Our happy New Year was spent in Valencia, the third largest city in Spain. Its got all the 500 year old beauty of Barcelona without all the people, and is generally a nice little city. We got here by a four hour coastal bus ride, which was a nice way to see the Spanish country side. When we arrived, we got some Spanglish, some what kooky directions from very friendly cab drivers and police men, and when we finally arrived at the address we had for our hostel, it was a residence. Hmmm... After a brief moment of stress, we realized it was just one of those silly tricks the Spanish like to play with addresses and the hostel was around the corner. The hostel is really nice. Smells a little bit like towel and Italian cologne.
Our first full day in Valencia was New Years Eve, which we just spent walking around getting a feel for the place. We saw the Holy Grail (the real one!) during an audio tour of the Valencia Cathedral, which was a beautiful building. That evening we headed down to town square to do the big New Years count down. Theres a somewhat strange, arguably dangerous Catalunyan tradition of eating a grape on every tole of the clock. So thats 10 grapes in 10 seconds. The tradition goes that if you don't take part, you have bad luck for the whole year. So we were in a beautiful old square, all lit up with lights and decorations, facing a huge clock atop a majestic city hall, surrounded by about 1000 people stuffing they're faces with grapes. It was a great time. After that, the party pretty much continued on the streets. We tried to start a round of Auld Lang Syne and it didn't catch on... We did have a great first meal of the year however; some very tasty, very cheap pizza shared with some very friendly Morroccans.
The next day, we discovered everything is closed on New Years Day in Valencia, except for McDonalds (of course). Some Big Macs were consumed. I'm not pointing any fingers. The rest of the day was pretty much spent lazing around the hostel, watching Titanic. Good start to the year, I think.
We decided we wanted to explore Valencia by bike, so the next day we rented bicycles and hit the street. We only went the wrong way down one way streets a few times, and were yelled/sworn/honked at minimally! Success! We had better luck biking through the long, narrow park that spans the length of Valencia. We later learned this park is a dried up river bed. Its constantly full of joggers, soccer players, and cat villages. I'm serious, up to 10 cats all grouped together at a time. Weird stuff.
Valencia is famous for its natural beaches, so the next day we decided to visit the beach. We spent the day lying in the sun, playing cards, eating our picnic. It's a tough life over here.
Our final activity in Valencia was a free walking tour! We like those (especially the free part). We had a very knowledgable tour guide, Joe from Liverpool, who told us what exactly all those beautiful buildings we kept running into were. We also learned a lot about the Spanish Civil War (nasty, bloody business), and all of the social movements still going on in Valencia today. Its a neat town!
So after a gloomy, rainy four hour bus ride, were back home in Barcelona. We had a great time exploring some more of Spain! Feliz Anos everyone!