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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Break’

So, you might say that I’m not the world’s most traditional spring breaker.

For the last two years, I’ve gone to Chicago with various groups of friends in the early frigid part of March, and the year before that, I visited Montreal with my father to check out McGill University. Rather than sun and stereotypical beach lounging, I go to large, northern cities and wonder around in the snow.

But not this year. Even with the evil Icelandic volcano threatening our flights, my friends Chris, Isabella, Katie and I miraculously found ourselves in sunny Valencia, Spain, where we spent a carefree and positively wonderful week being poor, happy university students.

Chris and I left Thursday morning, taking a bus to the small, strange and distant Beauvais airport — literally an hour from the center of Paris — where we were to catch our RyanAir flight to Alicante, Spain. You might know RyanAir as the super-cheap, low cost Irish airline. You might wonder how they manage to make their rates so cheap.

Then you get onboard a RyanAir flight. It is pretty much a bus with wings — not an AirBus, with glamour and comfort — but rather a bus from a poor metropolitan area that takes everyone to somewhere they don’t really want to go, but is somewhat close to where you want to go. Isabella said as much: “RyanAir takes you to places kind of close to desirable destinations, without actually being there.”

But cheap or small or cramped or willing to charge its passengers up to 3 Euros for a bottle of water, RyanAir still did as it advertised and flew us to Alicante, a large regional airport in the south of Spain. Despite the week of cancelled European flights, we flew without trouble, although Chris and I were pretty sure we saw some suspicious looking, smoky ash clouds as we took off from Paris.

From Alicante, Chris and took a regional train to the main Valencia train station, a lovely, Texas-looking, early modernist structure. Valencia is a strange city — a mix between an ancient, walled Iberian town and a bustling, modern metropolis, now the third largest city in Spain. It’s sprawling and expansive; yet it feels as if it isn’t much bigger than a small regional capital. It has a metro, but it’s slow and clean and on time, rather than the faster and dirtier metros of northern Europe.

I suppose Valencia was a good introduction to the general atmosphere of southern Europe. Even though roughly 1 in 4 people in Spain are unemployed, no one seems to mind. Everyone seemed happy and loose, and nobody minded that Isabella and Katie were wearing skirts in public — it was a warm springtime week, after all. Prices were low, food was cheap and the people were pleasant, even though I don’t speak a word of Spanish. All those years of pretending like I could kind of understand and read Spanish turned out to be true make-believe — although in my defense, I must say that the Valencia region speaks a strange, eastern dialect of Spanish that is close to Catalan, so my Spanish skills might still be better than it seems.

Our hostel, named Indigo, was a lovely place, with a big kitchen, clean bathrooms and rooms full of young people from all over the world. For my first hostel experience, it was fantastic. Isabella joined us late Thursday night, and Katie, a friend of Isabella from California, met up with us Friday morning.

From then on, our days were pretty simple: wake up, eat breakfast, buy picnic supplies and head to the beach. After lunch on the beach, we would sun and swim, occasionally pausing for ice cream or coffee breaks in the many beachside cafés and food stands. Evenings were either a cooked meal in the hostel or, on two wonderful nights, traditional Spanish tapas at a little bar in the old quarter of the city.

The tapas deserves its own paragraph. As a coastal town, it was assured that Valencia would have good sea food — a fact which we proved in a delicious lunchtime paella meal one afternoon. But the surprisingly inexpensive tapas place, or small plates bar, served some the simplest, most delicious food I have ever tasted, including a plate of what will probably prove to be the finest mussels I will ever eat. Cheese, lightly smoked ham, squid, octopus, spring eggs, tuna steaks and even surprisingly delicious almond cake greeted us each night. I think it’s a testament to the quality of the tapas at this place that we went there twice, rather than risk missing out on the wonderful quality of the food by seeking out another, less tasty restaurant in the city.

When not sunning or swimming or stuffing our faces, we managed to find time to visit La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias, a stunning, modernist museum complex on the edge of the old city. We bought a two day pass, spending a cloudy Sunday at the hands-on sciences museum and massive IMAX theatre and the morning of a sunny beach day at the fantastic aquarium, where we saw many a fish and dolphin.

