The ride to Valencia provided some truly extraordinary views, with the Spanish coastline to our left, and hills, valleys, and picturesque little towns to our right. Although we had expected the trip to take two or three hours, it turned out that our lack of ability with the language led us to taking the slower train, which stopped at every small station along the way. At one point, after taking a disconcerting swing up away from the coast, we discovered to our dismay that we had started moving backwards! After eavesdropping on another passenger’s conversation with the conductor however, we realized that for some reason our train was only making a scheduled stop that had us backtracking a bit before continuing on to Valencia.
After that slight confusion, the rest of our trip was fairly uneventful, save for the steady stream of beautiful landscape out the windows. When we finally arrived, pulled on our packs and shuffled off the train, we were greeted by the gloriously warm sun. Valencia is a markedly different city than Barcelona, despite only being a few hours down the coast, and the walk to our Airbnb allowed us ample time to begin familiarizing ourselves to our new surroundings. Admittedly, we were a little taken aback by how dated the buildings and infrastructure looked, and I started to worry that after London and Barcelona perhaps this would be an underwhelming place to spend the next several days. That said, when we arrived we were delighted to see that all along our street, right in front of all the apartment buildings in the middle of a city, were orange trees laden with fruit! Unfortunately for us, none were ripe enough to eat, but it was a remarkable sight nonetheless.
The following morning however, James returned from his run proclaiming how beautiful the rest of the city actually was— it seemed that our Airbnb, while perfectly comfortable and safe, was in more of a working-class neighbourhood— and that the downtown core, and the giant park that runs through the city, were gorgeous. It turned out he was right, and as we walked through the winding green space (situated where a river used to flow, before it was diverted due to severe flooding sometime in the last century) and felt the hot sun on our faces, we knew we had done something very right in coming to Valencia after all. Our goal that first day was to head to the city’s beaches, and we took our time in getting there. At some point, just before the beach—literally a block or two away—we suddenly found ourselves in the most dilapidated part of town. Where two blocks away we were walking between modern office buildings, suddenly it looked like a war zone: boarded up or torn down buildings and rubble everywhere. Startled, we gazed around us in bewilderment as we walked the last couple blocks to the beach. And then, almost as suddenly, we found ourselves among hordes of tourists walking the boardwalk, tanning on the beach, or crowding the patios of beachfront restaurants for saucy paella and jugs of sangria.
After spending awhile on such a patio, bemusedly sipping a beer and people watching (and chatting about golf– what else?), we decided to walk along the water for a bit before tacking back in search of transit home. When we arrived at our apartment again, we tucked in to the sausages, bread, and cheese we had purchased at a local Carrefour, and settled in to watch a movie (12 Monkeys— James was shocked that I had never seen it before, and being one of his favourite movies he was adamant that I experience it!) before bed.