Living in Valencia Week 5

We can’t believe it, the last week was finally here. My students couldn’t believe it either. As they finished up their coursework, turned in assignments, and studied for finals, they are soaked up the last moments of the Spanish lifestyle.

This week was a whirlwind. After classes finished up on Wednesday, the students headed a few different ways, all of them were doing some traveling prior to coming home. Ashley became friends with them and decided to join Ruth and Lauren on a trip to London. She’ll have to do a guest post later on their weekend there.

Dustin headed off to Austria for WordCamp Europe. This opportunity was a huge blessing to us, because his involvement there helped cover his cost to come to Europe. So that left K and I in Valencia for a fun Mommy and K weekend. Before everyone left we took some fun pictures in Valencia to end our time there.

During this whole trip K loved walking the streets herself, she would say “I walk myself” to wherever we were going.  So she loved this one last family stroll around our neighborhood.

Since it was just me and K for the weekend, we enjoyed some yummy food out, it was hard enough to cook there with help but by myself I didn’t really try. The first night we had amazing Greek food at a new cozy restaurant called Kuzina. I also ordered a dish to take home for dinner the next night! Greece is one of the top places on my bucket list.

The next day we also meet one of the students’ host mom’s for lunch at a Thai Restaurant called Green Papaya. This was also very tasty. I love Asian foods, Thai wins because less of it is fried. We stopped on the way home to get a chicken from El Pollo Criollo, a place we tried last year when we had lunch with the same host mom Lucia! I wish I had known this was right on bus line 4 which went directly to Plaza de la Reina where we lived to because it was so so so so good! This was K’s dinner while I ate my greek leftovers and then we had it for lunch the next day and there was some left for Ash to eat Sunday night.

One day we enjoyed the park and the Museu de les Ciències. They had a kids area that had a fun water table, and “real life” construction zone for the kids to build a house with a play crane! GrandDad would have loved it! After the museum we made a quick stop in the Aqua mall to check it out right across the street.

K and I also made two trips to the beach during our weekend, she loves it now, and was covered in sand head to toe.  I was so worried she was going to get sand in her eye and I had to figure out how to deal with that by myself. But thankfully she didn’t complain of it.

On our last evening in Valencia, we met Dustin at the Metro stop as he returned from the airport and walked to Cruz Pampa. This may have been some of the best food we’ve had here. Argentinean steak houses are amazing, might have to add Argentina to the bucket list. Ashley’s flight was delayed and she returned to Valencia shortly after we got home from dinner.

On Monday we said good by to our “new house” as K calls it and took the high speed train to Madrid. We stayed near the Atocha train station that evening, then headed to the airport Tuesday morning. Lots of emotions as we headed back. I am forever grateful for this experience, and especially thankful I was able to bring my family and my sister to experience it as well. A piece of my heart will be in this city. We hope to return someday. Maybe then we’ll know more Spanish! Hasta la próxima Valencia!

Salou, Spain

On our long free weekend, we decided to stop at the beach on the way home from Barcelona. I found a fairly good deal at this resort. After coming from really nice place in Barcelona, we were a little spoiled and not too impressed. It was good, just not great. There were kids EVERYWHERE ha! Having a kid with us, we sort of wished for the no kids except for ours scenario we had had at the other places. 🙂 It felt like we were in the UK and not Spain because most of the people there were either Irish or British and most people spoke English.

We had half-board which was breakfast and dinner. Somehow that didn’t include drinks at dinner so we had to pay for a bottle of water to share. The food was pretty good. The first night (I wish I had a picture) the buffet seriously had more desserts than dinner options. There were kids everywhere flying to get a taste of the chocolate fountains they had near the fruit.

We enjoyed the beach nearby and the pool, although the pool outside was cold. 😦 We were on the Costa Brava just south of Tarragona and it was still getting down to 50 degrees F in the evenings which made the water stay chilly. They did have an indoor pool, however you had to buy swim caps to swim in it. So we obliged and paid 2 EUR each for the swim caps you see pictured below. K just called them a hat! She looks very much like Dustin when you take away her hair. 🙂

Here are some pictures we took after dinner!

On our way out back to Valencia the next day we stopped for a few amazing photos, hopefully we’ll be adding one of this to our kitchen wall soon under our Hawaii 2011 canvas.

