November 10, 2017

Month 9 of Remote Year has brought me back to the third biggest city in Spain, Valencia. I visited Valencia when I studied abroad in college and was excited to return to this beautiful seaside city. I love it because the local food is a little bit different than other areas of Spain, the green spaces are big and easily accessible, and the architecture is both weird and majestic. I lived in a prime location right in the city center. And even though I was amidst the hustle and bustle, it still felt unpretentious and quiet. Not to mention, I was right next to Spain’s largest fresh food market, El Mercado Central, that I frequented almost every single day. In fact, my morning routine was a visit to the coffee bar, Retrogusto, for a flat white and to practice my Spanish with Martina, the main barista.

Along with an amazing market in my backyard, I also joined a brand new yoga studio, Yoga Flow VLC, located in Russafa to get back to basics. And after copious amounts of paella, red wine, and jamón, it felt good to twist and sweat on the mat.

Valencia is the birthplace of paella and I took a lesson with Spanish chef David Montero Miguel to perfect the traditional dish. A fun fact about paella is that locals will only eat at lunchtime, not dinner, so I recommend sharing one during the afternoon in order to make time for a siesta, and then a night out. I also spent an afternoon at a cooking school learning how to make Spanish tapas. My favorite is the tortilla española!

Valencia’s most famous tourist attraction is the weird-but-wonderful City of Arts and Sciences complex. It houses a planetarium, aquarium, IMAX theater, performing arts center, opera house, sculptures, and many indigenous plants. Designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava, it’s perhaps the most iconic symbol of the city.

In true Valencian contemporary style, the streets of the historic center, have been painted over with large murals and artistic graffiti. The contemporary art museum, the quirky IVAM, home to traveling exhibitions and an extensive permanent collection of local and regional artists has free entry on Sundays. It’s right next to the Jardines del Turia, one of Spain’s largest city parks, that wraps around the city center and is worth a stroll after museum hopping.

Another architectural fun fact is that in the heart of Valencia stands the oldest and narrowest house in Spain and probably in Europe at only 105 cm wide. Across the street, stop in and try Valencian horchata at Santa Catalina.

I just so happened to be in Spain the last Wednesday of August which coincides with La Tomatina festival in Buñol, a one-hour tomato fight that leaves 30,000 participants and the city itself covered in a thick layer of tomato. It was the most disgusting yet fun thing I’ve ever done in my life.

One day-trip from Valencia I enjoyed was a visit to the Fuente de Los Baños, in the town of Montanejos. This place is home to natural hot springs which have minerals in them that allegedly rejuvenate and cleanse the skin. Even though they are called “hot springs” the water was pretty chilly, making it quite a refreshing swimming adventure.

On another lazy Sunday, a few of us decided to rent a car and drive down the coast to visit the charming resort town of Jávea. We went to the beach, ate tapas and watched the sunset at a beautiful villa, and then ate more tapas in the old town before heading back home.

Along with the day trips, I also did a romantic road trip to Spain’s other bustling cities, Barcelona and Madrid.

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