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International Stumblings of a Moneyless Idle

Lazily making his way through the world

Day 3. Mundaka to Lekitio – Cheating.

Day 3 dawned bright and hot. I woke late and went backwards. In my haste to reach the campsite and rest the previous evening, I had passed an intriguing little village on the coast. This morning I decided to go check it out and find some breakfast. Mundaka was a very cool little port, looking quite conservative with its well-kept streets and port of expensive boats, it is also an extremely famous surf spot.

Before a port was built not too far away and sand was extracted from the sea bed, the town held world renowned surf events, giving pros an opportunity to ride the “best left in Europe”. Now, the waves and consequently the competitions, surfers and visitors have gone. Surf shops and touches of its extreme sport past still linger in the simple Mundaka.

I wasn’t feeling as up for it on day 3. The previous day had tired me and shook a little confidence from me. I no longer thought I could freely travel anywhere I wanted. My mood was definitely not helped by the first leg of my journey that day; a long, boring walk down a main road. Today I planned another long walk. I had to walk about 12 kilometers in land, down river to the nearest bridge in a town called Guernica. After that I had to climb up an over some mountains before meeting the coast at Lekeitio. All in all, it meant it was going to be another 35 kilometers or so.

The first section, the long, boring road without shade or view did little to encourage me. When I reached Guernica it was already passed mid-day and I had a large mountain walk ahead of me. I couldn’t find any evidence of paths, though there surely must have been some. The only routes seemed to be along roads, one started off small but joined a motorway, the other was simply a walk along the motorway. All others were too long.

I paused. I didn’t want to be walking in the mountains at night, I also didn’t want to walk down a motorway. I knew I would and I did regret the decision I made next. I got the bus. While looking for signs for paths I had seen a bus stop. On it was clearly marked a route from Guernica to Lekeitio. I got on the bus a little downheartedly, paid something miserly like three euros and took my seat. The bus didn’t go along the motorway, it took one of the routes I had considered to be too long. It wound though the mountain roads, through villages and the stunning, green mountain landscapes. The mountains here, in this section of the Basque country, had a romantic charm. The road followed a valley with all the villages nestled amongst lush fields dripping down tree topped hills. They seemed a little more fresh, a little less dry than the mountainous stage of the previous day. I honestly enjoyed the bus ride but I couldn’t help but think how amazing it would have been to walk it. From then on out, it was always in my mind that I wouldn’t walk the entire route.

Like it or not, I arrived in the small seaside town of Lekeitio in the early afternoon by bus, and guess what? The town was preparing for a fiesta. I chilled out a little for a while, had a walk down Lekeitio’s strong, narrow roads. Around its dark, gothic, spiky Basilica. Over its yellow sand beach. My campsite, Camping and bungalows Leagi, was just one or two kilometers the other side of the town. On my maps it looked like it would only take a few minutes, but maps are misleading as they often don’t portray gradients. The campsite was two kilometers up a steep winding road, an extremely steep, winding road. I began to climb when a small car beeped and pulled over.

“Going to the campsite?” one half of a young, tanned couple asked.

This really was a cheat day.

I arrived in the camp in a car after taking the bus on day 3 of my walking trip. I went to the reception and booked a spot to pitch, but what a spot it was. I set up camp on the edge of a grassy field overlooking a staggering view. From my tent I could sit and look down the steep, wooded hill to Lekeitio and the sea, with the mountains and coast line beyond. I set up, unpacked and just chilled. Looking out over my amazing view.

For obvious reasons, unlike my previous two evenings arriving into camp, I was bit more sprightly. I decided to go down to the fiesta, my second in three days. As I walked the ankle achingly steep road down to the town I did think of how I would have felt if this hill had been the final stage of a long days walk. I crossed the small stone bridge which spanned a rocky river cutting a ravine through the mountains and flowing out to sea on the far side of the beach. Like in Plentzia, hundreds of fish were ignoring the flow of the river and fighting up stream.

