Madrid is great and all, but 3 straight months in the same city can grind your gears after a while. Luckily, Spaniards love their puentes, and so on the 6th December I was free from all my jobs to run away briefly. Me and mi amiga decided (two days in advance) seek out the Mediterranean, and booked ourselves 53euro return tickets to Valencia for the weekend.
Our journey started bright and early on an 8am residential train to Valencia. IT cost 20 euros because it took a mighty 6 hours, compared to the highspeed train that takes a mere hour and half. Although the journey was long, we were well prepared with food and juice cartons to last the journey. The train took us past frosty barren fields, through teeny tiny villages, and stopped at [what would otherwise have looked like] deserted stations. It was quite beautiful, and I would recommend it, but I don’t feel the need to do it again. We arrived at mid day to glorious 20 degree sunshine, checked into Red Nest Hostel, and took a nap before venturing out to fully explore the city.
That afternoon we went for a wonder, and I was immediately seduced by Valencia’s beautiful, historic architecture. Every building had it’s own quirks, and the suns rays beating down on the pastel colours just made the city streets all the more poetic. We located Wok to Walk Chinese takeaway, indulged, and went food shopping to stock up for the weekend.
The hostel was good enough. The decor was bright and colourful as you’d expect; there were plenty of social areas, the kitchen was spacious and well stocked. We stayed in a very blue mixed 8 bed dorm; it did the job but it was very dark and gloomy! Some staff were better than others (it took my friend two days to get a blanket for her bed…), but overall I’d give it 3.5 stars. That night we ended up going on a Tour Me Out pub crawl with a bunch of Italians, two british girls, and a dutch gentleman (with the best name). The pub crawl took us on a very long and cold walk around the cities bars, and in each we were offered a shot of flavoured Vodka included in the 12euro ticket. It was a great night, but the greatness of each bar varied significantly, and there were some we would have happily stayed in if we’d known! We were also brought to a humongous nightclub at the end of the night and ended up having to pay for a taxi to get there and back (not included in the ticket) which was a tad annoying…
The next day we rested our sour heads and decided to take it easy. We took a stroll through the Jardines de Turia (Gardens of Turia), a river bed of the diverted River Turia that has since been transformed into a stunning green and cultural space that encircles the Ancient city. I’ve never seen anything like it, they truly were beautiful and I really admired made such an investment out of a bad situation. During our stroll we stumbled across all sorts of interesting folk; people walking on tightropes, yoga classes, and best of all a group of rock and roll dancers doing a social performance for no apparent reason. At the end of the Jardines we arrived at the magnificent City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic complex consisting of museums, opera house, aquarium, and iMax cinema. I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or loved it; the architecture was spectacular, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it would look so crisp in 20 years time.
On the Monday we opted for the free walking tour, ran by the same company that organised the pub crawl. Unfortunately an allergic reaction left me feeling a little under the weather, but nevertheless I was glad to have gone even if I was covered in hives… The tour took us around the Old Town, bringing us to each important spot, and showed us some nooks and crannies that gave the city true character. One of our favourites was the many gargoyles on the rooftops doing rather obscene acts… Apparently these were remnants of the sarcastic workmen who wanted to leave a message to the people who made them build said buildings in such terrible conditions. We ended the tour in a hole in the wall, drinking Agua de Valencia, an incredibly strong citrus cocktail that left me dizzy after one glass… We intended to go to the beach after, but as it was a good 7km away we opted for a lazy night in as we had a 6:20am train ride to endure the next morning.
Would I recommend Valencia? YES, yes, a gazilioooon times yes. It really is charming, and I’m already itching to go back as soon as the next Puente comes around. In fact, if I wasn’t living with such a lovely family now and earning a good wage, I would leave Madrid and relocate there in a heartbeat!
Also, it was December and…