Let’s Go to the Beach

2 Nov

What a week. I cannot believe that it is the middle of October already. While I am not wishing for time to speed up, the best news that I learned this week was that Hallmark Channel will have 26 new holiday movies this year. Yes, you read that right. 26. I am already super excited to spend way too much of my life watching those cheesy movies.

Monday kicked off with another meeting with my language exchange partner, and boy, was it an interesting one. While we met in the garden last week, it was raining on Monday, so that was not an option. He suggested that we meet at a club that he is a member of that is near the center of the city. Naturally, I agreed. He then proceeded to give me a quick once-over, eyes lingering on the canvas sneakers that I was wearing because of the rain.  He then says, “They have a dress code. I hope they let you in.” Um, okay. Well I hope so too, Ignacio. He then proceeds to take me to this fancy, exclusive club right outside of the main plaza in the city. Not to worry, they let my canvas sneakers slide.

It was the most old-fashioned, exclusive-feeling place I have ever been in my life. Decorated ceilings, lots of rich carpeting and wall decorations, and an old-fashioned library. There was a billiards room, gym, pool, restaurant, bar, and spaces that are rented out for events. It was like a real version of the game board from Clue. Nobody was murdered though, so that was good.

So, Ignacio and I chatted away for a nice two hours about everything from the weather, our weekend plans, and politics. Our political conversation centered on a Facebook post that an American had written. He had printed it out to read and marked unknown words with their definitions (the cutest thing ever). The post had to do with a certain video where a certain presidential candidate said certain controversial things. Let’s just say that Ignacio had a difficult time pronouncing one of the words used in the video and I, while sitting in this ultra-fancy, ultra-exclusive club had to teach him how to say the word. I’m sure you can figure out which word it was. Let me tell you, you can’t make this stuff up. I was almost laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. But, I find my time with Ignacio very enjoyable. He told me that we are going to explore Madrid by choosing different places to meet each week, so I will keep you updated on our adventures.

This week I decided to do role-play scenarios in my classes as a way to get the students to have conversations with each other. I did a lot of research trying to find the best way to present the scenarios and to come up with them. One thing I learned is that if you search for ‘interesting role play scenarios for adults’ in Google, the results do not have anything to do with role-play activities for conversation classes. Yikes.

And Thursday was my birthday. I think that turning 23 officially marks being old. 21 is fun, 22 is kind of irrelevant, and 23 is just old. I still had that feeling of wanting the day to be special (like the days of bringing cupcakes into school), but it was just another normal day with a little more social interaction with the outside world. I celebrated by making dinner, drinking green tea, and eating some dark chocolate (wow, I really am getting old).

Since it was my birthday, I decided to go explore Segovia a little bit. While I have been traveling there twice a week for the last 6 weeks, I have not ventured far from the bus stop and the university campus. So, I decided to do that on Thursday. Segovia is a beautiful little town most famous for its intact Roman aqueduct and palace that looks like something out of a Disney movie. It was nice to play tourist for a day with my fancy camera and selfies in front of the monuments.

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Selfies in Segovia

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Where the city walls end

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Storms in Segovia

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Another angle

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My future home

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A nice little graffiti reminder that you are not alone

And, this weekend I went to Valencia. Valencia is a city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It pretty much combines the best of both worlds as it is the perfect mix of city and beach. Valencia is also famous for its paella and that might have been one of my primary motivators in traveling there. They told us that it only rains a few days a year in Valencia, and we were some of the lucky tourists that had the pleasure of experiencing those days. But, I lived.

On Friday, after arriving to the most beautiful Airbnb I have ever stayed in, we had a delicious, authentic Italian lunch. Food was very important to the quality of our stay in Valencia, as you will see. We then wanted to rent bikes to ride around the perimeter of a huge park. That’s right, you heard correctly. I was going to PAY to ride a bike. Usually I don’t ride them for free, so it is uncharted territory for me to willingly pay to ride one. I digress. Well, the bike shop was closed for another hour, so we decided to spend our waiting time at a pastelería (or coffee/cake/sweet shop). Quite a solid decision. We tried chocolate, red velvet, Oreo, and apple cakes. Yum. We were then able to rent the bikes and justify all of the cake by saying that we would burn it off on our bike ride. And, the bike ride was a great decision. It was a decent Friday afternoon riding through the park with the wind blowing in my hair. I had one of those moments where I can’t believe that this is my life. So yes, I really enjoyed that bike ride…

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Heaven is a place on earth

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Had to take a pic to prove to Mom that I rode a bike

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What Valencian parks look like

To continue with the pattern of delicious food in Valencia, we decided to hit an authentic Italian restaurant for dinner. Yes, I did feel very strange having Italian food for my first two meals in Valencia, but it was worth it. Anyway, this pizza was easily one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. Phenomenal. I had been craving good pizza recently and I have been reluctant to try some so far because I didn’t want to be disappointed. And, I most certainly was not. This pizza was a life changer.

