Adventures in Spain – 12 Hours in Valencia

Whenever you plan a trip on a short time frame (2 weeks is short when you want to see everything), you will always have places you regret you did not stay at longer and places you wish you spent less time in.  Sadly I can’t change that my time in Valencia was way too short.  I almost cut it completely out of my itinerary based on lonely planet and etc. websites’ commentaries about it not being that exciting.  Little did I know that this would be one of my favorite cities I visited.

Like many European cities, Valencia had a river running through it, Turia; however, after a major flood it was diverted and turned into a runner’s dream.  It is now a verdant sunken park that allows cyclists and pedestrians to traverse much of the city without the use of roads. Basically my dream! The park, called the ‘Garden of the Turia’ (Jardí del Túria/Jardín del Turia) has everything in it from numerous ponds, paths, fountains, flowers, football pitches, cafés (with cheap beer and wine!), artworks, climbing walls, an athletics track, a zen garden and more. My mom and I took a short stroll there on our way to l’oceanografic.

I really regretted the early train I had in the morning.  I wish I had the next morning to go for a run!

My mom enjoyed the water fountains.

Our slow stroll got us hungry and luckily a food stop was right in our path.

Tuna Salad and potatoes with some cerveza (beer).

After lunch we headed towards L’Oceangrafic, my main reason for the stop in Valencia.  The largest aquarium in Europe and the 4th largest in the world.  Care to take where #1 resides in? USA! USA!  Haha JK, well not really, it’s in Georgia by Atlanta and I have now bumped up Atlanta once more on a higher list of places I want to see in the US.

The park is dividend into 10 habitats with 45,000 animals of 500 different species including fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates — amongst these are sharks, penguins,dolphins, sea lions, walruses, beluga whales, and more.

If you never get a chance to scuba (which would be a shame) going into one of these aquariums with an overhead passageway is probably the closest and most amazing thing to seeing the underwater world.

I even found Nemo!

Shark food!

These guys reminded me of ghosts when they swam over my head.

Another thing about Valencia… paella, an amazing concoction of rice, seafood and green veggies!  A signature dish in the area!

Yea, clearly it was awful and I hated every bite as I ate it all.

My mom ordered ravioli which was good, but not as good as paella.

Another reason why I loved Valencia might have been the awesome hotel I got from Hotwire for only $100 (Yup, USD not Euro).  It was the Westin- Valencia, right off Turia Gardens and about half a mile from the town center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m always a little (okay sometimes a lot) disappointed by what hotwire calls “4 star” hotels and the results I get, but this was finally a true win.  We have a pretty large suite with two comfy beds (usual Westin Comfort), two little couches, desk and open space.

There was a separate room for toilets and a room with a separate double headed shower on one half a giant bathroom on the other side.  Not to mention this weird hallway of mirrors in our room that I think was the dressing area.

Plus there was a gym spa with a ton of weigh machines, a pool, Jacuzzi and steam showers but they closed a 10PM!  Ugh… if only I didn’t have a 6AM wake up call to catch a train.  If only all my hotels came in this style..Yup.. really wish I had more time to check out all these things.

And now some more random photos from my walk around town.

More pretty old stuff, because really I couldn’t stop taking useless photos of it all.

Although the doors with faces and building with engraved human bodies really freak it me out.

Bullring in the center by the old train station.

 

Have you ever been to a place you wish you could have spent more time at?

 

Casa Batlló & Last day in Barcelona

Last post about Barcelona and then I move on to other sites!

On our last day we decided to actually take a tour of one of Gaudi’s works, Casa Batlló.  While all his buildings are amazing and inspiring to see, I was curious what they look like inside.  Unfortunately the privileged to see that comes with what I think is a high price (Approx 20 Euros per person).  So while I knew if I was really that curious I could Google myself up some images, I decided I should walk within the walls of at least one.  It’s hard to capture what walking within one of Gaudi’s buildings was like.  It was like being within another world, almost within a painting.  Growing up among NYC skyscrapers, I never really considered architecture art, maybe some engineering, some historical buildings had a pretty style and cute, but nothing I considered to be art like a painting would be.

