Sunday 3 March 2013

Las Fallas: Mascleta

Yesterday night I went to Plaza del Ayuntamiento to see the Mascleta. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that it was going to be loud but let me say.. WOW!! What I seen has exceeded all my expectations. I got there about one hour and a half before midnight, when the Mascleta was planned to start, and the town was already buzzing with people! Since this was my first Mascleta, I wanted to get a good view of everything so me and Anthea decided to sit down in front of the Ayuntamiento (city council). It was relatively close to everything so we were able to see and hear everything (my ears were not impressed with me!)

There is a Mascleta every day of the week until the 19th of March but this one was a special one called 'Mascleta de colores'. I would totally recommend going, satisfaction guaranteed! Pics and videos below.

P.S: the Mascleta is more of an audio show rather than a visual one, despite having a firework display so be prepared for it, your ears are going to feel like they are gonna pop out any minute.

The crowds

More crowds

The Fallas on the balcony of the Ayuntamiento (city council)

Thursday 28 February 2013

Las Fallas: Exposició del Ninot

If you ever want to come to Valencia, I would strongly recommend to do so during Las Fallas.
How should I put this? Las Fallas for Valencian people is sacred, something like St. Patrick's day for Irish or 4th of July for Americans. They take this holiday more seriously than Christmas (!!!) or, maybe, Easter (I'll confirm that in 2 month's time)

In a few words, Las Fallas is: fireworks, firecrackers, cartoonish looking figurines, more fireworks..(Must I say: this is NOT the actual meaning of Las Fallas, it's only things I have heard from people who have been there already, which I have yet to see soon)

Before the festival (15th -19th March) there is an exhibition where you can vote for your favourite figurine, this way the one with the most votes won't be burned on the last day. It's only 2euro to get in and it's definitely worth it! There are about 150 of them exposed (out of the total of around 700!!!) and each one of them represents a certain situation from the present or the not-so-long-ago past.

If you want to find out more, the official website is:

Some of the figurines
Emigration figurine

Health system in Spain
Record-breaking Gangnam style
"we'll call you.. never"

Saturday 16 February 2013


Our trip to Peñíscola was super spontaneous and not planned at all but it turned out pretty good. In fact, I found that anything not planned turns out to be a lot better than when we spend hours and hours of planning.

We left our place in Valencia at about 11:00 and 1h30min later we arrived at our destination. The way there is not exactly great, mostly fields and empty space, very different than the landscape full of small Spanish towns in the Alicante direction.

View of the castle from the car
The town itself has not a lot to offer (from the touristic point of view) except for a castle and the beach. Having said that though, it is probably one of the pretiest town I have ever been to. We parked our car beside the beach and the view we got of the castle on the coast was amazing (the picture doesn't show it's true beauty). It is a lot bigger than what I had initially expected and it is full of hotels, making it perfect for people who are looking to just relax in a nice, quiet enough place for a week or two. The way up to the castle has a particular charm to it. It mostly consists of small, very narrow streets and colored houses, typical of the Spanish rural scene. There are also a lot of cafés, tapas bars, vinotecas where you can eat and drink about anything you want, the only thing that somewhat surprised me was that the prices were the same as in Valencia and,sometimes, even higher.
(Note: According to Philippe and Anthea they have a pretty darn good paella and I quote "This is the best paella I ever had!". Can't confirm but I'm sure it's true)

Verdict: Definitely go visit Peñíscola, it might not be a typical tourist place but it has it's charm.

P.S.: We had live music in the car on the way home! ..(Good one too! Me falling asleep had nothing to do with the music)

Sign to the castle.

View of the beach from the castle's gardens

Peñíscola is full of these narrow streets

Panoramic view from the castle. Beach on both sides

Sunday 27 January 2013

Exam time in Universidad de Valencia

This post is coming a bit late, I was pretty busy in the past days but here it is...

