At Home in Valencia
When Ali started planning the group trip to Tomatina near Valencia she booked an apartment. With four of us there, a full apartment was far cheaper than a hotel and nicer than hostel rooms. The apartment was in a great residential area and the block seemed to be named for Honduras. Not the country (we asked), but a cross street. Staying in a residential areas is fast becoming my preference when traveling.
I really enjoyed being in the residential neighborhood and not the tourist one downtown. Like most things this comes with a number of pros and cons, though I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons. This is the kind of vacation place that links into why I like being an expat. I am traveling and yet feel a part of a local culture. Not quite there long enough to be recognized, but close in a few places. This is usually the kind of travel that I enjoy the most. Being in a place for a while and at least getting and idea of what living here is like without a rush through the major sights.
We found this place as well as one in Paris for a weekend on AirBnB. So far we have had pretty good luck with them.
Away from it all
The apartment was outside of the city center so it meant walking a long way into the sights or taking a cab. It was on a major road, so cabs were easy to come by and with the 4 of us it was just as cheap as the bus. We actually did try the bus once and it didn’t really work out. After doing the math, taxis become the standard method. The only trick was pronouncing the address for us non-Spanish speakers. So getting to the tourist spots or train station meant public transport or the expense of a cab. So in some way its was too easy to just stay there and avoid tourists.
An apartment is not a hotel, so no air conditioning and no daily clean sheets. It also meant no wifi, free or otherwise in the apartment. It was also above a night club. Night club in Spain seems to mean open from 9pm until 9am and busy throughout. I remember going to sleep with music and waking up hours later to similar music and the sound of people talking. Thankfully we were far enough up in the building for it to be muffled.
In the midst of it all
Being a part of a neighborhood for a week was nice. We got to be among the locals and see at least how this group lives. In this neighborhood, massively tall apartment buildings are clustered around open plazas. Sometimes one plaza against the main street and another in the back toward the more minor street. It took us a few days to even realize this back row of buildings. nestled among the gargantuan towers were all manner of restaurant, bar, cafe, gelato place, pizza joint and the occasional pet shop. I went walking one morning just taking pictures of the (closed, remember morning in Spain) cafes and fronts and all the great names.
Grocery stores were plentiful and varied. We even found one that was open on the Sunday that we arrived. Especially living in an apartment this made eating at home (or more aptly for us drinking and snacking at home) easy and cheap. Beer in a sixpack for 50cents a can, and this wasn’t the cheapest on the shelf. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the 22cent cans. It just seemed wrong.
Locals and Eats
And of course this all meant that once we knew what to look for this area had tons of great places to eat in a short walk from our place. The guy who ran the pizza place next door was happy to practice his English on us. I had a nice chat with the pharmacist about the similarity of Italian and Spanish, in a mix of Italian, Spanish and English.
We went to a gelato place a couple of times. It had free wifi, a large selection of flavors and air conditioning. The guy even started recognizing us. Asking how Tomatina was and such.
The Honduras Bakery, whose kind people dealt with my attempts at Span-taliano(which as we all know is the speaking of Spanish using only imperfect knowledge of Italian) and explained the meaning of the Honduras names on everything around, was where I went to grab breakfast most mornings. Things like chocolate muffins and apple tarts came back to the apartment with me. (It followed me home, can I eat it?)\
We did have a bad experience or two when we went looking for food. Slow service and odd menu choices, but this only seemed to happen when we went walking far from our little block. I think the best place we ate at was right in the building just away from the street. We ended up at the Black Rose two nights trying all manner of pasta and tapas. Sitting out the evening on the patio eating, drinking and drawing on the tablecloth was a highlight of the trip.
And Yet Still Present
So we may not have seen every tourist sight in Valencia, but we saw most of them. It was still a great place to be out of the crush of a touristed old town. Being new grocery stores and local filled restaraunts reminded me enough of home to not feel any of the culture shock of being in a place where I know so little of the language. I love to travel, but this kind of thing. Living among locals and not in the midst of the highly polished things. Local places with local prices help the budget too.
Ali’s Look at Valencia in Pictures
One of several of Val’s posts about Valencia
Jaime’s post including us drawing on the table at the Black Rose.
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April 17, 2012 @ 4:27 pm
[…] more to Europe than these two sites. Mix it up. Sit in a square and watch people. Stroll through residential areas. Take in a museum. Also try to limit the number of things you see on a day. With only a few weeks […]
December 14, 2011 @ 4:55 pm
Thanks for sharing your story.
I suggest visiting Malaga aswell, been there for a year and I really liked it. Cheap prices also,with 500 euro you can rent an apartament for 1 month and with 200 euros you can eat.
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December 7, 2011 @ 9:20 pm
[…] come around or that a waitress knows our order after only a few days. This is that sense of “home away from home” that I enjoy. Connections with locals can make you feel like you belong even when you […]
November 24, 2011 @ 11:32 am
Awww this week was a great week. I enjoyed living like a local for a while and enjoyed spending time with friends I had known for ever and finally met! Great recap on a great week! Hope we can do something like this again somewhere else int he world.
November 24, 2011 @ 11:06 pm
Thanks. It was a fun week. I do wish we had noticed all the little bars and things behind the apartment earlier. Well early enough to avoid that Wolf-place across the street.
November 24, 2011 @ 4:33 am
I, too, love staying in apartments when traveling. I also like the feeling like a local feeling and think that the experiences in those local bars and restaurants far outweigh the tourist equivalent closer to the centre!
November 24, 2011 @ 11:04 pm
Not just the feeling of a place, but the prices as well are attractive in the local’s area. I remember a conversation in Prague where the bartender at the hostel was saying that she got beer for 1/10 of the price where she lived on the edge as you pay right in the main square.
November 24, 2011 @ 12:19 am
I like the idea of travelling more like a local. We always used to do this when visitingt my mom in Egypt. She’d help us find a vacation apartment or the apartment of an expat who happened to be travelling and wanted to recoup some rent. So much better than staying at an expensive hotel! I don’t mind cleaningup after myself and I love eating out in little semi-local places instead of at the hotel buffet. Never tried it for short city trips though. Maybe that’s something we need to start looking into.
November 24, 2011 @ 10:59 pm
We did a weekend in Paris and a week in Valencia. It was totally worth it. To be in a place that has the comforts of a home as well as being near the locals food and such was great. There really is a feel of a place that someone lives in as opposed to just a hotel. Hotels and hostels are still useful and still in my list of looking for accommodation, but I will prefer the apartment if it is viable.
Definitely look into renting an apartment. Especially if the trip is a week or so.