Unfortunately, as with all tourist spots, you are not alone, you will be in a mass but luckily they give audio guides so the chatter is kept to a minimum as everyone gazes and listens.

The fireplace reminds me of something out of a Tim Burton movie, I kept staring at it, expecting it to start dancing.

Mirrors and the colorful glass panels were used to reflect natural light throughout the whole house.  They say everything looks a little different throughout each hour of the day because of the light reflection.

The front room on the second floor.  Sadly none of the rooms were furnished.

I expected the elevator to eat me, or at least take me to a parallel universe

The center of the building where most of the light goes through.  The tiles actually get darker towards the top so that when you look up, visually it looks the same.

I think things were designed to make it feel like you’re underwater.

It only got more insane on the rooftop with the chimneys and this little water room that looks like a dinosaur.

At the gift shop they had replicated furniture for sale, so if someone has an extra 5K or 10K, and wants to buy me housewarming presents…. well I could always use some furniture that’s not from Ikea.

The house is always referred to as Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), it’s creepy and mesmerizing at night.  Our hotel was close by and every time we walked me by there was always people sitting on the bench staring at it for several whiles.

A tapas mix of salads, Russian salad, Greek, Salad, seafood salad and some cod fish.

While walking around we walked by another market, this one empty of tourists.  Frozen veggies by the pound!

So I might have brought a bag of tomatoes because I wanted to try them all and ate them like berries.

When I walked by this, it scared me!

I took a short walk along the waterfront.

But before that, I walked by those infamous human statues on La Ramba, I didn’t see anything too impressive, at least not as insane as the Madrid ones.

Waterfronts & piers are pretty (’nuff said)

Dinner?  Well after so many tapas, I wanted a short break and got a gyro.  It was okay, the chicken was good.

An Evening of Pintxos – Night out in Barcelona

Pintxo is a snack, typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country. They are usually eaten in bars or taverns as a small snack while hanging out with friends or relatives.  In a way, they remind me of dim sum only in the evening instead of morning.

The place we went to was Bilbao Berria, right next to the cathedral in the Gothic District.

Pinchos or Pintxos are always served on “pincho”, meaning “spike.

There’s meat, lots of fishes, and just some just random options.

Most are served with a slice of bread and hard boiled egg.

There were a lot of pork and beef ones but I mostly stuck to fish and this interesting bowl.

And then there was dessert!

While I wouldn’t go there for dessert, I wish I could have tried so many more!

Adventures in Spain – Barcelona – Mercat de Mercats – A celebration of Catalan food

After exploring the Barri Gotic, my mom and I stumbled upon Mercat De Mercats, what we thought was just another market was actually a once a year 3 day festival of wine and food from all through Catalonia.

One of the first tables was pâté de foie gras, basically goose livers.

After my experience last year in Paris, I can’t say I’m the biggest fan, but the booth was surrounding by so many people that for a Euro I couldn’t help but do as the Spanish do and try.

It was okay, I didn’t die, the cracker underneath was tasty.  Next up was the Oysters, something a little more my style!

My mom picked a mine salmon sandwich to taste.

Next, we came upon the most delicious fish kabobs!  Salmon and Tuna.  We picked to try the Tuna.

It was my favorite food I tasted at the market!

My mom got a mojito that was a perfect blend of sweet and mint.

I’m a person whose quite easy to satisfy, give me some red wine and some meats on a stick and I’ll be content.

If you walk around anywhere in Spain you’ll noticed they’re into cured meats.  You can take a sampler stick to experiment a bit!

I was pretty full at this point but we kept walking by things that just looked more and more interesting.  I’m not even sure what this is, maybe an octopus, it kind of tasted like a giant  calamari

We also got a shrimp plate to share.

It was one of the coolest scenes, tasting of food and drinks around a beautiful cathedral where tourists and locals from all sorts of background sat together in bliss.

After a rest and a glass of wine, we moved onto olives, here are some anchovies with olives.

Tuna inside an olive! Yummy!

This was one of my favorite food festivals I’ve ever been too!  Cheap wine (1-2 Euro a glass) and yummy food.  There was cheeses everywhere too but I somehow forgot to photograph them while eating.

