Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 07:37 pm from Spain
Today's my last full day in Valencia and I wanted to make sure I climbed the tower at the Valencia Cathedral today. After I ate breakfast I walked through the big Mercado Central again for the heck of it then went over to the Valencia Cathedral and paid my €2 and started climbing the tower.
It felt like I was going around and around for quite a while and my legs were actually a bit sore when I made it to the top of the tower. The tower was started in 1381 and houses several bells. The church is also said to be home to the Holy Grail but I didn't see that.
The views from the top of the bell tower were really nice. I went up around 11 but the sun was still pretty harsh and made it hard to see out east over the city toward the sea. When I got up there there was one other couple that left after a minute but after that I was up there by myself and was able to relax and take in the views.
I came back to the hostel and started working on some new ClearCheckbook features until I was getting hungry for lunch. Instead of buying and cooking food, I went the easier route and bought some take-away paella and then went to the market and bought some tiny pizzas that would last me through both lunch and dinner.
I worked after lunch all the way until I started getting hungry for dinner. It's been nice today and there haven't really been many people in the hostel so I've been able to concentrate on work without being interrupted. I heated up my paella and little pizza and had that for dinner.
Tomorrow I have to get up pretty early to be at the train station for my 8:15am departure to Seville. It takes about a half hour to walk there and I want to make sure I leave a little extra time to get there with time to spare. That means I should probably be out the door here no later than 7:15 which is the earliest I've had to get up in a while. I'm looking forward to checking out my hostel in Seville since it's got a big rooftop terrace that's supposed to have some great views of the city.
Sunday, November 24, 2013 @ 09:43 pm from Spain
Last night I ended up talking with some people from the States who are teaching English in Madrid. We went out for some tapas and then found a frozen yogurt place. The frozen yogurt here is a lot more tart than it is back in the states but it was still good. They gave me some advice on places to visit while I'm in Madrid including one of the best places for churros and hot chocolate in all of Spain.
I forgot today was Sunday and that on Sunday pretty much everything shuts down. I didn't have anything for lunch or dinner but I heard about one supermarket that would be open so I went out in search of it. It was in the basement of a department store chain called El Corte Ingles. The place was pretty nice and had a lot of good food to choose from. I got some kind of pasta dish for lunch and then picked up some broccoli and cauliflower and potatoes to go with dinner.
After dropping it off at the hostel and answering some emails I aimlessly walked around town for a bit. There were some outdoor flea markets going on so I checked them out. I found a pair of light gloves for €1.50 so I bought them. It's been cooling down pretty quick and I didn't have a pair of gloves with me. They don't seem to be the most well made gloves in the world but they only need to last me about 3 more weeks.
Before coming back to the hostel I stopped and got some churros y chocolate. It's a big thing here in Spain and I can see why. The churros were fresh out of the fryer, dusted with sugar and cinnamon and they're served with the thickest hot chocolate you've ever had. I guess you're supposed to dip the churros in the chocolate like you would a donut in milk. It definitely adds some nice flavor to them. The leftover hot chocolate tasted really good by itself too.
Back at the hostel I watched the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special then got dinner going. I still had some beef left over from the fajitas last night so I cooked that up with garlic and pollo asado seasoning (I know... I know... chicken seasoning on beef, but it's all I had to work with). I made some patats bravas with garlic and then cut up and cooked the broccoli and cauliflower and tossed it in with the beef at the last minute to soak up some of the flavor.
After dinner I finished a really bad mystery book that I found here at the hostel. It seems like the target audience for the book is insecure women who are testing the waters away from romance novels. If it wasn't for the fact that it was literally the only book in English here I would have stopped reading it after the first chapter.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Valencia so I'm determined to make it up to the top of the big tower to see a view of the entire city and surrounding area. It looks like it's supposed to be another good day too. I'm looking forward to moving on to Seville on Tuesday. I'll be there for 10 nights but There are a lot of cities around there that make for good day trips.
Saturday, November 23, 2013 @ 09:00 pm from Spain
The weather is finally too cold to really enjoy time out by the beach but I wanted to go see it anyway. After breakfast, lunch and answering some emails I set off to the beach. It was about a 3.5 mile walk from the hostel to the beach but the walk was pretty nice with some good pedestrian friendly streets.
I got down to the beach and it was blowing sand around quite a bit and it was only about 60 degrees outside. You can tell the beach would be a great place to relax if the weather was nice though. The beach was huge! Unlike some beaches where there's hardly any sand before the water, this beach has tons and tons of sand.
