Don’t Be an Aguafiestas: València, Spain (in the Rain)

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.

A Gloomy Sunday … (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

el malecón (seafront/boardwalk) (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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).

Enjoying the coastline down this way is common too!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

Bright, colourful, and always a buzz – cafés and bars line the streets of Ruzafa, which make it the perfect place to relax outside (provided there is sun)!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

What seems like an endless park! Enjoy the sunshine (when possible), all the dogs, and shirtless, often bearded runners … (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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).

The Palau de les Arts is one of the main attractions and features the artistic exhibits.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)
To me, it looks like a whale. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)
Crowded most of the day by locals and tourists alike, this attraction is known as one of the famous ’12 Treasures of Spain’. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)
Don’t drop your keys … (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

Definitely try the orxata in Valencia, especially on a hot day. As it is made from nuts, it is lactose-free, which is great for me! For a local alcoholic drink, try the ‘Aigua de València’, which consists of cava (sweet, sparkling Spanish wine), orange juice, vodka, and gin. Essentially, it’s a really fancy screwdriver. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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 …

Buy your tickets in advance! (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

Open air ponds also sometimes lead to escapees! I got to witness an employee relocate a wandering waterfowl back from the ticket line. He did it so casually!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

The Aviary! Each area has its own theme/ environment/ type of animal in focus; some others zones include Crocodiles, Dolphins (with shows!), Jellyfish, and the new exhibit, Sharks!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)
Inside the Arctic zone! Here, there are walruses and beluga whales. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

In the rain (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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!

While the sun is out! Notice: there are crowds now … (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

Next to the bullfighting ring is the València Nord train station. Stop by this meeting point for the metro and main train lines. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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!

Casa de les Gats (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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!

No cats in sight however …
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

Me after the club … Check out Fox Congo on Calle Caballeros!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

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.

De Paso

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!