My first stop on my backpacking tour was in Valencia, Spain to visit my sister. She spent the spring semester studying in Valencia, so I got to stay at her host family and see her life in Valencia.

Pictures of Kristen and me with her host mom, Rosa, and her room ( a little messy because we were packing)

Valencia is a Mediterranean city in southern Spain. They speak Valenciano and Spanish (lots of city signs are in Valenciano which appears to me to be a mixture of Portuguese and spanish).

They are most famous for their spring festival Fallas (Fye- yahs). This unique festival takes place in the month of March, and involves fireworks, giant statues (Fallas), churros, and drinking. There are more than 700 Fallas (statues made of paper mache and wood) spread out around the city. Each stature is sponsored by a group of Falleros who pay for the statue and spend the year building it. The final week of the festival they set up their Falla and stay in a tent by the statue making paella and having a party. All the Fallas are burned on Sunday night. The small ones are burnt at 10:00pm, until the last one is burnt at 1:00am. Throughout the week there are firework shows, and parties throughout the city. These pictures are from Kristen’s experience at Fallas

After traveling for 24 hours, Kristen picked me up at the airport and we rode the metro and busses to her apartment. A few blocks from her home is the City of arts and sciences, a modern collection of museums, a music hall, a club, and an aquarium. the buildings are white concrete and appear futuristic.

I loved walking through them. The city of arts and sciences sits at the end of the Turia Riverbed. When the river dried up, the city turned the riverbed into a 15km+ park that runs through the entire city. The bridges cross over bike paths, lakes, playgrounds and green spaces.

We came across the coolest children’s park I’d ever seen. The playground is a giant sculpture of Gulliver from Gulliver’s travels. In the story he is tied down on the ground by the little people of lilliput, and at the park, the little kids climb all over the giant lying on the ground.

Her host family made lunch for us when we arrived, and we sat as a family in their kitchen to share a meal of chicken, salad, and bread. Her family cooked for us every day of our stay, and one day they even made the traditional dish, ‘Paella Valenciana’. A yellow rice dish with spices, chicken and rabbit meat, and vegetables cooked over the fire in a giant flat pan. We also ate ‘Gazpacho’- cold tomato soup with cucumber-,cheesecake, and flan. Her host family was sweet and very patient with my Spanish.

Although I studied Spanish for 12 years, I spent 2016 studying Portuguese in Brazil, and I have a hard time separating them in my mind. It’s strange, I almost have to flip a switch from one to the other. But, in just a few days, I felt the Spanish coming back. I think with a few more weeks, it would be back to normal.
Kristen took me to visit all the famous sites in Valencia:
Plaza de Torros (Bullfighting ring)- they still hold frequent bullfights today in Spain.

Plaza de Ayuntamiento- This central plaza is where they hold the ‘Mascleta‘- the daily fireworks for Fallas

Plaza de la Reina- This holds the ‘Catedral de Valencia’– Valencia Cathedral

Plaza de la Virgen– This plaza holds the flower statue of Mary during Fallas, for two days, a parade of Falleras, (women in traditional Valencian clothing)bring carnations to build the statue.

Torres de Serrano-These towers are part of the original wall around the city and include the guard towers. From the top, you can see a beautiful view of Valencia.

The next morning we visited her school- Universitat de Valencia, and took the metro to the beach where I got to meet her friends from her semester.

After packing our bags we caught a 5 Euro bus to Barcelona, where we slept on the floor of the airport with all the other cheapskates until our 5:45am budget flight to Reykjavik, Iceland.