Sun burns and Bed bugs- the Valencia finale

Day three in Valencia dawned a dawn full of promise. We would rent bikes, we would sun screen up and we would go to the beach. Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances AKA: bed bugs the beach had thus far eluded us, but no more messing around! Today we would reach the promised destination come rain or shine. Admittedly though I would prefer the latter. We found a really great deal at The Easy Way bike rental and paid only €9 each for a 24 hour rental period that came with the bike, a basket, a lock, and safety lights for riding at night. Valencia has a beautiful park in the old river bed that runs through the city which offers a car free route to the sea. So, coffeed up and ready to go, we hopped on our sweet rides and pedaled our way to the coast through the scenic park. I must say we felt pretty liberated to be off our feet and speeding through the city on a pair of wheels!IMG_9362IMG_9355

Warning: You may want to put on sunglasses for the image you are about to see contains a sun deprived Canadian in all her pasty whiteness.IMG_9342This is the moment I had been waiting for, this right here. And as always, totally worth it. A few hours soaking up the sun and some splashing around in the water made for a very happy day, but knowing that we had received next to no sun in the infamously grey Vancouver winter, we reluctantly packed up our things after a few short hours and headed back to town. Earlier, when we had rode to the beach, we passed by the Valencia science center. A strikingly modern structure featuring not only an exhibit on Nicola Tesla that was absolutely calling our name, but also bright blue pools and what can only be described as a hamster ball on water that I absolutely had to do. I tried to ignore how ridiculous I felt as I joined the line up of children waiting to test their balancing skills, paid my €5 and climbed in. IMG_9413IMG_9418IMG_9420

This is way harder than it looks. As in, it’s incredibly hard! I spent most of my time falling down and trying to stand or chasing the kids who kept trying to slam their hamster ball into mine. I didn’t succeed in catching any of them (they’re surprisingly fast) and I have no regrets whatsoever. Well, except that as it turns out despite the application of sunscreen and limiting exposure to the sun I was as red as red could be. Which is exactly what I didn’t want…oh well, better red now than in Ibiza later.

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That evening, nursing our bug bites and sunburns, Bev and I treated ourselves to a scrumptious tapas style dinner. A serve yourself feast of bite three bite goodies billed by the amount of toothpicks you amass. With nothing labelled, it’s a bit consume at your own risk. For example, I happily stuck a spoonful of this fresh green goodness in my mouth expecting a green smoothie like concoction only to discover my worst enemy- pea gazpacho soup. Pea anything, really. Luckily, everything else was delicious and the experience was saved!

With the beach and bedbugs behind us we turned our focus on the upcoming Ibiza! It was time to meet with friends and dedicate ourselves to some good times in the world famous party destination. We had thought we were so clever making our way down to the coast thinking we could ferry over to Ibiza from Valencia only to be thwarted by a ferry ride that is 6 hours long and extremely expensive! We talked to some locals to learn that it’s actually really boring and is mainly designed for those who want to bring their cars to the island. Instead we booked a flight for €80 and gladly hopped on the 45 minute long plane ride. We even ended up in the emergency exit row with so much leg room, we could touch the seats in front of us without having to bend our knees. I almost felt guilty.

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But…not that guilty. So long Valencia!

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The saga of bed bugs and sunburns- A Valencia tale

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Oh, Valencia. You set a standard of enjoyment the rest of Europe will scramble to meet. On our first night we stumbled upon a festival in the city where all the Valencians had come out to play, upbeat 40’s jazz sounded throughout the streets to which couples were swing dancing in the square. The buildings were an intricate art nouveau while a warm breeze rustled in the palm fronds and the setting sun gave the last of its warm rays. It was magic. I breathed deeply, cherishing it. For the first time I truly felt like I was on vacation. Invigorated by the energy of the city and warmed by a night time glass of rosé, Bev and I went to bed that night dreaming of the beach we would visit come the morning, two weeks spent in landlocked cities had these Vancouverites absolutely aching for the sea.

