Bright and early on the morning of Saturday, 9th September, we joined our teachers at the airport and set off on our two hour flight to Valencia, an east-coast city in sunny Spain. Since we were there as part of a language programme, we were warmly greeted by our school administrator and host families in a small coffee shop. We settled into our new rooms, which would be our homes for the next week and then made our way to Plaza del Ayuntemiento to have lunch with the rest of the group. We had lunch at a busy tapas restaurant and so we began to immerse ourselves in the Spanish culture. While in the city centre, we visited the Estacion del Nord train station and had a quick look around the shops there, including one of the Spanish franchise shops, Ale-Hop. We were given a photo challenge in order to familiarise ourselves with the area; we managed to do all the things listed and as a reward, we had ice creams from the best gelateria in Valencia. Our first day was tiring but we looked forward to the rest of the week as we made our way back to our host families.
The following day, we went to the Oceanographico, the largest aquarium in Europe. The place itself was huge and there was so much to do and see. We started off by looking at jellyfish; they were in a dark room and were fluorescent and mesmerising to watch. After that, we went to different parts of the aquarium; we went into a tunnel in which we could see sharks and other types of fish at 180 degrees and we even watched a dolphin show and it was incredible to see the strong bond that each trainer had with their own dolphin. We spent a number of hours there and then we walked a short way to one of Valencia’s many shopping centres where we did some shopping. After this, we made our way back to our host families and had dinner with them and practised our Spanish. We were all eager to start lessons the following day.
On Monday, we went to the Mercado Central, a huge food market where one can buy different types of traditional food and drink; the place was bursting with colour and a variety of appetising smells and there was even fresh seafood on display. After this, we went to La Lonja, of the most famous gothic civil monuments in Europe where merchants used to trade silk. We then visited the Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe; the museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the evolution of life as well as general concepts science and technology in various educational ways that were interactive and enjoyable.
On Tuesday morning we met up in the city centre and made our way to another of the shopping centres in Valencia; we were encouraged to look around the shops and ask questions in Spanish. At noon, we met up again at a tapas restaurant and had lunch together and after this, we went to school where we revised some vocabulary and how to conjugate irregular verbs. After school, we went back to our host families and prepared for the evening event. We went out for a traditional Spanish dinner where we ordered two massive dishes of delicious Valencian and seafood paella. After this satisfying meal, we went to a flamenco show which consisted of four people: two dancers, a guitarist and a singer. A male and female dancer in traditional flamenco costumes danced while the others sang and played the guitar. The singers and dancers performed passionately and it was a great experience. We arrived home at midnight and then rested for the packed day ahead of us.
We started off the next day at the Gulliver park, which involved lots of physical activity but we were up for more adventure and so we decided to rent bikes and ride around the park. Some of us decided to rent a small cart which we pedalled along but we eventually toppled over and found that rather funny. After the afternoon lesson was over, some students opted to go to one of the beautiful beaches in Valencia; we had an ice cream there and even tried the traditional almond drink, horchata. After this, we made our way back to our host families for dinner.
The following day we explored the city centre again and later met up for lunch at another tapas restaurant where we ordered lots of different tapas. After this, we went to our Spanish lesson and after met up with our teachers in the city centre to get a bus to Albufera, a large natural fresh-water lake. The bus ride was about half an hour long and when we got there we were amazed at how big the lake was. We took a boat ride along and saw lots of indigenous wild life and even fed some of the ducks as the sun started to set. We then got the bus back to the city centre and treated ourselves to churros, a traditional Spanish sweet pastry which we dipped in chocolate. It was a sweet ending to a great day.
On our last full day in Valencia, we spent the morning packing and later discovering less touristic areas of the city centre and we were also encouraged to buy some souvenirs for our families and friends. After this, we had a Spanish bocadillo with Spanish sausages at a small café and then made our way to our teachers’ flat for some team-building activities. We played some games and even met some native Spanish speakers which gave us the opportunity to practise our Spanish even more. We had pizza for dinner and then left for an early night as we had to wake up early the following morning for our return flight to Malta.
Our experience in Spain was one which we will not forget; it was full of culture, good food, amazing views and wonderful friends.
By San Andrea Students