Valencian days

I’ve had a great few days in Valencia. School every day, of course, which has been fun but perhaps not as productive as I hoped. On the flip-side lots of socialising with my classmates has meant I’m speaking a lot of Spanish – maybe not very well, but lots of it.


Thursday began with hiring a bike and setting out on a shopping expedition to a more remote suburb in search of a toy shop (my niece Eva’s birthday present). Riding in Valencia is an absolute joy on these fresh, warm days. The bike paths are seamless and safe. To recover energy from my ride I went to the market and had a horchata and a farton. I’ve taken a liking to horchata, the local drink made from wetland sedge, and fartons are a pastry that traditionally go with your horchata.

After school, there was a fascinating tour of the center of town where I learned a lot about Valencian history. Thanks to a discussion which revealed I had eaten my morning’s farton wrong (you are supposed to dip it in the horchata – who knew?) the guide gave me a recommendation for a local tapas bar where there wouldn’t be tourists. Four of my colleagues and I tested that immediately. The bar proved to have good food and incredibly grumpy service which was a treat. To continue the Spanish gastronomy experience we went to a vermouth bar afterwards.


Friday was tiring at school, mostly because my classmates had been out clubbing until 5 am and so were a complete disaster (although funny) in class. I had lunch with my new friend Reiner from Germany and then dinner with a group of colleagues after we all rejected the school’s official activity of a visit to a university bar in favour of something a bit more upmarket.


I caught a train through seas of solar panels and orange trees to the small town of Xativa, about an hour outside Valencia. The town is a typical pleasant Spanish town but just outside it is an enormous castle complex that fills a mountain ridge. Xativa Castle has a long and interesting history but now it is mostly just a pretty place with fabulous views having been seriously damaged in the 1700s. My train back was delayed, which worked out fine as it allowed me to watch local folk dancers in action.


Paella was the name of the game today. I did a paella cooking course which was great fun and really useful. We cooked tortilla, paella, and a spongecake dessert and then got to eat the products of our labours. A fabulous way to spend the afternoon. And to add an extra dimension it turned out that the person I was sitting next to’s best friend is someone Jennifer works with. Small world.

And tomorrow it’s week two of Spanish school.

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