Early on the morning of the 11th of October, the Valencian sun beamed down upon us as we arrived into port. We were ecstatic to see the vibrant greens of the trees and the grass so foreign to our eyes that were used to nothing but an expanse of blue. The boat was still buzzing with activity as students completed classes and watches. Every student was itching to go out and explore this new and beautiful city, but first, duty called. We spent a few hours deep cleaning the entire ship to make it sparkle and shine, scrubbing every surface. The more we worked, the more eager we were to step off the gangway and into the city lying just beyond our reach. Valencia was calling to us, and we couldn’t wait to answer.
Once the boat was pristine, and shore leave was granted, many people’s first priority was to find some traditional paella. Valencia is the home of this mouth-wateringly delicious meal, and they are rightfully proud of it. Traditionally a seafood dish, it is also often made with chicken and rabbit. My group and I ate both, and we left nothing to waste! Every bite was cherished dearly and we kept eating even after our stomachs were bursting. Finding out about the culture of each new port is my favourite part of travelling, and when eating a wonderful signature dish is a part of this, the experience stands out in my mind. It made me feel grateful to be in such a wonderful place with wonderful people- I learned to be appreciative of each and every experience, because they, like the paella, won’t last forever!
The paella dishes presented to us, freshly cooked and ready to eat. We finished every morsel, plus appetizers of delicious gooey potatoes. Photo credits to Julia
We were already loving Valencia; the locals were friendly and welcoming. Their beautiful city has not yet been completely overrun with tourists as in Barcelona and Mallorca , and it shows through in their abundant smiles and great levels of patience towards the multitude of students occupying their home. Colourful mosaic structures are scattered throughout the streets, alongside elaborate churches reaching up to the pristine blue of the sky. The architecture is a wonderful marriage of old and new, basic and spectacular. It is an indicator of a true modern city- keeping the history of the city alive while embracing the future. We got back to the boat late that night, right before curfew, exhausted but perfectly content and looking forward to our next few days in port.
The dramatic arches and angles of the City of Arts and Sciences are reflected dramatically in the pools of water sparkling in the sun in front of the buildings. Photo credits to Julia
The next morning, we all dressed up in our red Class Afloat tees and took off towards the City of Arts and Sciences for our port program. We stared in awe at the spectacle before us as we approached the property: incredible modernist architecture contrasting the historic city, situated next to a lush green park stretching throughout a huge chunk of the city. We explored the museum first, wandering through fascinating exhibits on everything from Mars to genetics. There was an exhibit about the Mediterranean, which talked about how to preserve the ocean that we are sailing in. Halfway through the day we walked over to the aquarium, L’Océanographic, to see a vast amount of aquatic animals from around the world.
I went to see the dolphin show with my group, and although it was entertaining, it made us feel bittersweet. The trainers were fun to watch, as they clearly were very passionate about the animals they were working with, and would wish for nothing more but to be with them. The problem, however, was that we have seen so many dolphins playing and jumping in the wild that it makes it harder to see them in captivity. I have learned that the more I travel and the more animals I see in the wild, the more I want to only see them in those natural environments. The port program in Valencia was something different than those in other ports, and it was a fun way to get to know the city.
All in all, Valencia was a unique city with a vibrant personality, whether it is a delicious meal coming straight from the heart of the culture, or breathtaking architecture that will define the city’s landscape for generations to come as a modern city still celebrating its history. Even though we had 3 full days in Valencia, we all felt we could’ve spent much more time exploring this city’s beauty.
Written by: Class Afloat student, Leah C.