After spending my second weekend in Barcelona celebrating a nephew’s birthday, I spent a week working through some projects at work while still exploring some new streets of the city. When I first wrote about this trip I had mentioned my love for Paella, and I figured I could squeeze a 2-3 hour course before one of my work days. I mentioned my plans to my cousin that lives in Barcelona, but she strongly recommended I take a class in Valencia. This is where the Paella originates from. The Barcelona version is another style of it. Now, Valencia was another one of those cities that never got my attention, but since it was the summer, I wanted to hit as many beaches as I could while in Spain. I needed to work on my tan. So I added Valencia to my itinerary.
It was July 4th weekend, which for many Americans is a long holiday weekend where everyone gets at least a day off before the weekend to celebrate our Independence Day. Luckily, my company gave us both Friday and Monday off from July 4th weekend, which can feel like a whole week when you count about 4 days. Would be great for one more day, but due to capitalist standards, we were already pushing it. So, I booked a hostel, my train ticket, and packed my weekender bag. I was off!
It was nice to not have to walk 40 minutes to catch another bus to get to my final destination. I got off the train and was greeted at Estacio del Nord by some nice statues that portrayed a little history of Valencia. I turned on my google maps and walked 15 minutes to my hostel: Cantagua Hostel. I was greeted by a trilingual man who spoke, English, Spanish and French. This made me think about how many other languages people who work hostels must speak. Questions started popping in my head: Why did people decide to work in hostels? Surely they must be from somewhere else? Usually a nearby country, which in this case would probably be France, but I’ve met people who were from Uruguay and worked at hostels. More to come on this topic.
I was tired, so I laid in my bed a bit, then sent a message to the hostel WhatsApp group chat. This was a cool feature about this hostel. Although it wasn’t a very modern looking place like Sant Jordi in Barcelona, it focused more on the camaraderie of the guests that stayed. My message read: “Hello ! Any recommended places to eat ? #Hungry” Immediately, someone replied and said they would be down to join as they were in the same predicament. The Hostel Manager sent a few suggestions, and that’s how I met Ani from Canada. We walked to Finestra, a small rustic and casual restaurant where you ordered your drink and food of choice at the counter and then your meal was delivered to your table. The catch here was that we had mainly pizza choices. Although this wasn’t what I was expecting to eat on my first day of Valencia, it was comforting to just share a simple meal with someone who was also traveling. I ordered a surprise personal pizza and was greeted with this beauty:
I also ordered a Tinto de Verano (my favorite Spanish summer drink). After a few bites, Ani filled me in on her solo travels from the past month and how she was meeting up with her boyfriend and his family in Italy (or was it France?) The family was from somewhere near Denmark. They had met in school while in Vancouver, and well the rest was history, as they say. I told her about my travels and how I had been feeling since my last trip, which was about two years ago. It was a nice casual conversation and a good use of my first few hours in this new city. I later had octopus for dinner and went to bed at a reasonable time.
The next day I was very excited to get ready. My Paella class was at 11 AM! I got dressed and headed to the meeting point: Mercat de Russafa. Here I met Kristin and Heather from the US. We were joined by a young Colombian couple who had too many drinks last night. Our chef and teacher was Ramon, and he walked us through the market while he picked up all the ingredients needed to make our Paella. He gave us some history of the neighborhood we were in and the Paella plate.
Now for anyone that has already been to Spain, or has been wanting to go to Spain, you may have heard or know about the Paella being a seafood plate. Well, that is the north Catalunya style. The Real Paella is actually made with rabbit and/or chicken. I was pretty mind blown when I learned that. I thought, “My favorite Spanish plate was a lie.” I still to this day love a good Paella with squid ink, but now I learned to appreciate and like the Paella made in Valencia (the OG one). I’ll spare you a longer blog post on how to make it and just give you a strong recommendation to book a Paella cooking class if you’re ever in Valencia.
Heather, Kristin and I became friends sharing about our travels while cooking and eating, so we made plans after class. Heather had to hit a nail appointment and Kristin and I decided to walk into the city center and check out some towers that we had heard about. We stopped at a few clothing shops on the way and bonded over traveling and music interests. Afterwards, I had gotten a huge headache and had to turn in early.
We still were on for a day at the beach, so the next day I felt much better and headed to a picturesque breakfast spot I had looked up on Instagram. The breakfast was very American in my opinion, but I really only came for pictures. I took a bus to the beach! Transportation in this city is pretty simple, but some lines aren’t that frequent, so you should look at schedules before you head out to some locations where you might have reservations. It took me about 40 minutes to get to the beach because of traffic and so many stops, but I made it! The sun was strong with some slightly strong winds. I was reading my book and then was joined by Heather and Kristin. They told me about their concert experience the night before.
Fun fact: the Berklee School of Music has a campus in Valencia, and the graduating class gets to have solo performances at the end of their school year and all throughout the summer.
After about 2 hours, we decided to get a bite to eat at a food market called “El Cabanyal” This is a good spot for some small (or big) bites before some drinks and maybe a night out. Heather had looked up the College of music some more and found out that some seniors were performing at “La Fàbrica de Hielo.” So we had some drinks and got to listen to some really good music. These are really talented up and coming artists. I hope to see them appear on Spotify soon.
After we parted ways to our next adventure, I decided to join a few hostel guests on a night out. I met a few more people like the new receptionist from France. He didn’t know any Spanish, but he took a big leap by just moving to Valencia and working at the Hostel. Some of us tried to help him with his Spanish. We then got into a conversation about languages and tongue twisters. I realized tongue twisters were not just an American thing. We heard the French and Vietnamese version. As the night was close to an end, someone was handing out small flyers outside the bar and told us a Latin dance party was just beginning, at 3 AM. We felt spontaneous and went to this secret location and ended up dancing till 5 AM.
What a rush of events and people I met. Although this was a short time spent in Valencia, it was just enough to remind me of what was to come: more art, language, food, travel, and new friends. I recommend visiting here, probably at any time of year, but definitely take advantage of the sun in the summer. You can even extend your trip to visit some nearby places. I still have on my list to visit Jerez de la Frontera. You can take a quick airplane ride to Sevilla and then a bus. Okay, maybe this isn’t “nearby,” but it’s another beautiful place in Southern Spain. I hope that although I went to specific destinations in Spain from my past blog posts, you all get the itch to venture further out. There is so much of Spain that I still have not seen. So much food I have not tasted. Languages I have not heard still. My advice? Go to a large international city center, like Barcelona or Madrid, and then just take a train or bus ride to the nearest city nearby: Cadaques, Valencia, San Sebastián, Sitges, Girona, Sevilla, Marbella. These are just some cities I have visited and other that I haven’t. But I encourage you to take the next step: book your ticket!
I hope you join me on my next destination.