The thought of exams here in Valencia did not really cross my mind until January hit. During the year you are busy with other stuff common for Erasmus students like partying and making the most of your year abroad (although there is a fair share of studying involved too, especially if you have subjects where the lecturer asks for work every single week or where you don't have an exam, only continuous assesment).

The whole process is a lot more relaxed here (like everything else for that matter!!). In fact, when I presented myself for my first exam I felt like I was going more to a normal, everyday test and not to a end-of-semester exam. For Irish people, and especially those studying at UCD, that might seem a bit odd because the system at home is a lot stricter and complicated. While at home you cannot enter the exam hall if you do not show your student card, here in Valencia you go in the classroom and nobody even looks at you. Nobody checks your ID or student card (which does not have a picture on it so therefore anybody can show up to your exam and do it for you). Your full name is written across all the exam, compared to anonimous marking in UCD, and there isn't really anything formal to it. What shocked me the most was probably that we did not know how long the exam was going to be until we got in the class.(Which by the way, was 45minutes!!). At home, exams are 2h sharp and nobody leaves before the first hour but here anybody can leave whenever they want. Oh, and there aren't any past exams papers from which you can get an idea of how the exam is going to be like. You are going in the exam without knowing what to expect!

I remember that before coming here, the people at home who just returned from Valencia were saying that the marking in not as tough (I tend to agree to that) and that exams are easier (sort of) and that teachers tend to give you preferential treatment (I dont see that at all) for being an Erasmus student. In my opinion, that is not exactly true but I guess that also depends on where you are and what subjects you are doing. I feel like we are treated exactly like the Spanish students which can be both good and bad, depending how you look at it. I am curious how the next exam is going to be like .. I'll keep you posted amigos! 

Wednesday 2 January 2013

My Erasmus so far..

The first month of Erasmus is gone so here go my impressions of Spain so far... 

La Malvarosa beach, Valencia
When I first got here it felt like a holiday for the first few days.. hot weather, summer clothes and not to mention hot people! Stayed in a hotel for 3 nights before we moved in our apartment on Avenida Doctor Peset Aleixandre and let me tell you, finding an apartment that we liked proved to be much harder than we thought. The first 2 days we looked at some horrible ones we found on but then on the last day we visited this apartment and it looked amazing. We got it straight away because our experience until then wasn't so positive and we did not want to keep looking. From then on all hell broke loose. Shopping, trips to the police, internet provider, more police trips (for our NIE number, not anything else..yet), sorting out the bills, selecting modules for college and so on. Without exageration it was probably one of the hardest month of my life. 

While I was still in Ireland I was excited about leaving home and coming over to Valencia but one month in and I was ready to give up.. My flatmate was not doing very well either and I ever dare say she was much much worse. Skype'ing with family and friends was hard too ... Remember one night I was on Skype with my best friend for the first time and mid conversation I started crying so bad I could not breathe. I couldn't say exactly why I was crying but I was. All I wanted to do then was be home with the people I care about. 

I know it all sounds like I am an ungrateful b***h and trust me, I had days when I said the same thing. I was in a different country (a very nice country for that matter) and I was feeling miserable. Some people would give anything to go on Erasmus and here I was complaining and feeling sorry for myself. 

Our waiter gave us a free Spanish 


Then things started to change. College started, made new friends, started to know the city and the way their culture works (well, at least I was trying) and things got much better. I also learned that I wasn't the only one who felt like that, it was all part of the culture-shock of a new country. I even started reading some articles about culture shock and how it works and I was surprised by the things that I read; it seemed like the author was talking about me personally. It was relieving to hear that other people went through the same stages as I did. 
Now Valencia feels like home and to be honest, I don't even want to think of the moment when I will have to leave

everything behind: the good weather (pardon me, I meant AAAH-mazing weather), the friends I made, the beach, the tapas ... 

I guess the morale of my experience so far is that no matter how bad things seem at the beginning, they will always get better. All we need is a bit of faith and a bottle of positive attitude (maybe a bottle of something else too :D ) 

Ciudad de las artes y ciencias at night
Adios amigos

Friday 30 November 2012

Challenges ...