Sadly, the best laid plans…We didn’t make it to the beach that day. We mean’t to.. but we started out hunting down the perfect coffee spot.So far, Spain had absolutely nailed coffee. (Oh look, a starbucks!) Though we really did mean to go to the beach, we naively thought just take a quick peek at what is on this street and this and this…At the edge of the old city we found the Torres de Serranos, a gothic style 14th century gate that once served as the main entry to the city. Fully restored and open to the public for a modest €2.00, and free on Sundays, for those wanting to climb up and experience not just history and pant wetting heights, but stunning views of the city as well.IMG_9299IMG_9305

I got my calf work out on with the hundred or so steep stairs connecting the different levels of the tower but was well rewarded with an unparalleled view of the city that got better and better with every staircase I ascended. Now, I don’t consider myself acrophobic, I can peer over the battlements no problem. I feel safe with the strong wall holding me back, but I must admit I get a little wobbly when I come across a glass floor in a tall building. Why yes, that ground is very far below and this is exactly what it would look like if I fell through your questionably safe glass floor to the ground below.
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We were so caught up in the city that it was already 3:00 before we even took notice and a quick bite of paella was necessary to restore our strength. Yes, real Valencian Paella! After all the hype from Madrid it became priority number 2 (after priority number 1 AKA the beach didn’t pan out) we sought it out as quick as possible. Turns out, it’s really, really good. Just about every restaurant offers a version of it so we picked the first place we could find and tucked in. Side note: I was so hungry that I gobbled it down before I remembered to take a photo of it.

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We did 26,000 steps that day and 18 flights of stairs! A personal record that I think doctors would be proud of. As the first day drew to a close, we made a vow: tomorrow we will resist the siren song of the beautiful city, rent bicycles and go to the beach. Or so we thought…the bike and beach just weren’t in our stars! That morning we awoke to find Bev was covered in angry red bumps. Alarm bells singing the awful tune of bed bugs had our focus turned from the beach to sanitizing and expelling the dreaded vampires from our clothes and bags. There’s a whole post on it if you’re immune to heebie jeebies here.

But, it’s nothing a hand crafted gelato rose can’t cure!

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Valencia really touched my heart, the traditional and the modern met here with a harmony not often achieved. I could walk the historic city and feel lost in time then turn a corner and indulge in a very 21st century shopping experience. We accomplished so much in our short time in Valencia, we found coffee shops and patisseries to while away the hours, gyms to work off the bread and cheese feasts which were becoming de reigueur, and settled into a little lifestyle routine that also included two days spent nursing metaphoric travel wounds and binge watching TV in our room. Hey, sometimes you need netflix. But the count was on, we had three days left in Valencia before we would jet off to Ibiza to celebrate birthdays island style and if this pale Canadian body didn’t see some sun before we got there, I would spend the whole time a miserable little lobster. Valencia was so busy I had to make three posts just to cover it all! Find out if our heroes made it to the beach in the next thrilling chapter in the Valencia tales!

What’s in the bag! Packing for Europe.

Packing for this trip has probably been the most challenging part of planning so far. I’ve never backpacked before, I’m more of a suitcase on wheels and wear sweat pants all the time kind of traveller. I’m not just packing for a quick tour of England, I am travelling Europe and then moving to London. How are you supposed to pack for the frequently cold English weather, dry heat of the mediterranean, party clothes for nights at the disco, and professional clothes for the inevitable job interview, all while fitting it in my 60L MEC backpack? I kept praying for the angel of packing to take care of it for me, but to no avail.

I started taking a serious look at my wardrobe. Would I really need three different party dresses? Do I even wear those shirts anymore? I had to really be willing to part with of a lot of my clothes. I donated 5 garbage bags full of clothes I just don’t need anymore. I packed and repacked my bag 6 times before I was satisfied. Space is precious in my bag and every item I bring had to really be worth it.

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Space is precious but seven pairs of shoes are absolutely necessary.

Seven pairs of shoes. Yes, seven.

  • 1 pair of flip flops for the hostel showers
  • 1 pair of runners because I like to stay active when I can
  • 1 pair converse sneakers for street wear
  • 1 pair of Blundestone boots which I love so much. They’re super comfy and waterproof and I wear them when I travel from place to place.
  • 1 pair of black heels for the dancing times
  • 1 pair of ridiculously cute ballet flats because I love them and I refuse to leave them behind.

IMG_33195 Dresses 4 light and summery for hot weather and 1 fancy one for going out dancing.

