Monday, September 29, 2008

Viviendo en Valencia (Living in Valencia)

Now that you have enjoyed seeing our apartment in Valencia, we thought we would take you through a typical day in our lives here.

8:30 a.m. -- We like to get up early and get started on our day. Because we have a 5 liter hot water tank, we do not linger in the shower.

9:00 a.m. – We sit down to breakfast, which generally consists of Frosted Flakes (called “Frosties” in Spain), toast or other breakfast bread and jelly, and coffee.

10:00 a.m. – We creep down the dark stairway, clinging to the railing for dear life, and we step out onto the Calle de Juan de la Mena (the street we live on). Then we walk four blocks to the Metro station. Ken always figures out the correct line and stop for our destination before we leave. Today, we were headed to the train station, which is only one stop away.
This train station is very pretty--here are some photos:

10:15 a.m. – We arrive at the train station, the Estacion Nord. Ken consulted the schedule for the commuter trains that take you to the suburbs of Valencia city and we purchased tickets for the train to take us to the small town of Puig. According to Valencianos, this is pronounced “pooge.” Mother of Ken had no clue how to say the name of this place.

10:40 a.m. – We board the train with no idea what time the train is going to leave or even if we are on the correct train, although we were told by the station information goons that the train would leave from the first track. Apparently, Ken gives Spaniards the impression that she knows what is going on in this country because she was repeatedly asked if this was the train to Castellón.

10:41 a.m. – A red haired lady boards the train and asks Ken if it is the train to Castellón, to which she replied that she thought it was and gestured toward a Spanish couple sitting nearby who were able to confirm that it was the correct train.

10:45 a.m. – An old man boards the train, turned to Ken, and asks the same question. She repeated her response.

10:46 a.m. – Same thing.

10:49 a.m. – Again with the train questions.

10:55 a.m. – Yet another query, this time from a young woman.

11:01 a.m. – A tiny Spanish woman boards, asks if it is the train to Castellón and if she can sit next to Mother of Ken. In these instances, Mother of Ken pretends to be deaf and smiles benignly at everyone.

11:07 a.m. – More people with more questions about the train and its final destination. Why did we choose to sit next to the door? Note to self: sit in the back corner next time.

11:12 a.m. – Other people begin to answer the questions about the train to give Ken a break. A young woman boards the train and sits next to Ken and begins to eat rice cakes. At least these had no odor (see previous blog about the ham Cheetos and garbage sandwich).

11:22 a.m. – We finally pull away from the station, on our way to Puig (remember—“pooge”).

11:25 a.m. – We make our first stop and an old man sitting behind Mother of Ken begins to cough violently.

11:27 a.m. – Still coughing. Ken and Mother of Ken make eye contact. Big mistake. For three weeks, we have been a magnet for people with respiratory problems manifested in horrible, hacking coughs. Ken and Mother of Ken begin shaking with silent laughter. The tiny woman next to Mother of Ken gazes back and forth between them trying to figure out what is going on. Mother of Ken chooses this moment to make a cross with her fingers (think warding off vampires style), which the tiny woman sees. A look of naked fear and consternation crosses her face.

11:30 a.m. – Second stop. Still coughing.

11:40 a.m. – Fifth stop, el Puig (the “pooge”). The man was still coughing when we exited the train.
11:41 a.m. – We find ourselves walking along a deserted street with a field of trash on one side and some houses on the other, looking for a monastery. Spying a bell tower in the distance, we walk toward it.

11:55 a.m. – Mother of Ken notices that the monastery is at the top of a hill. She reminds Ken that after Toledo, she is not “doing anymore hills.”

11:59 a.m. – We climb a slight incline (not a hill) to the entrance, where we are able to join the last morning guided tour at noon. The only way to see the monastery is to take a guided tour and Ken hates these.

12:06 p.m. – We begin our guided tour along with a Spanish man and his adult son and two older Spanish women. The tour is in Spanish, so Ken translates for Mother of Ken along the way.

12:30 p.m. – As part of our guided tour, we are taken to the choir loft of the main church, where a wedding is in progress. The man and his son and Ken and Mother of Ken stay only briefly so as not to intrude on a private ceremony. However, the two Spanish women decide to stay and observe the wedding. Perhaps they wanted some cake?

12:35 p.m. – The tour is over and we are heading back to the train station for the ride back to Valencia. Along the way, we observed several young dads building a fence around a playground. In what seems to be a universal practice, several other men were looking on, offering suggestions but not really helping. This is the same phenomenon that occurs whenever a man opens the hood of a car.

