When I was searching for places I wanted to study abroad, two things came to mind: 1. A city, and 2. A beach. These were two things on my must have list. First, because I grew up in a town of 1,000 people. Second, because that town is nowhere near a beach. So the research began.
For obvious reasons, my search immediately came to a close when I saw a photo of the famous Playa Malvarrosa in Valencia:
I was ecstatic; already dreaming of long lazy days I would be spending at this beach with a book in hand. So it came as a surprise to me too, that when I arrived to Valencia in January, I was drawn not to the beautiful beach on the Mediterranean Sea, but to El Río.
El Río, or “The River,” isn’t really a river anymore. It’s a river bed. A beautiful river bed that the city transformed into a 7-mile-long park, stretching the length of the city. However, I was just as intrigued by its history. In the 1950s, the river flooded, taking lives, encompassing houses, and leaving devastation in its wake. To prevent another flood, the river was rerouted in a man-made canal along the outskirts of the city. Later, when city officials began making plans to rebuild, Valencian citizens fought back, claiming that the river should be made into an area of remembrance for what had been. With those dreams in mind, community members came together to make one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
El Río is a place you can go to find any demographic of people: running fanatics, book-readers, sunbathers, yoga enthusiasts, picnicking couples, Spaniards taking siestas, weight-lifting junkies, and many more. At one end is the famous Museum of Arts and Sciences, housing one of the most infamous aquariums in the entire world. Along its run is the “Gulliver”, an enormous playground where you sometimes find children playing. If you haven’t read “Gulliver’s Travels,” do so now to help make sense of this picture:
After Parque Gulliver is the Palau de Música where you can sometimes catch outdoor concerts near the fountain. In the summertime, a stretch along the river transforms into Latin America. This area offers a series of huts acting as countries like Argentina or Cuba, and each accompanied with distinct food, music, and dancing. The entire river is sprinkled with tennis, soccer, and basketball courts, as well. Soon there will be showings of movies at night in the river too! Aside from that, the high walls on either side keep the wind at bay, so you can cozy up near the old columns, fountains, or trees to join the book-readers for a day.
It’s when I’m in El Río that I can escape the bustling people and screeching cars accompanying life in the city. It’s in El Río that you might be able to close your eyes and pretend, just for a little bit, that you’re back home in Nebraska.