Everybody always talks about how amazing Erasmus is ( which it is!!!!) but I rarely hear people talking about the challenges they faced while trying to integrate themselves into a new culture. Our module coordinator in Ireland made us write a piece on what we found hard coming over to Valencia, focusing especially on one event, and this is what I wrote:

The thought of Erasmus year in Spain was really exciting and appealing when I chose my course in UCD. The closer it got to leaving, the more excited and nervous I got. While I knew it might be a bit difficult coming over, I have never estimated just how difficult.

The first two weeks in Valencia were probably the hardest two weeks of my life. Trying to solve everything in time, organise the apartment, college and all the other things proved to be much harder and energy consuming than me or any of my friends expected. We managed to sort the apartment in time but the hardest part was probably getting internet, or more exactly, open a bank account from which we could pay for the internet. It took us nearly two weeks to get everything sorted out, with trips to the bank, police, internet provider, police again and so on. Eventually we managed to open the bank account but the whole process took, in my opinion, much longer than it was necessary. This came as a shock for me and Anthea, who I live with, because things are not the same in Ireland. In my experience, in Ireland things are solved much faster and in a more effective and organised manner. This was definitely one of the first cultural shock I experienced in Valencia, and as I was going to hear later on from a Spanish friend, Spanish people do not like to work much. For me, it was a shock to see things unfold the way they did but more so than that, I was outraged and even angry. This was something that was supposed to be much easier to solve, at least in my opinion. If it weren’t for the very nice internet provider who gave us his bank account to pay for the internet, we would not have internet for the first two weeks. To be honest, I was not angry due to the lack of internet but because it took so long to solve an easy problem. They seem to make it more complicated than it needs to be and being used to the organised and relatively fast system in Ireland did not help. Spanish people are used to this and for them it is not too important that it takes so long but for someone who comes from outside and it used to a different pace, it can be very time and energy consuming. I believe this is down to the culture of each country; Spain is used to a much more relaxed atmosphere and that shows in the way they organise things while Ireland is more effective therefore it does things faster and more organised. 

Personally, I learned a lot from this experience. Firstly, I learnt that before we do something or try and solve some problems, we need to inform ourselves much better and make sure we have enough information to proceed. I believe that the more informed and prepared one is, the faster they can solve problems. Secondly, I also learned that planning things in advance would also speed up the process. From now on, I will make sure that I do things in advance even if I need them for later on. However, most important lesson I learnt was about me. I considered myself a very relaxed and open minded person, who adapts easily, no matter the culture. This experience however showed me that that is not exactly the case. While this opinion about myself is still partially true, it is not as radical as before. When this whole situation was going on I noticed that I am not as flexible as I thought I was because I was not able to look past the frustration created. The only thing I could think about was that it took so long to open a bank account, but I never thought that this is the Spanish system, that I am no longer in Ireland and that things are not done the same as at home. In my head, I was still in Dublin and I expected things to be done exactly the same.

In a way I am really glad that things worked out the way they did because it made me realise that I need to change. Maybe not me as a person, but the way I approach things and the way I react to them. Since the whole situation I tried to let go and be more relaxed, and when something happened here I was able to realise that I am in a different country, in a different culture, despite the two not being extremely different. Yes, the system I was used to seemed much more appealing to me and sometimes I even miss it, but I learnt to love the differences and accept them the way they are and make the most out of what is offered to me at this particular time. I learned that I need to live in the future, not the past.

Sunday 25 November 2012


During the first semester at UV I did not manage to travel as much as I would have wanted to but hopefully the second semester will be different in that area. I did, however, manage to go on a day trip to a little city called Xátiva, about 1h and 20min distance from Valencia.

