“Hay que gozar de la vida” is a Spanish saying common in Latin America that means “Life is to be enjoyed.” This saying could not be more fitting for the people of Spain as well. This past weekend included a weekend trip to the small, coastal town of Valencia in southeast Spain. The people of Valencia have a unique way of living that can best be described through their food and festivals. In two weeks, Valencia will throw one of the biggest festivals in Spain, called Las Fallas. This festival is essentially a city-wide party that includes a LOT of firecracker explosions. This past weekend the city was busy preparing for this huge festival, evident in the lights that lined all the streets, the constant explosion of firecrackers, and the random parade we stumbled across on Saturday. From what I understand, the food is the second most important part of this festival. This includes their famous paella (Valencia is the birthplace of Paella), bunyols (fried pumpkin donuts typically served with chocolate), horchata (sweet rice milk drink), and aqua de Valencia (a drink that doesn’t actually have any water at all but rather orange juice, gin, vodka, champagne, and lots of sugar…I can confirm it is delicious). The Spanish know how to live a life of enjoyment and my time here has been spent trying to adopt this way of life. Our time in Valencia included laughter and hearts as full as our bellies as we wandered the streets enjoying the food and the culture. The trip was complete with walks on the beach, toes dipped in the ocean, shopping in food markets and vintage stores, and lots and lots of sweets. It was one of the easiest, most peaceful, lovely weekend trips I’ve had because since Valencia isn’t one of the most famous cities in Europe we didn’t feel pressured to see anything in particular and took our time to enjoy the culture instead. Some of my most favorite moments from the weekend include: seeing my friend Maddie, who is studying abroad in Italy right now, at the bus station for the first time since we left SLU, eating the best paella I’ve had yet under umbrellas on a small side street of Valencia, sampling fresh squeezed juice from the Valencia food market, watching Maria take a selfie with some random famous teenager video star, stumbling across the world’s cutest children’s parade, and dipping my toes in the ocean despite the freezing water.
Life outside of my weekend travels is hectic and wonderful most days. My time in Madrid is usually spent studying in between classes, planning the rest of our trips, and trying to keep in touch with everyone back home. I had a slight freak out the other day while looking at my calendar and realizing I only have three more weekends left in Madrid where I won’t be traveling, so a friend and I planned a “Madrid tourist” day this weekend to get in everything we still haven’t done in this wonderful city we’ve been living in for over two months now. My Spanish continues to improve, which is exciting considering I just submitted my application for a second semester abroad next fall in Argentina. Spring is quickly approaching (though not quick enough for my taste) and Madrid is starting to bloom and warm up. Sending love to everyone back home, updates to come from Paris soon!