While on this walk, I would stop to explore many Basque towns and villages. Lekeitio was my favorite. To look across the beach towards the small town you would be immediately drawn to the tall, threating church which looms with dark character over the town. To look out to sea you would see Saint Nicolas Island and the long, mossy causeway heading across to the now empty, grassy mound. In the town the buildings are old and strong, with thick wooden doors standing guard either side of narrow cobbled streets. I love a place with character and Lekeitio is the dark, seaside village of many a fantasy.

As it was fiesta time, the many dark, traditional, often basement pubs were all in full voice. The bars were being stacked with and then quickly emptying of fresh Pintxos (tapas but you have to pay). I was on a budget, a very tight budget, but I allowed myself a few beers. In the plaza, next to the beach, the music was growing louder. Around the back of the plaza, cut off from the rest of the proceedings were two long bars either side of a small stage close to the water. Its placement  made it feel a little seedy and attracted many an unconservative character. This is where I hung-out for the rest of my evening. I asked a non-Spanish looking guy if he spoke English and it turned out he was a Londoner, here with his girlfriend. A few minutes into a conversation and he was beckoned on stage where a reggae artist had just been playing and began to beat-box.  He was a street performer, he told me afterward, traveling across Spain beat-boxing on the streets. He also told me that this fiesta was San Antonlines (the same as in Plentzia) and if I stuck around for another day I would see the Day of Geese, a combination of boats, rope pulling and greased up geese decapitation…honestly, look it up.

It was nice to relax and listen to some music and smell the marijuana in the air, next to the water in the gritty, pretty town of Lekeitio. Tomorrow was another day and I planned not to use any vehicle of any kind so I had to get back. Not a good days walk but definitely a good evening out.

Set up camp with a view! @campingleagui, looking over the beautiful town of #Lekeitio, #BasqueCountry

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Day 2. Part 2. Gorliz to Mundaka – Pine trees, scenic routes and post apocalyptical roads.

The following two roads where just what I needed to calm my nerves and reinvigorate me. Descending from the house, down the side of the mountain, along a safe, black road. Soon I reached a T-junction and began to climb again. Both roads were lined with unbroken rows of pine trees filling the air with a fresh, clean taste. The weather was warm and my excelled heartbeat had made me sweaty but amongst the pine forests, I was refreshed.

I knew that beyond the trees on my left was the sea although I couldn’t make it out just yet. The sounds of the trees and the birds within them silenced the sounds of any waves but I knew the coast was there. I climbed up high above the coastline where the pines finally parted for a small car park, a viewpoint. From here I gained one of the most beautiful views. The pine trees, dense and dark fell down into the sea to the North and down to the bay of Bakio to the East. After spending much of the morning and early afternoon climbing over a steep mountain and running from dogs, the beach and the sea were a welcome, stunning sight.

There were paths, well-trodden paths leading down to the bay through the pine trees but I hesitated to take them. The last path I followed took me straight onto the lawn of a dog guarded property. I knew the road I was walking would end up in the same place but I took the path and enjoyed an undisturbed dawdle down towards the town ending in a pretty stone walled alleyway. When I was near, Bakio came into view, it’s long beach was cradled by two steep banks either side and a modern looking town running all the way along its edge but not reaching deep inland. Bakio is a surf town, many of the villages and towns on the Basque coast are well accommodating towards surfers. The surf on the North coast of Spain is famous however today it was not great and so the sea was left to the paddlers and swimmers. I took off my walking boots and strolled along the beach, letting the air and sand massage my reddened feet. After, I stopped in a surf café for a café con leche. I knew I couldn’t stop for long, I still had a way to go and in a few hours it would be dark.