On the way back I stopped by the Mercadona market and bought some skirt steak to use in more fajitas tonight. I still had some leftover peppers and onion from last night so I cooked it all up with the meat and it all tasted really good. It made me really miss the southwest and the plethora of good Mexican spices we have access to.
The hostel has been overrun this weekend with study abroad kids in college so it's making me feel a little older than normal being surrounded by kids 19-20 years old who are constantly talking about what courses they're taking. I think most of them will probably leave tomorrow afternoon though to get back to whatever city they're studying in.
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 10:06 pm from Spain
Not much to report today. I dedicated most of today to catching up on some work. I knocked out a few updates to ClearCheckbook and got a new development environment set up for the CCB Android app.
I did run out to go to the grocery store and the mercado central again. I was in the mood for some fajitas so I bought some peppers and an onion and some tortillas. I still had some chicken left over from last night so I used that as well as some asada spices I bought at the grocery. When I was cooking them up for dinner a guy from Mexico let me use some of his chipotle sauce which added some much needed heat to the fajitas.
I didn't go up the big tower today but I still plan on doing that before I leave. It's getting cold enough outside where you can't really just sit in a park or public area and relax. It's a bit of a shame because Valencia has some really nice plazas which would be great for hanging out if it was warmer. I feel like the motivation and energy I had at the beginning of the trip to go out and explore every day has definitely subsided a bit, although that's not really bad either since I feel like I'm getting to know each city I'm at now a lot more than I had other places.
Everyone I've talked to has been saying how cold Madrid has been. I'm dreading going up there in the middle of December. I feel like I'm going to freeze since I don't really have much as far as cold weather gear goes. I guess I'll have to double up my light jacket and rain jacket to act as a make-shift winter coat.
Thursday, November 21, 2013 @ 09:47 pm from Spain
After breakfast I went back to the Mercado Central and bought some apples, oranges, chicken, asparagus and a potato for lunch/dinner. I came back, ate some of the delicious oranges and an apple and then had a sandwich and some leftover paella from last lunch yesterday.
I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and didn't really have anything in mind. Since it was a nice day out I decided I'd walk down to the Arts and Sciences area along the Jardines del Turia which is a giant park that surrounds the city in what used to be a river that was dammed and diverted. The parkway is full of runners, bicyclists, walkers, people enjoying picnics and other activities.
The arts and sciences area is really neat looking with all of the buildings having some crazy architecture with reflecting ponds everywhere. It feels like you're walking through a futuristic city the way it's all laid out. I got down there and took some photos then turned around and came back to the hostel.
Back at the hostel I just talked with other travelers and read until I started getting hungry for dinner. For dinner I made some chicken, patatas bravas and asparagus with garlic. There was some curry powder at the hostel so I used that with the chicken and everything turned out really good. After dinner I had a couple beers that I also bought at the market.
This hostel is really good as far as long term travelers who like to sit around and talk about their trip so far so I spend a lot of time down in the lobby talking with them and sharing experiences and places visited. Of most of the people here, I've been traveling the longest which is pretty cool. It seems like most people are also wrapping up their trip in December to be back home for the holidays.
I think tomorrow I'll go up one of the towers here to get some good views of the city. Apparently they're really nice just before sunset.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 @ 09:46 pm from Spain
I took some cold meds last night before bed and ended up sleeping until 10am today. I was pretty shocked but woke up feeling pretty good. My voice is almost gone but that and some slight soreness are all that's left. I ate a quick breakfast and then went to the Mercado Central across the street and walked around. It seems a lot like La Boqueria in Barcelona but there's a lot less tourists walking around and the market is a lot larger. I'm going to go back tomorrow and buy some oranges, apples and probably some shrimp that I can cook up for dinner.
After I checked that out, I came back and made a quick sandwich before heading out to the free walking tour. It met at the Plaza de la Virgen which is just behind the big Valencia Cathedral. There were a bunch of school kids with huge measuring tapes trying to measure the size of the plaza. It was pretty funny to watch them completely block flow of the area by walking measuring tape across it.
The tour ended up being only myself and four others from the hostel so it was a nice small group. The guide lead us around the old city pointing out the history of some of the buildings as well as the history of Valencia itself. It wasn't quite as informative as I thought it would be but it was still pretty good.
