Yesterday did not go expected. At first, it seemed like that was going to be a bad thing, a ruin-your-whole-day-and-maybe-even-the-whole-weekend kind of thing. But it turned out much better than that.
Yesterday was our group day trip to Xàtiva, a nearby town closer to the mountains than Valencia. We were all supposed to meet up as a group and take buses the school had paid for. I left with just enough time to get to the meeting place by 11:00am, arriving about three minutes early. We were meeting at the football stadium, on the side that borders a main street. When I got there, however, there seemed to be no one on that side (you can probably see where this is going). I didn’t think much of it and decided to walk around the building (which is rather large, I might add, because, you know, it’s a stadium…), which is when I ran into some other students looking for the meeting place. We walked to the side we thought it was on, and no one was there. By that point, it was a few minutes after 11, and a few more students showed up. It was then someone received a text from another student saying that the group buses had already left.
At first, we thought he was joking. We kept asking, “are you serious? They actually left?” We were all there at 11:00 and couldn’t figure out why they would have left already. A few people who got there earlier than me never even saw the buses. That’s when the same guy got another text: we were supposed to be there at 10:30 and the buses left around 10:45, 20 minutes ago by this point.
9 of us had managed to miss the group buses. We all thought we were supposed to be there at 11:00, having read one of the many papers we were given at orientation. None of us bothered to look at any other papers, which we now discovered said 10:30. One little error on one paper out of several caused more than 10% of us to not end up on the group transportation. Needless to say, we were all pretty annoyed and disappointed.
We debated what to do for a few minutes, trying to figure out if there was some way we could get ourselves there. Maybe the public buses, we thought. But Xàtiva is about 50 minutes outside of Valencia and it seemed unlikely that the buses would go that far from the city. A cab? This was a bad idea for many reasons, seeing as we’d need 3 of them to fit all of us and it would probably be ridiculously expensive to go so far. One of the guys in our group decided to ask a woman walking her dog if we could take a bus there. She told us that no, we couldn’t take a bus there. Well, great. But we could take a train, she said. She then proceeded to give us directions to the train station, pointing us to the nearest metro station. She also mentioned metro the stop we needed to go to: Xàtiva. How confusing and coincidental.
Into the metro station we went. One little problem: none of us knew how the metro worked. We didn’t know which line we needed, or exactly how to read the map, or if Xàtiva was the right stop or we just misunderstood what the woman had said (if it had been called anything other than the name of the city we were trying to go to, maybe we would’ve been less confused), or how much tickets would cost, or how exactly to buy said tickets. Back up to the street we went.
Having seen the train station from la Plaza del Ayuntamiento where we met the mayor yesterday, we realized we could take a bus to get there. We weren’t sure exactly which bus to take to get there though, and the map of the bus routes we had was kind of confusing. The same guy who asked the woman how to get to Xàtiva earlier asked another guy around our age which bus to take to get to the train station.
We made it onto the bus, having a rough idea of where we were going. But then we began to wonder: how much would the train cost? When does one even leave? If it wasn’t going to leave for another 3 hours, there wasn’t much point in going to the train station and trying to catch up to the group. Knowing what the train company in Spain is called from having looked into going to Barcelona or Madrid, I told one of the guys in our group who had a functioning cell phone with data to look on Renfe’s website for train times (and to double check that there was actually a train that went to Xàtiva). One small problem: to find train times, we had to enter our starting and ending destinations. No one knew what the station here in Valencia was called, and there were several different options. Having recently looked at the map, I remembered (well, I was like 90% sure) that it was called Nord Station (“nord” means north in Valencian). No one else had any idea, so we went with it. (Luckily, I was right.)
We pulled up the train times, and found that the next one left at 11:53. By this point, it was probably about 11:20/11:25 , so we figured we had just enough time to catch the next train. If not, we’d have to wait another 45 minutes for the next one, which would put us even further behind the group we were trying to catch up with. Another problem somewhat solved, another one to replace it: where do we get off the bus? Again, the guy from our group asked the bus driver where we should get off at the perfect time, because it turned out to be the next stop. We then used a phone GPS to navigate our way to the station. On our way there we passed a metro station with a sign that showed the 3 lines that stopped there. It turns out that we could have taken two of those lines from the metro stop we were at earlier, but we were just happy to have found the train station. Yet another problem solved, soon replaced by a new one: how did we buy train tickets?
Once inside the station, we made our way to the ticket windows, where there was a bit of a line. While everyone waited, a few of us decided to check out the ticket machines and see if we could figure it out. Luckily, a man who worked at the station showed us how to buy a one way ticket to Xàtiva (which I don’t think we could have easily figured out ourselves, at least not in a short amount of time). I went back to the group waiting in line and told them that we’d figured out how to buy tickets, and we did it as quickly as 9 of us could. (I think we slightly annoyed everyone else behind us trying to buy their tickets, but what can you do?) The same man who helped us buy the tickets told us which train we were looking for, since the train we were taking didn’t go only to Xàtiva, but continued on to a different final destination and that destination was basically the name of the train. Without that advice, we would have been very confused. We made it on to the train, 5-10 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. Perfect.
Things went pretty smoothly after that, save for a few minor hiccups. For instance, one of the girls in our group couldn’t make it out of the train station in Xàtiva. There were gates you had insert your ticket into in order to exit, but she couldn’t find hers. She soon found it, but then it wouldn’t work. Eventually, she just had to squeeze through the small opening between the gates, which was just barely wide enough for her to fit. Luckily, there was no one around to yell at us for it. 🙂
Once in Xàtiva, we headed straight for the castle we were there to visit. Thankfully, finding it was pretty easy since there were signs pointing the way at every turn. Well, at most of them anyway.
Once we made it to the base of the mountain the castle sat on, the signs sort of disappeared. There was a road winding upward that we took, and it went in the right direction. We took that winding road up the side of the mountain, and it went back and forth the whole way up. We took some shortcuts, choosing to go straight up at a few points instead of following the road, using the worn paths that other people had obviously taken. At one point, some of these were so steep it felt like we had to crawl up on all fours, but it was certainly faster]. Some of these steep shortcuts left me a bit out of breath and didn’t help much with the sore legs. The journey to the castle was definitely a bit of a hike, but eventually we made it up there. We also beat the other group of students, who were on their way up quite a bit behind us after having walked around the city.
All the way up here, it was significantly colder and very windy in places where the walls didn’t shield us. We met up with the rest of the group (and repeated the story of how we got there several times), ate lunch, and took our time exploring the castle and admiring the views.
All in all, missing the group buses turned out more than okay. We learned how to use the train (something most other students don’t know yet) and we were proud of ourselves for having gotten there on our own. It’s nice to know that we can handle when things don’t go according to plan. That being said, I’d still rather not miss any more buses in the future. I guess I’ll be double- and triple-checking the times.
As for today’s plans, we have a free day to do whatever. I might check out one of Valencia’s many museums with a friend or go shopping. Or maybe I’ll just enjoy a relaxing day of sitting.