I checked my maps which showed a main road cutting off a peninsular of coast line. Knowing I had to get a move on I considered it. The coast road however was called the scenic route. If there’s any combination of words that can grab my attention, it’s scenic route. The road started up a sharp steep hill out of Bakio, steeper than any I had climbed so far. With the sun still blazing I cursed and muttered to myself as I climbed. Eventually the road leveled a little under some trees but still held a gradual ascent. Through the trees, down towards the sea to my left I saw a small island, perched atop was a simple building. Leading across the sea from the mainland was a broad, confident stone arched bridge, visibly being crossed by a steady flow of people. My scenic route ended as it met up with the main road. At the junction was a big sign: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.  It was a popular place, many people were arriving, parking and descending a path down to the bridge. I thought about it, but I knew I’d still be walking at night if I took such a large deviation, as curious as it seemed.

I continued, ignoring the main road, instead opting to take a road which hugged the coastline. No cars chose this route which I thought was strange, soon I found out why. A concrete hip-high boundary had been placed across the road to stop all oncoming vehicles. Beyond the barrier the road was potholed with massive cracks in its surface like what you might find after an earthquake. I wasn’t a vehicle and I didn’t fancy the main road without a pathway so I continued. I met no other walkers, cars or locals along this broken section of costal road. In my mind I convinced myself that I was in a post apocalyptical world. My daydreams were aided by the fact no pine trees lined the road here. To my left the sharp cliff dropped down to the Atlantic, to my right, only hardy plants clung to a short, dry slope.

My daydream ended when the scared road reconnected to the main road which I was now forced to take. Day quickly became night and what I really hoped to avoid became reality; walking along a main road in the dark. Eventually a new seaside village came into view with the sound of a school band playing hinting at another fiesta. But I only stopped to grab a slice of pizza before hurrying along to the campsite which was another 4 n half kilometers along the road. Gratefully, a pavement aided my evening walk here. The campsite was big and busy when I arrived. Its popularity meant the staff worked late so there was someone there to give me a plot. Despite all the sounds of activity and the draw of a camp bar, I passed out asleep.

Day 2. Part 1. Gorliz to Mundaka – Obstacle

Day two dawned and I was feeling strong. I woke mid-morning and by the time I’d showered, ate and packed away my tent it was gone 10 O’clock. Not the rising at the break of dawn and setting off before the sun had fully risen of many a walker. Many people who know me would be impressed that I’d left before 12.

Plentzia lies at the bottom of a green hill which climbs up, away from the sea to a wooded ridge, behind which are the mountains of the inland. I walked up and out of Gorliz, looking back frequently towards the picturesque town of Plentzia. From here you could see all of the town in its corner. The river to the West and the sea to the North with a beach to its East and the mountains behind. A pretty amazing location by any standards. Today I planned a much longer walk; around 40 kilometers. First inland, up and over a mountain or two and then descending back to the coast, thus cutting off a large bulge of coastline. I would reach the coast at one town before walking along it to the next. The distance didn’t matter, I was feeling good.

Once I’d reached and gone beyond the ridge of the hill, out of sight of the sea, I was walking down the steady decline of a shallow valley, along a single lane country road. Fields of light, lush green blanketed the ground softly either side of me as the road made its way down to a small village called Lemoiz. The village lay in a deeper, conjoining valley. It had a high, steep, pine wooded hill on one side and the shallow grassy bank on the other. After my easy walk to the village I had a hard climb out. As I ascended up the small dirt road on that warm summers day, sweating profusely under the canopy, I did ask myself if I was going in the correct direction. Google maps said yes.

With the smell of pine deep in my lungs and glimpses of the immense, densely forested mountains behind I strode on. Thankfully the steep road leveled out but it also stopped. It was replaced by a pathway the other side of a stile. This was more like it, I thought, I’d much rather cross the mountains via a footpath than a road. The path continued to gain altitude gradually until the trees generously dropped away to reveal the Basque mountains in full spender. Only a few heavy duty dirt tracks spoiled the endless woodland. I continued along the narrow path that descended sharply before rising once again. More butterflies than I’d ever seen before fluttered all around me while small lizards made way as I approached. Due covered spider webs also regularly stretched across the path so I picked up a conveniently sized branch to: A. help me walk and B. bash spider webs out the way. As I was looking up at one of the many birds of prey which soared in the sky, I realized I was dawdling in a dreamy manor, not paying much attention to direction. I eventually bumped into a three-way junction where my path met one of the dirt roads, I checked Google maps. After looking at the map confusedly for several moments, I realized that the little blue dot of my location had not moved since I last checked it. My eyes darted from the blue dot to the GPS symbol, it wasn’t there, no GPS. I checked my physical maps but before I had even looked, I knew that this little path or the dirt road it entangled with would not be marked.

