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February 11th 2008
Published: February 26th 2008
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The 4 AmigasThe 4 AmigasThe 4 Amigas

Stef, Me, Sally & Kizzy
A bit of a delay, but technical details sorted so ... onto Valencia

Weekends away are always nice, but somehow being in London they are just that little bit nicer as you can experience a little bit of another culture for a couple of days. In keeping with my promises to myself in moving to Europe, this weekend I joined 3 random strangers for a long weekend in Valencia, Spain.

Thursday afternoon I booked off work for the 'express' journey to Stanstead. Given my history with British Rail I should have known that it wasn't going to go smoothly and right 'on track' it all got 'derailed'!! (sad I know, but I work with what I can!).

I'd tubed it to Tottenham Hale and ran into Amiga No 1, Kizzy, my new Trinidadian friend, and there before even jumping on the train, I ran into road block 1. As I tried to collect my prepaid tickets, the machine swallowed by card. Given I had little cash and I kind of need the card to access my money, plus the machine hadn't even spat out my rail ticket it wasn't a good start. After a reboot, it finally gave
Cathedral tower Cathedral tower Cathedral tower

with valencia oranges in the foreground
my card back, but Spain looked like a hazy mirage for about 5 minutes there.

Success was mine until I caught up with Kizzy who had gone on a 'rescue the card' mission by tracking down the station master ... roadblock no 2 ... a mere 4 miles of lines down between Tottenham Hale and Stanstead (plus various points north) ensured our 'express' trip slowed down to an all stops train, jump on any coach you can find then run like hell to check in experience. However ... victory was eventually ours and after checking in we played mobile phone tag until our quartet was complete. Joining us was Stef, instigator of the trip and our bi-lingual Italian speaker (it's closer to Spanish than English) and Sally, English and the only one who hadn't met anyone before the weekend. So there we were four strangers off to visit a foreign country with the only things in common being we were female, open to the challenge and nobody had a clue about Valencia! Perfect start to the weekend!

With 4 of us it was the luxury of a taxi into the old city of Valencia rather than my normal cheap as I can find public transport option. Stef had organised our accommodation for the trip at the Home Hostel for night 1 and Home Backpackers for nights 2 & 3. Both are very funky, well appointed places and I'd recommend them to anyone looking for a place to stay, just pack your sleeping bag as they can get a little chilly in winter. Central Valencia isn't terribly large and once you work out the alleyways and paths it's very quick and easy to find your way around, so it was quite easy on night one to make our way from Hostel 1 (3 of us) to Hostel 2 (sally) to get her settled in before experiencing more of what Valencia has to offer.

Thursday night was a quiet little affair, a visit to Via Pizza for slices of some of the best pizza I've ever had then a nice little bar for a few local beers and music. Now Pizza isn't your traditional spanish choice, but considering we hadn't eaten since lunch and it was now 10pm, it was the perfect start to our evening. The bar up the street enticed us in with the '2 for 1 beer' offer and the fact that it was deserted was no deterrant. We sat in the window so we could see the busy street outside and took the opportunity to chat and get to know each other a little bit. Well the quiet disappeared pretty much straight away and before we knew it the place was packed. The fact we were a little early for Spain where the bars don't really kick off until 11.30pm probably had something to do with the ensuing influx of patrons, but we figured we were actually the drawcard. After a few quiet(ish) beers and laughing at the entertainment (one rather drunk spanish man who alternatively danced and stumbled around the bar before heading outside to talk to himself and walk into walls) we left the bar behind and our day was at an end. One observation which did come out of the evening was a definate lack of attractive Spanish men ... plus a lack of height ... my apologies to Spain, but the talent was not overwhelming (actually the talent didn't appear to be existant!).

