Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Valencia with David

I went to Valencia with my roommate, David, last Sunday. He had a short race to run in the park, so I tagged along to get a better look at the city than just the airport (which is all I had seen previously). We left early Sunday morning and made the hour and a half-long journey, listening to Mike Oldfield and conversing in the surprisingly effective way that we do (I speak in Spanish and my roommate speaks some kind of Spanglish). I probably drove him mad asking about just about every road sign or interesting-looking city between Teruel and Valencia.

Visiting Valencia on Sunday turned out to be an excellent idea because the traffic was practically nonexistent. We drove through the city and found parking near the park without any trouble. The park itself was quite impressive. It had all kinds of places for kids to play, a track for running, and many bike paths, running through the middle of the city. It makes Teruel's modest park look like a little sandbox. The race was not really competitive. Instead, pretty much anyone could enter and the proceeds went to a program that was trying to help poor kids in Northern Africa. You could even apply to have a kid come live with you for a year. David has been trying to help out by having a kid come live with him but because he's not married, they are reluctant to choose him. It's a shame because he would be an excellent candidate for that sort of thing.

My handsome Spanish roommate, David (in white).

After the race, we hopped in the car and drove closer to the city center and all of the historic buildings. We passed the old gates to the city that were still standing, though they're now more like the gates to the historic center, surrounded by miles of modern city. David is unfortunately not much of a history buff, so he wasn't a qualified tour guide by any respectable standards. For this reason, I got to see a lot of interesting monuments and buildings, but I have no idea where they came from or why they're there. It's frustrating for me to not know all of that but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. There was no shortage of big Catholic churches or shopping centers and there were a lot of foreign guys selling questionably legal products on blankets on most streets (kind of like Chinatown in New York).

We stopped at a little bar and had calamari sandwiches as a snack. They had all kinds of fried seafood tapas at the bar that creeped me out a little. You could get fried sardines or octopus or whatever you wanted, so long as it was fried and from the sea. I was honestly starting to warm up to the idea of seafood recently but this place killed it a little. There are too many foods that have strange smells and textures and retain entirely too much of their original form for me to feel comfortable eating.

We took a look at the train station and the bullfighting stadium. They're right next to each other, which I thought was a great setup for the stadium. People can just hop on the train to Valencia and arrive ready for the bullfight. You don't have to take a bus across town or anything. I'm not sure the bullfighting tradition is quite as alive as it once was, but from a business standpoint I'm sure it made sense at one point in time.

Before heading back to the car, we went through a small park in the city center. There was a statue of an important-looking knight that I was curious about. As David had no idea or interest, I consulted the inscriptions on the monument and found out he was some kind of Moor slayer who reconquered Valencia in the 13th century. I wonder how glorifying these types of historical figures affects all of the Islamic immigrants today (there are quite a few). Is it just history? Are they offended? Does anyone even notice it? I'm not only referring to this example. Aragón's coat of arms has a bunch of Moor's decapitated heads displayed on it. I haven't heard of anyone really being in an uproar about it, though. Maybe it's too far in the past or there just aren't enough diverse people in Aragón to care. Maybe it's something that will start to change as more and more immigrants come to Spain.

Anyway, much more interesting than the potentially offensive Moor slayer statue was the gigantic tree. I got a picture with it to represent scale. Unfortunately, David wasn't far enough back to get the whole tree in the shot. I guess that just emphasizes how big it was. It's not the biggest tree I've ever seen, but it's pretty cool.

We did a quick drive-by of the big science center that was built within the last decade in Valencia. There is supposedly an aquarium and science museum inside but David wasn't really interested in that either. I think I'll take Beth there when we visit in May. The building itself was really interesting, structurally. There are actually a series of buildings but I didn't get that good of a look from across the highway.

David took me to see the port of Valencia, which is a fairly important port on the Mediterranean. We got to walk along the beach and eventually ended up at a fancy restaurant where we had lunch. The weather was great for walking around because it was neither freezing cold or hot. There was a nice breeze from the sea and some clouds to block out too much sun. We had an excellent lunch on the beach, including a house specialty with duck, vegetables, rice, and soup, all in a big pot.

The port from afar.

The restaurant we ate at.

After lunch we headed back to Teruel. I didn't explore Valencia in as much detail as I would have liked but I got a great overview of the city center and I got to walk on the beach, so I was happy. I'll have other opportunities to come check out more in the coming months, I think. We took a more interesting route back to Teruel than the one we took to get to Valencia. We ended up going on some really curvy mountain roads in the south of Aragón. We stopped to have coffee in a small village not too far off from Teruel. The village is below some ski slopes. The weather and the temperature were like night and day in comparison to Valencia, despite them being only an hour apart by car. 

We made it back to Teruel in one piece, though I was a little terrified of the road we took to get there. I've driven some terrible roads in Kentucky but some parts of this one made me pretty uncomfortable. The scenery was nice, though, if that counts for anything. 

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