This past Monday marked one month that I’ve been living in Spain. I honestly can’t believe how fast it’s gone by! At long last, I (sort of) know my way around the city and my Spanish is improving everyday. In the last five weeks, I have been to six cities in two countries (I went to Paris last weekend!), but I have to say I still love Valencia the most. I could go on forever raving about this place, but I’ve narrowed down a list of my top five favorite things about Valencia.
1. Paella: Paella originated right here in Valencia, so naturally it’s the best you can get in the world. There’s veggie paella, chicken paella, rabbit paella, seafood paella—if you can think of it, Valencia has it. I stick with the veggie paella, though. It’s made in a giant pan that sort of looks like a wok and has rice, snow peas (or something of the sort), artichoke, and garafón (large white beans). It was my first meal in Valencia and I swear I could eat it everyday. So good! It’s definitely something everyone must try while they’re here.
2. El Miguelete: El miguelete, or ‘micalet’ in Valenciano, is the bell tower at the church in la plaza de la virgen in the medieval center of the city. ISA took us on a walking tour of the city and we climbed el miguelete. After a grueling 200-something NARROW, spiraling stairs, you come out onto the roof, where you get the most amazing view of the city. You can literally see everything, from las torres serranos to the beach. It was definitely worth the slightly terrifying climb to the top.
3. Portland Ale House: This place is an American’s dream! Don’t get me wrong, I love Spanish bars and restaurants, but there’s nothing I find more comforting here than an English-speaking, American-football-loving bar owner (Naturally, he’s from Portland, Oregon). Every Tuesday and Wednesday Portland hosts English night—basically, you show up and agree to speak English with Spaniards, and you get free food and drinks. I’ve been a few times and it’s a blast! I’ve met some really great people—American, Spanish, Canadian, etc.—there, and even on English night I still get to practice my Spanish a lot. My other favorite thing about Portland is they play American football on Sundays. Oh and they have cheesecake! Need I say more?
4. La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias: The city of arts and sciences has been pretty controversial since it’s construction here in Valencia. Many natives don’t like it because it was very expensive to build and it wasn’t really built for the residents of the city. I, however, love the city of arts and sciences. For starters, it’s beautiful—pictures just don’t do it justice. It has an opera house, IMAX theater, aquarium, hands-on science museum, restaurants and two discotecas. We spent a day there and got to see a movie at the IMAX, and we went to the aquarium and saw a dolphin show. It’s a really neat place to visit. Not to mention, it sits along the old river (which is now a beautiful park) so you could hang out there all day.
5. La playa: I live ten minutes walking from the Mediterranean ocean. Crazy, right? The weather here rocks. It’s October and I went swimming in the ocean yesterday. The beach is absolutely beautiful and a great place to hang out with friends. There’s always people playing volleyball and soccer, so if you get bored of lying in the sun, you can join a game of futbol o voleibol. It’s a great place to relax after class or on Sundays when all of the stores are closed.
I also have a sixth favorite thing (but “Top 6” just doesn’t sound right): The people. Spaniards are by far the most open, caring, warm people I’ve ever met. At first, I was a little overwhelmed by it, but now I feel very comfortable around Spaniards. I love greeting people with dos besos and hugs! I feel like I’ve known these people for years even if I’ve only spent a few hours with them. I’ve also grown accustomed to the very animated (and sometimes very loud) talking of my host mom and sister. They’re so much fun, though! When I moved to South Carolina from New Jersey, I thought there couldn’t be nicer people than Southerners, but I was wrong: the Spanish are simply the best.
So, there it is: my top five (well, six) favorite things about Valencia. There are so many things I love about this city already that it was hard to narrow it down. I think after living here for nine months I will have a list of at least fifty!