For the other Spring Break 2014 posts, please visit:
Semana Santa in Espana: Spring Break 2014 Part 1
Malaga with a Side of Morocco: Spring Break 2014 Part 2
More Malagahhhh: Spring Break 2014 Part 3
I didn’t know much about Valencia or even where it was exactly. Then a few months before my trip, a friend had traveled around Spain and said “Valencia is one of my favorite places!” She loved the beach, the vibe, and the amazing architecture of the Science Center which was a surprising highlight I just “have to visit.”
Valencia flies under the radar, and perhaps I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to hit it on my first visit to Spain. But this was my fourth visit, and I had freedom to explore more. As I’ve mentioned many times in past posts, sometimes those lesser visited places yield the greatest travel joys.
When I realized I had this entire break to myself, free to go wherever and whenever I wanted, I played with itineraries, peeked at flights, and decided to fly back to Italy from Valencia at the end of my journey. I had wanted to visit Grenada after hearing so many wonderful things, but you can’t do everything and as my grandmother always used to tell me “leave something to come back for.”
I awoke that final morning in Malaga for one last breakfast and took a cab to the bus station where I took a bus to Valencia. Yeah, they had trains that would get me there much more swiftly and comfortably, yet to my cranky surprise, they booked up before I looked the day before. I didn’t realize all the seats could sell out, leaving me with about 9 hours of a bus ride. I considered bla bla car or a rental car but one was a bit inconvenient as I hate small talk and didn’t want to be “on” for the journey, and the other was a bit too expensive. I was not thrilled for such a long journey, knowing restless legs and possible motion sickness and stale air awaited me, but I do like napping in coach seats which are a bit cozier than trains. . . sometimes. And sometimes you can see better sights rolling by the window from a highway than from tracks. So, having chosen my option, I was optimistic and excited to move on.
After turning inland from the coast and exploring rolling green hills, we ended up in Grenada for a layover. I was hoping to see something, but it wasn’t long enough and there was nothing within walking distance of the bus terminal, so my wishes to experience and immerse myself in the beauty of this Andalusian charm will have to wait for a future visit.
En route, we were treated to an endless display of eye candy that changed from hills and flowers to rugged red rocks and desert land.
We had an extra long stop when they had to search the entire bus, holding us up even longer. I thought they were looking for drugs, but my father later said that it was probably something a bit more severe. As I tweeted at the time, “That canine drug search really helped break up the 11 hour bus ride today.” I would have actually really enjoyed the journey if it didn’t delay us so much.
By the end, I was antsy and tired in that too exhausted to even rest way, but once we rolled into Valencia the weather was balmy and the discount hotel was inviting, right on the beach promenade. I plopped onto the bed, opened the window and shutters, and listened to the sounds of the sea and the chatter of a lively neighborhood at night. Eventually, I found the energy to peel myself up and go for an evening run followed by a wandering stroll, one of my favorite things to do when traveling.
The next morning, I took a lazy start, followed by my continental breakfast where I watched Pharrell’s “Happy” video, hearing it for the very first time. I sure was.
To this day, I still think of my sunny, peaceful Valencia sojourn whenever I hear it, which is often on repeat on my iphone while I’m doing a quick 10 minutes of burpees or while running around my neighborhood.
During my morning stroll, surrounded by happy, friendly people, I kept thinking of the amazing time I had on this vacation. I tweeted:
Spain got it right! Free & well-maintained beaches; great food and wine; gorgeous scenery; progressive, multicultural vibe; and wonderful people!
I admired the white sandy stretch of beach, framed with low hills in the distance and edged with a smooth stone promenade. This had a Euro-Cali vibe, and I could have stayed forever. I began to dream and scheme of living here one day, where the prices were much cheaper than Genoa and most of Europe, and the quality of life was rich and beautiful yet simple.
I was listening to my 120gig ipod classic on shuffle and hit a Chicago song that I loved.
The refrain repeating in my head as I walked . . . “feeling stronger every day.” Absolutely. I’ve overcome a lot during my transition abroad, I have a lot ahead of me as I prepare for my return home, but I’m going to be just great.
My father had gifted me the Chicago albums years ago, but I never explored them much. This was a perfect calling to indulge. I kept walking through the soft sand for a couple of hours under the sun, a warm breeze, palm trees, happy people, happy me.
As I listened, I definitely remember loving this song, which was was featured in the Mad Men season premiere at the beginning of the month, which I had watched just before my departure.
Feeling groovy, I stopped for lunch along the beach. I don’t remember what I ate, but I remember what I saw: blue sky, blue seas, smiling faces, and a sand sculpture of The Last Supper.
I indulged in a relaxing massage on the beach after a swim, then closed my eyes for a bit of warm bliss, summer on the horizon. Later that day, I darted over to the Science Center, and even though I was told it was amazing, I was not prepared for how stunning the architecture was, especially under the bold, cobalt sky.
After admiring the outside for a half hour or so, I toured some of the hands-on exhibits inside, which were not just for kids. How high can I jump? What is my memory? How are eco friendly buildings constructed? How do things work? So much to see and experience.
Instead of taking public transportation back, I decided to walk along the river promenade, which eventually led me to an Andalusian festival, funny because I had just departed that region of Flamenco.
I explored that inland neighborhood of Valencia, grabbed a burger and beer al fresco, hopped on the tram and arrived back at my hotel late that evening to cozily tuck myself into bed. The next morning, I was on a plane back to Milan for the end of one of my favorite vacations ever. There was a time when I was intimidated or restless traveling alone, but now it has become one of my most favorite ways to go. It was like a week of meditation, indulgence and self love. I was refreshed and ready for whatever came next in this time of uncertainty and change.
I posted the following successive tweets:
Few people can say they truly follow their dreams. I did, and I keep dreaming and scheming.
I love traveling with myself because I philosophize uninterrupted and I’m good company, always doing fun things at my own pace.
With that said, it’s only good as a break from the norm. Thoreau built that cabin in the woods yet regularly walked into town for society.
An alpine peak is amazing alone, yet even a hilly meadow is sublime in the right company.
Later that evening after traveling from Milan, I entered my apartment and saw my cozy bed. I opened the French doors to the terrace and I tweeted “After all the beautiful places, I still find Genoa gorgeous and am happy to call her home for a few more months.”