I decided just to continue in the direction of a road which was marked, a road which would take me all the way to the coast. With my walking/ spider smashing stick in hand I continued along the track that vaguely lead in the right direction. Without a gate or a sign, the track gave way to a low cut lawn at the rear of a big house. I stopped, puzzled. Two dogs saw me from across the lawn and started barking. One big and one small. They barked but did not approach. Their non-immediate approach coupled with the lack of gate lead me to believe that the dogs must be tied up. I peered beyond the house and saw the fabled road I’d been heading towards. I took a step closer, but as if that was the trigger the smaller dog began to run. Not at full pelt but very much running across the grass towards me. I thought of running away but I knew I couldn’t out run a dog so I stopped, my big branch in hand. At first it had been a spider web remover, then I had found it a convenient walking stick, now it was a weapon. I stood in batsman position, branch two handed over shoulder. The dog came closer but paused about 4 meters from me. It looked back at the big dog who hadn’t moved as if waiting for back-up. Gratefully, his big friend showed no sign of moving, instead howling at a distance. Maybe that one was tied up. I wasn’t taking any chances and backed away, off the lawn, into the undergrowth and the forest beyond.

Then I began to run. I didn’t run back towards the dirt road, I instead ran around the side of the house. All I needed to do was get around to the opposite side. After getting a little distance between me and the lawn I had to slow. To my left the hill dropped away steeply and between many of the trees were webs housing big, brutish spiders in their middles.  I am far from being an aracnafobe so when I say they were big, they were big. In here, under the canopy, with the big spiders and the sound of the dogs barking behind me, I felt a new kind of adrenalin. One fuelled by fear mixed with the thought of the craziness of it all. It wasn’t an especially negative feeling though; I still had adventure burning strong within me.

I managed to make my way around to the corner of the long front garden. The house was on a large plot of land containing two buildings, so it took a little time to make my way around. The roof of the nearest building was visible over the rim of its perfect green lawn, it was a very wealthy looking place. There, I was met by another problem. Between me and a lane that linked to the black asphalt road was a dip. A dip full of brambles and stingers and too steep to contemplate tackling. I thought for a moment, thought of the dogs and the stories I’d heard of unforgiving Basque folk. Here, unlike at the back of the house, was a fence. A freshly painted, hip high, white wood thing. I climbed under it, well aware of how it may have looked to any possible on-lookers. I slid my bag under first and then myself. I ran along the edge of the fence, crouching over so not to be seen from within the building. At the end of the garden I slid my bag and body back under the fence on the other side of the dip. From there I crunched my way over some brambles and let out a joyful sigh when I felt the road beneath my feet. I hurried along the road, continuing my journey, just a few small scratches worse off. I didn’t look back at the house.

 

Valencia to Nàquera to Valencia – Bicycle

Source: Valencia to Nàquera to Valencia – Bicycle

Day 1. Bilbao to Plentzia – Maps, Bunting and the WMCA

Walking out the hostel early, breathing in the cool Basque morning air, I was ready. It was true, it was a few degrees cooler up here, I let the crispness of the morning refresh me as I thought of my regretfully bought sleeping bag in my rucksack.

I looked back across the river at the museum and then up at the bridge. Last night the lights from the massive La Salve bridge had danced from the shimmering waters of the river and the gleaming silver of the Guggenheim museum below. Today it simply loomed close by looking too big and out of place. Like a lonesome mid-century high-rise in a village. While I searched the local area for a coffee and some breakfast, I found it difficult to form an opinion of Bilbao. It is bordered on 3 sides by steep hills, split in two by a wide river, has new and old bundled together ungraciously. I was not in the touristy centre of the city but for a new comer, it was difficult to tell exactly where that was. One thing was for sure; it was different to the other parts of Spain I had been. Stronger, more robust and also more radical in both architecture and people.

