Another week came and went before I even realized it was my last weekend abroad. Last post I said Barcelona was the most memorable weekend here, well that has changed. After classes and going out for drinks at night with friends, a group of friends and hopped on a plane and flew to Rome on Thursday (June 16th). Now I originally had some reservations about returning to a city I have already been to (on a Cruise is 2011) but it was so WORTH IT! I’ve done Rome in a day but having a long weekend without any place to be at specific times was so much more fun. We used Ryan Airlines to fly from Valencia to Rome and stayed at a nice Airbnb 10 minutes walking distance north east of the Coliseum. That day we walked down the street for pizza and gelato, took a much needed long nap, and got ready for the first night out of the weekend.
Friday (June 17th) we got up at a decent hour and mapped out our sight seeing goals for the day. As we start walking to the Coluseum we see a park and decide to take a short detour, I suddenly look up a head and realize we stumbled upon the Coluseum as if it were any other stadium in the world. We continued our self-made walking tour and hit the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps (which were closed and under construction), and found a side street restaurant for more pizza and pasta.
On Saturday (June 18th) we slept in a little longer and finally made our way to the metro to take us to Vatican City. It was very hot that morning so we decided to have an early lunch in the shade where we had the funniest waiter of the whole study abroad trip. Because we saw most of the touristy sight seeing attractions we decided to stroll through some more parks. We came across a spot with views of the entire city where we watched four different wedding pictures take place.
Finalmente Sunday (June 19th) we taxied back to the airport and eventually back to Valencia where we reminisced about the best parts of the weekend and how we hope to travel around Europe more in the future.
This may have been one of the most memorable weeks so far, and I can’t believe I only have one more weekend until this trip comes to an end. My new friendships have become stronger and experiencing more cultural events have become more fun. The first part of the week began with the typically classes, searching for the best gelato, and a Flamingo show Tuesday night (June 7th). I was blown away by the talent and if you’re going to spend a week or more in Valencia, it is a must-see event at Radio City.
Sadie y yo woke up early Friday morning (June 10th) to head to the Valencia soccer stadium where we boarded the bus headed to Barcelona. The weekend was filled with sight-seeing, free-time exploring, and the amazing night life Spain has to offer. After arriving to the city, we rode the bus around the city as a tour guide pointed out some of the main things to see or important facts about the city. Fun fact: after multiple tours throughout the weekend, we thought to ourselves “we get it, you had the Olympics 23 years ago”. Turns out that Barcelona was never a large tourist city until the Olympic Games in 1992. Many streets were cleaned and historical buildings became open to the public.
Saturday (June 11th) the real tours began. We walked parts of the city related to Antoni Gaudí, a HUGE architect and designer in Spain, especially Barcelona. We walked around Park Guell which had a beautiful panoramic view of the city and many scenes from movies such as “Cheetah Girls 2” were filmed. Later we walked around the famous Sagrada Familia which will finally be finished with construction in 2026 after 150 years since the first part had been built. This Basilica had also been taken over by Gaudí and although he passed in 1926, many of his original design elements are being used in construction today.
Sunday (June 12th) consisted of more free time and tours across the old gothic part of the city. This is where we visited the Cathedral of Barcelona (which is different than the Sagrada Familia). The streets were much smaller in this area and easy to get lost in, however my friend Allie and I found a plaza to eat a delicious lunch. Afterwards we watched the end of the Human Pyramid competition that locals participate in frequently. Although my previous visit to Barcelona four years was brief, I do remember seeing the Christopher Columbus statue pointing towards the Mediterranean Sea (where our Mediterranean cruise departed). I could have easily spent three more days in Barcelona but Sunday afternoon we finally made our way back to Valencia which kind of felt like we were coming home from a little vacation only to realize this trip hasn’t stopped.
Places to go:
RESTAURANTES Y BARS
Radio City (Valencia)
Calle de Colón (Valencia)
Park Guell (Barcelona)
Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)
Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia (Barcelona)
Another week came to a quick close after a fun-filled weekend. At this point the city has become more familiar, getting around has becoming easier, and everyone who lives here still stares at me as if I’m of a different species (still not sure why American’s are so fascinating to look at). After-class adventures included going to the beach with friends, walking around and souvenir shopping in Old-Valencia (the downtown and historic part of the city).
Friday (June 3rd) I got to visit the largest aquarium in all of Europe and probably the coolest aquarium I have ever been to. The large outdoor aquarium is perfect for spending time outside and cooling off underground with the sharks. At the Oceanografic, our group watched a dolphin show that was amazing to a bunch of 20+ year olds (aka aquariums are not just for children so there is no need to push people of the way so your child can see the fish too).
