I have spent the past month in Valencia, Spain, surviving on a healthy dose of banana pancakes, watermelon, and Maggie Rogers to get me through writing my dissertation. It has been a whirlwind month, beginning with arriving straight from Cape Town via Leeds to join Jess at 48 Carrer Peurto Rico in Russafa, a quirky neighbourhood full of cafes, restaurants, second-hand shops, and artists’ coworking spaces.

We had booked the two-bedroom apartment on Airbnb back in January. Jess and I were in the library at school when she turned her laptop screen towards me to show the photos of the unit. We agreed immediately it was the perfect spot to spend a summer writing. The dreamy decor and luxury of a month in Spain kept us motivated through many a rainy English day. To finally arrive felt like a dream come true. The day after I arrived, Jess’ best friend, Dominique, flew in from Ontario to join us for the week. We explored the city on foot and by bike, and even managed to get a beach day in!

One of the highlights of Valencia has been staying in a real apartment, with a fully equipped kitchen, a double bed, and a living room! Having spent six-plus months staying in dorms and hostels, this was a real treat! The break from dining hall meals was much-needed, and while there is no end to the amazing restaurants and coffee shops around Valencia, nothing beats home cooking. When we did crave a meal out, Bluebell Coffee was a favourite spot – their matcha pancakes were out-of-this-world delicious.

As glamourous as a month in Spain may seem, it has also been a time to hunker down and get to work. My trip to South Africa inspired me to take my dissertation in a new direction, and I immediately set to work rewriting my literature review. This required many more hours of research, but it has also been an incredibly rewarding experience.

To add some balance to this writing process, Jess and I began training for a half marathon. Three weeks into training and I am so happy to be back running. Valencia is a runner’s paradise, with the Palau de les Arts and running trails that weave through the surrounding park and various gardens. The Pont de les Flors is a particularly beautiful spot, and the ideal setting for a sunset jog.

On July 26, I celebrated one year since the Year of Yes began with my travelling to Iceland to trek the Laugavegur Trail. I am beyond proud and grateful of all that has transpired since. It has been a year of huge personal and professional growth, and I celebrated by making myself this lovely watermelon cake.

Jess headed back to Poland at the end of July, but as I was still waiting for my UK tier five visa to arrive, I extended my time in Spain and moved across the city to Xirivella, where I continued the write-run-repeat recipe. Following five days there, I booked into the University of Valencia’s dorms, which is right in the city centre. The accommodation is simple, but the location is ideal for my last few days here. As my time in Spain comes to an end, I was absolutely shocked to come across a little piece of home, right in the heart of Valencia! The Tim Horton’s sign beckoned me, and with a steeped tea, honey cruller, and chocolate ice capp in hand, I am continuing to power through my dissertation, with a short break to finally share an update here!

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