I’ve officially been in Valencia for more than 24 hours and I’ve already started figuring out my way around the city (thankfully I’m pretty good with maps and directions. It also doesn’t hurt to have a GPS-capable smart phone).
I got to Valencia in the early afternoon yesterday (Wednesday) after a long day of traveling. Luckily, I ran into someone from my school at the airport in Amsterdam and the two of us took a cab into Valencia. I showed up just in time for lunch with my host family (lunch in Spain is eaten much later than when it’s typically eaten in the U.S.), who have been great so far. According to them, I speak Spanish pretty well and they’re impressed by how much I understand. I’m not sure I agree with their assessment of my language skills, but it’s nice to know that they can understand me just fine and I can understand them for the most part. After lunch, I napped for several hours since I didn’t sleep much during the flights here and woke up a few hours before dinner (also significantly later in Spain. Generally anywhere from 8-10PM). We had tortilla española, which is kind of like an omelet mixed with a quiche with eggs, potatoes, and cheese and it was delicious. I called it a day soon after that.
Today my host mom showed me how to use the buses (side note: apparently this word can be spelled two ways, buses or busses, although buses is more common/preferred. I’m fairly certain I’ve always spelled it busses. Am I the only one who didn’t know this? Anyways…), which was pretty easy. She took me to the orientation at the school where I’ll be studying, which was several long hours full of information, most of which was given in Spanish. I followed along just fine, except for when a few of the professors spoke so fast it made my head hurt to keep up. They talked about the city, the planned activities and excursions, classes, etc. After orientation, I made plans with the girl I met at the airport in Amsterdam to walk around the city after lunch. I ran into some trouble taking the buses back, as the route my host mom told me to take didn’t stop actually stop where she showed me due to some recent changes due to construction. Luckily, I had just been given a bus route map at orientation and found that the route I needed was on a nearby street. Of course, there was construction going on at the closest stop, so I had to walk a little ways, but it all turned out okay. While waiting for the bus, I met another girl from the program and invited her to tag along later.
After lunch, I met up with the two girls at the Mestalla, the stadium for Valencia’s football team (soccer, to us Americans). We picked the stadium because it’s near our school and easy to find, seeing as it’s this red and black monstrosity with a giant red bat on the side. (my host dad sarcastically called it “bonito”). From there, we walked around what everyone just calls the rio, which is somewhat ironic because there’s no water there at all, save for a few fountain-like features. This strip of green park than runs throughout the city was indeed at one point a river, but now it’s a series of gardens and sports areas, with biking, walking, and jogging trails throughout. We then made out way to the center of Valencia, wandering around without any real goal. This actually worked out quite well, as we stumbled across many of the more well-known sites in the city by chance. We happened across the castle-like Catedral, unfortunately closed to tourists for the evening, so we’ll have to go back later to get a better look at the inside.
We wandered on, picking streets at random. We then stumbled across la Plaza Redonda, a circular plaza full of small little shops, most of which were closing at the time we were there. Another place we’ll have to come back to. Again by picking a somewhat random direction, we found ourselves right by the Mercado Central, Valencia’s famous market. It too was closed for the evening, and my host mom recommends that we go in the morning on the weekend. Some more wandering and we found this lovely plaza (pictured below). I think it’s all part of la Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The strange building to the left with the metal tower-like thing on top of it is a post office, we discovered. The building on the right that’s cut off quite a bit is el Ayuntamiento, or city hall (the next picture shows it much better).
By chance again, we happened to find this building, which was great because we have to meet there tomorrow morning to meet the “alcalde” (mayor) of Valencia. This is the first time any students from our program will get to meet Valencia’s mayor, and the directors of the program made it clear that this is an honor.
All in all, it was a great day and it was nice to explore the city I’ll be living in for the next 3 and a half months. (I still can’t quite believe I’m here.)
Buenas noches desde Valencia.