It has been awhile since I wrote an actual travel story: one that has characters, flowery descriptions, and heartfelt emotion. My last six posts have been guides in some form or another, but this post is different. I’ve written several posts about Valencia – everything from why I went, what I did, and what I ate. Yet, my summer was more than just those guides. My time in Valencia was enchanting. Days were long and busy, yet lived at an easy pace. Nothing I did was extraordinary, but every day I thought “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”
This is a story of an ordinary summer day in Valencia. Yet, it was a series of ordinary days which, when strung together, resulted in one amazing summer. This is a travel story about 24 hours in Valencia, Spain.
“Nothing I did was extraordinary, but every day I thought ‘I can’t believe I get to live this life.’”
The sun peeks through my window, reflecting light off the gothic cathedral. I blearily rub my eyes and grab my phone, sure that it’s no later than 6 am. It’s eerily quiet.
I’m wrong. It’s 8 am, and I need to get a head start on my work day. I groan, roll out of bed, and stumble my way to the shower. 15 minutes later I’m in the kitchen, watching the espresso machine like a hawk. An espresso shot is never enough, but the largest mug in the kitchen will do. While waiting for the telltale steam, I glance out the window. Calle Jorge Juan is quiet, despite the fact that it’s a weekday. I quickly learn this is the norm in Valencia, at least during the summer.
At the dining room table, I turn the fan on, open the lid to my laptop, and begin to type.
Time passes, but I don’t notice, as I’m absorbed in my work. My grumbling stomach interrupts my flow and I realize that it’s suddenly 11 am. I amble into the kitchen and peer into the fridge, pondering what the most important meal of the day has in store for me. Cheese, bread, some cold cuts and maybe an avocado if I’m feeling fancy. As I’m waiting for my bread to toast, I hear a scratching sound. I turn around, and Kimani emerges from Tiffany’s room, his paws making a loud tapping sound against the hardwood floor. I bid both Tiffany and Kimani good morning before resettling at the dining room table, breakfast plate in tow.
Ten minutes later, Tiffany joins me at the table. It’s time for Kimani’s morning walk, but first, we discuss our plan for the day. Like most days, we determine our itinerary by checking our Google document aptly titled “Valencia to-do’s.” We agree to leave at 1pm to check out the Russafa market. Since it’s a Monday, there’s also a flea market outside.
A little before 1 o’ clock, I turn off my “Verano Forever” playlist. Although Kimani usually accompanies us on our adventures, he’s staying home today. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the market. So we turn off the AC, bid him farewell, and make our way to our favorite hipster neighborhood, Russafa.
We pass the large zig-zagged intersection that never ceases to confuse us.
We pass the Mexican café near the market, vowing to try it at some point during the summer.
We pass several well-dressed Spanish women, hoping to be so effortlessly chic as when we’re older.
Outside the entrance of the market are clusters of tents, all selling a variety of objects. We rummage through the options but quickly decide to head inside instead.
Inside, we meander through the aisles, admiring the brightly colored fruit and rows of gourmet olive oils. Tiffany stops to buy some dried fruit and I make a beeline for what appears to be the only coffee stand – and one that sells cold brew at that. Tiffany joins me shortly after, and the owner hides his smile as I set up the perfect composition for my photo. I sip my drink and declare that I’ve found the best coffee shop in Valencia. Ironically, I only return once for the rest of the summer.
Being the Yelp lover that I am, I use my phone to find a restaurant we’ve bookmarked but haven’t tried yet: Ubik Café. We are drawn inside upon arrival. The interior is bright and the walls are covered with books. Several comfy couches and desk-like tables dot the room. It’s a hot day, but we decide to sit outdoors like the true Spaniards we are trying to be. The waitress insists on moving the table into the shade, despite the fact that the sun follows us as time passes. We both order the menú del día and get comfortable. We would be there awhile.