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The things dreams are made of (and look it’s shaped like a heart bc I love pizza)

Saturday was spent exploring the historic part of the city. One of my favorite places was the Church of Saint Nicholas which had paintings on every surface. It was just recently restored and looked absolutely magnificent. We also saw many other sites, including climbing 207 steps of the Saint Michael tower, which gives the best views of the city. Another famous site that we saw (both at night and during the day) was the City of Arts and Sciences, which is a huge complex with futuristic architecture that contains a science museum, aquarium, opera house and other culture/knowledge centers. The complex is great to see at both times of day because it looks great against the blue sky during the day and the reflections at night are beautiful.

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What a ceiling

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Who doesn’t need a picture in front of a lounging Neptune statue?

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I couldn’t not get a picture with palm trees

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Part of the City of Arts and Sciences

Another important Valencian experience was trying the paella. We chose to get the paella Valenciana, which consists of rice, rabbit, chicken, and snails. It was delicious. I probably ate my weight in paella on Saturday. I was a little apprehensive about the snails, but they were delicious. It was a bit strange at first to have to pull them out of their shells to eat them, but it was delicious. I have always been an adventurous eater, and in my almost two full months in Spain, I have been able to try many foods that have never before made their way onto my plate.

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Yum

And on Sunday, we went to the beach! It was quite a nice feeling to be strolling along the beach in the middle of October. I had to get a classic picture in the Mediterranean and collected some lovely shells along the shoreline. I also saw all of the lovely things that go along with beaches in Europe: men in Speedos, topless women, the works. European beaches are definitely interesting places, but I’ll deal with a little bit of nudity for the view of the ocean.

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City of Arts & Sciences ft. a tourist

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City of Arts & Science ft. Cool Plant

I closed out my Valencia experience with a trip to the cathedral. While I don’t necessarily make a point to go to all cathedrals, Valencia’s is special because it apparently has the Holy Grail, as in the chalice that Jesus used during the Last Supper. While I cannot verify that it is historically correct, I can tell you that it was quite cool to see the cup and think about its significance. That chalice was not the only remarkable thing about the cathedral. It contains the remains of many different saints, most notably the intact arm of St. Vincent the Martyr. Hands down, it is one of the most interestingly odd things that I have ever seen. It is in a glass case in the back of the cathedral just sitting there. Naturally, I enjoyed it, but I can help but wonder what St. Vincent did to have his arm preserved for centuries.

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The infamous arm

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Personality pic: confused but attempting to laugh it off (with ice cream)

Sunday’s big adventure, however, was not as enjoyable. We had a 5:16 train back to Madrid, meaning we had to be at the station by 5:11 in order to get through security and be let on the train. So, a friend and I left with what Google maps told us was enough time to get there (and actually be early) and strolled our way to where the station was. Well, you know where this story is going. We get to where the station is supposed to be at around 5:02pm. And guess what? It’s not there. Thanks Google. So, we start to get nervous. Full blown panic didn’t come until we realized that the station was actually still 8 minutes away. OMG. All I could think was that there was no way I was going to miss this train. So, we set off at a sprint through the streets of Valencia. I am running faster than I have in a long time, while wearing a full backpack, with one hand on my camera and one on my purse, and I can feel the gelato that I have just finished eating weighing heavily on my stomach. I felt like I was in the pursuit scene of a movie: heart pounding, feet pounding the pavement, dodging in and out of cars, crossing the street with barely a glance to make sure no cars were coming.

So we get to the station at 5:09. I toss my things on the belt to go through the metal detector and glance up at the sign that lists the trains and their tracks. After learning where the train was, I grab my things and rush to the track, only to see the train pulling away. I am suddenly filled with adrenaline, panic and an overwhelming sense of dread. The train wasn’t supposed to leave until 5:16, but it left at 5:10. I start to say “no, no, no” (probably quite loudly) and a security guard approaches me. I tried to be calm, but we all know that I do not hide my emotions well. Panting, voice wavering, and panicking, I try to explain that my ticket said 5:16, but the train left at 5:10. I don’t even remember what I said, but the guard tells me to calm down, and points me in the direction of another track. Yes, I didn’t read the sign all the way and my train was going to leave on a different track.

We rush over to the new track, get our tickets scanned and manage to get on the train. At this point, my heart is racing, I am sweating like a marathon runner, and I am sure that I do not smell the best. Thank goodness that the Spanish not as particular about body odor than Americans. It took half of the 2.5 hour long train ride to finally calm down. This, my friends, is why I hate Google maps. I think that I will stick to a nice, regular, paper map from now on to hopefully avoid sprinting through the streets like a crazy tourist.

Good times, my friends. Good times.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Let’s Go to the Beach”

  1. Margaret M.Turner November 4, 2016 at 12:30 am #

    Rebecca….I felt like I was right beside you running through the streets trying to catch your train. YOUR a good storyteller.
    Maggie

    • rebeccajaeger December 6, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

      Hi Maggie- Thank you! And thank you for reading! I know it takes me a while to respond, but know that I always love to see your comments. -Rebecca

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