1:10 p.m. -- We board the train to Valencia. No one asks a single question and no one coughs.

1:40 p.m. – We arrive in Valencia, Ken purchases tickets for our train to Madrid on Tuesday, and we head to the Metro.

2:00 p.m. – We arrive at the Corte Ingles (think Spanish Macy’s) and head to the restaurant on the sixth floor where there is also a phone that we plan to use to call home.

2:15 p.m. – We are seated at the restaurant and we perused the menu, which is quite expensive and we struggle to find something that looks good. We settle on carpacchio and paella valenciana.

2:25 p.m. – The carpacchio is served with some blob of pureed stuff on top. We still don’t know what it was, but we pushed it to one side and ate the rest.

2:40 p.m. – The paella is served, with great ceremony. The waiter brings a special small cart to your table from which he serves the paella by performing an elaborate set of scraping and scooping movements before placing the rice onto plates and presenting them to you. We thought we would try the local version of paella, although we were aware the eating it in the department store restaurant diminished some of the authenticity. Each region of Spain has its own twist on paella. Our paella valenciana consisted of what we believe to be chicken legs, pieces of pork that most people would throw away (knuckle, ear, etc.), and SNAILS. That’s right, gentle readers, we were served snails in our paella. Mother of Ken got six of them. And just so you don’t think we are pulling your leg, here is a picture of one of the snails that Ken smuggled out of the restaurant wrapped in a napkin. Her purse smells like mollusks now, but we did it for the sake of the blog, so we hope you appreciate it.

2:42 p.m. – We have eaten all parts of this dish that we intend to eat. The rice part was pretty good and the few pieces of chicken and pork that we ate were pretty good, but the presentation left a lot to be desired. In a word: unappetizing.

2:50 p.m. – We begin to attempt to get our check so that we can be on time for our three o’clock phone call to Kansas.

3:00 p.m. – Still trying…

3:05 p.m. – Still trying…

3:10 p.m. – The restaurant manager comes over to ask if we would like to be served more paella or look at the dessert menu. We ask him for the check.

3:12 p.m. – While Ken is in the ladies’ room, Mother of Ken sits innocently at the table. The restaurant manager comes to clear the table and in his haste, he knocks over Mother of Ken’s water glass and the empty water bottle, causing quite a ruckus. Then he begins jabbering wildly in Spanish, pointing at the water on the floor, which Mother of Ken interprets as a caution not to slip and fall. He leaves, but quickly returns with some paper towels. While he is cleaning up the water, one of the waiters comes by and makes a snide remark, or at least that’s what Mother of Ken thinks he did.

3:15 p.m. – We finally pay for our lunch, which cost far more than it was worth. Thankfully, the phone we planned to use was right outside the door, so we hurried to make our phone call.

4:00 p.m. – We complete our phone call to Father and Brother of Ken and make our way to the grocery store in the basement of the store. This is called a “supermercado.” We enjoy browsing the aisles to discover the gastronomic delights of Spain (all this while trying not to gag at the stench emanating from the fish counter). On this trip, we took pictures of some of the items that we thought you’d like to see.

Here are Bimbo brand tortillas:

And shrink wrapped corn on the cob:

We also took a picture of something called “Sea Salad,” which is dried sea vegetation. The picture didn’t turn out very well, but here it is anyway:

4:45 p.m. – We get back on the Metro with our grocery bags. This is significant because no one in Spain goes anywhere without some kind of plastic bag of something. We are not kidding. So, merely by carrying a grocery bag from the Corte Inglés, Ken was instantly transformed into a native Valenciana and at least four people asked her questions at the Metro station.

5:00 p.m. – We return to our apartment, put our groceries away, and have a snack because we are starving after the disgusting lunch.

5:15 p.m. -- We relax by watching the first season of CSI until dinner time.

8:00 p.m. – Mother of Ken slaves away making dinner while Ken takes a shower because we don’t have enough hot water for both of us to take one in the morning. After our lunch today, we are reminded how grateful we are to have an apartment where we can cook for ourselves. Tonight, for example, we had chicken cutlets, salad, rice and potatoes, and bread. Among other things, we have also made an entire roast beef dinner here, complete with shepherd’s pie made from leftovers.

12:00 a.m. – Put on new gold and silver lamé dresses and head out for a night on the town.

1 comment:

Leah said...

No pictures of you two in your lame' dresses?