València

Stepping off the plane I knew it was time to step up to the challenge: this would be the first time that I would be exploring a new city completely by myself. All I had where backwards Google map directions to my hotel. By instinct I walked out of the airport and straight to the Metro; I studied the map, still not grasping just how big València really is. I bought a ticket, asked for help, looked at the map for ten more minutes and decided to make an educated guess and if worst came to worst I would hail a sixty plus euro cab to my room– luckily it never came to that. After getting off the Metro I took a bus in the opposite direction of the Google directions and guessed what stop I should get off at– I ended up an half an hours walk away, which I enjoyed mostly due to the fact that there where huge looming white figures on the horizon, which I knew to be the Cuitat de las Artes i Ciencias. I finally arrived at my hotel and rested my feet. Around dinner time I decided to explore, and after studying my trusty map I made my way to La Plaça del Ayuntamiento. La Plaça was a bustling city square with fountains, neon lights, and languages unknown to me (mostly Catalan) making the air sizzle. The over style iron towers and blue titled domes loomed over the square as tourists enjoyed el tiempo de la cena. I walked into a titled Horchataría and tried my first Valèncian horchata. Originally from València, the idea of making horchata from tigernuts comes from the period of Muslim presence in Valencia (from the 8th to 13th century). Different from any horchata I’ve tried in California this horchata was frothy, sweet and refreshing after the long day of traveling. The next day I wondered around the historic center of town: the Catedral, La Lonja, Museo Valencio de la Ilustracion y la Modernidad, Almudín, Los Torres de Serranos y el Museo de las Bellas Artes San Pablo X. The best part was: I didn’t have to pay a single centimo to visit! The day I’ve been waiting for finally arrived: for years as a Marine Biology and Art nerd I have heard so much about the Cuitat. Walking long the city’s extremely long park that snakes its way through the half the city providing fresh shade with, not a touch of, but a blow to the retinas of exotic green leaves. The Cuitat itself was amazing and refreshing. Simple, clean, and ingenious architecture calmed my brain after seeing and studying church, after catedral, after basilica. A whale, an eye, a clam shell, a sailboat, a fin. All huge, all spectacular. Each one either an exhibit, museum, theater, or Europe’s largest aquarium, there was so much to see and I felt like a day wasn’t enough. Walking back past extremely old buildings I realized that València is an inventive mixture of the extremely old and the extremely modern. Where else would I be able to see Roman ruins next to a catedral and some of the world’s freshest architecture. Where else would I see political graffiti on the walls outside of a century’s old church. This city is brilliant because of its recognition of the past and it movement towards the future. The people here know that in order to know who we are today is because of who we were yesterday, and its reflected in every alleyway here. My last day had arrived and I had done all what I wanted to do except to experience the wonder that is paella. València is paella’s home– I had to try it here (even though, sadly, the restaurant I went to was out for the night), but not just anywhere: at the waterfront by the Mediterranean sea. The sun was setting in the lavender sky, opposite of the shore, as I stood on one of the softest-sanded beaches ever. As I dipped my toes into the pleasantly warm ocean I looked out onto the choppy waters and the single sailboat as a sudden urge of thankfulness come over me. Not many people my age can say that they have touched three major bodies of water on our planet– and not many people in the world would even have access to what I am doing right now. The warmth that the Mediterranean waters whisked across the skin in-between my toes floated up and into my heart.

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