I was very fortunate to spend the last 2 weeks of May traveling around Spain. If you haven’t already read it, you can read my introduction post here.
My trip to Spain started with an 18-hour road trip (by car) with my Au Pair family from Aschau to Valencia. We left in the afternoon, drove through the night, and arrived in Spain early the next morning. We took a break in a beach town somewhere between Barcelona and Valencia so the boys could get out of the car and play. After lunch, they dropped me off in Valencia and then continued on to Tarifa, the very south of Spain, where I would later meet up with them at the end of the trip.
If you didn’t read my last blog post, I’ll sum up my first few hours in Valencia for you: I checked in to my hostel, had a spell of loneliness where I was worried I wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with that night, recovered, set out to explore the city, bought some groceries (small bag of pasta, Bolognese sauce, cheese and a bottle of wine for 4 Euros. This fed me for 2 dinners. Winning!) and made some awesome hostel friends in the kitchen while cooking and eating dinner. We all went out together that night and I was reminded that you are only as alone as you want to be when you are traveling solo. Note to all solo travelers: If you are struggling to meet people or no one else is in your room, buy some groceries and use the kitchen. It’s the easiest way to meet the other travelers (and you save money by cooking, too!)
Day 2 in Valencia consisted of the free walking tour of the city put on by our hostel in the morning and then an afternoon at the beach with a new friend I had made. It was really cool learning about the history of the city. It’s a very medieval city with some really beautiful cathedrals and buildings sitting just a few kilometers from a really fantastic beach. It’s a fairly big city but is very easy to get around on foot and it feels a lot smaller than it actually is, but in a good way. It’s not overwhelming and you can pretty much see the sights of the city in 2 days.
My 3rd and final day in Valencia I spent my morning in the huge market in the middle of the city and then ate lunch in the park that runs through town. If you look at a map of Valencia, this park looks like it should actually be a river because it’s very long and narrow and runs all the way down to the ocean, with bridges crossing over it. Come to find out, it used to be a river! The city had problems with the Turia river flooding and, finally getting sick of it, they rerouted the river to go around the city so there wouldn’t be any more problems. Then there was a period of about 20 years where it just sat as a dried up river bed until the city started making plans in the 1970s to turn it into a highway. The people of Valencia didn’t like this (I imagine them as Spanish hippies) and in protest, they would sneak down to the riverbed in the middle of the night and plant trees. Before long, so many trees had been planted that the city gave in and decided to turn it into a park instead. Now, it’s a 6 kilometer stretch of running and biking trails, soccer fields, playgrounds, park benches and picnic tables, outdoor gyms, gardens, flowers and lots and lots of trees! Turia Park really gives the city a cool feel and I love that the people of Valencia have this to be proud of.
After walking a good stretch of this park, I went down to “The City of Arts and Sciences”, which is a group of really cool futuristic looking buildings at the very end of this park, before you get to the ocean. They were all designed by the famous Spanish architects Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela. The first structure was built in the 90s and the last one is still being built today. They consist of a museum, an IMAX theater, a large aquarium, opera house and a couple of other buildings, as well. Surrounding this area are running trails, benches and beautiful landscaping. Standing among all of it you really do feel like you stepped into the future- the buildings were SO cool.
I spent most of my time at Oceanográfic- Europe’s largest aquarium. It really is more like a campus. It has about 10 different buildings, all representing a different aquatic region or ocean. I spent about 4 hours there, making sure I didn’t miss anything, and ended my afternoon at the dolphin show. I always get a kick out of those things! I’m not a huge aquarium person, but if you are in Valencia, I think it’s worth the 24 Euros to head to Oceanográfic.
That evening, my good friend Lilian and her family picked me up and I said bye to Valencia. I had a really great 3 days there and I definitely suggest adding it to your list if you’re heading to Spain!
Hostel recommendation: Home Backpacker’s Hostel
A few more favs from Valencia: