It was the end of our northern European part of the trip as we headed out to the warm Mediterranean city of Barcelona from Amsterdam. We had an early morning flight and by 0900 hrs we were in hot and sultry Barcelona. From here we were to reach Valencia, which is 300 km away. First the idea was to hire a car and drive along the coast of Spain, but as we came to know, in Spain it is mandatory to have an int'l driving license in addition to your home license which none of us had and this was going to cost us dearly not just monetarily but also in every other way. The next day was the Tomatina festival and the whole world was wanting to go to Valencia which meant all modes of transport were already booked. We wasted 6 precious hours at Barcelona train station to get a train ticket to Valencia. As the train left Barcelona for Valencia we were treated to some beautiful coastal views of Spain for the next one hour. Later the landscape was completely arid with cactus and date plants, so much so that it felt we were traveling in a deserted land like the middle East.
We reached Valencia by 1900 hrs. Here we decided to hire a taxi as directions werent clear and there is a huge language problem in whole of Spain, more than anywhere else we had been. But as we were 5 of us bhaiyya decided to walk and come since that would give him an opportunity to see the city as well. Raj also decided to come along with bhaiyya walking so it Swati, Sid and me taking the taxi to our first rented apartment of the trip. At the apartment we were greeted by our lovely host Monica and her partner. They came across as a very warm, friendly and helpful couple. It was 2000 hrs by the time we settled in. With one more hour to go before the sunset we decided to check out the beach. Leaving bhaiyya and raj a Hindi written note on the door we made our way to the beach which was 3 min walking. I was blown over by Valencia's beach. It was my ideal beach, just as they show in TV serial's like bay watch or Beverly hills. Our small by lane led to a driveway, parallel to which were cycle tracks, parallel to which were palm tree plantations, parallel to which was the promenade, parallel to which was the beach with fine sands and blue waters which had good surf. Dotted along the beach on the promenade were innumerable bars and cafes. The beach was active with swimmers, joggers, skaters, youngsters playing football and oldies taking a leisurely stroll or at the bar. There were public toilets, showers, beach beds and umbrellas all for free. Swati, Sid and me spent an hour there till sun set which wasn't in the sea as the sea was east facing and then moved to a cafe for some beer and food. By 2130 hrs we decided to return home to check on bhaiyya and raj.
We reached home to find the written note undisturbed. Few minutes later arrived bhaiyya and raj after 2.5 hrs of walking marathon. Both groups went on to convince the other of what they had missed by not being with them. Bhaiyya and raj had got grocery along the way which took care of their dinner as we cooked some rice. Rishu our 6th and youngest companion was to arrive tonight from Germany with her flight landing at 2200 hrs. Rishu had assured me she would reach the apartment herself as she had downloaded all the info and maps. The German taste for discipline and order seemed to have rubbed onto her as she taking only public transport arrived with precision a little past 2300 hrs to the apartment which wasn't in a much popular area of the city. I was glad however she hadn't yet taken to the German formality and mixed with us as soon as she arrived. Rishu infused a new life in our group with her Punjabi-Delhi manner, especially when it came to picking on the Germans. Oh scheiße!