Valencia (or Balencia as it is pronounced here) had some big shoes to fill...
Stories from friends studying abroad here initially sparked my desire to come to Spain. At first, only to visit. But, as I realized moving to Europe was more realistic than I thought, their accounts definitely influenced my decision.
Alas, here I am in Spain and a trip to Valencia is my first excursion. Even though it was built up in my mind, the city still blew me away. Even from the very beginning (yes, I was THAT girl taking pictures in the train station) I was beyond impressed. I couldn't believe that people were actually allowed to LIVE in this city. Not fair! What did I love the most about Valencia? Hmmm...where to begin? I think the streets and general feel of the city pleased me the most. The buildings were all so intricate, and every detail of the city itself just seemed so thought out. Also, the food...duhhh. I had my first bite of true Spanish paella (I'm in heaven!). I had assumed it would be seafood paella but it was made with green beans, artichokes, and I'm pretty sure there were chicken wings in there too (awesome!).
The first day was spent getting lost, taking pictures of anything and everything, finding our way, getting lost again, getting a new map, and eating anything that looked delicious.
The next day was spent eating paella and exploring the City of Arts and Sciences (six impressive interconnected complexes built to house a museum, aquarium, and some other important things). The architect is generally loved by all of Valencia, but I have to wonder what people thought of his vision in the planning stages of his little project. One of the buildings (I swear) looks like a white darth vader helmet from one side and a prehistoric fish from the other side. Which, I have to say is an impressive feat in itself. We were going to go through the museum as well as the aquarium, but the lady at the ticket office told us we needed 8 hours to do that. Yikes, we decided on just the aquarium (called the oceanographique) instead. The complex that houses the oceanographique is split up into different pods to give the idea of lily pads. Overall, I was really impressed with the aquarium but have to admit, it doesn't hold a candle to the Georgia aquarium (ATL ho). Nevertheless, it is definitely a must see for the architecture alone.
Later that night we went to dinner at this amazing little Spanish-Italian restaurant. Apparently splitting three bottles of wine between two people is unusual here, because every time the owner walked by our table he looked at our collection and snickered. Dinner was great, but now the real fun begins...we are staying in a 16 person room - and its time to meet our 14 roommates! I can honestly say this was one of the worst night's sleep I have ever had. First of all, it is just plain weird: 16 adults sleeping in bunk beds in one room. Second, the guy sleeping above me is the loudest snorer I have EVER heard. I kept kicking his bed and he would stop for maybe 4 seconds and then it would start up again. I want to cry in my bed. Also, have you ever woken up to 15 people breathing? It is frightening...I don't know why, but it is. Furthermore, when I woke up in the morning, a middle aged guy in black whitey tighties is standing right in front of me. I am going to have a panic attack now, bye. And finally, I have a crick in my neck from sleeping in the tightest ball ever (protection mode) so in order to look left I have to move my entire upper body. Yes, like a robot.
But (other than that!) the rest of the day was amazing. After having the best chocolate filled croissant of my life, we went to check out the beach. Even in November, it is beautiful. We spent the last hours of our trip walking along the beach, taking pictures, and feeling really lucky to be here...in Balencia! Also, this is where I learned that a bull is indeed a male cow. Wow! Never realized that before. Startling Revelation #1 has just taken place.