I have recently moved with my family from London to Valencia. Uprooting one husband, two teenagers and a dog from their comfort zone in central London has been quite a challenge.
As the weeks fly by we are falling in love with this beautiful city and its understated elegance.
From London to Valencia one thing hasn’t changed….my need to create. I am an artist working mostly in ink, oils and sometimes with fabric. Whatever the medium it is always with passion and a love of nostalgia. Valencia seems to have given me the much needed oxygen to breathe.
It is exciting to watch my children embrace their new home and the Mediterranean lifestyle. Growing up in such an intense, fast paced environment gave them confidence but unfortunately, stress too. To visibly see the ‘weight of the world’ lifted from their shoulders as they slow down long enough to appreciate being a kid (albeit big kids) is inspiring.
I’m an urban junkie and a bit of a beach bum, a contradiction in terms. Or is it? I am lucky enough to have lived in London, San Diego and New York amazing cities but not all have the best climate. So is it possible to be both, is Valencia a city of contradictions?
Architecturally, yes. The juxtaposition of the beautiful Modernisme style can sometimes wrestle with the obvious crudeness of the 1980’s builds, a product of a short lived economic boom.
I have often wondered whether it would be possible to gain the best of both worlds and what an achievement that would be. For the first time in my life I am feeling close.
As I unwind from the move my eyes begin to open and my mind clear from the medicinal effects of this city.
A jewel set delicately but strategically right at the eastern edge of Spain’s crown. About 4 hours south of Barcelona and 3 hours east of Madrid. Does it mind its position? Perhaps not but it does not like to be underestimated, prepare to be dazzled by its justification.
Having come from a dynamic city hell bent on being the centre of attention where nothing remains untouched, to then ‘happen’ across pockets that have not been disturbed; I find a beauty in this serenity and tradition.
It’s a small provincial city compared to Madrid and Barcelona but I do not feel it. I feel a deep sensitive soul with the heart of a warrior.
A small city with a big heart that no longer suffers fools gladly.
Is Valencia the best city on earth? That’s a personal assessment, like appreciating a piece of artwork. For me, who knows, perhaps its the right time in my life, the correct lens in my glasses. The fickleness of youth has passed leaving behind an understanding of who I am and an importance of being.
Some things are a product of Spanish culture but the Valencians give it their own understated style. A softness, a romance.
Being a visual, textural person Valencia has enhanced my knowledge of city living. Almost encouraging creativity. Rather than daring you to be inquisitive about life, it gently coaxes you. Enticing you to question your here and now.
Very rarely does anybody talk about the sound of a city and I don’t mean the local dj. I mean the organic sound of a city. Valencia has a quiet hum and strum, like the soft deep resonance from a double bass. No clashing symbols in this symphony.
If you want the historical facts try Wikipedia or buy a guide book, this is my angle..you’re looking through my lens.
The door is ajar. Its only been 6 months and quite rightly so, the door isn’t wide open yet. A ‘slow burn’ would be an appropriate term. There is a reassuring suspicion. Valencians are curious, relaxed enough to absorb and listen so long as you make the effort.
This means I don’t sit on my laurels waiting to be greeted, what’s the point in that. I make the effort. I felt so disheartened living in Notting Hill amongst Americans who moved into the ‘community’ just because they had seen the movie expecting everything and everyone to come to them….its a two way street….albeit on the other side of the road.
During periods of frustration, those solitary moments…I take off. Leave the flat and walk through this city feeling like J Lo in ‘that’ video
So…lets take a walk…..Lets talk about the usual suspects.
Valencia is home to the Arts and Science Centre designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, a visual feast created to house even more lyrical and visual delights. It was also the main hub for silk and textiles in the 15th Century and the home of Lladro, Joaquin Sorolla and some beautiful ceramics. Let us also not forget the impeccably engineered port with its remaining tributes to the 2007 and 2010 Americas Cup, genius. It would be criminal not to mention them but please buy a guide book or take a bus ride.
Like an army marching on a full stomach, I kick off the day with a coffee at my local. El Mediterraneo offers the best coffee for €1. A soul adrift in a foreign community I was given a connection by way of a good cup of coffee and a lady called Lily who has shown nothing but patience with my ‘Spanglish’ and somehow we communicate.
Next stop is Barrio Carmen, its Vintage shopping is a must. Thank heavens I haven’t had to take the London out of the girl. Situated in the old part of the town the area is a matrix of creativity, fold up your map and just let it be.
If you’ve had enough of sifting through Grandma’s wardrobe there’s always the safety of El Corte Ingles. A behemoth of a 1960’s block that bangs you on the head as you emerge from the metro at Colon. I find its a bit like that old comfort blanket, surplus to requirements but habit prevents me from disposing of it. Lets just say this place is always on call for any little practicalities….