After grabbing a coffee and a few things from a supermarket, I went in search of a walking map. After visiting a paper shop, a tourist information centre and a book shop I had three maps, all fairly useless. One was a road map of the Basque North coast, one was a tourist’s map of the same area dotted with tourist’s intrigues but no paths and the last was of the whole of the Basque municipality. I had even tried asking for maps of this Camino de Santiago several people had spoken of, but to no avail.
I therefore set off that Monday morning in early September following Google maps on my phone. I worked out a rout to a village on the coast around 25 kilometres away. In the village was a campsite, I hadn’t booked anything as I hadn’t thought it necessary, I wanted to keep myself flexible.

The sun was warm as I headed North, on the East side of the wide, brown Ría del Nervión. I followed the main road, occasionally slipping into small neighbourhoods. One of which was the Ibarrekolanda area. Here, there was a low view point looking over the mishmash of architecture which followed the river. It was very industrial, rusted metal structures and simple, old, block buildings with work yards covered in dirt hovering between a state of use and forgotteness. In another neighbourhood I saw the preparations of a fiesta; fresh bunting crisscrossed above the road as people cleaned the street.

Despite diverting into some residential streets my rout kept linking up with the road along the river. Passing under the vast concrete Puente de Róntegui, I eventually peeled off to the East and began to rise into another urban area: Los Pinos. I walked through several interconnecting towns and villages, all were nice, quiet, middle class affairs. Just outside the city and not too far from the sea. Immediately I felt that these little towns had more in common with what I knew about England rather than what I’d learnt about Spain.

I continued to gradually climb. The villages became more open, greener and less dense but the urban areas continued to interlink. I was longing to reach wilder climates. I passed through Kurtze Auzoa, a small place where my rout crossed a railway several times. Here I had my first real view of the tree engulfed hills and mountains of which the Basque country is famous, just out of reach. Finally I reached Sopela, a pleasant little village where I crossed a park and started to climb a steep hill marking the end of the urban sprawl. The road was boarded by two small goat farms on each side and headed towards some woodland at its peak. I checked Googlemaps to make sure I was heading in the right direction. It displayed a path which cut through the trees before heading down towards the village I was heading for. I followed, but despite the path indeed being there it was impossible to follow. I’m not sure how often and by whom Google maps is updated, but sometimes it really does send you down blind alleyways.

This time wasn’t so bad. I retraced my steps to the road and traversed a 10 minuet diversion to a junction. From there on out it was easy sailing to the village. To my left, the green, grazed grass hills rolled away down to the Atlantic, to my right were the low wooded mountains of País Vasco. The sounds of birds and breeze brushed trees filled the air and bounced off the hillside. Not too long after reaching the countryside of the coastline I began to hear another, less natural sound. I could hear the beat of music, echoing up the hill far before I spotted the town. After climbing up, the road began to descend towards the picturesque town of Plentiza. Its white, red roofed buildings tightly clumped over a steep, short hill. On its near side was a clear, clean estuary and just beyond I could see a yellow sand beach.
The bass beat slowly materialised into music as I got closer, but not just any music. The first song I made out clearly was not of the Spanish guitar or reggaeton but the WMCA. I arrived into the beautiful town of Plentiza to the Village People. Here the streets were also crisscrossed in bunting and only beginning to fill up with people in the mid-afternoon. I decided not to explore the fiesta just yet but to find my campsite and pitch my tent for the first time.

The campsite was just beyond in neighbouring Gorliz. A very happy, smiling lady showed me around the busy and well facilitated campsite. I hate to admit it but I didn’t manage to put my tent up on my own the first time around. With the aid of a Dutch guy we managed it. After all was done I went back into the town to see what all the commotion was about. The town was celebrating San Antolín, its most prominent fiesta. In true Basque style the men wore red berets and neckerchiefs with white shirts and black waistcoats while the woman wore traditional red skirts. In the main street Basque men and women drank and laughed wholeheartedly. In the plaza children from a local school were putting on a performance. With everyone distracted with the activity, I peered tiredly into the river, where hundreds of fish were pushing unseen, upriver.