Once the tour ended, our group went back to the hostel then went out and found some take-away paella from a place around the corner. I got some Paella Valenciana and Arroz de Banda. Both were pretty good but between the two I think I liked the Valenciana better. Everyone else got random types and everyone had their preferences on what they thought was best.
We all kinda went our separate ways for a few hours with the plan to meet up later to get some cheap tapas and beer. I hung out at the hostel and did some work and finished my book then relaxed in the lobby and talked with some of the other travelers for a while.
When everyone met up around 7:30 we set out and found a place where everything on the menu, including beers, was 1 euro each. You fill out paper with what you want, bring it up to a counter and pay for it, then they call your name when its ready. I got a few different types of sandwiches and a beer. They weren't really typical tapas, more just sandwiches but they were still really good. My favorite was a tortilla sandwich (tortilla being an egg/potato/onion cake, not the mexican style flour or corn tortilla). On the way back to the hostel I got some of the pumpkin donuts. They weren't fresh out of the fryer which made them not as good as I was expecting. I'll have to try some when I see them being made fresh.
Some of the other guys were going to head out and get more tapas then go to a big club but I declined on that since I'm still fighting the end of this cold. I think tomorrow I should be back to normal again which will be nice.
Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia
Statue but no one knows who it is
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 08:59 pm from Spain
I went to bed pretty early last night so I wouldn't be tempted to sleep in this morning. I got up around 7:30, packed up, ate a quick breakfast and then set off for the metro station. Fortunately it wasn't raining this morning so I didn't get wet walking to the station but it was definitely chilly and looked like it was probably going to rain a little later.
I was a little worried about taking the metro to the train station since I hadn't used Barcelona's metro system in the 2 weeks I stayed there. The train station was a little too far to comfortably walk, and for 2 euros the metro would get me right there. I've been dealing with public transportation all over Europe so the Barcelona metro system wasn't really that much different.
I paid for my ticket and made my way to the L3 line that would take me to the station. A train showed up as soon as I got to the track and after 8 stops I was at the train station. I had to work my way around the underground metro station to finally get to the train station but the signs were well marked.
I got to the train station about an hour before my train departed and waited around for a bit before they started collecting tickets. This is the first time I've had to get my ticket scanned before boarding the train. Usually they check once you're on board but maybe they've had issues in the past with people getting on without having tickets.
The train ride was comfortable enough. It took about 3 hours and we got to pass through some amazing countryside. There were all kinds of farms and some mountainous areas we passed through. I could definitely see some of the architecture that influenced New Mexico in the areas I was passing through.
Once in Valencia I got off the train and was greeted with bright blue skies and warm enough weather I didn't need my jacket. I stopped at an information desk and picked up a map and figured out how to get to my hostel. Along the way I stopped and got a sandwich for lunch and then made my way to the hostel.
Even just walking around from the train station to the hostel, Valencia has a much different feel than Barcelona. Valencia just feels older and much more compact, although it still has that nice feel of not being a huge city. I'm definitely going to enjoy the week I'm spending here.
After settling into the hostel I went out to do a little exploring. I aimlessly walked around for a while then went to a pharmacy to get some medicine for my cold. I went in and said I have a sore throat (in Spanish) as well as a cough. She brought back some cough syrup and some ibuprofen. Everything was behind the counter and I had no idea how much it was going to cost. When she brought both out I was thinking it was going to cost a lot but only ended up being 7 euros. Cheap medicine in Spain!
I came back to the hostel and took some of the cold meds and read for a while. I also ran out and picked up a few groceries to hold me over for the week. I only got some of the essentials since there's a huge fruit/meat/vegetable market across the street from the hostel that I want to check out tomorrow. It looks like it'll be similar to La Boqueria in Barcelona.
At 7:00 I decided to go out and find some paella since around lunch time I saw paella stands everywhere. When I went out tonight most of the places didn't have their paella on display. I guess it's more of a lunch dish than a dinner dish. I found a place near the hostel that was selling paella and bought some paella Valenciana (the local version with chicken or rabbit) and brought it back to the hostel to eat. The paella was good and I'm looking forward to trying more throughout the week.
There's a free walking tour every day that starts at noon so I'm going to check that out tomorrow. It'll be nice to get a general overview of the city so I will have a better idea of where to explore throughout the week. There's also an 8 euro paella tour every day that I might check out. In the short time I've bee in Valencia, I'm really liking the city.
View from the balcony in my room
Paella cooking equipment are for sale everywhere