Experiencing Valencia for the First Time
The first time in Valencia was just that–a time. A good time, don’t worry. The travel horror stories don’t start until later.
It started out like any other good story: getting a ride from an elderly Austrian stranger. My friends and I – by this time a few days in, we had formed a little group (Alexa and I, the girl that we met the first day, Antoinette, and Trevor, a graphic design major from Walla Walla) – couldn’t call a taxi because none of us had phone service and most of us didn’t speak good enough Spanish. We asked someone at the school to help us. Later I learned his name was Ata. He was really nice and said he would help us, but the train we were trying to catch wouldn’t left by the time the taxi came and got us and brought us to the train station. While we debated what to do, he asked an elderly lady sitting outside reading her Bible to drive us to the train station – a stranger to us, but hey whatever, when in Spain.
Turns out she was from Austria and didn’t know how to get to the train station. So Ata, also still a stranger to us, offered to give us his phone to use for a GPS. I was blown away by both strangers’ kindness and willingness to go out of their way to help.
So this old lady from Austria, I don’t even know her name, drove the four of us to the train station. In my journal I wrote, “quite fast for an old lady (everyone drives fast here and no one slows down for speedbumps).” We looked like such tourists when we got to the train station because none of us had ever bought a train ticket before or fed it through the machine that opens the doors to pass through.
We rode the train for about 40 minutes through groves and groves of oranges. When we arrived at the Valencia train station, we were amazed…at just the train station; we hadn’t even seen anything yet. In my journal I wrote, “Even the train station was beautiful – such detail in the architecture.”
When we walked out of the train station and actually saw the city, our mouths dropped in awe and stayed open for a good couple minutes. I don’t think I stopped smiling for at least the first hour. I wrote, “It was BEAUTIFUL. It looked just like the pictures, but better. The buildings were so tall and full of intricate detail. I wanted to take a thousand pictures.”
We walked around the city and saw so many different and interesting things. We probably looked like such tourists because we took photos, bought postcards, and toured an old Catholic church. When we got hungry, we went on the hunt to find the most authentic paella place. Paella is a famous Spanish dish of rice, vegetables, and chicken or duck, that actually originated in Valencia. Our smiles did not fade as we ate paella for the first time and certainly not the last.
When my friends and I finished scarfing down our paella, it had gotten dark out and heard some music coming from somewhere, so we went to check it out. We walked to the plaza–something that only European cities have and I think is brilliant. Most cities have just a wide open space for events, socializing, festivals, fireworks, and in this case– DANCING. Swing dancing. It was so stinking cute. At this point I was considering giving everything up and moving to Valencia. I loved it. I wanted to join but I didn’t–and still don’t for that matter–anything about swing dancing. But it was so fun to watch and everyone was having a great time.
When we made our way back to the train station to head back, there was MORE DANCING. This time Spanish dancing in front of the train station. I was in love with this new and beautiful city. I wrote in my travel journal, “I got my first taste of traveling and I AM SO EXCITED.”