 

Madrid to Bilbao 

#RiodelNervión #Bilbao #Spain #Night #lights from #LaSalveBridge

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Atlas is very much an organizer and a little bit of a worrier. If it was up to me I would have travelled to Bilbao without any equipment or preparation. Atlas didn’t allow that. On the Saturday, a day before I left for Bilbao to start my week long hike, I went shopping. I rented a bike from the center while Atlas took her own. We cycled to the deep south of the city where there was a big Decathlon (Spain’s biggest sports outlet). We cycled along the river, through the park and playgrounds close to the Vicente Calderon stadium. Over the bridge and around the grounds of a arts space built amongst old industrial buildings.

I was very shy in parting with cash, I didn’t think I would need a sleeping bag or a mallet, but Atlas convinced me otherwise. I can admit in hindsight that I needed to be convinced. I brought the cheapest everything, tent, pegs, sleeping bag. It was strange buying new things, I wasn’t one for buying much that didn’t disappear down my gullet. When we rode away from Decathlon, I had all this new stuff.

On the Sunday, the time had come, I met my BlaBla car in the Madrid city center. It was a van driven by two middle-aged hippy rockers who played Spanish ska the whole way up to the Basque county. The passengers included their young collie dog who patiently sat between them, a young, extremely hung-over guy who somehow slept the entire way and an old lady who sat silently peering out the window, with me in the middle. We were an odd bunch of travel companions.

While in Madrid, me and Atlas had acted how we always had since I arrived in Spain, like a couple. Before I left she had said that when I returned we would not be like this anymore. Even though she had been saying that for three months, there was more of a certainty about it this time. More surprisingly, there was more of an acceptance of it on my part. Valencia had been a great experience for me, don’t get me wrong, but it had been massively hindered by my longing for Atlas. I hadn’t wanted to give her up but maybe now I was more ready. It played on my mind on the long 5 or so hour drive up North, but not in a negative way.

I arrived in Bilbao and was dropped off at the bus station after descending into the city on a motorway that hung off the side of a cliff. The hippy rockers hadn’t spoken a word of English on the way up but when I got out the car the lady hugged me and said “fly free”, I liked that.

It was already dark when I arrived and I still needed to find a hostel. I hadn’t booked one because I was holding out to see if someone would accept my couch surfing request but it didn’t happen. I had made a mental map of where a few hostels where though so I walked to them and they were all full. Unknown to me, the basketball world cup started in Bilbao the following day and most places where fully booked. The last place I walked to was closed, it was a hostel called Botxo gallery, right on the opposite side of the river to the very impressive, immediately recognizable Guggenheim museum. I walked around for a little before scouting a bench I thought I could sleep the night on. I’d never slept rough in a city before but my sense of adventure was so high at that moment it didn’t seem to bother me. I approached a young guy who had been sitting on a bench, on his laptop, looking across the river at the arching, leaning, shining Guggenheim and the towering, modern, dazzling bridge which soared close by. I asked if he too was sleeping out tonight.

“No” he replied, “I just booked a bed in that hostel” pointing to the closed building I’d inspected before. “They just sent me the code to get in”.

“Oh”, I said. “That’s convenient.”

“Do you want to use my laptop to book one for yourself?”

“Yes, yes please.”

Not for the last time on that specific trip or indeed on my travels in general would a fellow traveller help me out. My first night sleeping rough would have to wait.

Valencia

Valencia is a city without many superlatives. It is the 3rd biggest city in Spain by population, 2nd biggest on the Mediterranean. It is 3rd in Spain by square meters. It is not the hottest, coldest, driest or wettest. It has one of but not the biggest public parks in the country, the same can be said for its beach. It is neither the wealthiest or the poorest and has arguably the 4/5th biggest football team.

