So a lot has been going on since my last post! I continued to enjoy Valencia, visited Ibiza and Formentera for a week with the Valencia boys, moved to Sofia with the remote year crew and I am now in Milan visiting my old housemate Raf. Barring a weekend bout of food poisoning life has been awesome!
What happened in the last couple of weeks in Valencia you ask? Well that trip to the islands of Ibiza and Formentera will have its own post, I won’t even try to cover that here! However, Valencia itself had a heap going on.
We had nights on the beach, countless long lunches/dinners and we were often out until the early hours of the morning for no other reason than “this is Spain”. I didn’t mention in my last post that I was living in the BEST location in Valencia. We were right in the heart of Barrio del Carmen which meant that there was something on every night. And I do mean every night, Mondays and Tuesdays were not off limits. Somehow, I would find myself enjoying a bar or walking around the city late in the evening admiring the beauty of the city after promising myself I was going to take it easy.
I will say that this was not totally my fault. With the people that I know in Valencia I had no choice but to spend time with them. I was taken care of better than anyone could ever hope for in any city in the world. I would often be picked up at a moment’s notice by a member of the Valencian “Brigada” to be whisked away to explore some new part of the city. It was awesome, gracias a todos!
On another note, as part of our remote year experience, we as a group have taken on the challenge of contributing to the local community in some way during our time in each city. We have helped out at dog shelters in Split, taken tours with homeless guides around Prague and in July we visited Casa Caridad. This charity has been operating non-stop for 111 years, its dining room offers over 200 meals a day, temporary accommodation for more than 100 people as well as kindergarten services. Seventy-five percent of their income comes from donations.
I am proud to say that our group raised some funds to help out the charity and we had a great time playing football with the Casa Caridad team.
The reflective stuff
I have truly felt that I got to immerse myself in the Valencian way of life. Even to the point that I was running into friends randomly in the street. Basic things like buying Hawaiian shirts for a party with Pepo and Roberto and walking around the central market and grabbing supplies with Miguel and Pepe were special moments for me.
To have these seemingly innocuous experiences in a foreign country really makes you recognise the beauty in the simplicity of everyday life.
When you are not fluent in the language things like ordering at dinner were always fun experiences especially when you have friends like Pascual teaching you how to say “thank you beautiful” in Valenciano, “gracies bonica”.
What is super special though is when you really feel you become part of a city. Kiosk La Pergola is an institution in Valencia. They are famous for their bocadillos, specifically their Super Bom Bon. Slices of meat, chips, sautéed mushrooms and special sauce on a crunchy bread roll make this a meal you won’t forget! Having said that, going there with the Spanish boys earlier in the month, showing them your last blog post with a picture eating in their restaurant and going there for lunch 3 days in a row helps to make sure that they remember you! It was awesome to be able to walk in there and wave hello to everyone. I truly felt like a local!
Another event that brought me closer to the city was going to see a bull fight (gracias Pepo for the tickets!). I know it is contentious and divisive, I don’t want to see any animal suffer but you have to admire the skill of the bullfighter and his bravery to get in that arena. It is definitely something that I wouldn’t do. It was also amazing to learn that many of the bullfighters raise and fight their own bulls. I am not going to get into any commentary about cultural customs and right and wrong here. All I would say is that it was a test of my own preconceptions and opened my eyes to something new.
So to sum it all up…Valencia has a lot of things going for it (as my friend Pascual reminds me of frequently). Pascual and I would talk about the beach, food, nightlife, architecture, history and his group of friends. I have to say that Pascual, his Tio Juan Carlos, his family, and his group of friends are what makes this city my second home. When you strip everything away, it always comes back to the people you meet, the connections you make and the shared experiences you have in a place that make it special.
I also have to say a big thankyou to Chimo, Joseka, Miguel, Andy, Pepo, Pepe, Yuyu, Roberto, Carlos, Jorge (Me Cago) and Hugo (LA DORA). You guys really made my experience in Valencia special and I will soon put together a piece on our epic week away on the boat together. Couldn’t have asked for a better crew! Keep an eye out for that one my dear readers!
As always take what you will from this post and hit me up with any comments, suggestions and requests. Don’t forget to subscribe!