Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ho ho ho out of Valencia and into Madrid

To our 3 regular readers ;), radio silence was not due to us being way too busy here in Valencia, but rather due to the fact that there is a lot less to do and see. So I've been gathering stuff for one big blog post. We are now on the bus leaving Valencia on our way to Madrid. I must be honest, since Christmas day is usually a family thing for me, I am feeling a bit home sick and missing the familiarity of SA. But we end of our adventures in a fashion capital, so I'm sure tomorrow I'll be ok again!

Valencia is smaller than Barcelona, and also has its fare share of old buildings, except it is a single tower here and there spread across the city. It looks like medieval Valencia was one central fortress, with individual watch towers spread around it. Today the central building is used for display of art, and the towers are now attached to normal buildings that host shops and/or apartments. Our apartment was close to Torres de Serrans, or in English - the tower of Serranos. Valencia also has an old town and new town, with the old town having very narrow and low sidewalks or no sidewalks with space for one car to drive through. The only difference is the old town seems to be the same size as the new, or maybe one third vs. two thirds, where Barcelona had a small section of old town. We lived on the cusp of the two, to our left the old town, and to our right the new. We also found the science museum closer to the beach front, which boasts very modern Eco system built buildings. The one building literally looks like a space ship ready to take off, from a different angle it could also be a star wars storm trooper's helmet. There is a sequence of three of these buildings, one is a science museum, another an oceanarium and another building that I'm still not sure what it is. We didn't go inside as they were all closed, but strolled around outside admiring the architecture.

The people and shops here are the same, in price, friendliness and size. There are less arty people here, in Barcelona one in every 25th person boasted a hairstyle similar to mine or with funky colors, in Valencia I counted them on one hand. No dreadlocks... We found a big department store where Leon got rollerblades, a pair of Dr Dre earphones and we found good quality winter cycling kit (for those who know - Santini) for a quarter the price it sells for in SA. So Leon's post on FB about the suitcase for my shoes were actually for his very large unstable shoes! But now I might be able to find one more pair of shoes... What is interesting about their department stores is that it has all the products you would find in the shops in Sandton, and the whole building is almost the same size as Sandton mall, but the 'mall' doesn't consist of multiple specialist or chain store shops. You could rather compare it to something like sportsman warehouse, where each different type of sport equipment section is a different 'store', and you can pay across sections for al your items together.

Our days in Valnecia were lazy, spent walking the streets and markets, watching kids play, drinking coffee in coffee shops or at restaurants. We had a combination meal at a restaurant which consisted of Tapas and Paella and dessert for R150 each. Considering the amount of food, it was cheap, and delicious. I also finally had my chocolate con curos. For the regular Vida visitors, Vida sells what they call a fatura - it is a long dough type pastry with cinnamon sugar on it. Chocolate con curos is a cup of melted chocolate, with similar dough type pastries, only shorter and thinner, that you dunk in the chocolate. Delicious! We also found what became our regular coffee shop on our street corner, where we basically had pies, but filled with a napolitana type filling, or cheese and potato or ham and cheese - Leon usually gets heartburn from pies, but not from these, so we'll call them pastries.

Valencia has a park running through the centre of it that spans 10km through the city. There are coffee shops every 1km or so and play parks even closer to each other. It can be compared to emerentia and this is where the runners and occasional casual cyclists, the walkers and those taking their dogs for a walk or take the kids to the park spend their time. We finally started running again, so this was a very nice spot to run in. On the beach front their are also similar parks for kids, but what we were impressed with is that there is 'equipment' along the beach front that can be used for exercise. E.g. There was one of those arm bicycle things, there was one of those machines which you found in our old gyms where you stand on a platform and then rotate your body to exercise your middle and more...

Valencia was a good rest for us, with so little to do, except for getting around. Valencia is very difficult to figure out where the buses and metros go and where you'll eventually end up unless you know the city very well. In Barcelona each bus stop had a clear name on it and you could easily tie it back to the map on the iPad. Here some of the metros are considered trams on the map, which technically speaking they are, since they are above the ground, but on the metro/bus maps at the bus stops or metros they are marked as metro. The location of each stop also doesn't tie up to the street name, I'm still not sure what it ties up to... So we hopped on the wrong bus a couple of times. Leon eventually figured it out, but it would probably take me another month to figure out what goes where. We also found that a lot less people here speak English, but they were still just as willing to assist us.

We also had quite an interesting market experience. We decided on a butcher to get meat cut from, some butchers look like they only have heads and spleens and paws, so I look for the one that grosses me out the least and that's usually where we buy. After waiting 20 mins we finally realized we should rather join the que on the other side to get help. There was only two ladies working in this butcher stall, and they make fresh mince and cut meat as you ask, and assuming because it is Christmas some people ask for quite a lot, so it can take quite long for one person'as order to be completed. At some point the que (which looks more like people standing around a bar for a drink) got confused in who is first and why we're waiting so long etc. I'm standing right in the middle of a bunch of old ladies fighting with a young gentleman about who should be next, not understanding one word. They were arguing so hard that the lady working behind the counter was waiting to help someone. Not understanding one word, I looked up at her and we both just shrugged and giggled.

We decided to try the night life one night, but staying up till one is a stretch for us, so we weren't too successful. In Valencia people have dinner quite late, as in 22:00 or even later. So pubs only start filling up at about 12:30, 1 in the morning, and then close at 2 after which everyone goes to the disco-clubs for dancing and more drinking, and then the full on night clubs only open at 4. We lasted till about 2 and then went home, but we enjoyed watching the people. We might try again in Madrid, but we might sleep from 19:00 to 23:00 and then wake up to go party. Christmas eve in Valencia is almost as big as new years eve in that it is a huge party night for them as well.

Our apartment was not as luxurious as the one in Barcelona, still just as clean, but quite a bit smaller. Downstairs was actually quite live-able, but upstairs had space for the bed and a cupboard, and the access upstairs is a tiny narrow steep twisting (more like spiraling) staircase with no railing. I have nightmares of these kind of inevitably our suitcases stayed downstairs and the only thing we did upstairs was sleep.

To end off...Valencia is definitely quieter than Barcelona, the diversity of people is a bit less, and it almost seems as if people party more here. It was definitely worth the visit, but we don't leave a piece of our hearts behind as we did in Barcelona.

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