Happy Day of the Valencian Community!

Today is the Day of the Valencian Community! It celebrates the October 9th, 1238 when Jamie I reconquered Valencia. So, in light of the holiday, I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to the city I’ve been living in for almost 6 weeks! Of course I’m not an expert on the city yet, but I want to share some of the cool things I’ve learned about this place.

“Valencia” is one of the 17 autonomous communities in Spain. Valencia capital, where I live, is Spain’s third largest city. It is a very popular tourist destinations for Europeans. Beyond Castellano (Spanish), Valenciano is spoken in the community. I haven’t encountered any problems from not knowing the language, except that my university’s official language is Valenciano; all of the computers run in the Valenciano, and also most of the signs posted around the university are in Valenciano. I’m sure linguistically this isn’t terribly accurate, but it looks like a mix between French and Spanish.

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I really love Valencia because it’s so much easier to be healthy here. This province grows the majority of the fruits and vegetables in Spain, so the diet here contains more of these things than in other regions. The traditional Valencian dish is “paella,” a rice, vegetable, and meat dish (usually rabbit, although there are many many delicious variations). There’s a giant, lush park that runs straight through the middle of the city, dividing the old part and the new part. The park has an interesting history. The river Turia used to run through the city to the Mediterranean Sea, but in 1957, the river flooded and caused catastrophic damage to the city; to prevent this from ever happening again, the river was redirected. The old riverbed was used to create the park! They almost built a highway there instead, and I can’t imagine how much that would detract from the beauty the city has today. Valencia is called “the running capital of Spain” which is related to the incredible 10 km running path in the park. Roughly between 6-8 pm, the running path is packed! I really enjoy running there because there’s so much energy. There are many lovely bridges that cross over the park, and here’s a photo of the flower bridge.

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In the eastern part of the park, there is a series of constructions called The City of the Arts and Sciences, usually called the CAC (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias). The architecture here is crazy. I don’t know how else to describe it. I feel like I’ve stepped into a sci-fi film set every time I visit. There are five main complexes: the Hemisfèric (an IMAX theater), the Umbracle (a garden), a science museum, the Oceanográfico (the largest aquarium in Europe with over 500 marine species), and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (an opera house).

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Last Friday with the ISA group, I went to the Hemisfèric and saw half of a beautiful documentary about Jerusalem (it was cut short by technical difficulties). After that, we went to the Oceanográfico. I was enchanted. I didn’t expect to love it so much, but it was amazing! We saw a dolphin show first, then spent hours touring the different areas in the aquarium. The exhibits are amazing and divided by region (tropical, arctic, etc.). They have tunnels that you can walk through and watch sharks and sting rays and all types of fish swim above your head. It’s such a cool experience and one of my favorite things I’ve done here.

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Of course, there’s so much more to this city; the old part of the city deserves an entirely separate post and a thousand photos. So until next time!