On Monday, I got my shopping fix by hitting Aqua, a fancy open air mall. The weather is getting chilly at night and I hoped to find some jeans and a 2nd long sleeve shirt. I found the shirt, but the skinny jeans that are in fashion here just don’t want to be painted onto my legs, damnit. So I bought some leggings. Yes. 80’s here I come…again 😉 Anyway, it was here at this fancy mall that I first experienced fancy cash registers which show you dual pricing – your own currency & the euro. You pick which one to pay in. Can I share just how traumatic it is to see a 42 euro purchase show up as $60?!
I arrived at the home of my friends Rob & Augus tired, dirty and sick with the crud. They put me up, cleaned me up, fed me and let me snort unlimited amounts of internet for a few days.
OK, I am exaggerating my condition a bit, but I did arrive on the overnight train with a nasty cold, a pile of laundry and a to-do list a mile long 😉
Rob used to live in Austin, so they have things like SALSA (salsa mexicana), CNN International, English guide books and English keyboards. Ah, the small comforts. (side note: my mom asked me last night if I am homesick or missed anything. Honestly, the answer is no. Of course I miss my wonderful friends & family and sometimes wish you were here with me to share this. And I miss American breakfast and Mexican food. But no, I’m not homesick at all…yet. So there you have it.)
Valencia (3rd largest city in Spain) reminds me a bit of Austin. It doesn’t have a lot of high tech but there is a huge greenbelt running through the city where everyone jogs, rides their bikes, walks their dogs and generally hangs out. On Sunday night, we enjoyed a paseo on it and saw people grilling out, playing soccer, just like Zilker. Rock climbers have put up holds all over one of the bridges and were hanging every which way when we walked by. Yesterday I walked home from some shopping and saw people doing martial arts and practicing rollerblade moves. And everyone with a dog seems to take them there to play. I saw more big dogs in one night on the greenbelt than I have in all of Spain combined! The entertainment complex is at one end – a performance space, an aquarium and aviarium (?birds), a science museum with IMAX, etc. Its all very modern and clean looking. One of the buildings reminds me of the “helmut” from Daffy Duck cartoons…I wonder if it is supposed to look like a conquistador helmut on purpose?
I can definitely tell the difference between here and Andalucia/southern Spain. Besides the obvious climate differences (more humid & temperate in Valencia), the people sadly don’t take a siesta, although they do take a long lunch. And instead of a true paseo, they walk the greenbelt or beach paths. Things are bit more expensive, with restaurants & stores being a bit more sleek & branded. Bascially, it’s a big, modern city and it’s people look the part.
On Friday, while they worked, I slept and surfed the web planning my future travels. We went out for tapas that night and I finally tried bull’s tail. Frankly, it reminded me of pot roast and wasn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. Saturday, we went to a huge market and then later that afternoon, Rob & I walked to the beach. Valencia is right on the water and was the host of the America’s Cup last year. After that, we had pizza from a place called American Pizza (ha!) and I ate an entire pie. The pizza in Spain is just as I like it, with thin crust, little sauce & lots o cheese – but I’d been staying away from it because it seemed too American. Saturday night, I was treated to the Daily Show on CNN International. Yes, they show it on CNN once a week and John Stewart does commentary afterwards. It was the episode with Bill Clinton, should you have caught it too. I am not sad in the least that I am missing our pre-election hype.
On Sunday, we hopped in the car and drove to a little town just outside the city (along with half of Valencia) for the Paella Experience. Every Sunday, Valencians come to this small town that is filled with paella restaurants. We gorged ourselves on a traditional style Paella (even eating right out of the pan) and wine. It was a beautiful day and an enjoyable experience. By the way, the town is by a huge fresh-water lake where people recreate. This lake also feeds rice fields so in my pictures you will see harvested rice.