Las Aventuras Alicantinas – Part 5: Madrid y Valencia

Being on the Iberian Peninsula for the very first time, I needed to see more of Spain beyond the tourist resorts. Valencia was just 2 hours and 30 minutes away by coach and, what’s more, my friend Jack was studying Spanish too there for the summer.

Two weeks into my stay, I was up bright on early on a Saturday morning to catch the bus, so early that the only people on the streets were hosing the pavements down and sweeping up the litter generated on an average Friday night in Alicante. With Spain being a relatively advanced country, I imagined that its long distance coaches would be modern and comfortable, rather than a vehicle that essentially consisted of the chassis and the frame and stunk of engine fumes for the whole journey. Luckily, the route followed the Mediterranean Sea on the right hand site for most of the journey, so that took my mind off it.

Valencia looked strange. In fact, it reminded me of Brussels because of its vast variety of architecture styles. Coming into Spain’s third largest city, there were only dull residential tower blocks and baron river channels overgrown with weeds – a clear product of more recent expansion to the city – but the remnants of the old town became more apparent as we approached the heart of the city.

Ancient stone buildings were abundant and were a stark contrast to the striking modern complex of the City of Arts and Sciences with its sleek, curved white architecture of the late 1990s. Unfortunately, I had only a few hours to spend in Valencia, not enough by far to discover its cultural attractions, its marina and its hidden treasures.

Just two weeks later, I went to Madrid for the day, taking a short one-hour flight at around 7 in the morning. I made my way around the city, visiting the National Library, the Royal Palace, the Botanical Garden, the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art and the Madrid’s various squares and prominent churches and cathedrals.

I love trips likes these – trying to take in as much as possible of a sizeable city at a considerable pace within a day – but the thing is that I never get to see as much as I’d like to, as there’s only so much you can see in one day. Nevertheless, I am usually satisifed to just have a self-guided walking tour of a city like Madrid, even in the scorching weather. But I never know when or if I’ll be back in a certain place, so this type of sightseeing is ideal as far as I’m concerned.

It was all these experiences of different places and different people that made this six-week period in Spain one of the most culturally, socially and educationally intense of my life and when all the hype and buzz of a time like that was over, only then could I realise how lucky I am to be a linguist.

Thus concludes Las Aventuras Alicantinas. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series!