Arriving around midnight, I took a taxi from the València Airport to the city centre. If I were to have made it before then by a bit, I could have taken the metro, but it stops working that late in the night. So, starting out my vacation, I was out about twenty euros. However, I did have a wonderfully interesting conversation with my Bulgarian cab driver.
Unfortunately, my phone decided to not work when I got out, but luckily I was eventually able to make it inside to the shared apartment I would be staying in (after some failed attempts). Misterb&b has been a wonderful service overall of which I have taken heavy advantage.
My host this time around spoke Spanish, which was no problem. The Valencian accent is rather clear compared to some other Peninsular Spanish varieties. It is my accent that is actually the hard one to understand for locals …
València is the capital of an autonomous region of the same name and Spain’s third largest city. Known for its beaches, semi-tropical weather, and orange trees, it seemed like the perfect place to go for an Easter holiday.
Too bad almost the whole time I was there, it was pouring rain.
While València is home to multiple museums dedicated to Modern Art, Ethnography, and even Prehistory (and those are just the ones located on the same street), tourists tend to flock to its generally agreeable weather and sunshine. When it does rain in this region, it does so for long, violent periods as well.
However, as I learned, València is no less awesome of a destination in less than ideal conditions. In other words, there is no excuse to be an aguafiestas ‘killjoy’.
The Rain in Spain …
For five of the six days I was there, it was overcast and wet … Not the vacation I was expecting.
However, the first day I was in town, there was still some sunshine to share, and I was able to go to the main beaches that connect into each other: Playa de Malvarrosa and Platja de Cabanyal.
About a thirty minute walk (if you adhere to the stereotype of being a fast-walking gay), the beachfront is expansive with a marina situated just south of it and restaurants galore inland. If one would prefer a quicker, less scenic route, there is also a tram that runs by the waterside that one can take with a small ticket fee (€1.5 single-ride or €8 for 10 tickets).
The more interior area front the beach is called El Cabanyal (where one of the beaches gets its name) and is a vibrant area with a residential seaside vibe. Toward the docks is the Poblats Marítims, which is more industrial.
However, I stayed right outside an area called Ruzafa. A hipster-y, bustling centre for restaurants and bars, it is a fun location with always something to do and eat.
To the east is the main city park, El Jardín de Turia. A diverted riverbed, this massive green space feeds into the world famous City of Arts & Sciences (Valencian: Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències/ Spanish: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias).
Renowned for their rotating exhibitions and modern architecture, its various venues contain a planetarium, concert hall, and gardens.
In its shallow pools, visitors can rent rowboats or kinetic boards, and nearby vendors sell local orxata made from tiger nuts.
Rain or shine, one will find the area littered with people seeking their best instagram shots. Yours included too!
One of the most common photos on Grindr here is probably someone squatting (in the sun) on one of the small stoops by the artificial pools. Predictable.
…Falls Mainly on My Unlucky Ass …
An attraction of its own, L’Oceanogràfic is an open air aquarium with mostly subterranean exhibits and tanks at the end of this massive park complex. For families and animal lovers of all ages, this location is a must to visit.
It can get quite busy, so if one is bringing their children, I would go earlier rather than later. Tickets can also be purchased online, which will facilitate entry. I would suggest dining elsewhere however, as the prices are understandably astronomical compared to the quaint locales outside of this populated, touristic zone.
One of my favourite parts of my trip here was reading the translations. As a former marine biology buff, I knew most of the English common names (and some of the scientific ones too). However, for me, most Spanish names were new and especially the Valencian ones as well.
Some names were equatable between languages while others translate as exact opposites like how Ocean Sunfish in English is Pez Luna (‘Moon Fish’) in Spanish (Peix Lluna in Valencian). I also found the Valencian common names to be far more creative and detailed than the Spanish counterparts … Interesting …
Valenciano or Catalan?
At a certain point, one will begin to wonder why there are signs with two (if not three to include English) languages for all titles and descriptions at many of these venues. The reason of course is València is home to Valencian, a Occitano-Romance language of its own.
Valencian is thus closely related to Occitan, which is spoken in southern France and some northern Spanish valleys, and Catalan, an official language of Andorra and of Catalunya. Of course, it is also a relative to Spanish. However, Valencian’s relationship to Catalan is a little more complicated than one might expect.
