Day 27 to 38
19.02.2013 - 01.03.2013 20 °C
With a 6am flight from London’s Stansted airport to Valencia in Spain we had (what we thought) was a smart idea of catching one of the last London-to-Stansted airport buses the night before and sleeping at the airport until we could check into their flight at 4am. However, upon getting to Stansted airport at nearly 1am (after the bus was late) we realised that we weren’t the only people that had this idea. When we walked into the airport literally all of the available chairs were taken with people sleeping, waiting to be able to check into their early flights (Cheap skates). So, a little disheartened we found a place on the cold, tiled floor, got out our sleeping bag, and tried to make the most of the situation. The time went quicker than expected and after three and a bit hours we were able to check in and move through Customs to the part of the airport that has shops and more chairs. It was party because of sleeping on the cold floor that contributed to the first illness of the trip; It of course was Leah, although after a rest day in Valencia was able to battle on.
Upon arriving in Valencia, on apparently the only day in the year that it rains, we were able to check into the hostel (and a private room!) and have a much needed sleep after being awake going on 36 hours. After a few hours’ sleep (in our room with cows painted on the walls!) we thought we should get some food for dinner so ventured out to find the local supermercado, Mercadona (Leah can’t stop calling it Mikado). We found an amazing range of seafood in the Mikado (there she did it again!), and it was so cheap. After much deliberation we ended up purchasing a cold seafood dish which includes octopus, muscles, scallops, crab, olives, and pickled onions and comes with vinaigrette you marinate the seafood with. We combined this with crusty bread, salad and smoked salmon; all for a lazy $10 for the both of us. We have been amazed at how cheap food (and especially alcohol, but we’ll get to that in a minute) has been so far).
We decided to make use of the free walking tour offered by our hostel and set out on the warmest day of our time in Spain (22 degrees). Our Valencian tour guide was a Scottish exchange student; however, had lived in Valencia for almost five years. He was extremely knowledgeable and I think we came away from the two hour tour overloaded with knowledge of Valencia, including that Valencia was originally a retirement place for Romans. We even learnt that apparently the Holy Grail is located in the main church in Valencia, this knowledge would have saved Robert Langden (Tom Hanks) a lot of time if he knew this.
After the walking tour of Valencia we wanted to try a restaurant that was recommended by our hostel for good paella. In typical Spain style the restaurant is open from 2pm to 4pm for lunch and then from 9pm to 12pm for dinner, so we decided lunch was the go as Leah couldn’t wait to 9pm for dinner! Anyway, we got there and got a table and knew we would order the traditional Valencian paella (chicken and rabbit) so didn’t really need to look at the menu. We also ordered a jug of beer. When our paella came it was in the pan it was cooked in and smelt amazing. It was so creamy and was one of the best paella’s we’d had (although we probably don’t have much to compare it to!). So after a massive paella and jug of beer the bill only came to $38.
In Spain we have learnt many things; however, three of the most prominent for us were: Valencia has many, many big doors. These were wooden, steel, and sometimes came with gold knockers attached. But all were very large. We also learnt that Spain has a very forward thinking social conscience that we were not aware of. When a priest living in the main church in Valencia was looking out the window one day he saw the mentally ill being hung in the town’s square. He decided that this was not right and was the first in the world to build a dedicated home for the mentally ill. This all occurred in the 15th century, long before many other countries even acknowledged the mentally ill. After many years of suppression under the Dictator (NAME) from around the 2nd World War until 1975, Spain has since made many moves forward socially. They have legalised gay marriage, have an amazing recycling regime, and have many, many food products that are gluten free (for you Jeanette!). Finally, we also learnt that in Spain, alcohol is sooooooooooooooo cheap!! We bought a six pack of local Spanish beer 500ml cans and they were $2.80…….for the whole six pack! That’s right; they were a whopping 47 cents a can! Wine is also pretty cheap, with a $4 bottle being very good and the most expensive on the shelf only being $10.
After spending time in Valencia we ventured south to a port town called Dènia. It was a two hour bus ride along the main highway which highlighted two things: there are lots of oranges grown in Valencia and its surrounds (Leah was very proud of herself when she put Oranges and Valencia together thus getting Valencian oranges) and apparently prostitutes are allowed to stand on the side of the highway and scout for business.
Dènia is a port town that dates back to the 5th century BC and is largely a town built around its large castle, which dates back to Roman times. It really has a feeling of a larger Sorrento, as when the summer month’s role around I’m sure it would be almost unbearable to be in. It would be so busy with tourists and people wanting to go to the beach that it would lose its charm.
After walking around Dènia and working up an appetite we wanted to find somewhere to have lunch. It was only 1pm (too early for Spanish lunch) and many of the restaurants along the waterfront were open but not very busy and we didn’t want to be the only ones in the restaurants. We kept looking and found this place that had tables outside in the sun and there were people eating there so we didn’t feel awkward. It also had a menu in English which helps. We ordered the set lunch and were amazed at the food. For entrée we shared an antipasto plate and freshly fried small squid/calamari. Then for mains we also shared fish (swordfish) and chips and a paella with calamari. This was all washed down with a beer each and a coffee and tea afterwards. We assumed the drinks were not included in the meal deal (2 courses); however, upon seeing the bill all drinks were also included! So 2 courses of food and 2 drinks each came to an amazing $24!!
As we post this we are back in Valencia for one night before we head back to the UK. As it happens today was the start of Las Fallas, a fire festival in Valencia celebrating the end of the winter and the beginning of spring. To kick this festival off they hold a day time (yes that’s right day time) fireworks display in one of the town plazas. The aim of this display is to set off the loudest fireworks, and can we tell you, it was probably the loudest thing we’ve ever heard. So loud in fact that you literally could FEEL the sound.
Leah, Rein & Henry