Valencia is not a city which tops many fact based lists but it is one that sits at the top of many an opinionated one. Ask anybody that has spent time in the city and they will speak highly of it. This is because it has a little something for everyone. The sunbathers go to the beach, the partiers go to the clubs, the foodies go to the paella restaurants and the shoppers head to the center.

Valencia is an amazing holiday destination but it’s an even better place to live. While Madrid and Barcelona are big and fat enough to swallow you up, Valencia is just right. (The city has nearly half the population of Barcelona.) It’s a big city, 800,000 people, but them people are spread across a large area. Its 6 miles from city center to the furthest end of the massive Malverrosa beach. This means you’re never too far from a gap in the urban sprawl. The biggest of which is the 9 kilometer long public park which sits in the old river bed, cutting through the city. El Jardines del Turia is a beautiful park of many different habitats, playgrounds, sports fields and ponds. The unmortised highway, I called it. There are not many cities where you can go from one end to the other without even crossing a road. Most Spanish cities are not the most bike friendly. They try to be but cycle lanes are often ignored or neglected. In Valencia that isn’t the case. The city is flat and bike lanes can take you to any part of it, obviously the park helps out here too. This is why the city has one of the most popular city bike facilities.

If you travel to the far end of the park you reach the City of Arts and Sciences. A project stooped in controversy because of its high maintenance and building coasts. It is truly a unique, futuristic and oddly relaxing place though. A garden above the project and an underground car park built into its side transform into serial, fantastical and undoubtedly cool nightclubs of an evening. Umbracle and Mya are just two of many you can find throughout the city, creating a constantly buzzing nightlife.

If you are one for a party, Valencia also has one of the biggest and craziest fiestas in a country full of big and crazy fiestas. Las Fallas, the festival of fire; where mascletas deafen your ears in the daytime sun, grand, skillfully crafted monuments pop-up in every crossroad and plaza just to be set alight in a blazing fire in the night of the last day, all while the city descends into a chaotic party.

Many people leave the city for Las Fallas. Too loud, too much. Many quieter people may also not enjoy the lively nights. On the other hand, if you are a big city person, Valencia might not feel like enough and only Madrid or Barcelona can satisfy your needs. If you are anywhere in the middle, you’ll enjoy Valencia.

#pontdelmar #bridgeofthesea #Valencia crossing the old river turned park. #jardinesdelturia

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Going on an Adventure

The futuristic sight of the #cityofartsandsciences #valencia #blue in the evening light

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So my days in Valencia came to an end. Thursday, which was very much my Friday, came about and I had gone drinking. I did as I had the previous Thursday, I met with Jon and found the students next to the beach. We danced at the beachside club Akuarela and stumbled home. This time however, with it being my last day, I had got a little more drunk. I’m not sure what time I got back to Marcella’s flat and passed out on my sofa-bed but I woke up in the morning with a message from a BlaBla car I had booked the day before: “where are you?” I had booked the ride for 9:00, I woke up at 9:05, with no BlaBla car. Hung-over and still a little drunk my mind didn’t tell me to relax, book another one in an hour or so and chill-out. Instead it said: QUICK, LEAVE, WE NEED TO GO TO MADRID. Whilst nursing my dizzy head on the coach after rushing to the bus station and booking the earliest Westward coach, I wondered why.

For a few days I had been pondering over how to spend my free week. It was Friday 29th of August. I had a flight booked from Madrid to Bristol on Wednesday September 10th, the day before my Graduation. Between them dates, I was free. I had very little money; my bank account had gone from -600 to -1200 in the 3 months I’d spent in Valencia. Considering I’d had free accommodation that entire time and had earned 160 euros, it my lifestyle had hardly been modest.

My mind asked two things: first, could I stay in Madrid with Atlas? That was dismissed by her as soon as it was suggested. Secondly, should I go home? It seemed pretty logical; save money, relax, see family. As logical as it seemed, another voice encouraged me to explore. Not for the first time, Atlas egged me on to do something more than just sit on my ass. So instead of going home, I decided I would go walking. My diet hadn’t been great in Valencia but my almost daily runs in the Mediterranean heat had made me fitter than I had felt in years. Use the strength, I thought to myself, go on a 7 day hike.