On Saturday (June 4th) our group took an hour bus ride through the country-side to the beautiful beach of Gandia. Here we learned how to windsurf (failed), paddle board (Sadie and I were the fastest), kayaked (we were just hungry at this point), and sailed on a catamaran (between the water and wind from how fast we were going, I was cold). We spent the rest of the afternoon laying in the sun, eating our packed lunches, and walking down to the beach bar for a Tinto de Verano. I gloated that I was one of the few to make it through the day without any signs of sunburn…little did I know that the sunburn on my back just didn’t want to show until after I showered that afternoon. Sunday was another relaxing day people watching on the beach in Valencia and finding a cafe for lunch on a near side street. Next weekend: Barcelona!
So it has been a full week since our bus pulled up to the Mestalla Soccer Stadium in Valencia and I would say I’ve moved in nicely. I have class Mondays-Thursdays from 9am-1:45pm (with a small break in between). Afterwards I usually eat lunch with friends and spend the afternoon walking around the near streets and laying in the sun until my friends are done with class and we can explore the city more.
On Friday (May 27th) our program group went to the Albufera, a near by lake next to many farms. Here we took a relaxing boat ride and viewed the city in the distance. Afterwards we went to Barraca Toni Montoliu which is a restaurant and farm owned by the same family for over 70 years. We watched Toni make Paella (a typical dish in Valencia), looked at the animals and plants on the farm, took a horse and buggy ride to the orange tree fields (where we stopped to pick oranges) and finally viewed a traditional Valencian house.
Saturday (May 28th) we took a walking and biking tour of the city. We walked around the old city and even climbed the tower of the original gate into the city before the walls were torn down. After walking, the large group of us rented bikes and biked the whole Rio (click the link to read more about the history of the old river bed), approximately 14 in total. Although we were tired and sweaty a few of us decided to check out the much talked about mall in the southern part of the city. Hannah, Allie, Sadie and I (pictured below) decided to all buy new shoes because why not! When in Valencia!
Sunday (May 29th) Sadie and I FINALLY slept in for the first time in a few weeks, did our homework, and headed off to the beach for the rest of the day. Tip: When in Valencia, put on your sunscreen at home and let it completely dry before going to the beach. It is VERY windy and the sand will stick to every part of your body, and when you try to wipe it off you get a nice exfoliation to the skin and a dirty shower at the end of the day.
Other places I got the chance to visit throughout the week (mostly after class or after dinner) included the center of Valencia where there are many nice shops and stores, a few restaurants and bars around the city and beach, and the crazy night life on the weekends continues to blow my mind.
After three flights, three different countries, and a solid 24 hours of traveling I finally
landed in Madrid [with my my bff of course] where my study abroad journey begins. We made our way to the NH Hotel with other students from our program where the afternoon included a much need nap, wandering the streets for food (eventually ending up in a Starbucks – which is the first time we actually had to speak in Spanish to a local) and the first meeting as a whole group.
We woke up the next morning (still jet lagged) to tour the city by foot and visited El Museo del Prado, y El Museo de Reina Sofia. El Museo del Prado had many famous works from artists such as Velasquez with Las meninas and Goya with El 3 de mayo en Madrid. El Museo de Reina Sofia contained many modern art pieces with artists such as Pablo Picasso (and his huge painting of Guernica) and Salvador Dali (with Endless Enigma o Enigma sin fin). We made our way back to the hotel that afternoon with a detour of watching a bride walk into a church, strolling through beautiful park, and some initial struggles of trying to figure out the metro.
Over the weekend we visited the beautiful city of Toledo where we toured the city which included the 4th largest cathedral in the world and where we had the most beautiful scenery from a hotel room that I have ever experienced before in my life. After another group meeting we rushed to the buffet and spent the night on the balcony watching the stray cats looking for food by the pool.
Finalmente, we had a four hour bus ride to Valencia where we met our host-mom outside of the soccer stadium. So far the hardest transition has been the times of eating which consists of a small breakfast (8-8:30am), a large lunch at 2pm and dinner around 9pm. The night life begins at about midnight and walking everywhere makes me miss my car a little. Fortunately my visits to Europe in the past has made me use to the way people drive, the small cars, and the small streets, much quicker than most other people in our group.
You could say my Spanish still needs some work but that’s why I’m here. I’m ready to explore more over the next five weeks and I’m sure there will be many updates and photos to come.