eaten directly from the pan.  After some online research, I find the most well regarded authentic restaurant that serves real Paella (places that serve single servings of Paella are likely to be frozen). And it did not disappoint. I don’t think I’ll be ordering Paella ever again from the Spanish restaurants in Newcastle after eating the real thing. The rice was aromatic and extremely flavorsome.

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To walk off our Paella feast, we catch the tram to the beach. Valencia’s eastern border is the Mediterranean Sea, and we visit the Playa Malvarrosa which is the main beach. The sand is so flat and goes forever to the shore. We wander around and find Valencia’s huge port, which turns out to be the 5th busiest container port in Europe.  With an ice cream in hand we wander around and notice monuments which shows this city hosted a couple of America’s Cup yachting jamborees and an annual street circuit Formula 1 motor race.  The beach and port feel definitely reminds us of Newcastle back home.

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During the evening we walk around the old city (Ciutat Vella) and through the city gates (Torres de Serrans), and it had a medieval and gothic feel to it. Some of the buildings were so gorgeous to look at.

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If I return to Valencia, I will be sure it is in the month of August, as in the nearby city of Buñol, the La Tomatina Festival is held (since 1945), where for an hour, low quality, ripe tomatoes, grown especially for the occasion, are thrown in all directions. Aaron is not too keen on the idea, but I think it would be awesome!

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Karina xx

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