Barcelona 2016

We decided to spend part of our free weekend in Barcelona. Last time we were here, we loved it but only had about 5 hours to explore. And since the Sagrada Famalia is so amazing, we wanted Ashley to experience that. We cashed in almost the rest of our Marriott Points and stayed at the Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel.  It was the most futuristic hotel we’ve ever stayed in. Apparently Gold status in Europe means more than at home because both Marriott’s here have given us free breakfast buffets. We felt like royalty from the time we stepped in, they even gave Kenley a welcome Pineapple Juice! The staff was so sweet to her. At breakfast the second day, they remembered how much she loved smoothies and told her she had to ask us for them at home! Not sure I’l be able to recreate the Papaya smoothie at home. 🙂 

We spent one day exploring Barcelona. We started the day taking the metro into the center of town.  The metro was right outside our hotel which was very convenient. We started with a stroll through El mercat de La Boqueria, we couldn’t believe the prices here were so much cheaper than the market in Valencia. Everything else in Barcelona is more expensive. We got some raspberries for K and Ashley got a smoothie. Then we headed to Plaça Reial where we started a walking tour with Runner Bean Tours. We took the Gaudí walking tour. This blog does a great job highlighting the top ten must sees!

Here in the plaza was one of Antonio Gaudí’s first works, lampposts. They said he only was paid about 7 EUR at the time for these.   They took us by many of Gaudí s other famous works in the city starting with the Palau Güell, then the Casa Batlló, the La Pedrera, and we ended at La Sagrada Familia.

Ashley and I went inside La Sagrada Familia while Dustin and K headed to lunch. Supposedly the church will finally be finished by 2026, but just like our tour guide, I have my doubts!  Afterwards we joined Dustin and K for lunch.  It wasn’t a very exciting lunch just a buffet nearby that we knew would be quick.

Our next stop was  Parc Güell, you have to get tickets for the monument zone and can only come in within 30 min of that time. So if planning a trip, make sure to book in advance, if you don’t you may not get in or have to wait several hours. There is a limit on the # of people per day since it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Parc Güell was a highlight of the day (well this and La Sagrada Familia!). It was quite the climb walking from La Sagrada Familia, it rained for a bit on us, but when we got to the monument zone it had cleared up!  We stayed for a couple hours admiring the works and taking some fun pictures. K was loving dancing around between columns, even other tourist were taking her picture.

Since K didn’t have a nap the day before or that day, we knew we had to head back shortly, so we took the metro back towards the center of town along the La Rambla. And found the restaurant we ate at with Josh and Sarah on our trip in 2012 called Elisabets.  It was about the same, a cozy authentic restaurant tucked away from the busy tourist street.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel. We had 4 rides left on our transport pass, and it would take 6 to get us back to our hotel, we found a bus that we could take that would only be 3, so we headed that way since it was a direct bus and only a few min walk.  On the way we stumbled upon Chok Barcelona, let’s just say this crew couldn’t pass the window up.  I got a truffle and Dustin and Ashley split a Oreo Pastry.    

We got back to the hotel, got K a quick shower and got her tucked into bed.  Ashley and I headed upstairs, I enjoyed the “whirlpool,” the jets felt so good on my sore feet. We had walked over 18,000 steps that day! The reason I say “whirlpool” in quotes is the whirlpools here aren’t actually warm, everyone hotel we’ve stayed at that has had a jacuzzi type pool it’s been luke warm at best.

The next day we had breakfast again, packed up, visited the Ikea across the street! Had to check it out in Spain! We got K a few things that she doesn’t have at home for her play kitchen!  When we talk about going home, she gets very excited when we talk about her room and her kitchen.  Luckily plush food is easy to stuff somewhere in our bags.  Before we headed out we drove by the Olympic Park area, and up Montjuïc Hill. It was a really cool view of the city and fun to image what it might have looked like in 1992 when the Olympics were held here. We were in the car, so we really dont’ have many good pictures. Mental images! 

We love Barcelona, just wish the tolls to get here weren’t so crazy expensive!  It was around 40 EUR each way for tolls.  Afterwards we headed to Salou to relax in the sun for the rest of the weekend!

Living in Valencia Week 4

“It’s getting Hot in here!” Is the theme of the week!  Monday started off HOT HOT HOT. I even rode the bus home from work because it was too hot. One thing I’m looking forward to when we get home is central AC. Even though we’ve only truly had 3-4 really hot days, it always seems hot in our apartment. We have one unit in our apartment that keeps it fairly cool except when we have to shut K’s door at night to get her to sleep it gets hot in there. Monday Aunt Ash took some fun pictures of K while we were at work! Her sunglasses are from Babiators, a Shark Tank company!

