The weather has taken a turn for the incredible over here in Valencia, Spain. The coats have been stored and tucked away for the next several months, and the beach days have officially begun. Along with summertime in Valencia, I’ve learned, come a lot of very fun activities.
You know that movie with Jim Carrey “Yes Man”? Well, I’ve developed that attitude during my time in Spain. I call myself “Yes Woman!” It basically entails saying yes to pretty much every activity that is proposed to me, and let me tell you—it has been the best way to meet people.
For example, I take a swing dancing class every week. Listen, five years ago if you would have told me that I would be living in Spain, taking swing dancing classes with a bunch of Spaniards every single week I would have laughed my @ss off, but that is currently my reality—and I’m digging it! I look forward to Tuesdays because I get to dance, have fun, and meet new people. Everyone here is so social, you’d have to actually try to not meet people. (I do have, what I consider to be a legitimate theory, about the Spanish having a true fear of being alone—but alas, let’s just enjoy them for the social creatures that they are, shall we?)
After each class people linger and we then decide where to go and get some tapas together. I recently asked a girl from Valencia what her favorite part about living here was. She said, “eating and drinking with my friends in terrazas.” Thats a legitimate answer—that’s a real way of life over here in Valencia. Seriously, it’s like a pastime. So yeah, a lot of my time recently has been spent eating and drinking in terrazas with Spanish people. (Side note: Splitting the bill with a large group of people in Spain is a totally different animal than it is in the States. I swear one time, a group of people I went to dinner with in the US spent over an hour discussing and figuring out the bill. In Spain? You split the bill evenly. No matter who got what. That’s just how it works and everyone is fine with it. Let’s move on.)
The Spanish are wonderful and passionate people. Almost everything they say has a bucket full of passion behind it—so much passion that sometimes it seems as though they are actually fighting. They make grandiose hand gestures and speak loudly, leading anyone walking past who doesn’t speak Spanish to believe that they are, in fact, arguing. That is usually far from the case. They could be talking about the proper rice to use when making paella, or whether it will or will not rain later that day, and it will seem like they are having the most heated discussion in history. This has been an interesting experience to watch from the sidelines. I even got involved in one said heated discussion the other day with a lady when the topic of food and nutrition came up. I felt very Spanish with my loud talking and extravagant hand gestures.
I would also like to add, for those of you who do not know, Valencia has it’s own language. Valencian! It sounds very similar to Catalan, but with some variations. I am surrounded by Valencian on a daily basis. In fact, many of my groups of friends include people who are Valencian and therefore speak Valencian with each other when we are all hanging out. I don’t mind this since luckily I somehow understand most of it, but let me tell you— it sounds nothing like Spanish. Valencian sounds much more like Italian than it does Spanish. I’m even in a few Whatsapp groups where Valencian is spoken and I see words that are purely Italian, “ascolta” instead of “escucha” for listen, for example.
Speaking of Whatsapp groups, man are those intense over here! Sometimes I don’t look at my phone for one hour and I’ll have 85 whatsapp messages. It is insane. They have a whatsapp group for everything over here— groups of friends organizing specific events will create groups and add all of the people going to said events. My joining in on a lot of these events has led me to be in a lot of groups. I still get a little overwhelmed when I look at my phone and see 85 messages. Whatsapp groups are not a thing in the States and honestly, people were just not that social! Over here people have big, big groups of friends— and they all get together on a consistent basis, and…they do things together! What a concept.
Let me tell you another thing—the Spanish nightlife lives up to it’s fame. I’ve come home at 9 am so many times recently that I have lost track. I never thought I would come home later than I get up for work but yes, the Spanish nightlife is also, in fact, very real. I remember when I was interviewing for this job and the HR lady said to me “You know, it’s true that in Spain we really don’t sleep enough…” and I just didn’t understand what she meant. Until now. Yes, it’s true. We do not sleep enough over here. With the summer time also comes the sun out till almost 10 pm, which means everything gets pushed later and later without you even realizing it. Before you know it, it’s 10 and you still haven’t had dinner.
I went on an overnight sailing trip recently. Myself and five others spent the weekend sailing down the coast to another sea-side town called Denia. We ate dinner on the boat and set sail at midnight to rocky seas for the next 8 hours. When dawn was breaking we reached our destination and the lighting and scenery were out of this world. Like you cannot make this stuff up, people. We didn’t have a place to put the boat when we got to Denia, so we decided to anchor it in the location where the sailing book said that you could anchor the boat. We had breakfast on the boat and then decided to pull the anchor up and set sail to our next destination, where we would get off and have some paella.
Well, that’s when things didn’t go according to plan anymore. When trying to pull up the anchor we realized it was stuck. We tried, unsuccessfully, to maneuver it before one of the people on the boat decided to jump in, dive down, and look for himself. We were stuck for over two hours. Luckily all of the men on the boat where engineers, and they had rope! So after some very admirable perseverance, they suddenly freed it. It was amazing— cheers were shouted and high fives were given.
After that we changed plans and decided not to stop (what if we got our anchor stuck again— could you imagine?) and instead set sail the 8 hours back to Valencia. We saw dolphins and actually got to take in the scenery that we had missed on our night sail down. By the time we got off the boat, the intense dizziness we felt made us realize we hadn’t actually stepped foot off the boat in over 24 hours. The whole world felt like it was swaying from side to side. None of us could walk in a straight line.
Valencia, like many cities throughout Europe has a bike rental system. Bikes are scattered throughout the city and you can pick up a bike in one location and drop it off in another. Tie this together with a seemingly endless amount of bike lanes and bike paths and you’ve got a recipe for discovering some amazing stuff while you aimlessly wander around (or actually commute, which I do, too).
One last thing though. While you’re enjoying that bike ride around the city, look up. You know another thing that comes along with summer time in Valencia? Bird shit. That’s right—in the last six months, I have gotten pooped on by birds more times in Valencia then I have throughout my entire life. It’s a good thing the city captured my heart in other ways.