Exploring Spain outside Madrid – The Suffolk Journal
On March 4, my boyfriend came from Virginia to spend his spring break with me in Spain. We spent six days in Madrid, then took a train to Valencia, an old town on the coast. My boyfriend has been to Valencia twice before, and he did a two-week exchange program in high school, so he has a host family that lives there.
For me it was my first trip to a city outside the Madrid region of Spain so I was very excited. Our trip fell during the days leading up to Valencia Fallas Festivaland the city was already starting to party.
Fallas is an annual festival that celebrates the arrival of spring. The festivities start on March 1, but the real festival takes place from March 15 to 19.
Within minutes of getting off the train, we were already immersed in the culture of the city. As we were walking through the streets trying to get to our hotel, we came across a massive crowd in one of the main squares. We learned that they were waiting for the mascletá, which was starting in a few minutes.
Mascletas are basically daytime fireworks, although there is more noise and smoke than anything else. They occur every day at 2 p.m. in the main square for the duration of the festival, and as March 15 approaches they become more frequent.
We stayed to watch, and it was unlike anything I had experienced before. It was so loud, and you could feel every explosion echoing in your chest. I loved it, and it was obviously one of the most popular Fallas events as thousands of Valencians gathered in the square to watch it. We watched two other mascletás throughout our stay in Valencia – one in the main square and another that took place at night, in a different area.
Another important part of the Fallas that we were able to discover was in the Russafa district. A few of the streets in this neighborhood have thousands of lights that stretch the length of the street, and we got to watch them light up. It was so pretty and the number of lights was amazing.
During the Fallas, you will find giant statues being built in the center of every square in the neighborhood. These are designed each year by the neighborhood, and there is a vote for the best. On the last day of the Fallas, it is traditional to light each statue on fire.
Paella is a traditional Valencian dish, so of course we ate some during our stay. I’ve tried paella before, but as my boyfriend’s foster dad said and I agree, there’s nothing quite like paella from Valencia. The one we ate came with chicken, rabbit, rice and greens. It was delicious and easily one of the best dishes I have eaten since arriving in Spain. No other paella comes close.
We visited Oceanográfic, the aquarium in Valencia, which was very large and housed so many different animals, from flamingos to fish, turtles, penguins and more. There was also an underwater corridor that you could walk through, with fish and sharks swimming all around and above you. This was one of my favorite parts of the visit; it was so cool.
Our weekend in Valencia also included visiting Valencia Cathedral, which had some cool ruins underneath that we could see, and we climbed over 300 steps to the tower at the top. There was a really nice view at the top, and we were up there as the bell rang to signal the start of a new hour.
I was able to dip my feet into the Mediterranean Sea, which I was so excited about, although I wish it was warm enough to swim. I also tried a Valencian orange at Mercat Central Valencia, which is a huge indoor market that sells all kinds of food. It was delicious but so juicy; it made a mess everywhere. There are orange trees growing everywhere in Valencia, which I thought was really cool.
It was amazing to finally be able to visit another city in Spain. I witnessed so much culture and tradition during my time there, and it was truly an amazing experience. I loved Valencia so much and I hope to be able to return there one day.
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