Mostly, we just relaxed. I realized, while sipping on Sangria on the beach one afternoon, how long it had been since I had had so few responsibilities in my life. Granted, I still had a huge research paper waiting for me in Paris, my summer itinerary to construct and finals to study for, but while in Spain, all I had to do was wake up when I wanted and make sure to apply enough sun screen.

When we flew back Thursday afternoon to Paris — in time to see She & Him, one of my favorite groups, in concert — I’ll admit I was glad to be back in a country where I could read and speak and understand the things cashiers and bus drivers told me, but I definitely felt recharged. I needed to get out of the city  — and my skin was glad for the boost in Vitamin D — but coming back made the whole thing that much sweeter.

Maybe this post is kind of off topic and general, but there aren’t really too many specifics to go into for our trip. It was a simple week, with a simple goal: to relax.

And that’s just what we did.

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Hey friends!

Just a quick note to say that I safely made it to the lovely, warm, Mediterranean coastal town of Valencia, Spain, where I will be spending an absolutely heavenly week by the sea, eating seafood, sunning on the beach and having little to no responsbilities.

Such is the life.

I´ll have more details when I get home on Thursday, but for know, please imagine me as I likely am: on a white sand beach, in the sun, with the crystal blue Mediterranean stretched out in front of me and the colorful city of Valencia behind me.

Bisous,

Nick

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UDPATE 4/22/10 7:30 a.m. (GMT+1): So, the following rant/complaint/angry cry is still somewhat applicable — Eyjafjallajokull has made my life far more frustrating and complicated than it needs to be as I prepare to go on holiday. BUT, it would seem that we are going to try and brave the volcanic ash cloud, and bus, and train system and assume our rightful spring break place in Valencia, Spain. I might come back tonight having failed. I might come back in a week having succeeded. I might not come back at all. Whatever the case, we’re going.

Catch you in a week! VIVE L’ESPAGNE.

I know that the volcano is fun to say — or, at least, to try to say. I know that the comic possibilities of saying, “Business is down on the German stock exchange today because of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland,” and other such news briefings dotting The Financial Times and other major European publications is tempting. But right now, the only thing I can think about this whole volcanic ash business is as follows:

MERDE.

You see, our dear friend Eyjafjallajokull, by deciding just now to have a throw-up fest, has prevented me from taking my long-awaited spring break trip to sunny southern Spain. The volcanic ash cloud that is now hovering over Europe — while not as bad as everyone originally thought — has cancelled my low-cost RyanAir flight to Valencia, meaning that I have applied for a refund (that I may not get) and that I have no money to do anything exciting this week except wait around in Paris and think about the beach.

At least I didn’t buy a swimsuit yet.

I wish I had more to say, but I am just very frustrated and angry right now and ready to say some very stern words to Eyjafjallajokull and his people:

An Open Letter to Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland, and the Icelandic People

Dear Eyjafjallajokull and Friends,

Iceland, stop messing things up. There are only 300,000+ people living on your Godforsaken island. Leave the rest of us alone. Please. I beg you.

On top of that, food prices might start to go up, and the tickets I have for the She & Him concert next Thursday might be for naught, considering that the adorable twee/folk/pop/indie duo was just in California last week and is supposed to be in Europe starting Sunday.

If you take that from me, Eyjafjallajokull, I will never, ever forgive you. Ever. As it stands now, I hate you enough for destroying my spring break plans, which were only decided upon after my friends convinced me of how fun and great Spain in April would be.

Now, I will never have the chance to know what that feels like.

And it’s because of you, Eyjafjallajokull. You and your unpronounceable name and stupid ash cloud and the looming possibility of grisly plane crashes that may have been exaggerated in the first place.

I won’t say that I hate you completely. I understand that volcanoes need to erupt sometimes, as a part of natural Earth processes.

But I do hate you a little. And I’m a pretty friendly guy most days.

Quit it, Eyjafjallajokull. Just stop.

Sincerely,

Nick Andersen

A Concerned Inhabitant of Mother Earth

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