 Have you ever been to a food festival? What’s your favorite one?  I’ve only been to a few random ones in Boston that I always find too packed with super long lines.  In Barcelona I barely had to wait a minute to get what I wanted!

Adventures in Spain – Day 2 Barcelona – Gaudi & Barri Gotic

We started the day with breakfast… if you’re American and are looking for easy cheap brunch, you are in the wrong place.  Instead we stopped by a cafe and had a relaxing little breakfast. Since the place was surrounded by hotels I’m sure this is their take on what an American sandwich would look like.

Afterwards we walked by one of Gaudi’s building, Casa Mila or “La Pedrera.”

It’s a big pricey to go inside (19 Euro or so per person). We picked Casa Bistillo to go inside instead and I’ll show pictures later.  Instead of paying for the tour, we admired the beautiful lobby from the gift shop!

We then did some modeling around the neighborhood.

Site-seeing makes you hungry so we stopped by and grabbed a little tuna sandwich.

After we refueled we finally made it to La SagradaFamilia.  The Catholic church was Gaudi’s last project before he died from getting hit by tram.  It was less then 25% complete and is still being worked on today.  The expected date of completion is 2026!  

Looking at it in detail, I find it a little terrifying.

Maybe it;s because I’m not catholic, but human bodies in stone always weird me out.  Maybe too many X-Files episodes and similar shows growing up.

We continued onto the metro and down to the Gothic District of Barcelona.  I love how pretty all the windows look with their flowers and simplicity in details.

Barri Gotic (Gothic District) is a labyrinth of narrow passage ways and hoards upon hoards of tourists.  Despite several changes undergone in the 19th and early 20th century, many of the buildings date from Medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Remains of the squared Roman Wall can be seen around Tapineria and Sots-Tinent Navarro to the north, Avinguda de la Catedral and Plaça Nova to the west and Carrer de la Palla to the south. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area too.

Afterwards I went to the Cathedral.  Those always amaze me in their size and stunning architecture!

Adventures in Spain – Day 1 Barcelona – La Boquiera

I like to end posts on a positive note, so I’ll start with a rant.

Flying Delta via JFK is an absolute nightmare

Leaving Boston everything was perfect.  I somehow got on the wrong line for first class and went through security in 2 minutes.  Got on a plane and made it to JFK.  First… maybe I’ve been living in Boston for too long but place is a nightmare!  I had to switch terminals which was one of the most confusing things in the world.  Delta in Boston, never gave me a boarding pass for my connecting Delta flight.  To get on a bus to switch terminals, I had to get a boarding pass.  There is one delta attendant working the shuttle bus area at 6:30 on a Friday.  It was insanity as people had no idea which bus to take to their connecting flight or if they would even make their flight.

Then once I got on my flight… once everyone boarded the plane just chilled there… like a dead pigeon.  For 2.5 hours.  No explanation… No water… nothing.  People were so frustrated that once the plane started moving almost 3 hours later with still no explanation there was a giant applause from the exhausted confused passengers.     Only response delta gave me was it was weather related.  Not sure why I saw other planes take off if it was weather.  Either way, the flights were not cheaper than others when I booked and I only went for Delta because I thought it would be better than British Airways.  Huge mistake!

It was my mom’s first time on an airplane in 19 years since she immigrated to the great USA.  She is ready!

I booked a “4 star” hotel, Evenia Rossello through hotwire… it’s not luxury but I guess it did the trick for being within center proximity.  All the important things were 15-20 minute walk away or a short metro ride within 3 stops.  Although sometimes I really wish I knew how hotwire gets its star ratings.l’exemple

We walked down l’exemple quarter and drooled over the buildings with balconies.

while my mom made a new bullish friend

some buildings and plazas we passed until we reached La Ramba and Boqueria Market.  A heaven of fruits, veggies, fungi, meats and fishies.

I’m not sure where you are from but markets other than produce is not very common in Boston…

As you walk around there’s plenty of olive trees around and this is where they end up.  So yummy!

but worry not I’ll end this on a sweet note