There was a request for photos from our trip to Spain, and well, twist my arm!
Most of our trip was spent in Valencia - the Tancat de la Pipa to be exact. That’s where we volunteered, working to restore Lake Albufera and it’s surrounding areas. Our group was specifically working to clean up the lagoons, which supply lake with clean water.
Every day, we traveled down the bumpy dirt road to our project site. Each day we received a different assignment which brought us all around the lagoons. We moved plants, weeded, monitored water levels and waded in to plant aquatic grasses, and it felt great to be making a difference. There are only three full time staffers working this large area, and without volunteers, they simply wouldn’t be able to get it all done.
We weren’t alone. We met volunteers from California, and also local college students getting hands on experience. We traded stories about our cultures while we worked, learned new words and developed friendships. If we had traveled from place to place on a tour bus, we never would have made these genuine connections. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. We got to make an ecological difference while enjoying the sunshine and making friends.
While we were there, Valencia was celebrating Las Fallas. This festival, dedicated to St. Joseph, is several days long. While I had read about this in advance, I truly had no idea how BIG it was. Our volunteer hosts going out of town for the long weekend should have thrown up some red flags, but we had no idea.
Las Fallas is not just a four day festival like I had read - but a month long one. We arrived the week before the festival officially began and were greeted with daily fireworks in the streets. We saw hundreds of ninots (large sculptures) get assembled. And as the festival drew near, we were treated to concerts outside of our window from 12-4am. And on the last day, they burn down all the sculptures!
Despite the noise and festival crowds, I always felt safe. We walked or took the subway around the historic city. We saw mile-long parades of people in traditional dress, carrying flowers to a create a several story tall living monument. (Think Rose Bowl Parade.) We saw the holy grail, the beach, and the largest aquarium in Europe. In Valencia, we were both travelers and volunteers.
Leaving Valencia, we spent a weekend in Barcelona before coming home. Here, we did a 180 and became tourists, taking the open top bus to see all the city highlights. We took a day trip to Montserrat in the mountains and finished with a guided tour of La Sagrada Familia. If you aren’t familiar with Gaudi’s famous structure, go Google it right now. Seriously. I have been in the Vatican, and I would say this church is far more stunning.
We certainly enjoyed our time in Spain and the Tancat de la Pipa! If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about volunteering abroad, I highly recommend you check out Goat Volunteers. They have over 60 projects to choose from in 14 countries. And, if you mention my name when you apply, you can save $25!
So, if you have been to Spain, what was your favorite part? And if not, where should we go next!?
Talk to you soon,