Spain was at the top of my list for destinations when I first came to study abroad in Norway and somehow it got pushed to the very last flight I went on. The trip to Spain was special because I took Spanish classes in high school and always dreamed of actually being able to use some of my Spanish! Of course, the image I had in my head of all of my Spanish that I learned in high school miraculously flooding back to me when I was surrounded by the language didn´t quite pan out as expected. On the last day of the trip I came to terms with the fact that despite wanting to be magically fluent, I was still utterly clueless. It hit me as I was standing at the counter of a McDonalds trying to order some milk – I know, an odd thing to order at McDonalds but that’s beside the point – and I simply couldn´t convey to the lady what it was I wanted. At first she got me coffee with milk, then chocolate milk, then steamed milk… So three wrong drinks later and an annoyed look from the cashier I had my milk and was feeling quite humble about my Spanish skills.
What little I did manage to recall was extremely helpful though. Essential even. This is what set Spain apart from the other places that I have visited. In France, Greece, and Italy when people saw our dumbfounded faces at the sound of their native language they were able to switch to English, sometimes very rudimentary English but English none the less! In Spain, we started every conversation with, “¿Usted habla inglés?” meaning “Do you speak English?” and the answer was most often a simple, matter of fact, “No.” At this point, my roommate and I would take a deep breath, smile, and stumble through some mangled Spanish phrases. Of course, communicating the simplest things was a huge accomplishment. There was something rewarding about feeling like the group we were traveling with was somehow dependent on my roommate and I to get around.
Valencia, Spain, itself was like jumping right into the pages of my Spanish book from high school. The beach was beautiful, the sand was a lot finer than the sand in Greece, but the water was still pretty chilly. The biggest difference that I noticed was the people themselves. Being to a topless beach was a new experience for me. Old and young women alike weren´t shy about not wearing anything!
The weather was only really nice for one day so we divided the rest of our time in Spain between the museums (Valencia is known for its excellent museums) and the city center. First we went to L´Oceanogràphic, the largest aquarium in Europe and the next day we went to El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, an interactive science museum.
My favorite part of the aquarium!
The architecture of all of the museums was very modern. Here is the science museum.
This was one of my favorite places in the science museum. They showed a video clip in a room of mirrors.
These red flowers were everywhere!
The Central Market.
Out of all of the places that I have traveled to, I have to say that my favorite architecture is a toss up between Spain and Greece.
Valencia is known for its beautiful graffiti.