On Tuesday evening, we rode the bus down to the pharmacy I had visited earlier in the month to make a return; I thought it would be a good idea to purchase some face cream but it made me break out all over my face! Oh well lesson learned, stick to stuff you know works, so I’m trying to make mine last. And I have already placed my 100% Pure Order (affiliate link) so it will be there when I get home! We walked back through the Rio Turia, the evening cooled off super nice, and K played for a bit in the park. We then headed back and grabbed ice cream sandwiches from WACIS! On Tuesday nights they are 1 EUR but only for students but still cheap at 1.5 EUR for us. They even have frozen yogurt sweetened with stevia and gluten free cookies. Didn’t feel bad about letting K have a lick of stevia sweetened frozen yogurt even if it was chocolate! Thanks California for rubbing off on Valencia, Spain with stevia. It’s hard to find around here with azucar everywhere!  🙂
Wednesday after work I picked up chicken for lunch from a local place that makes rotisserie chickens. We’ve had this once per week while we have been here. Since we don’t have  crockpot or easy way to slow cook it, it’s nice to be able to just grab one! It was super super hot that day again. But it cooled off enough to go to the park with K again. We also ended the week stocking up on a few snacks for our weekend trip to Barcelona. The students decided to go to Granada, Spain for their free weekend. As much as I would have loved to see Southern, Spain, a 6 hour drive with K was not something we wanted to do. Since Ashley hasn’t been to Barcelona and there are some nice places along the coast to stop, we decided to head that way. We went to Barcelona in 2012, but only for about  5 hours on our 3 week EuroTrip. Stayed tuned for Barcelona fun!

Gandia Palacio Ducal & Weekend Happenings

On our way to Gandia we made a quick stop at Albufera. This is a freshwater lagoon with an abundance of fish surround by rice fields. Dustin and I were able to stop here briefly last year as well. Dustin and K stayed on the board the bus while Ash and I got off for a few pictures.
Our main attraction to visit today was the Palacio Ducal. “The oldest part of the building dates from the 15th century, but was restored and turned into a sanctuary by the Society of Jesus. It is attached to the wall that surrounds the city and has two gates, a Gothic one and one from the Renaissance.” (Source Wiki). It was originally built with gothic architecture and then was transformed as the years progressed. So inside there was quite a mix of styles.
After the tour, Ashley was very hungry and we stumbled upon the Pastelería Roselló. This place brought flashbacks of our 2012 tour to Europe. It reminded us of the french bakery we stumbled upon in the french countryside on our way to Barcelona.  They also had apple strudels that reminded of us of Prague. Dustin had the pastry pictured below with fruit on top. Kenley wanted to try, so we did let her take a few bites mainly of fruit as she ate her banana. I tasted it too and it was delightful. Ashley had a few small croissants filled with cheese.
Once we got back to the bus we were dropped off near the beach were we found lunch. The restaurant was supposed to have a German twist that we found, but the Spanish version of German was not so great, ha. It was ok but not the best place we have eaten here. I ordered a salad that I expected green lettuce (tried to make a healthy choice) turned out to be coleslaw with lots of mayo. Germans don’t use mayo in their potato salad, it is vinegar based, so it surprised me. But I did have a bratwurst and Ashley enjoyed another order of patatas bravas.
Afterward we headed to the beach and since it was overcast opted not to purchase a char and umbrella like we normally do. We also only a few hours. We hung out near the students. This beach will be remembered for a long time in this family because K finally walked on the sand without screaming!  I think it helped she had 15 students cheering her on ha!  She walked over to them, played with a ball, built a sand castle, walked to the water. Finally over the hump! She loves the beach now!
We cooked dinner at home, the one ecological “organic” store here has the best chorizo sausages! Sunday was super low key, we didn’t go to the beach today because we were there on Saturday. I cleaned in the morning while Dustin took Kenley to the park. Our apartment gets so dusty so quickly because it is very dry here and with walking everywhere. Even though we take our shoes off upon entering I feel like we need to mop every other day!  
For lunch we tried to go to one oriental restaurant, but the kitchen wasn’t open yet and we were hungry, so we stumbled upon a restaurant called Sake in the same neighborhood. It was a Buffett but the food wasn’t out on a buffet line, it was more all you can eat ordering. Dustin and I had had WAY too much sushi (well food in general). Ash enjoyed some friend chicken and rice. We packed K’s lunch but she also enjoyed some rice and pineapple. We tried to give her a California type role that just had cream cheese and avocado but she wasn’t sure about it!  Dustin and I ate so much that we didn’t really eat the rest of the day.
On Sunday evening Ashley and I enjoyed a Flamenco show with Ashley & a few students. I got to see this in Madrid last year, so I wanted Ashley to have the opportunity to see it. This was a very small cafe that was packed to the rafters with people but it was only an hour long. It was fun and the students loved it!

