We stopped at a gas station to fill up the car and get some snacks. It was one of those service stations where you don't have to actually leave the highway, you just pull off to the side and then you can hop right back on. In my broken Spanish reading comprehension, I thought the sign said to pre-pay your gas. When we went inside to speak with the attendant, who, coincidentally, spoke no english, it took us a few minutes to sort things out. Turns out we didn't have to prepay, ha ha. But we ended up with some chocolate for me, some chips for Chris and some gummy candies to share.
The drive went by quickly because we were just SO excited. And it was the first real chance we'd had to sit and talk about everything we'd seen so far in our whirlwind four days. We talked about our favorites and what we'd do again if we could do it over.
We were supposed to meet my parents at the Valencia airport where we were to drop off our rental car. As we got closer, we kept texting them with our ETA and they were already there waiting for us. As we got to the heart of Valencia's freeway system and their giant spaghetti bowl, we missed the airport turnoff three different times in a row. Gah! It was like the fates were laughing at us. We were SO excited to see my parents but we just couldn't ever get there! And I think Chris was super frustrated with me, because I was navigating after all.
Eventually we got to the right exit and followed signs to the car rental drop off. As we turned around the corner towards Hertz, there they were! Standing on the side of the curb in their missionary garb, looking fabulous. I started to cry before we even got to say hello. They followed us into the parking garage to return the car and we got out to give big hugs. Perhaps the biggest ever. They just looked so good! A year is a long time to go without hugging your mom.
We hastily dropped off our keys and threw our bags into my parents car. It was a silver European wagon-style car, with a fancy navigation system that can speak over 50 languages to you. It felt fairly small but it's a boat by European standards. Chris hopped in the front and my mom and I hopped in the back, and we headed off to our hotel for the night.
It was a fancy place -- the place my parents always stay when they come to Valencia. It had fabulous walking-street views just like our hotel in Madrid. It also has parking, which is rare for Valencia, so it's a nice perk. This is the first place we thought to take a photo together -- on the balcony of our hotel. Duh.
The rooms were amazing and lovely. They had chandeliers, for pete's sake!
(My mom, on the other hand, is so good at Spanish that she can often correct my dad when he misuses a word or there is a better one he could be using. Spanish was his first language when he was born and he also spoke Spanish on his mission. My mom has only been speaking Spanish for 18 months! Very impressive.You go, mom.)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013
The next day we had planned to all go see the city for the morning. Unfortunately, my dad had gotten a call about a disobedient missionary (who happened to be assigned to Valencia) and he had to take a cab over to their Piso to lay down the law. The longer we were with them, the more we came to expect these sort of surprises. My dad's work is never done!
So that morning we all ate breakfast together in the hotel, complete with churros and hot chocolate, and then my mom, Chris and I set off to explore while my dad hopped a cab to the missionary's piso.
The architecture of the town was beautiful, with fancy moldings just like Madrid.
And let me just tell you, they were all built on top of mosques! This one was no exception.
After getting our fill of Valencia, we hopped in the car and headed about 30 km north towards Sagunto to hike up to the ruins. We parked down near their public square and walked up through the narrow, car-less streets toward the fortress on top of the hill.
We stopped a cute outdoor cafe for lunch. I had jamon and melon. Yum.
This hill was first settled in the 5th century B.C. by Celtiberians and by 200 B.C. was surrounded by a wealthy, prosperous Roman town. In the 8th century it was overtaken by the Moors but became less and less prosperous around 1300 as Valencia became more and more prosperous.
Today, the ruins atop the hill are what they are. There is no entrance fee to enter, no glass or fences to bar you from touching (or destroying) anything up there. There are simply so many fortresses like this one in Spain that the country can't afford to restore them all and preserve them as historical sites. They do the best they can.
There is a small museum at the top of the hill where a few of the significant pieces have been housed and preserved, and the ampitheater (we visited at the end) has had some restoration done, so they're making progess slowly.
At any rate, these are the bases for ancient Roman columns, dating from about 200 BC. You know, just laying there on the ground. As much as I wanted to touch everything there, I couldn't bring myself to do it.
As we got close to Barcelona, we stopped at a grocery store to buy a few things to eat for the next few days, as well as some unscented laundry detergent to Mr. Sensitive (Chris). I had to take a picture of the jamon (ham) section of the grocery store. The beef & poultry were like one aisle each but the jamon was like three!
To be continued in Barcelona & Cardona...