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My time in Valencia was divided into two parts as a result of an exhausting side trip to the nearby island of Ibiza (Part 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 story, 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 without a map.
For years, a trip to Ibiza has remained at the top of my bucket-list. This tiny island located 50 miles off the coast of Spain is for fans of electronic music what Mecca is to Muslims. Ibiza is world renowned as the epicenter of electronic music and, for those even slightly interested in the genre, is a destination that must be visited at least once in your lifetime. For those of you who ever get the opportunity to step foot on this island, do not expect a wholesome, family-friendly experience unless you stay outside of the two main cities: Ibiza Town and St. Antoni de Portmany. In the central areas of these cities, you need to mentally prepare yourself for everything to be overpriced, flashy, and fake. Overall, there is a general hedonistic feeling that permeates the air and makes Vegas seem like Disney World.
Valencia is the first city I’d consider my “home away from home." What was initially planned to be a short, four-day trip quickly became an extended two-week visit within a few days of my arrival. While it gave me plenty of time to see all the usual sights, what I enjoyed the most about the extra days was the chance to actually live in Valencia. So far on my travels, I typically spend three or four days in a given city and, while the breakneck pace was fine when I first started, I am beginning to feel its effects. Moving every few days means I am perpetually figuring out logistics for the next city, determining accommodations, and attempting to squeeze my visit into just a few days - which is next to impossible.
After finally meeting my long lost relatives of Gijon for the first time, the following morning at exactly 11:00am I was at Pepin and Carmen’s front door eagerly awaiting my tour of the city with them. Accustomed to my own standard of travel, I assumed we would spend the day walking around the city and, considering their age, I was impressed/perplexed that they were willing to subject themselves to such a rigorous day. Never once did it occur to me they might have a car.
When I meet a person for the first time they usually find it difficult to guess my ethnicity. More than anything, my last name is a pretty big clue, but I’ve heard everything from Portuguese, Italian, German, Greek, and even Middle Eastern in one strange instance (don't ask me why). Just by looking at me, it’s hard to guess I’m Hispanic because, on the surface, I’m about as white as you can get. Since the term “Hispanic” in the US is often incorrectly associated with “Mexican,” people are thrown off because my blue eyes and light complexion don’t align with the standard Mexican stereotype.
From the start, my decision to visit Santiago de Compostela was rather arbitrary. Since I went through Portugal from South to North, the next logical step was to continue my Northern trajectory into Spain. Prior to arriving, I had few expectations and knew very little about the town aside from the fact that it was the terminus of the Camino de Santiago. I debated walking a section of the Camino, but considering my visa constraints, I preferred to allocate my time elsewhere. Many travelers I'd met in Portugal indicated that a fair portions of the trail were near large thoroughfares and, since I was traveling during the tourist season, the trails would full of pilgrims making the exact same trek.