So I have to tell you about my new favourite place. Now, to be fair, I have limited experience with ‘proper’ European cities, so I could be blowing this way out of proportion. But I love Valencia (Spain).
After the race in Bahrain, I flew straight to Barcelona (through Istanbul) for a two day GP3 test. Once again, I wasn’t actually in Barcelona, but in a small town (different one to last time) north east of the city more or less. The city wasn’t anything special, but the hotel was nice, had a great gym and decent pool area. I spent a little time trying to get rid of my at track tan…
The test went fine, unremarkable two days. From there, we road tripped (Playlist: Born to Run, Painkillers, Integrity Blues, Get Hurt, Yourself or Someone Like You, Third Eye Blind, 90’s music) to Valencia, which included essentially the weekend off, before testing Monday – Wednesday of this week. And what a great place to have a few days off.
I stayed right at the south edge of Old Town, which, as the name suggests, is the older, more traditional part. I checked into my room, looked out the window, and immediately noticed a rather large stadium a few doors down. My initial thought/hope (showing my bias) was that it was a baseball stadium, and I hoped I could catch a game. Upon further research, it was rather more Spanish then that. Turns out it was an old (though I believe still in use) bull fighting arena. Now that is certainly not an activity that I condone, however it did seem properly authentic for a visit to Spain. I went for a wander, past the stadium, up the west side of Old Town, headed for what appeared to be a castle on my map. It wasn’t a castle, but was the old Western gate to the city, back when it would have been surrounded by a wall. The twin towers (not LOTR) that stood on either side of the gate were still there, and it struck me as being a very interesting site. I want to use the word cool, but it doesn’t quite seem right somehow. I could imagine riding up to that gate, banging on the doors, hoping someone would let me in.
Saturday I explored more of Old Town, found a bunch of proper European squares, surrounded by cafes and bars, and full of people. And of course there were churches and cathedrals everywhere it seemed, just a great place to wander aimlessly. Then I headed to the aquarium, I had been told that it and the neighbouring science museum were worth a visit, and I was not disappointed. To get there from Old Town, there’s an old river bed that’s now dry that has been turned into a park full of paths and trails. And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of it, I stepped into a scene from ‘Star Wars’. I use the air quotes since it wasn’t a scene from a good or real Star Wars, it rather seemed to be Naboo or something from that one that doesn’t need to be named. But it was spectacular in real life, and there weren’t any irritating characters to bother me. There were two museum buildings, an underground Imax and the aquarium, and they were stunning. To be honest, they rather overshadowed that actual aquarium (which I was excited for, but didn’t live up to the other aquariums I have been to).
On Sunday, a group of us rented bicycles and rode to the beach. Valencia is a somewhat bicycle friendly city, and we succeeded in not getting run over. It had been a long time since I had ridden a bike, and it was rather enjoyable. We rode through the aforementioned dry river bed park, and found the old Valencia Street Circuit at the end. Formula 1 raced here about 5 times in the late oughts (is that how you spell that? I mean 2005-2009 or so). And the track is pretty much all still there. A lot of it is closed to car traffic, but we were able to peacefully ride a good chunk of it on our bikes. The garages are still there too, and they back right onto the marina. It was rather a spectacular site to behold, and I certainly wish that we were racing there this year.
Then we got to the beach, which was massive and sandy and busy and generally great. There was a row of small restaurants right along the beach, and we found one that could seat us (it was really busy on a beauty Saturday, as it should be). There was some kind of kite festival going on, which was interesting I guess, if you’re into that kind of thing (Jeff Craig).
And that was the end of the ‘off weekend’. Next time I run away, you’ve got a pretty good idea where to look for me…
Monday morning we went to the track for setup day, tested Tuesday and Wednesday, and now I’m flying back to England. My mom flew to England yesterday, and we are heading to Ireland tomorrow for a few days of exploring. Anyone have any tips?