  • 7 T-shirts
  • 6 tank tops
  • 4 button up shirts I’m Canadian, of course I have plaid.
  • 4 pairs of pants, 1 for going out and 3 for day wear.
  • 4 pairs of shorts 2 for day wear and 2 swim shorts
  • 2 swim suits
  • 1 denim jacket. This is my favorite piece ever. I wear it with everything
  • 1 wool coat I should have ditched this before leaving the UK for south Europe. I’m glad I had it in Hampshire but now I’m questioning just how attached I am to it.

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My eagle creek compression cubes are the best decision I have ever made for travelling. I can keep my clothes organized and sorted instead of pulling everything out of my bag to find something, it’s there in neat little cubes. They’re like drawers for my backpack!

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This is it. This is all the toiletries I need for my trip. You’ll notice there’s no bottle of shampoo or conditioner. I have really long, super fine and thick poker straight hair, making it do anything nice is a challenge. So for me my shower ritual is sacrosanct, but I didn’t want to deal with the weight of liquid shampoo and conditioner. I needed an alternative. On the recommendation of a fellow traveller I decided to try Lush’s bar shampoo. That tiny little round tin holds the power of 200 washes and I love it! It lathers up and makes my hair feel so soft and clean.  I’m not sold on the conditioner. It’s ok. It leaves my hair soft and fluffy, but I think my high maintenance locks require a little more conditioning than the Lush bar can provide.  Instead of a loofah, I use the exfoliating glove. It’s small and dries fast after use and takes up little space. So far I only use the disposable razors. My favorite are gillette, which are geared towards men, work exactly the same as a woman’s and cost less.

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I keep my makeup bag pretty simple. Back home I had all the different brushes, eye shadow, blush, setting spray, the whole shebang, but even at home I rarely use any of it. These are my essentials and the ones I cannot live without. A primer, a cover up, foundation and powder. I don’t usually wear eyeliner or mascara because I don’t like cleaning the mascara off the delicate skin around my eyes every day. I feel I can get enough vavavoom by just brushing and curling my eyelashes but on those special occasions it is nice to have, so I brought them with me. IMG_3303

Looking at other travel bloggers my electronic set up is pretty sparse! I have my Canon EOS DSLR, which I got on craigslist for $300. I did splurge and bought myself a macbook and I am so glad I did! It’s light and it’s made it so easy for me to make these blogs and post them online. Originally I intended to use my iPad with to blog from, but since I bought my computer it has largely laid unused in my bag. Now I think I’ll only use it when I finally get an apartment and I would gladly have left it behind. I brought my iPhone since I would be working the in the UK and wanted to have something reliable with me.  Travellers frequently pick up a cheap pay as you go phone for making local calls and texts. This hasn’t been necessary in my travels. I have met with little difficulty in using my iPhone, which I leave on airplane mode and connect to wifi either on the streets or in coffee shops. I can use the map even when not connected (I downloaded google maps) and I frequently use my phone to translate when I am struggling with the language. Not only that, but my phone takes pretty awesome photos. It is my life line on the road. It has my calendar which I share with travel companions and my mother (who is doing a great job at being supportive despite her concern.) All of these life line items are kept really close to my chest. Literally. When I’m on the road they live in my Herschel backpack which I wear in the front.

There are professional bloggers that have awesome underwater camera cases, go pros, and lenses and filters. If you have the good fortune to come across Alex in Wanderland’s fabulous blog, check out her What’s in my bag? Series where she covers her essentials in great detail for a variety of destinations.

Some travel essentials not pictured but included:

  • 2 Locks, both combination, one for my locker the other my backpack
  • Power adapters
  • Headphones and the various chargers and cables that keep my electronics going
  • Wallet and passport. These I keep really close to me. My wallet has a loop that goes over my wrist and helps me feel more secure about having it out when I’m in public
  • Eagle Creek bra clip money pack. This is a low profile way to keep a backup stash of money when travelling through major tourist centers.
  • My sketchbook which also contains my travel documents in the back pocket
  • Journal…yes I write about my adventures in two places.

I think I have included everything! I know I’ll pick up a few things on the road, I already have my eye on a laundry bag and a better travel towel and face cloth.

So what about you, what things do you find impossible to leave behind when on the road?