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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Dealing with Bed bugs on the road

Encountering bed bugs on the road is easily this traveller’s worst nightmare. While I was aware that I could encounter them at some point, I didn’t expect it would actually happen and this soon. Waking up on our second day in Valencia, I looked over at Bev, who was still asleep in her bed and noticed that her arms above the covers were covered in angry red bumps. She’s allergic to mosquitos so I assumed that she had been attacked by a hoard of the insects who find her irresistable on the late night walk home.

No, the answer was much worse than that. No matter where we stay, I check our beds for evidence of bed bugs before we put our stuff down. Yes, this might be a little paranoid but better safe than sorry! When we first arrived I did a quick sweep of the mattress seams and pillows and was satisfied. So when Bev awoke on day two looking like this:IMG_3417

We were entirely surprised. A cursory search on the internet didn’t really help, all the photos we saw and first hand accounts we read couldn’t convince us that it was bed bugs or it wasn’t so we remained suspicious. We thought maybe it was a rash the bites were concentrated only on her arms and shoulders, were itchy, but as you can see, also extremely red and swollen not the tiny red bumps like we had seen on google search. Plus, I didn’t have a single bite, surely if there were bed bugs we’d both be affected? We checked the beds again. There was nothing to indicate the presence of bed bugs maybe the mosquitos in Spain are super tenacious.

There’s really nothing like waking up covered in large itchy splotches to take the wind out of your traveling sails. Instead of going to the beach like we had planned, we stayed close to home and nursed a coffee and waited for the time difference to catch up so we could consult with my bestie and knowledgeable nurse friend about what it could be. She in turn consulted with her nurse friend and by 23:00 we had (kind of) an answer: It’s not a rash, it’s bug bites for sure.

I returned to the bed and this time I tore it apart. We scoured every inch of bedding, looking right into the folds of the seams in the sheets, the pillows, stripped the mattress bare and took a flashlight to every corner and crevice. Still nothing.

Until…one teeny tiny bright red moving dot scurried to the safety of a mattress corner. We caught it in a glass and looked at it closely. It was a bed bug! Super small and according to google, one only in its second phase after feeding. We took the evidence to our host (who was snoring soundly) and explained to him in the WORST spanish known to man what had occurred. His response was great! He was deeply concerned but as it was super late there wasn’t really a lot any of us could do. He moved us to a different (and larger!) room on the other side of the suite and put our things in the hall until the morning and they could be laundered. We decided that since it was just one very small bug if he DID have an infestation it must be a very new one. We would stay the night, if she woke up with any new bites then we would leave that morning. We took photos of all of her bites and then scrubbed down vigorously in the shower because there’s nothing like the image of bugs crawling all over you in your sleep to make you feel super gross.

The next day our host had all of our clothing laundered in hot water and dried with hot air, Bev was free of any new bites and the bed bug from the night before met a boiling hot death. We didn’t experience any problems again after that night so we ended up staying at the Airbnb until the end and after ensuring every thing got a good scalding, we pulled our things into our new room. And that was it. We were lucky that our brush with bed bugs was so minor, after the horror stories I’ve heard from other travellers forced to spend hours at the laundromat watching their backpacks and clothes go round and round in a dryer, or the unfortunate traveller who abandoned their things not knowing that hot air for 15 minutes is all you need to kill them, we got off lightly.

So what would you have done when up against the dreaded bed bug? Would you have left the place immediately or stay as we did?

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!