The enormous Mercado Central is a great place to buy food for the day.

My time in Valencia was divided into two parts as a result of an exhausting side trip to the nearby island of Ibiza (Parts I, II, III, and IV). The first few days in the city were my general touristy days, but when I returned there was a strange sense familiarity. It wasn’t until I arrived in Valencia that I dawned on me just how unaccustomed I’d become to the feeling, but it was remarkably soothing to be in a city I was already acquainted with.

Since leaving the US, every single city I’ve visited so far is completely brand new to me and, while the novelty is exhilarating, I’d forgotten what it's like to have a home base. Many of the things people (including myself) take for granted when they live in one place for a while is the fact that they know where the grocery store, good restaurants, ATMs, bus stations, etc. are all located. For me however, every new place I visit requires I spend a few hours figuring out where everything is - but not this time around. This time I knew exactly where I was and how to get around Valencia without a map.

It felt like I came home.

After Ibiza, I was in dire need of a few low-key days and took some time to literally do nothing. I would wake up, go to the bakery to get breakfast, stroll through the streets, visit the market, write to my heart’s content, relax, and attempted to just live in the city unencumbered. Since I already saw all the sights, I wasn't missing out on anything and I was free to do whatever I wanted - even if that meant sitting on the hostel balcony watching the sun cross the sky. It was just the rest bit that I needed and I felt I learned the ins and outs of Valencia - with one exception.

The best way to enjoy Valencia is to simply wander around aimlessly.

For some reason, I cannot seem to wrap my head around the idea that shops close on Sundays. As a result, there is recurring theme in my travels that every Sunday I am subjected to a day of fasting because I can never find food. This issue was particularly frustrating in Faro and Santiago, but surprisingly, I have yet to adjust my habits and repeatedly fail at planning ahead on Saturdays. I’m so accustomed to everything being open all the time in the US that I can’t shake the mentality that grocery stores should be open on Sundays. Maybe one of these days it will sink in.

In the meantime I'll look at it as just "forced savings."

Like in nearly every other city I’ve visited so far, there wasn't a dull moment in Valencia and I was lucky enough to come across a variety of entertaining people. During my stay, I practiced my Spanish on several occasions with an Argentinian girl from the hostel, learned a few key German phrases such as “Where does the shoe hurt?” thanks to two friends, Lucas and Franziska, and even a bit of Russian from a Latvian girl Jekaterina. I’m really hoping some of the Russian sticks since it will be tremendously valuable later on down the road, but Jekaterina’s flair for languages is astounding and she speaks Latvian, Russian, Spanish, French, and English fluently. 

Even her Spanish, which she considers her least developed language, is far better than mine.

Yes, I'm aware that's not much of a competition.

I was fascinated by her remarkable command of languages, but it was comical to watch Jekaterina switch between them. As we talked, she told me basic phrases in Russian and then we would discuss the corresponding term in the other four languages. Whenever she didn’t know a word in English she’d switch to Spanish (or vice versa) and I’d help out. All was well at first, but slowly the languages began blending together in her head and before I knew it she was asking me in Spanish for the translation of a Russian word in French. The confusion was of endless amusement to me, I've never seen such a thing in my life.

Found this little gem in a post office of all places.

When it finally came time to leave, I once again began my process of sniffing around to find the best way to my next city - Marseille. While I knew my final destination, how to get there on the other hand was a complete mystery to me. As I rummaged through the dark corners of the interwebs, I slowly became more and more disappointed. Getting to Marseille was not only going to be expensive but also incredibly time consuming, and unfortunately it did not look like there was any way around it.

In most circumstances there is a trade off between time and money, but the bus and train options were not promising, so I quietly did three Hail Marys and went to the Ryan Air website. For those of you unfamiliar with Ryan Air, it is the budget airline in Europe with some remarkably cheap flights (my personal record is a round trip flight from Milan to Paris for €10), but there’s a catch, if you don’t follow their rules to the letter, you end up paying for a full priced flight (or more) just in fees. Never in my life have I loved, yet simultaneously despised, a company as much as I do Ryan Air, but there are some damn good deals to be had if you time it right - thankfully this was just such an occasion. Here were my options to get to Marseille:

View of the Jardin del Turia and the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias from my plane.

  • Option 1 - 15 hour bus for €100

  • Option 2 - 12 hour train for €175 

  • Option 3 - 1.5 hour flight for €70

Are you kidding me? 

My goal on this trip is to limit the number of flights, but even factoring in transit time to/from the airport, Ryan Air was both cheaper AND faster! Rarely in life, do you get to have your cake and eat it too. Perhaps this is just an early birthday gift from the universe, but I have never been happier to part ways with my money. There is a bit of hesitation in leaving Valencia, because it feels like I’m leaving home all over again, but it looks like I’m off to spend my 25th birthday in Marseille! I can’t believe I’ve almost lived a quarter of a century.

Farewell Valencia!