Sunday, 26 March 2017

Dos Ciudades En Dos Semanas: ¡Mis Aventuritas!

What a busy little bee I’ve been the past two weeks, travelling to two major Spanish cities: Barcelona and Valencia.

The Barcelona trip I embarked upon was part of a national Erasmus experience, meaning students from all over Spain travelled there to participate. I went to Valencia to get involved in the end of their famous annual festival - Las Fallas. Both cities had wonderful things to offer, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

As excited to tell you about my escapades as I was
when I was stood outside La Sagrada Família

First, I’ll tell you about Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, famous for its art and architecture. From where I stand it certainly lives up to its reputation of being a cultural gem. In the short time I was there, I got to see the fantastic works of Gaudí including his Casa Batlló, Milà (also known as La Pedrera) and of course La Sagrada Família - the unfinished yet stunning basilica. We also visited the incredible Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia, toured the gothic quarters of the city, wandered around the famous market, bustled our way down La Rambla, and tried the traditional Barcelona foods. 

Gaudí's Casa Batlló
Gaudí's Milà
Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia
Gaudí's La Sagrada Família

In my opinion, one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a city’s culture is to go where the locals would. So we hunted for restaurants down the side streets where the food was more likely to be authentic. This is what we seem to have found, because the tapas and paella that we tried there were just delicious!

As part of the Erasmus experience, we took part in a gigantic flag parade through the city, painting flags on our faces to represent our home countries. We began at the beautiful Arc de Triomf and under the rays of the sun made our way across the city.
Arc de Triomf

Representing Northern Ireland, England and Poland
I found it really interesting to visit at this time of year too, when their fight for independence is so active. Although forbidden, many building proudly flew the independence flag to demonstrate their support for the movement! And I love how it’s so plain to see the Catalonian language and other aspects of their regional customs after being so brutally repressed such a short time ago.

Notice the independence flag with yellow and red stripes,
and a blue triangle with a star in the middle
I would absolutely love to return to Barcelona for a third time because it’s so beautiful everywhere and there is still so much left for me to see! I’d love to wander around Park Güell, Parque de Monjuïc the inside of La Sagrada Família and other works of Gaudí as well as returning to the parts I’ve already visited and discovering more fantastic places to eat and drink.
I absolutely loved the whole trip which I spent in great company!

Some pretty Valencia building
The following weekend, I travelled with Sasha to the wonderful city of Valencia. Convinced that nothing could now top my weekend in Barcelona, I was quickly proved wrong… The buildings that make up the city are just as beautiful, and the atmosphere during Las Fallas was just something else! During the festival, each district of the city proudly displays a professionally made structure depicting various characters, people or animals. On the last night of the festival, each of the sculptures apart from the winner gets burned to flames while the townspeople gather round to watch and cheer.

A selection of some of my favourite Fallas,
especially the one featuring Donald Trump
The last few nights of the festival involve fantastic firework displays and partying in the street. What’s not to love about that?! (apart from when you nearly end up with a foot missing after some idiot lets off a firework next to you in the crowd, of course…)

The last days are spent celebrating with parades through the main streets, where the roads are closed off so that people can oogle the townspeople dressed up in traditional Valencian clothing – floral fitted dresses and suits, lace, jewellery and spiral hairpieces – who are followed by bands playing traditional music. 

The most famous parade is known as the Ofrenda, where they walk towards the Plaza de la Virgen to offer flowers to the Virgin Mary. After the last day of the festival, we visited the square and sure enough there stood proudly a giant Virgin Mary made only of flowers!

The building of the Virgin Mary made of flowers
The finished floral Mary
Also in the streets were stalls selling delicious food. We tried the classic buñuelos – wonderful donut-like things made with pumpkins and served with mountains of sugar – which were amazing and debatably one of the best discoveries of the whole trip! It’s safe to say we were not disappointed… In fact, the disappointment now comes ever after when we no longer have access to these sweet little bags of joy. I also tried Valencian paella from the market which was delicious. We danced to a band of drummers playing in the street which was really fun, and we wandered the streets just soaking up the atmosphere. I loved the way the streets were lined with Valencian flags and the smell of the blossoming orange trees. I also loved visiting the beautiful La Lonja building, El Jardín del Turia and La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias

Flags a'flyin' in the Valencian streets
(in the top picture if you look closely you can see the drummers playing,
including the half-naked man who seemed to be their "conductor")

Both inside La Lonja: take note of my happiness
to be in such a beautiful place in the springin' spring

All at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
The most surprising aspect of the whole trip to me was the way that young children were all given their own box of fireworks and firecrackers to freely set off in the street, often without supervision. This resulted in being made jump pretty much every 5 seconds and dashing about the place to avoid losing a limb. Luckily we both returned to Murcia with all fingers, toes, arms and legs in tact! I don’t know whether I can say the same about my nerves though, I think they’re lost somewhere in between the Plaza de Toros and the Estación del Norte

Plaza de Toros
Estación del Norte train station

Despite there being so much more I could talk about regarding both of my little adventures, I’ll leave it there so that you don’t all fall asleep (if you haven’t already)…

I’ve loved my past couple of adventures and am super excited for the many escapades that are still to come during my time in Spain. Upcoming getaways include a trip to Madrid next weekend, a short stay near the beach in the middle of May, and a trip to Alicante at the end of May.  Although I’m sure many unplanned good times are in store for me in the meantime!

Inside La Lonja, Valencia

Until next time chicos 😊


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