It always amazes me the amount that you can accomplish in one weekend. I mean, some weekends you feel like wow, that felt amazing to waste two complete days. Other weekends you get less sleep than during the weekdays. This weekend was one of those.
This last weekend, I made a trip to Valencia, Spain. Valencia is the 3rd biggest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. It is situated on the Mediterranean coast and enjoys nice temperatures (at least while we were there). Valencia is one of the areas of Spain that also has another language native to the region and the people that live there. The language of Valencia is… valenciano, and I think it is similar to Catalan, but all I know is that I can only read some of it. (In the title I put valenciano “carrers” instead of Spanish “calles” because that is literally how all of the streets were given on the signs.) I don’t really know that many other facts about Valencia off the top of my head, and I don’t want to do that much research about it, so you’re going to have to look it up for yourself if you want to know more, sorry.
This was actually my second time visiting the city of Valencia. I was last here with my grandparents and my sister Angelica a little more than a year ago. That is not to say that I had seen all there was to see (or that I could truly remember everything I had seen). This experience did serve to give me an idea of what I wanted to see while I was there and what I could skip over. Some of the reasoning behind this trip was that theErasmus Student Network (ESN) (if you do a study abroad in Europe you have to check it out) was sponsoring a trip this weekend as well to Valencia, and so a lot of international students were going to be in Valencia. Some friends of mine had booked an Airbnb in Valencia this weekend and had an extra place at the flat. And so, of course, I was in. Plus Valencia is not too far away from Madrid and it would make for a nice “test” trip for any future trip (individually or as a group).
I wanted to try and make a joke out of the nationalities of the friends I stayed with in Valencia but it was too hard to say… “A Norwegian, a Finn, a Brit, an American, and two Germans walk into a Spanish bar…” (It just doesn’t have that ring to it, you know?) (Plus, I can’t figure out the end of the joke.)
There was much discussion over modes of transportation and such, and in the end, it was decided that we use an interesting service that I had not heard of before, but that I now would have to recommend. The service is called BlaBlaCar. I don’t know exactly which countries this app/service is available in but it’s quite nice and simple. Basically, if you have a car and you are making a trip anywhere and you want to make a little bit of money or have some company, you post where you’re going, where you are leaving from, and how many places you have in your cars. Then people reserve places in your car for a price you set plus a little commission for the service. For a little price comparison: train to Valencia was 74€, bus was 30€, and BlaBlaCar to Valencia was 18€. Overall, not that bad in the price department. And it was interesting, an experience guaranteed, as you have to find where they will pick you up, talk (or not) to them, sit in a car with strangers for a determined amount of time (can be good or bad depending on the driving), and then coordinate an appropriate place to be dropped off. All in all, it is very simple, and I quite liked the whole idea of it and the ease of it. That is what I used to get to Valencia on Friday evening and what I used to get back to Madrid on Sunday.
Friday night was the night that everyone was arriving in Valencia, so we met up based on when we arrived at the city and hung out for the night. When we checked into the Airbnb, we found out to our dismay (I didn’t think it was that bad) that we only had one key between the six of us. You may be thinking that this shouldn’t be a big problem because aren’t you guys going to do stuff together (I thought that at first as well), but no, not really. Everyone kind of made their own plans (this was good, not bad, to be clear, because we didn’t all want to do the same things). But that made the one key a problem, especially for Saturday because we would all be separated for most of the day, and only the person with the key would be able to get into the flat. In the end, there was only one hiccup and a few mildly angered people over the “one key problem” and we worked around it.
Saturday was a full day. Like honestly, I think I walked more on this Saturday than all of the previous week combined. Or at least it felt like that. I miss having a car at my disposal, but also, I would hate to have to park in Spain (no like seriously, they don’t even teach you to parallel park in NM, how could I park). Plus, I get unlimited miles on my legs, until I have to sit down on a random bench because I can’t go any farther. Hey, man, it’s cheaper than getting a taxi, and sometimes it can be faster than waiting for the bus or train (although by the end of the day I had been on a tram, a few buses, and ridden in a couple taxis). All of this made Saturday go by as fast as it did slowly (if that makes any sense). I was able to cover a lot of ground, see a lot of things, and have a fun little solo day before I met back up with my friends. I have drawn on a little screenshot of Google Maps the route that I took Saturday to make it easier to visualize the path that I took.
I won’t go into every detail of the days we spent there, but if you’ve ever heard me tell a story, I do find it hard to leave things out…
So on Saturday: I woke up and went to the beach with Fabiano from Germany where we ate breakfast and swam in the sea, and the girls (Norway, Finland, & Germany) met us at the there a little later. Soon after, Fabiano and I left, each going his separate ways (wow that sounds like something a book would say), and I headed off down the beach to the port (walking). After walking around part of the port, I caught a bus (Google Maps is helpful) to the City of Arts and Sciences (it’s just a lot of crazy buildings with vague connections to art and science). After the City, I ate lunch and then caught a bus to the Ruzafa district of Valencia where I walked around and looked at the little shops and the street art. Then I got a call from Fabiano and Sunny from England, and so I walked north to the center of the city to climb 207 steps up a winding stone staircase to see the city from above. After the tower I had to replenish sugar levels, and I went and got an ice
cream. Then after an ordeal concerning the key and the flat, the six of us met up again for dinner and ate traditional and nontraditional paella (it is a must if you ever travel to Valencia). Later that night, we joined the other international students and the ESN group for a night (and morning) of dancing.
On Sunday we woke up with only an hour to clean up the flat and pack our stuff up because the check out was at 12pm. (We barely made it.) I split from the group after that as everyone had different things that they wanted to do for their remaining time in Valencia. I used my time to wander around downtown, seeing even more street art (seriously there was a lot of art), and visit some churches. Later after lunch, I met up with Fabiano as we were leaving in separate BlaBlaCars but at the same time from a similar place. And by 6 o’clock I was on my way back to Madrid in the back of some Ukrainian couple’s car (yeah I still only have good things to say about BlaBlaCar). When I arrived home at 10:45 that night I was quite tired (and thrilled about throwing myself into bed), but I was quite satisfied at what I had accomplished that weekend. You really can fit quite a bit into a short time span. Good to know.
Oh and I think that in the first blog I said I would update you all on how my quest to try and pack more minimally is progressing. I am trying to pack into one bag (and the clothes I have on) everything for a weekend trip (and maybe longer). I tried the dive-straight-in method. It went pretty well if I do say so. I usually overpack a lot and like to bring clothes for every possible scenario, but this trip I forced myself to only pack what was absolutely necessary… and it worked. It felt very wrong, and it felt really weird, but in the end it helped out a lot to be able to carry everything on my back. All those other travel blogger guys and gals were right, it does feel liberating. You know that all you have to do it carry the backpack (which should just sit there, hopefully not too uncomfortably). I think that I will attach some pictures to show what I took and what I fit into my bag. FYI the bag is a Tom Bihn Synapse 25, and I LOVE IT! Seriously like, it may be one of the best bags I have ever bought. I am very glad I spent the money on it and the time researching backpacks this summer (there was a lot of researching).
But anyways, the trip turned out to be a success, and we all learned things that we will keep in our minds for further trips (number of keys, staying together, packing, traveling by car). I am looking forward to a few more of these little trips. (Not sure how much I am looking forward to the worse sleep schedule that comes with traveling on weekends.)