. I managed to get some photos out the window, but they don't do the sights any justice as I was moving at 150km/h, the camera is just for happy-snaps and I'm not a photographer! On the leg from Madrid to Valencia, there was this strange guy next to us and he obviously just wanted to chat to us, except he couldn't speak and English and we couldn't speak any Spanish. The way he would get our attention every time is by going to food car and buying some chips or peanuts then taking one bite, pretend he didn't like it and then give the rest to us while demonstrating that the taste of the food made him want to vomit. He managed to give us two packets of chips and a pack of honey-baked peanuts (very tasty indeed). Apart from giving us food, he would make extremely loud throat clearing sounds to get our attention or pretend to sneeze so I would say something like 'bless you' to him. He seemed like a good enough sort, but after that long on trains with staggered sleep, the last thing I wanted to do was try to decipher what he was trying to say in Spanish.
Oh by the way...did I mention that Valencia is WARM!??! It is only 30°C, but compared to the rest of Europe, this feels like a 45°C day at home. I am walking around in thongs and t-shirt livin' da vida loca ha ha ha. (whatever that even means...)
We were in Valencia for the beginning of a crazy festival called Las Fias (not sure of the spelling). I think that means 'the fire'. They have lots of fire crackers and the town pays for these huge papier mache objects to be made, which they burn at the peak of the festival. Although it was just winding up, one could see that this was a major occurrence in the life of a Valencian. Every day at 2pm sharp, a massive ten-minute firecracker display is put on in one of the town squares
. There is a multitude of banging sounds and before it started, I was warned that it would be extremely loud and I thought 'yeah couldn't be that bad'. When it started, I thought people were blowing up bombs. It was so loud that people one hundred metres away were covering their ears and the feeling of every blast was felt in the chest. The big finale is almost unbearable; even with your ears blocked, but once it is all over, the people, who have flocked from miles around, all cheer and a band starts to play. The only bad thing about this carnival was that kids could buy the crackers and they would set them off wherever they liked without warning and it would scare the living daylights out of you if you were close.
Apart from the crazy festival celebrations, Valencia is one of the most relaxing places I have ever been. People walk slow because they know there is no hurry, there is no public transport in the centre of the city, so it seems nice and slow and the weather is warm enough for people to be relaxed. I would say that it has the same feel as Margaret River, for people who have been there. For those who have not, that is your next holiday destination.
We spent most of our time walking around, lost, in the backstreets of the Valencian city-centre
. We were always looking for Sonya's friend, Helen, who is studying one semester in Spain. She is an awesome young lady who showed us around the traps and took us to some awesome restaurants. They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and therefore I think I'm in love with Helen! She took us to this fantastic Tapas restaurant where they had this one piece that was a sausage, but instead of meat, it had fruit and roasted almond inside. This was fried in honey and then wrapped in some bacon and pinned to a piece of bread: heaven on Earth. I went back there the next day because I just couldn't get the taste out of my head. Tapas, if you've never been lucky enough to have, is a little bit like a buffet where there is a selection of bread and food snacks that you choose. When you have finished, you ask for the bill and they count the number of toothpicks on your plate and charge you accordingly. I will search for this when I get home and if it doesn't exist, import a Spanish chef and start my own restaurant!
Something cool about Valencia is that it isn't really as tourist city and so you don't get too many touristy things going on around you. Everything is in Spanish, which made me feel like I was in some exotic land, and the people speak little English in most cases. So I feel like I got a pretty authentic feel for what Spanish city life is like. The best way to do this would be to go out into a tiny town and live for a month or so, but I can't afford to do such things
. Something authentic and slightly different to home is that the restaurants open at 8:30 or 9:00 for dinner. For us who are used to eating at 7:00pm, the wait can be undesirable, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The food was worth waiting for anyway.
It is really interesting the way that the different regions don't like each other. For instance, they all have different languages and often choose not to speak the common language as to ignore people from other regions. I also saw some stickers that said to boycott Catalan products. Catalonia is where Barcelona is. I have included a picture of this.
Pubs in Valencia were really cool and on the last night there, we went to a bar and we had some traditional Spanish music played to us by a busker on a guitar. It was a fiery style of music that you could expect to hear at a bullfight or something; stereotypically that is.
I think I have got everything in about this awesome city. I would definitely return again and just lay about forever if I could. If anyone who reads this goes to Europe, go to Valencia!
The train journey to Valencia almost deserves its own entry as it was nearly 24hrs long! Flying would have taken two hours, but we used the train and came south using the jagged path cast by the rail network. First was the seven-hour trip from Paris to Irun, which is next to the border of Spain and France. Then there was the eight-hour leg from Irun to Madrid and to top it off, we took a three-hour train to Valencia. With all the stops and waits it was nearly a whole day. In saying that, it was vaguely enjoyable because I saw a lot of the amazingly beautiful Spanish countryside. The vast array of climates makes for interesting viewing. I was trying to watch Kill Bill vol. 1 on my laptop, but in the end, looking out the window for hours on end was far too captivating to miss. We would go up and down mountains, through tunnels, through sunny areas and forest. Some of the mountain ranges were amazing to look at: the sort of thing you see in those 'Marlboro Country' ads, for those who have seen them