Buenos dias, todos! I’m in Spain, and man, do I speak no Spanish or what? I swear I took a full year of Spanish in high school. We got all the way to the imperfect, I think, and I remember absolutely nothing. Por favor! Toreador!
To start things off, I have one caveat for the future visitor to Valencia. Do your best to A. not arrive on a Sunday or, failing that, B. bring everything you need. The second I got on the train to the airport yesterday I realized that I had forgotten my toothbrush, toothpaste and comb. So the first thing I did after dropping my belongings in my hotel room was sally forth in search of an open grocery store or pharmacy. Of which there were two.
Oh, and also an ATM. I will never understand the shortage of ATMs in airports. There should be an ATM in baggage claim so that you can get cash on the way out. (Of course, this only applies to those of us who leave our countries with only about 30 cents worth of very small coins in our wallets. Everyone else can allow his or her mind to wander.)
But it was a very nice walk into the center of town, if a little dilapidated and extremely quiet. I suspect that Sunday in Valencia, as in Paris, for the most part, is a day to spend at church and then at home having Sunday lunch with family. The streets were very still, except for some people out for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Which I guess just made it easier to take pictures!
Then of course, there is the castle!
There is also a ton of fabulous wall art all over Valencia, not just little tags like in Paris, but full-on murals.
I didn’t want to be a total tourist and eat at McDonald’s or anything (there is one, and a Burger King, in the mall next door to my hotel), so as soon as I found my ATM and got some cash, I sat down at the nearest restaurant where there were people eating. I speak no Spanish. Operation Awkward Restaurant commence!
But the chorizo was really good.
I also ordered a salad which was decidedly disgusting, mainly because in addition to the basic salad components (lettuce, tomato, onion, olives–ugh, but when in Spain, I suppose–and what looked like canned white asparagus), somebody saw fit to dump most of a can of tuna fish on top. This boggles my mind. I'm pretty sure they realized that I wouldn't be able to object, because with the tuna the salad was a euro more expensive than it was without.
After that I was pretty wiped out, so I started on my merry way back to my hotel…which is when I ran into the botanical gardens. I knew they were there, but I had vaguely planned on hitting them today. Oh well! Anyway, I'm not really into botanical gardens, but for two euros I very happily strolled among the cacti, palm trees, conifers, flowers and modern art.
And then I really did go back to my hotel. And crashed. When I woke up, I re-applied my makeup and headed east towards the Mediterranean. Which did not disappoint.
I learned a few things at the beach yesterday. First of all, and this is in no particular order, corn tastes so much better when it’s roasted over coals (by a professional corn-roaster) at the beach. If you walk along the beach in Valencia, you hit about ten of these stands selling roasted corn, raw sweet corn, and popcorn. Points to Valencia for the cheapest, healthiest beach snack ever.
The second thing I learned is that if I were so inclined, I could wear a bikini on the beach in Spain and nobody would give it a second thought. But I am just not as brave as the women I saw last night. Especially the topless ones. (No pictures, naturally–you’re welcome.)
Numbers three and four are things that I remembered, rather than things I learned for the first time. Number three is that people in Spain don’t eat dinner until like 9 PM. I ate my corn on the cob around 6:30, sat on the beach, put my feet in the water, then walked and walked and walked (and bought a plastic beach bag so that when I actually go to the beach tomorrow I won’t be carting around my big black purse) until around 8, when I was like, okay, enough already, I’m going to eat something. But nobody was eating at the restaurant I went to, not even tapas (by the time I left, other people had begun to order food, though). So I ordered myself a large glass of sangria and drank it very, very slowly. It was delightful.
Finally, around 8:35, I decided I had better order some food. I couldn’t remember how to say “Excuse me” in Spanish (and being lazy and not actually having Wi-Fi in my room, I haven’t bothered to look it up yet), so it took me a long time to catch the waitress’ eye to order my tortilla espagnola, something I was familiar with because of my friend Cristina, whose mom is Spanish. I was looking forward to my omelette with potatoes and (I think) onions…which arrived on bread. And that wasn’t quite what I ordered but A. I could always have taken it off the bread and B. I don’t speak enough Spanish to send something back to the kitchen (ha, understatement of the century) and C. was I really going to be like, “How dare you put this eggy goodness on hot buttered toast? Shame on you!” It was delicious.
And then I made my very, very slow way back to my hotel, where I fell asleep without even bothering to come downstairs and get online. That just shows how wiped out I was, to say nothing of slightly sunburnt and covered in sand.
In other news, I have my audition this afternoon. I haven’t really sung in three days, I had a restless sleep last night, and if they ask for my zarzuela aria…well, all I can say is “Oh, help.”
P.S. The fourth thing I learned yesterday is that the word for “check” in Spanish is “la cuenta.” I figured that out when I heard somebody else say it in the restaurant.