Sunday, May 27, 2012

A gorgeous Saturday in Valencia

Yesterday was my last Saturday in Valencia.

My host family is in Munera for the weekend, since one of Pichon's cousins has her communion.

I decided that I would make a trip into the heart of the city and spend all day long shopping, eating, people-watching, etc.

I walked to the metro train near my house, and when I got there, there was an older man (in his 60s) who said "Siempre las más blancas son las más guapas. No te pongas morena!" which translates to "It's always the palest girls who are the prettiest! Don't you ever get tan!"

I got on the train, and at the transfer station (to switch to the more city-centered green/red lines), there was a little toddler playing with a plastic toy on the platform (he was very far from the edge, don't worry). I was watching, along with the lady next to me on the bench, because well, kids are cute. The little boy then jumped, tripped, and launched the little toy out of his hands. It was like slow motion, bouncing, bouncing...and it got all the way to the edge of the platform, bounced, and then FELL. Onto the tracks. It was pretty suspenseful, and I  audibly went "awwww, no!" And the lady next to me turned to me and laughed. The poor kid. The dad, smartly, didn't go after the toy and just told the kid it was too late, and it met it's demise, four feet down on the tracks. How unfortunate.

I got off the train at the Colón (as in, Crístobal Colón, who you might know as Christopher Columbus) stop, and I immediately found the 7 Camicie store I was looking for. When my parents and I were in Portugal, my dad went into this store and fell in love with their snazzy shirts, but they didn't have a particular one (double collar, black and white stripes) in his size. I found out there was another one in Valencia, so after my parents were gone, I checked it out. As I have mentioned, these stores have about 10 shirts in each size. No luck at the Valencia one, or even the Alicante one for that matter. This was my last shot, and THERE IT WAS! I thought there was going to be something wrong. I have been to three stores already with no luck. There was no way I could have found it. But alas, I did. The funny thing is, I have passed this store a million times, since I get off that metro stop a lot. However, I always ignore it because although the pretty colors in the windows catch my eye, I am always like "oh, it's just men's shirts. PASS."

I then went to the Correos, or mail, building in the main city plaza. That building is one of the older buildings of the city, and has a huge main hall with marble columns and three floors looking into the center area, topped with a glass dome. Epic. Cristina's mom worried me on Friday by saying "When [not if] you need to ship stuff home, it will be helpful to know how much it costs. When Cristina studied in Italy, she shipped a lot of stuff home, and it was cheaper than paying for extra luggage." I hope I don't have to ship stuff home. I never had to do that before. Also, I don't think that shipping stuff home will be cheaper for me. I think extra luggage costs like $70, and I found out yesterday that approximately the same size and weight box would cost 150 EUROS ($195) to ship. So yeah, I REALLY hope I don't have to ship stuff. I'll just be that obnoxious person with lots of carry on stuff that just barely works into the limitations. However, if I remember correct, that first plane to France is tiny. I remember thinking that a Harry Potter book in my lap was cramped.

Now that my "stuff I really have to get done today" was done, I was free to roam the city. I dipped into Mercadona, the grocery store, to see if anything looked yummy to grab-and-go. The produce section in this store is like, well, all Spanish produce sections in that you have to weigh and sticker your bag with a price before checking out, unlike in the US, where they do it for you at checkout. Each produce item has a number next to it, so you know what button to press on the scale. If you forget, there is also a sign above the scale with typical produce items and their keycodes. I saw a girl (maybe a couple years younger than me) go to the scale and look really confused. She stared at the fruit, then at the board above the keypad, trying to find her item. She just had this hopeless look on her face, like "I have no idea what I am doing." She found her item on the list, punched it in, then she took a minute finding where the sticker ejects from the machine. Then she slowly grabbed her stuff with this "I hope that's it" look on her face, and immediately bumps into an elderly man behind her. She looked so shaken. I felt like a senior watching a freshman get to class for the first time. "I was you, once."

I didn't end up getting anything because I forgot that they don't refrigerate any soft drinks, so although that 20 cent can of Sprite was calling me, it was room temperature. And who likes that? No one.

I then hopped over to El Corte Ingles, where I spent the next hour and a half. I have mentioned this store before, but if you forgot, it is like a Macy's on steroids. It is a department store, but with SO MUCH MORE! There is a massive stationery section, gift section, tourist gift section, bookstore, music store, makeup area, clothing area, shoe section, etc and the list goes on. These stores are massive and there are THREE on Colón street alone. Their gift section is awesome. They have a purse in the shape of a giant Converse shoe, phones in the shape of hamburgers or high heels, plastic ice cubes in the shape of anchors and ships, magnets that play music, and other random cool stuff. The stationery section is equally awesome, and the epitome of window shopping: there is so much cool stuff to look at, even though you already know you won't buy anything. Is that a Swarovski crystal pencil? Is that a notepad in the shape of a chocolate bar? Are those erasers in the shape of 3D cars that have real wheels? Is that a journal made of Lego bricks? YES, yes, yes yes! Cristina gave me a coupon the other day for "spend 60 euros, get 6 euros back". I could easily spend 60 euros, since I had souvenirs and gifts to buy! However, I came up short, since there was a book in my purchase and the coupon couldn't be used on books. I wasn't going to spend 10 more euros to save 6...that didn't make any sense at all.