For the most part, Valencian and Catalan are dialects of the same language. But, Catalan often gets the spotlight for itself, which leads to Valencian being characterised as a dialect of Catalan. Historically, Catalan and in extension Valencian (sometimes called ‘Southern Catalan’) were the language of the Crown of Aragon, which at one point stretched into Italy, to Malta, and even parts of Greece.
Nevertheless, both languages have different governing bodies that oversee their maintenance. However, there is still some controversy between these varieties and the ideological weight each carry.
La Casa dels Gats & More
More north in the city exist many other monuments, which I would recommend saving for a sunnier time than when I experienced them. Outdoors and riddled throughout the Ciutat Vella, Old City, it is no surprise that bike rentals are popular for tourists spending a few days in the city to try to see it all fast.
However, with strong winds and in cold rain, it is best to walk and jusr buy an umbrella. (Flying Tiger – a Danish brand – has some durable cheap choices and can be found just south of the centre.) Depending on how bad the weather is, some bike rentals will refund larger deposits too. Ask nicely and make your case!
When one thinks of this region of Spain, bullfighting might come to mind. Rightfully so, next to the Xàtiva station, there lays the Plaza de Toros: the city’s bullfighting ring.
Rather central, it would be shocking to miss it actually. As someone who does not fully agree with this cultural exercise in general, I was rather indifferent to touring it. Although, it is something of an architectural marvel with its pseudo-Moorish style.
One small tourist sight I had to see was La Casa dels Gats or The House of Cats located on the Carrer del Museu north of the Old City. This division is called El Carmen and is equally as trendy as Ruzafa if not a little edgier in my opinion. Here is a good neighbourhood for dining out and going out at night!
It is simply a small hole in the wall that opens up to a protected garden for stray cats. What a cute addition to the city!
I eventually made my way to the house after multiple detours to avoid the rain and to warm myself. Would I say it was worth it? Yes. It got me out of Ruzafa, which is an accomplishment in itself.
Along the way, I would recommend also stopping off at one of the central markets for a bite or check out some of the grand, gothic gates. One restaurant that I was told is quite good is aptly named Bar Restaurante Rojas Clemente in the Mercado Rojas Clemente. Just north of it lays the Port de Quart – a 15th century tower complex (that can act as a superb reprieve from the elements too).
Heading up to El Carmen for an afternoon is a great excursion plan, rain or shine. And, there are enough wonderful restaurants located close by as well if it gets too chilly. But, more on that later …
Trying Out Couchsurfing
While my stay was great and spacious, my host was busy studying for an exam. This turn of events left me to my own devices … like my phone, which I used to test out the Couchsurfing App for the first time.
With the feature ‘Hang Outs’, one can change his or her status to ‘active’ and become available to meet up with other couchsurfers to spend time in the city together. For the most part, it is a safe site and network (if you are male).
Speaking with some of its users who identify otherwise, it is easy to pick up on and understand the anxieties and tension that some couchsurfers experience from sleeping over at a total stranger’s abode. The ‘Hang Out’ feature is then pretty neat, as one can still meet a variety of new faces in a more public, safer environment.
That said, there is no screening either for the ‘Hang outs’, so some individuals might not be especially compatible with you at these gatherings. Others may be fast friends! I met a platonic pair from Mexico with whom I hit it off; we even went out two nights in a row.
This trip to València was truly the perfect time to test this site out too! As they say, misery loves company. And, with shitty weather, it seemed people were desperate for a little fun and camaraderie.
As a typically solo traveler, I expect to use this feature in the near future. However, I can already say that if there was a queer version, that would make the experience better for someone like myself! I don’t like straight clubs … Sigh. I guess that is what Grindr is for …
As one can see, despite uncharacteristically bad weather, one can still enjoy València. Nevertheless, adapting to the vibe is necessary. Switch from speedos and patios to indoor cafés and maybe exhibitions.
I was sad to leave València, but also a bit relieved too. (Eventually, I ran out of clean clothing …) The prices for almost everything are leagues cheaper than in Sweden. I might have compensated for eating more, but the quality also was better in my opinion. On that note, I should say the next València post will centre around my favourite topic: gastronomy! So, stay tuned and also get excited for Athens, Greece — this weekend!