Friday was a slow(ish) start so I headed out to do a little recce for brekkie and then we headed up to grab Sally and commence our day of wandering. We were staying near the Central Market so it was down to one of their little outside cafe's to pull up a stool and order my heartstarting coffee (I had to have 2) and baguette. The rest of the day became literally a wander - we had a map and I navigated our way through the streets past all the lovely old buildings, up one of them, through the botanical gardens, the odd park and along the old river path or Jardines de Turia which is 9kms of gardens surrounding the city - all in blessed sunshine! Eventually we found our way to Plaza de la Virgen to relax over a (rather average) lunch of Paella and Sangria before more wandering through the other half of the city. All in all it was rather tiring, so eventually we made our way back to Hostel 2 to experience that other wonderful Spanish tradition ... Siesta! There really is nothing like a nanna nap to give you the edge in facing another night of eating, drinking and experiencing the Spanish nightlife!

We wandered down 'Bar Street' to find
Roof DetailRoof DetailRoof Detail

check out the colour of that sky!
that special little Spanish location to tantalise the taste buds, and eventually after checking out a few that place was a little Tapas Bar Taverna Cavallers. We didn't really know what we were ordering, but with a little deductive work, including some Italian interpretations we enjoyed some fabulous Tapas and the odd Sangria in a small, very smokey establishment. One thing that hasn't taken off yet in Spain is the no smoking ban and to be in a place where everyone smokes everywhere is a bit of a shock to the system. Eventually we made it back to our little local bar and while no Sangria, I did have the joy of experiencing Agua de Valencia ... Water of Valencia! The only water in that was a bit of ice to keep it cold - vodka, gin, contreau & a bit of champagne and a splash of orange juice - kind of like my punch from home, but without the soft drinks to water it down! When he said it was for 2, I took that as a challenge, ditched the glass and just used the straws ... I could feel my body numbing with each sip and once the
Mecardo CentralMecardo CentralMecardo Central

the central market entrance ... and our coffee place at the entrance
jug was finished, so was I and it was home again home again jaggedy jig!

Day 2 and unfortunately Stef had to cut her trip short and head home as her dad was coming out of hospital, so we accompanied her (via Mecado Centrale for cafe, croissant & Chocolat) to the metro Angel Guimera for her trip back to the airport. Then embracing the Spanish spirit ... Kizzy, Sally & I sat on a bench in the park outside the metro soaking up the sun and watching the world go by.

Eventually the spirit moved us to the seaside and a short metro/tram combo later we were gazing at white sand, blue sea and enjoying more sun. It was still a tad chilly, but sitting in the sun on the boulevarde people watching after lunch was making the most of being in the south and at the beach. What amazed us was that there were people swimming and sunbaking (admittedly behind buildings where possible to block the wind) ... those spanish are mad! After catching some vitamin D it was back to Plaza de la Reina to sit in the square with the Spanish folk and enjoy a
Torres de QuartTorres de QuartTorres de Quart

Remnants of the old city walls
beer or 2 and more conversation. The best thing about this weekend was it was just a gab fest, everything was an opportunity to talk, relax and get to know each other.

Eventually back to Via Pizza for dinner then a leisurely bottle of wine at the hostel, before dragging out a young muslim Turkish boy who had the fortune (or is that mis...) to be in our room. We took him to a bar for a drink (coke for him) and he got to enjoy the experience of hanging out with 3 western women. Then it was a last wander around the town ... and a last pizza slice ... before bed. Valencia is quiet early, but late at night there are people everywhere so you never feel unsafe or alone, especially when there are 4 of you!

Sunday was a chance to pack up, head to the airport on the Metro and back to London town. No dramas, no queues, no train issues - just a relaxed trip back and home by mid afternoon to unpack and find food before the working week! A heavenly weekend made more special as it was shared with strangers who
DoorwayDoorwayDoorway

You know I have a thing for them
have become friends!

Love Jane





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View to the 'new' cityView to the 'new' city
View to the 'new' city

from top of Torres de Quart
The walking tourThe walking tour
The walking tour

I made up whatever I couldn't work out ... I made up a lot
Sally among the Cactus ... Sally among the Cactus ...
Sally among the Cactus ...

now that's a prickly situation
Plaza de la VirgenPlaza de la Virgen
Plaza de la Virgen

In use since Roman times


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