My first plan was to walk from Bilbao to Gijon along the north coast. I’d heard many good things about the beauty of the North so I wanted to see it for myself. My second idea was to hike through the Pyrenees. I’d missed the mountains, I loved mountain landscapes and I hadn’t been in so long. After careful consideration, Huesca to San Sebastian might have been too much to chew. Finally, I settled on Bilbao to San Sebastian. This way I had the best of all worlds: mountains, sea and cities. I jotted down the names of some campsites along the coast, booked a BlaBla car from Madrid to Bilbao for the Sunday and an Air BnB in San Sebastian exactly 7 days later. It was set, adventure booked.

Amazingly this pool is right in the middle of #Valencia #Spain #ParquedeCabecera

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Caught Red Handed

#jardinesdelturia #Valencia or #parkrio one of the biggest public parks in Spain. The unmotorised highway of Valencia city.

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As well as a change of job, I had also changed my dwellings for my last two weeks of Valencian summer. Not once but twice. I had told all the staff at the hostel that I was leaving but staying in the city for a couple of weeks. Alex, one of the Aussie activity guys said he had a spare room in his house that I could have till the end of the week. It was just around the corner of the hostel, right next to the Torres de Quart; one of the two remaining 14th century city gates. Serrans Gate is the touristy one, restored to full spender, it sits in an open area next to the park at the end of one of the old towns busiest streets. Torres de Quart is the battle scarred gate, inconspicuously looming at the end of a quiet road covered in cannon ball holes and blows left by the Napoleonic Wars. Apartments in most major cities which live in quiet, central streets next to major monuments are normally very expensive. In Spain that isn’t the case. You can have a cheap, central flat on a pretty road for ten times less than in England. I’m not exaggerating.

The flat I stayed in the following week was Marcella’s. A Colombian Canadian who I had met through the German friend I’d met at a Couch Surfing event. Marcella was a jovial, wholehearted person volunteering at a nursing home. She had once tried to teach me how to dance to Latin music; I was a slow learner. There wasn’t any drama in Marcella’s flat in the modern North of the city. Well not until the very last moment anyway. I had a sofa-bed in the entrance parlor that would have been very uncomfortable had I not been tired at the end of each day.

Alex’s was quite different. I’m not sure what happened to Atlas. I know that she had been seeing a Spanish guy in Madrid and had continued to reiterate that we should talk less, but two days into me living at Alex’s flat she decided to visit. I asked if it was cool for her to stay and he brushed it aside, “of course”. I was staying in a free room he had; Atlas arrived, she was very happy and very prurient. We court up in my spare room before leaving the house for a drink. We quickly returned though as, well, when in company. I had a message on my phone from Alex when we got back. He was asking me to move our things into the room next door as the landlord might arrive to show the room to someone. He said that the room was free. I took that as the room was available to use as I had the last but when we moved our things in, it seemed very much occupied. I sent a text to confirm its availability and he replied, simply: “Sure”. Given Atlas’ unexpected, welcome visit we dived into the room. It was a hot sticky summers day. In midst of things there was the noise of someone entering through the front door, the sound of a suitcase. I leapt off the bed and blocked the door just as someone tried to push it open.

“Hello?” a female voice asked confused.

Me and Atlas looked to each other fearfully.

“Just a minute.”

We had taken the precaution of removing the sheets from the bed. We quickly returned them over the sweaty mattress, threw on our clothes, took a deep breath and hid our smiles the best we could. The girl, quite confused, sat awkwardly in the kitchen. She took it well enough. She didn’t seem happy about it but who would? We quickly left her to enter her room, smells of us surely lingering unpleasantly. I slept my last two nights on the sofa in the front room.

#torresdequart torre medieval que rodeaba el casco antiguo de la ciudad de #valencia

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