E1: Next Up Valencia

Who would have thought that one short encounter on a long plane ride almost a year ago would determine my fait for half of 2019? I sure as hell hadn’t.

2018, on a Swiss Airlines flight from Quebec City back home to Zurich Switzerland, I was sitting next to an elderly man, me at the isle, he at the window. I was reading and he was bored of the on flight entertainment. Not too long after take off, he started chatting with me, about my plans for the future, what I had been doing and so on, you know the usual, and I too told him the usual. When I happened to mention that I wanted to go to Spain for half a year to learn Spanish his eyes lit up. He wanted to know more. Where was I going? What was I going to do there? In November 2018, I had not thought that far ahead yet, heck I didn’t even know what I was going to do in the remaining months of 2018. “Uhm, I don’t know maybe Barcelona?”, he didn’t even try to hide the disappointment in his eyes, “ah”, he said, “You know Valencia?”, I didn’t actually, “You must go to Valencia! You will love it!”. He wasn’t wrong, I was going to absolutely love it, I just didn’t know it yet. And so here we are a year later, August 4th 2019, a very stressed me running through Zurich Airport to board my plane en route to Valencia, Spain, where I would be living the next 6 months.

It is always strange arriving in a new place. Everything is unfamiliar and you have zero orientation of where you are. I was picked up at the airport and brought to my apartment, where I was greeted by a Japanese girl that could neither speak English nor Spanish. She pointed me to my room and then to the paper on the wall that stated all the rules as well as the wifi password, a short “thanks” was mentioned and she left again. The feeling is especially a strange one, when you know you will be staying in this city until the new year and so this was sort of your new home for now. I logged into the wifi, sent an “I am alive” text into our family chat, then proceeded to read all the papers given to me in the blue yellow binder of the language school, where tomorrow was going to be my first day. The apartment was empty, besides the Japanese girl in her room. Maybe a little lonely, but then again I was going to move to another apartment at the end of the week, I was thinking to myself when the front door opened and tall blond girl enters the apartment. With a bright smile, almost as if she too was excited to see someone else who spoke her language she greeted me cheerfully “Hiii”, and that is how Julia met Juliette. From this moment onwards we were a duo, we walked to school, went grocery shopping, did most of the activities together and so forth. At least in the first week.

Month One

The first day was scary but the week exciting. The school was filled with so many people, there was no point in remembering names as you would have had to carry a book around. Dutch, German, Russian, you name the language and there was a chance someone spoke it too. The school was packed, but the classes still quite small and therefore effective. After just a week I was able to speak the bare minimum and order my first coffee by myself completely in Spanish. Might have not been entirely correct but anything was an improvement from “hola, cómo estás?, bien, gracias, tequila”. The mornings were fun but hard and during the afternoons resting wasn’t on our list either. The siesta mentality hadn’t quite left a mark yet. Wether I joined a city, tapas or graffiti tour, learned how to cook paella, sang my heart out at karaoke or explored the city with friends, I can guarantee you it was never boring!

Unfortunately I also had a bit of a bad luck streak when my phone got stolen in my first week and my laptop broke just a week later. My bank account surely wanted to deport me home and far far away from my credit card, but c’est la vie mes amies! La Fiesta is what Spain is known for and so of course we had to try it out on Friday. The clubs were packed the music great and what started off as a good night soon turned into one from hell with police and ambulance involved, that we on Saturday with basically no sleep and slightly hungover joined the school on our first day trip outside of Valencia. A good thing sunglasses were invented. The natural reserve and waterfall serving as the perfect place for rest and picnicking, we spent the afternoon lying in the sun half of the group sleeping and the other half actually enjoying the beautiful scenery. I can defiantly say this journey sure is turning out to be an epic adventure already pretty soon.

The following week Julia met Kati, then Julia introduced Kati to Juliette and the Tricycle gang was born. From yoga classes to sunset drinks on roof terraces to picnics at the beach we did it all. Here are some of the more memorable ones. The El Saler hike, the weather was just calling for days at the beach and as we were all not much of a fan of crowded beaches we decided to catch a bus down to El Saler. Julia decided to ride her bike and so it was just Kati and me. On the bus we met another guy, Adriaan, from school, who we weren’t too acquainted with at that point yet. Shortly after having left Valencia city behind the bus stopped along the route. As it was a normal stop people disembarked the bus, me on my phone, Kati distracted, she suddenly in one hell of a hectic rushed us off the bus thinking we had arrived. So like the three mindless chickens we were, we did. Now there we stood, on the side of the road far from El Saler. This is where the El Saler hike begins. In flip-flops we walked an hour past many rice fields along the high way, getting rejected trying to catch a hitchhike ride by many passing cars. With a nice sunburn and a few blisters to count we eventually made in the end. The good thing we were now well acquainted with Adriaan. And then there was The Break-The-Bank dinner. Food who doesn’t love it. A nice girls night dinner in the city sounded right up our alley. We came across this restaurant in one of the side alleys of Valencia, small, cozy and the waiters friendly, we caved. Some Tapas, Sangria and a Paella later we really should’ve seen this one coming. The bill almost broke us hence the name. From this point onwards 5€ meals it was.

Many great memories have been made together. When Julia left after two weeks and the tricycle turned to a bicycle, we calmed down a bit. Kati and Juliette, like a 50 year old married couple, did their daily grocery run to lidl, had their stroll around the park or the city and most importantly took their daily siesta, when also way later than normal. The two weeks we spend together, tired of memorising names and repeating our life stories everyday, we became a duo and no corner in Valencia was left untouched. Every last corner of Ruzafa was explored for various unique cafes and vintage shops, no Graffiti wasn’t photographed in El Carmen and even a hike to the beach from the city centre didn’t seem too far away. Both of us fought through a cold, and even our monthly moodiness couldn’t break the “marriage” 😛 some afternoons, we would just sit in Kati’s living room, she on her couch me on her armchair and do absolutely nothing besides send each other food posts on instagram. It was a beautifully quiet time, that we needed after all the socialising during the first two weeks!

But as the saying goes, all good thing must come to an end. We finished our one month language school course and whereas my time in Valencia was just about to really start, hers was coming to an end and she too headed back home. From tricycle to bicycle to einrad, I sure had a pretty cool expression of this city that would become my home for the next half year, but more on that next time.