Living in Valencia Week 3

Week 3 started with just the typical “Mondays”, grocery shopping the Mercado Central, cooking, cleaning, etc.  I love to cook but I miss my cooking gadgets!  🙂 On this day it took K forever to fall asleep!  We recently have given up on the early bedtime here because she seems to be sleeping her full 12 hours even if she goes to bed at 8:30 so we have let her stay up and go to the park with us after dinner. We started that on Tuesday evening. She and Dustin played while I did a short work-out/run to the outdoor machines and came back to the playground. Bedtime went a bit better, she was over tired but Aunt Ash has magic powers and was able to leave the room and have her fall asleep on her own!  Ash might be in charge of bedtime from now on. I’m such a sucker when I’ve worked all day and she is asking for me, I have trouble saying no especially when we are in a “strange or new place.”
This week I had a lot of fun teaching. I incorporated some of the intercultural development activities into the Health Behaviors and Beliefs class that I learned from the CIEE conference I went to last year. In one activity the students were assigned a specific cultural non-verbal rule, for example they had to stand close, they had keep their distance, they don’t make eye contact because it is offensive, smiling during a conversation means it’s not being taking seriously, etc. Then they were instructed to engage in conversation with each other, when the person they are speaking with violates their non-verbal rule, they gave the person violating the rule a toothpick. Then they had to figure out each others non-verbal rules. I think they had a lot of fun! It’s so important as health care providers to remember how our non-verbals impact our patient communication.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the students and our family went to the aquarium called the Oceanographic. It’s expensive but as a group the discount made it much better for all and overall a cool place to see. It was sort of like SeaWorld. They had a dolphin show which Kenley loved! After the show we had Spanish Tapas dishes at a cafe near our home. Even Ashley was adventurous. We had a dish that was potatoes, bacon, and cheese, and the other dish was little quesadillas with basaltic vinegar on top. It had mushrooms inside but the cheese was the main flavor.
Thursday my students and I got to visit a local hospital. Here is a blog post that one of them wrote about the experience! After work we made dinner at home, and again went to the park afterwards. Dustin and K played while I ran down the “river” to the outdoor exercise area did some exercises and ran back.
Friday for lunch, Ashley K and I ate out.  We went to a place called Saona, it was delicious. It is a 2 min walk from our place. Might have to go back! Friday night after work was date night for Dustin and I .. Aunt Ahh-yay stayed with K, they enjoyed a popsicle before bed! K loves popsicles we make at home with just fruit and there is a place steps from our apartment building that has 100% fruit no sugar ones too!

Peñíscola, Spain & Weekend Happenings

This Saturday’s excursion lead us to Peñíscola; a small town a few hours north of Valencia. Here there is a castle where the Pope Benedict lived from 1417 until his death in 1423. The castle was restored, improved and new walls were added in 1960 when a movie was filmed there. It was a little bit of a climb through town which was fun wth the stroller, we would have wore her but we weren’t going back to the bus until the end of the day, so the stroller came along.

We enjoyed the tour of the castle and K loved running around. Anything to get out of the “stroll-stroll” aka stroller!
After exploring the caste we had lunch at Playa Restaurante. This was our first time this trip taking advantage of the Menu of the Day (Menu de la Dia). Dustin and I enjoyed some Spanish specialities and while Ashley had a pizza and Kenley ate from our plates and from the lunch we packed her. Lunch lasted a few hours since it was multiple courses. By the time we were finished it was raining and not good beach weather. This was a bummer but with just the small amount of rain, K enjoyed the playground anyways. We found a couple different playgrounds and the adults might have taken a turn on this cool rope swing too. It started raining harder and Ash and Dustin kept our stuff dry at a cafe next to another playground where K and I played until it was time to get back on the bus.
On Sunday the weather in Valencia was nice and sunny! We headed to the beach. It was much more crowded this week but still enjoyable anytime there is sand between your toes and waves rolling in. Dustin was super sweet and took K back to the apartment while Ash and I enjoyed some peaceful time at the beach. We stayed another 1.5 hours and then headed back ourselves.
On Sunday evening we got ready for the week and took K to the grocery store with Dustin and I. She wanted to help and pull the cart basket herself. She was pretty good minus coming around the corners, ha! She likes to do lots of things herself right now. Which works out until she gets injured after getting her figures smashed in the buckle on her stroller she now does not want to do that herself, instead she says “Momma do.”  We are re-energized and ready to take on Week 3!