Speaking of practicalities what about the kids. Well, what about them? Far more flexible than an adult they seem to be relishing the whole experience from entering a co-ed school for the first time where they are one of the few English kids in a British school full of Spanish kids to having two hours for lunch, enough time to make themselves sick on patatas bravas. Weird but a good weird, so they tell me. Although there are fast food restaurants, they seem to have taken a back seat to paella, a cost efficient dish for active teenagers. They still leave the broad beans.
It can’t always be tapas and paella so when I stumbled across Momiji, a Sushi restaurant in the Colon Market I had butterflies in my tummy – would it be any good? I’m a lifelong Sushi lover and have been very spoilt eating the best. Oh my, do these boys know their craft..wow! No further comment…just visit!
There is local produce in abundance, and I don’t just mean from the Central market. There are local greengrocers everywhere.
And so to lunch. The €10 menu del dia (menu of the day) is offered at most establishments during weekdays. Introduced by Franco to feed the hungry workers, it’s still going strong. I could recommend so many places that it really deserves its own blog…to be continued…..
Valencia’s main artery is the River Turia. Since the 1950’s the water has been redirected from the river bed and replaced with gardens and sports facilities. It is like entering a whole new dimension. Everything an outdoor urban sophisticate could desire from soft ball, athletics, rugby, extreme frisbee, a skate park, even cricket or just simply a shady jaunt through the heart of the city with the dog. A finely honed muscle, this major organ is floodlit to allow the day to stretch a lot further in the hot summer months.
On the subject of muscles lets not forget the beach. Miles and miles of clean sandy beach. No ‘pomp and circumstance’ just an earthy vibe. Old couples wearing their skin with pride with not a care in the world, happy in the knowledge that they’ve caught that wave, its a beautiful thing.…very Californian minus the Big Gulp…
Perhaps less of the beautiful is the Spanish tradition of bull fighting. Valencia’s Bull Ring is both elegant and eery. I do not agree with the barbaric nature of the sport but feel strongly that the tradition should remain so would like to suggest that the matador simply paintballs the bull. No bulls were damaged during the show. Performance art.
It’s time to take the Metro home, complete with air conditioning and classical music. I wonder how that would go down on the Central Line? Not sure this is my personal soundtrack but it tastes good.
We move slowly not just because of the heat, we are stop start like trying to walk a new puppy.
Even Gary Neville wants to return but maybe not as Valencia’s manager….
I could go on and on….but STOP…lets go to the beach…..
Thank you Valencia
I write because I love
Before we embarked on our vintage voyage I needed one essential item for the walk, a hat. Take note…survival kit for summer in Valencia begins with a sunhat and fan.
We popped into Sombrereria Albero for a classic summertime fedora for €20. A gem of a shop that has remained strong through generations of change. Real old school style featuring a wide range of classics in all the colours and all the sizes. Prices range from around €20 up to €215.
In a world of mass consumerism and gentrification I seek provenance.
Perhaps that is why nostalgia seems to emerge in my artwork . No matter what I do the importance of the old marrying with the new always presents itself in an elegantly opinionated fashion.
Removing myself and my family from our comfort zone five months ago has certainly heightened the senses and our attention to atmosphere and detail.
We need history for our future. Respect for the vintage and enthusiasm for the new.
We have the extraordinary ability to mark time with what we wear.
Fashion through the ages, from that first date ensemble to your wedding dress. A reflection of our emotions and surroundings. For me it provides an answer or at least an aid to the question marks.
This passion for vintage and a fear of losing connection with it is the reason I found myself one Thursday morning on the fringes of Barrio Carmen.
Like a hangover seeking comfort in a Bloody Mary, I find myself and @_cybr-girl_ being lured by the sepia shadows towards a vintage book store.
Please understand the reasons for our distraction from the task at hand…it was beyond our control.
To happen upon a vintage bookstore of such magnitude is most unusual these days. El Asilo is an organised chaos of books, novels, novellas. A history of the world complete with accompanying score, courtesy of a selection of vinyl for sale.
Fortunately, @_cybr_girl_ has inherited a finely tuned eye. Perhaps by process of osmosis, who knows, but she’s reworked it and gently moulded it into her own wicked style without quashing the the story or the history. So very fresh. The pureness of our passion has created an exciting common ground.
I laid down a challenge for this vintage warrior; to seek an outfit for €50 or less. She heartily agreed.
Without any nihilistic tribes at work this indie vintage culture is allowed to continue its synergy with the city’s tradition. We could feel the hum of creativity at our fingertips and all around us.
We had found our Zen.
Having extracted ourselves from the wonderment of El Asilo we kicked off proceedings at La Señora Henderson. A light and airy boutique as mouth watering as a fruit pastel.
