Please excuse my delay in publishing this post, but here it is! Two weeks ago my program spent the weekend in Valencia. It was a viaje organized through USC and they pulled out all the stops. We made the 357.4 km journey in less than two hours thanks to Spain’s high-speed tren. Upon arrival, we were greeted by sunshine, warm weather and palm trees. Seeing palm trees in Spain felt so out of place, but yet so familiar as they reminded me of home.
We dropped our luggage off at the hotel then quickly headed out on a visita guiada of the historic city center that ended at a restaurant where we enjoyed a five-course lunch. And I haven’t been hungry ever since! No, that’s not true, but it was sure was scrumptious!
Our itinerary left us with the tarde libre, so many of us followed our inner Californians and headed to la playa. Valencia has a beautiful coastline. We dipped our toes in the water and took plenty of pictures on the sand until the sun went down.
That evening some of my gal pals and I found a cozy Italian place for dinner. While other friends later explored Valencia’s nightlife, I explored my four star hotel’s baño where I took a heavenly bubblebath. WOW!
The next morning began with great promise. The hotel breakfast buffet put us all in a good mood, however, that quickly changed. We were told we would be going to an ecological park. OK, that sounds interesting, right? Wrong. The parque ecológico, or Albufera, for lack of a better term, was a swampy, brown lagoon with little to see. We did get the treat of touring the Albufera on a boat, but I would be lying if the likelihood of our barco capsizing didn’t cross my mind.
The afternoon continued with a stop at an eel farm and a boat making workshop… Naturally our spirits picked up at lunch. Paella, the famed Spanish dish, is a Valencian speciality. However, still a little bitter and confused from the disappointing tour of the Albufera, I had little motivation to do much more that day.
Our last day in Valencia ended on a high note. We headed to the futuristic La Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias. We started in L’Hemisfèric, the planetarium, where we watched an IMAX presentation about the lifecycle of las estrellas (wearing fabulous head gear). I haven’t seen an IMAX show since elementary school and also haven’t been to an aquarium since then either, but we did that, too. We visited L’Oceanogràfic, which is Europe’s largest aquarium. We saw pingüinos, delfines, ballenas, peces, morsas and more!
To make a memorable weekend even better, I had lunch with one of my best friends from high school, Michael. He is studying in Valencia this semester. We were compañeros de clase in many high school Spanish classes, so it was surreal for us to be hanging out in Spain almost six years after our first class together!
Valencia was a lovely city, rich with culture and color. It was unique with its blend of old and new: old found in the medieval city center and new in the ultra-modern Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. Though the Albufera was not a highlight for me, the hotel, bubblebath, aquarium and visit with one of my closest friends more than made up for it. Thanks, USC, for a great weekend.