We love to open ourselves up to serendipity and stumble upon great things that we never expected. The coastal city of Valencia Spain was added to our itinerary at the last minute - for very practical reasons - and it turned out to be one of our favorite places in all of Europe. In this and the next few posts we'll share what makes this an absolute must-see city, especially in March.
How did we end up in Valencia? Trying to get prescription medicines in Europe. For the most part, you can get drugs over the counter by just showing your pill bottle at a pharmacy - easily spotted with its green cross neon sign. Prices are very reasonable and no additional prescription is necessary. But if you are looking for a brand-name drug rather than a generic, you may be out of luck.
Nancy's 90-day supply of an essential daily pill was scheduled to run out before anyone was planning to visit us from the USA. Her doctor's advice was to never switch to the generic without a battery of tests. We arranged for our daughter Laura to ship a 90-day refill to a Mailboxes.etc office while we were in Siracusa for the full month of January, but the package got hung-up in Rome for weeks. A call to DHL explained why - we had to submit a "personal use attestation" form and arrange for steep import fees to be paid to the Health Ministry. At one point they even requested that we get a new prescription from an Italian doctor - which we somehow managed to talk our way out of. We finally got things resolved, but by that point we were headed for Spain before the package would arrive.
Nancy - the arranger - came up with Plan B...who might we know in Spain??
Luckily our good friend Roger connected us with someone who could receive the package for us at the Berklee College of Music campus in Valencia. We added the city to our itinerary and arranged for Mailboxes.etc to forward the package when it arrived. Because we couldn't be sure of the timing, we planned a full two weeks stay just in case. As luck would have it the package - originally shipped from Richmond VA on January 21 - arrived on February 26, the very day we arrived. A complicated and expensive lesson learned, but we were now set for another 90 days. We had a good laugh - Laura had packed a box of Cheez-Its and other treats with the medicine.
Our farewell from Madrid began with a Metro ride during the morning commute - a few dozen dozers, a reader or two, and plenty of smart-phone addicts tapping away. We got several offers of assistance with our bags when we encountered escalators and elevators both under repair - kindness is universal. After a light breakfast at the Atocha station café we boarded the high-speed Renfe AVE to Valencia - a pleasant 2 1/2 hour ride through the Spanish countryside. More kindness - a train employee dug out one of Nancy's bracelets that dropped into the "gap" and onto the track as we disembarked.
Our AirBnB Host Juan met us at "Ruzafa Penthouse". We were happy for the elevator that took us to the top floor apartment that was sunny and comfortable, though the stairs to the loft bedroom were steep enough to require coming down backward, and getting onto the terrace involved climbing over a half wall. We picked up some supplies at the nearby supermarket and headed off to our appointment to meet Maria, an Executive Director at the Berklee College Valencia Campus. On the way we stopped at Mar de Pan, a delightful bakery that had the tastiest roasted eggplant halves filled with ground meat and cheese.
Berklee is part of the magnificent "City of Arts & Sciences" - Valencia's most important modern tourist destination designed by Valencian Architect Santiago Calatraga. Maria gave us a tour of the campus that occupies two floors of a long and narrow building across a lagoon from the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia - an enormous opera house and performing arts theater. It looked oddly familiar - the Auditorium in Tenerife was designed by the same architect! We were surprised to hear a lot of English spoken in the halls - a large part of the student body are from the Boston campus on their semester abroad. The place was alive with typical Berklee enthusiasm and really well-equipped with music technology.
Nancy took advantage of the unseasonably warm evening and set up her "office" for a couple of coaching calls - a white tile bench by the lagoon - while Richard strolled around and took dozens of pictures of the amazing buildings and the vibrant activities around them. We were delighted to see that Chick Corea was scheduled to play at the Opera house and quickly snatched up a pair of tickets. We also made plans to catch a Berklee student concert that Maria told us about. A very full first day in Valencia.
Use the "Next Post >>" Button at the bottom of each post to step through our story chronologically.
Nancy McCabe &