As we get up to leave several hours later, my phone buzzes. My Valencian friend, Eduardo, wants to hang out that evening. Eduardo agrees to meet us at 9 pm for dinner and to attend the evening’s Fería event: a city-hosted fireworks show a few blocks from our apartment.
Tiffany and I walk back to our apartment, marveling at the peaceful Valencian streets. Upon arrival, Kimani greets us excitedly. It’s time for his second walk, and this time, I decide to accompany them. We stroll leisurely towards Turia Gardens, where Kimani runs around in the grass, occasionally barking at other dogs.
It’s nearing 7 o’clock at this point, and we agree we want some time to relax before Eduardo comes. Relaxing for us often includes stopping for an orxata, and today is no different. Luckily, the Mercado de Colón is about 100 feet from our apartment. As we enter the market, several people stop us to play with Kimani. Tiffany explains to several of them that he is a Corgi, a breed that apparently doesn’t exist in Spain. He becomes known around the neighborhood as the “Queen of England dog.”
We greet our favorite waiter, ordering our usual large orxatas. We’ve been frequent visitors to Casa de l’Orxata since day 1. After completing our orxatas and flagging down the waiter for la cuenta, por favor, we’re left with just enough time to get ready for dinner.
At 9 o’clock sharp, Eduardo pulls up in front of the cathedral around the corner, greeting us with two kisses on the cheek. We leave him in charge of choosing where to go for dinner, something he’s comically bad at. We find ourselves at a random restaurant near the City of Arts and Sciences, one whose name I can’t remember, but happens to have easy access to parking.
In typical Spanish fashion, we order a variety of tapas to share: padron peppers, patatas bravas, Valencian mussels, and a salad. For some reason, the peppers are incredibly salty, but when Eduardo asks the waiter about them, the response is “they’re supposed to be like that.” We look at each other, laugh at the absurdity of the response, and continue with our meal. Because we’re in Spain, our dinner lasts two hours – quick by Spanish standards.
We pile back into the car and drive in the direction of Calle Colón. As we are looking for parking, Eduardo casually mentions that he has never attended any July fería events, despite having lived in Valencia his whole life. I recover from the shock long enough to point out an empty parking spot, then warn him he’s was in for a summer of touristing with me and Tiffany. As we approach Calle Colón, we hear some noises in the distance. I spot a couple nearby and start asking them about the parade route, but they turn out to be American. We really are in the tourist zone.
Despite the fact that Eduardo had never attended this event in Valencia, he explains that the celebration is popular throughout Spain. He’d participated in this exact celebration when he used to spend summers at a village outside the city. He is an excellent cultural tour guide, despite his lack of knowledge about the going-ons in Valencia.
While I understood this event to be fireworks a la Fourth of July, it actually involves a parade of drummers and devils dancing around with giant sparklers. Fireworks occasionally go off, but for the most part, it’s sparkler galore.
We I alternate between running towards the sparklers to take photos, then running away to avoid sparkler burns. Tiffany and Eduardo calmly watch from the sidelines, probably highly entertained by my shenanigans.
Suddenly, it’s 12:30 am. The event comes to an end and Eduardo walks us back to our building. We make plans to meet again the following week, and he takes off.
We hear Kimani’s loud barks as we ride the elevator up. He is clearly ready for his final walk. Tiffany clips him to his leash, and down we go again, squeezing into the small, boxy elevator.
We quickly walk Kimani around the neighborhood, eager to get home and into our pajamas. The streets are silent, but we encounter the occasional group of teenagers milling about. As we head back upstairs, I have work on my mind. It’s now morning in Los Angeles, and my work emails and blog notifications are coming in. After bidding Tiffany and Kimani sweet dreams, I squeeze in another hour of work before collapsing into bed. I’ve managed to work, relax, and explore the city all on the same day – without feeling rushed. It’s the enchanting vibe of Valencia, I conclude, that keeps me enraptured. As I set my phone’s alarm for the next day, I think, “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”
Have you ever fallen in love with a city while traveling through it? Which city and why? Share in the comments below!
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