On my way to finding food (I already had a crepe restaurant in mind), I ducked in to a couple more stores that I came across. Hey, I have no rush, no plans, just hours and hours to spend doing whatever I please! I went into a store and immediately noticed a wall of American-themed clothing. Ironically enough, I come across the globe to be surrounded by all things American. At Corte Ingles, there were notepads with major American cities but NO Spanish cities! I was thinking "Hey this would be a great gift" but I wasn't going to get a notepad with New York or LA or Seattle on it. I mean Seattle? Really? How do you have Seattle and no Madrid or Barcelona? Do Spanish people even know what or where Seattle is? I doubt it. This one clothing store was obnoxious in its display of USA and red/white/blue clothing. Now I know I should travel to Spain to get 4th of July clothes. They had jeans with a giant American flag painted on them. They had flag scarves. Flag halters. Tops. Skirts, shirts, shoes, socks. Seriously, America is in fashion right now.

I got to the crepe place near the Virgin plaza. I saw it when my parents were here, but we didn't end up eating there. I got a table outside, and there were already tons of people at the other tables and nearby restaurants (it was 3pm). Prime time people-watching. The waiter saw me alone and gave me a bowl of crayons. The tablecloth was paper, so maybe he thought it would be less boring eating alone. I have always felt self-conscious eating alone in restaurants (which is why it almost never happens). You feel like you are always being stared at, and unless you have a book to read, that is all you are doing to other people. However, I was super comfortable here. I had my back against a fence and my table facing outward (so French...if you didn't already know, patio tables at French cafes always have chairs facing the street). There I was, enjoying my goat cheese/raisin/walnut/spinach galette while listening to a street performer play accordion music, watching people walk by. It was perfect.  After the meal, I went inside to use the restroom and I saw the inside for the first time...the bar was made out of a car! Like, the entire shell of a car was used as the bar, and the bartenders peeked through the windows, and also the car was covered in seashells. It was really cool.

After lunch, I noticed some homeless women on the church steps asking for money, so I went to a nearby sandwich shop, got a tuna/egg/tomato bocadillo (sandwich on french bread), and had the waiter cut it in half. I presented the two ladies with the halves, and the latter bothered me because as I was giving the first lady half, she was like "What about me!?" and when I gave her the half, she was like "What about water?!" There are fountains throughout the city. I think you should be happy with that.

I walked toward the Virgin plaza and there was a group of homeless men nearby, one of which hollered at me something about me being pale and needing to get out in the sun more. Then I think he said something dirty. Wonderful! I kept walking and there was a younger homeless guy (no more than 25) walking in the same direction. A few blocks later, I noticed he was still there, even when there were very few people on the street. I quickly ducked into a souvenir shop to get away from the dude, bought a Valencian flag, and he was gone when I got back out. But it made me paranoid for the rest of the day. Normally I wouldn't mind walking down side streets or alleyways at 4pm, but now I was like "He might be there, WAITING!"

My next mission was to find somewhere to grab a coffee and something sweet. I wandered and wandered because I wanted a cute place with lots of people, but also not a touristy part of the city where it'd be expensive. I ended up at the same spot I've been with my parents and Carly and Sarah, on Carrer de Ribera. It's a little gelato shop, and I got a coffee and ice cream and sat and people watched for a good half hour or so. It was nice having no obligations.

I got up and headed over to Carrer de Russafa which has a bunch of cute clothing shops that I saw when I went to the American store a few weeks ago. After my feet couldn't take it any longer, I got back on the train home.

I pulled out Thank you for Smoking and I, Robot (here called Yo, Robot. Yo robot, how you doin'?) from Cristina's uncle's movie collection and watched those, ordering online from Telepizza a BBQ chicken, pineapple and onion pizza. When the delivery man came, I stupidly left the front door open and Gin escaped, leading the next ten minutes to be spent searching in the neighbor's yard for the cat. Luckily the neighbors were home and could let me into their yard. I was so scared that THIS would be the time (Gin's escaped a lot) that he escaped and was never to be seen again, especially when Cristina and Pichon weren't home. "Oh hey, while you were out, I lost your cat." But he was hanging out in the neighbors' bushes, and after the neighbor offered him some ham, I grabbed him and shooed him into our house.

Aw man, it was wonderful. No obligations, no rush, no one to need to talk to/call/email. It was great.

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