Road of Xátiva
Xátiva is a small city, with about 28,000 inhabitants but it's a lovely little place. It shows you the true Spanish landscapes with the coloured houses, narrow cobbled roads and the famous orange trees (They are everywhere!). The main atraction of the city is the castle on top of the hill, the highest point in Xátiva. To be honest there is a looong way up if you plan on walking (thanks God we had a car), and it gets even longer in the summer because of the heat. The first time we went (there was a second time too, that's how much we liked it!) the heat was pretty much unbearable so we did not get to enjoy it fully, that is why I would advise going sometime between October and beginning of May.

The way to the castle
View from the castle 

Panoramic view

Sunday 9 September 2012

...and I'm off

So, after nearly two weeks of cleaning up closets and making lists of to do/to take I finally left. I would have liked to say that it all went uneventful but what can I say, I was flighing with Ryanair. Went past check-in with no problems but surprise, surprise, when I got to the boarding gate my hand luggage did "not fit smothly into the luggage box" which made me short of 50euro. 50 damn euro. Yes yes, Ryanair the company we love to hate!

Despite my plane adventures, the flight went as planned and there I was; Valencia.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Valencia, here I come!

It's officiaaaaaaal!

Me is going to Valencia, to Valencia...  *insert happy dance here*
It isn't that much of a surprise but nothing was 100% sure until now so I was still nervous.  Here is the list:


Now, believe it or not, the worst part is coming! Send application form to Valencia, send details, photos and so on .. plus I've heard that the registration for subjects is very fun (notice the sarcasm...) Since my major is business, I need to take 50% of my modules based on this but the other 50% can be from any other part of the university... I'm still deciding if that is a good thing or not.

Next Erasmus meeting is on the 27th of March and we are gonna get more information about the subjects we are allowed to study in Valencia and the one we have to do in Ireland (yes, we have to do an online module for UCD as well, which will probably only be about our year abroad and how we are integrating in the culture: "Dear lecturer, my Erasmus year abroad is much more difficult that I expected... I can't keep up anymore with the partying, my 8 hours a week, the 5-day weekends and so on ... " Hahaha!)

Now that this step is done, on to the next one: finding a second job! :D 
Anyway, no more boring stuff ... all I wanted to do was share the big, happy news!!

Adios amigos :)

Saturday 4 February 2012

#woop woop

It's official.. kind of..

I'm going to Valenciiiiaaa and I'm really really, oh did I mention, reaaaally happy? 

Me and my classmates met up during our one hour break on thursday and decided everything out. To be honest it all started well and people seemed to be getting where they wanted to go but eventually we got to a dead end. From then on the hell broke loose. We spent about one hour trying to change places, trying to convince people to go to Madrid, trying different combinations but nobody seemed to give up their place which, in all fairness, is understandable... I did the same. Eventually, the only guy that had Valencia as his first choice decided to give it up, this way all the people who really wanted to go there got their place.

I must say I was very impressed with him because if he wouldn't have changed his mind I really don't know where we would be right now. I'm pretty sure he wasn't too happy having to change and go to Madrid but ...

Now, 9/11 guys are going to Madrid and all the girls are spread out between Salamanca, Valencia and Granada. I bet there's going to be some crazy time for them!

After class me and my favourite German went to the apartment to look for some places to rent in Valencia, just to have some idea of the prices, location and so on ... I must say I wasn't excited at all. Interesting huh? I know!! .. Considering I was kinda desperate (ok ok, "kinda" is an understatement) to end up in Valencia one would think I'd be more happy... Well, that wasn't the case.. I have to agree with someone who said I stress too much and I worry too much about the back of my head I was still thinking about the people who had to change their mind just so others could get what they wanted. But do not fear my friends, excitment will sink in starting 17th February, and it will be so bad that Anna and Laura will probably have to tape my month to make me shut up about it :) (and no, I'm not giving you any ideas girls, thankyouverymuch)

PS: I said kind of official because until the 17th February we aren't going to know for sure which city we're going to end up in but unless someone changes their mind or doesn't do how we agreed, we should all be fine. And I really hope that's not the case because then we will all suffer and it wouldn't be fair.

Adios amigos!(until the 17th most probably)