There was a rich variety of stock ranging from maxi dresses to classic Levis. The store’s interior was rounded off with a fine display of accessories to compliment each chapter.
Our next stop was a real find. A bijou place big on style, not to be missed.
Needles and Pins first started online five years ago and in June last year opened this peach of a boutique. This lady’s selection dares to be slightly different.
Unique finds include tote bags from the 1950’s, a printed satchel from the 80’s and some fantastic wicker creations, all in excellent condition. As if all this wasn’t enough the owner is a skilled seamstress capable of remodelling where necessary.
Soho del Carmen is as deliciously naughty as an ice cold martini, straight up.
This place brings a bit of a London theme to Valencia. Probably the more pricier of the boutiques, but the stock ranges from high end pieces reaching right back into the vintage era. Their online shop opens in two weeks time, so in the meantime you can keep up to date via instagram:@sohodelcarmen and Facebook.
Sister Birkin is a very elegant store run by two friends who don’t just offer vintage, they also mix with some new pieces to accompany the scene.
Whilst trying different pieces the owners were quick to point out (in perfect English) any damage or imperfections which were reflected in their price. Their honesty was refreshing. This quality teamed with their obvious passion for what they do has created a varied and regular clientele. I shall be visiting again very soon!
La Vespa Roja is Valencia’s answer to Rokit. Super friendly guys, lots of fun, we love this place. The best selection of jeans teamed with some great music. A true ‘girl about town’ experience. We sashayed out of the store feeling good, like we belonged.
Unfortunately, Trixies vintage Emporium was closed for the summer, look out for its reopening in September. A must visit for 1950’s delights, find them on instagram:@trixiesvintage
With every shop we visited it was apparent how each piece had been lovingly tended to, regardless of imperfections, with the utmost respect for their lengthy journey. Like weary travellers receiving some much needed R&R. Not one whiff of moth balls or grannies knicker drawer, everything had a fresh feel.
And so to our purchases….our booty…
From La Senora Henderson a black voile overshirt dated c.1950’s for €25.
This 1980’s jumpsuit was another find from La Senora Henderson at €35.
A fine silk knit navy polo shirt €15 from Needles and Pins.
A sheer crepe de chine dress with beautiful sunray pleats €29 from Soho del Carmen.
And so to @_cybr_girl_ and her €50 challenge…..
Not only did @_cybr_girl_ win the challenge she left Sister Birkin with €15 in change. The button through skirt is a Guy Laroche no less!
Blue waterproof jacket €35 from La Vespa Roja perfect for my trips to London.
And finally…before I go to bed I will say a little prayer that this unique and charming city is allowed to just be.
Be itself… creative, passionate and sensitive.
Thank you to the staff/owners for their kind hospitality, we will see you all very soon.
I write because I love
Whilst visiting an island in the Balearics I was side-lined into a party involving a heady mix of old friends, acquaintances and strangers. Except for a few, none were native to this corner of the globe with its gentle pace.
They descended like locusts; unhinged, hell bent on consuming from every orifice they could find. Whilst listening and watching them perform their rituals I was accosted by what could only be described as an inaudible madam whose understanding of discretion left with the last of her customers. The sort that can only hear her own voice and the boxes she must tick.
‘Why Valencia?’ she asked ‘why on earth did you choose to move to Valencia?’
‘The light’ I replied. ‘It has the most beautiful light.’
‘How ridiculous’ she bellowed, her forked tongue lashing against her teeth as she slurped on her cocktail. ‘You could say that about any Spanish city’.
This was followed by a cackle not dissimilar to a battle cry and she was off proclaiming what a fool I was.
Well, here we are, a week or two after the ‘reaping’ and I decided to answer the question. So ‘Madam Z’, you know who you are, rather than asking you to listen, a fruitless task, I have prepared a visual feast celebrating my new home.
I have taken the trouble to invite fellow Valencians to share their visual dishes. People who live passionately, with sensitivity. Valencians by birth and some who have been adopted by this fair maiden.
Photo by Carmen Carbonell
Big skies in Valencia City.
A city of stark contrasts all sharing the same golden hue.
And so, we have come to the beginning of the story….
The humble t-shirt isn’t so humble after all, its rise to fame and importance may have been portrayed with such modesty but don’t be fooled…the T has the power.
The t-shirt’s status was first recognised in the US when the US Navy issued them to recruits to be worn under their uniform. In 1938 the first tees were sold to civilians as outerwear; they were marketed as ‘gob’ shirts.
Emerging from such strong, noble beginnings encouraged the feeling of strength, masculinity and a heroic notion, all still associated with the T.
Not content with its functional status the t-shirt decided to begin a long and distinguished journey as communicator to the masses, interpreter of dreams and emotions.
An ageless canvas….discovered by Warren Dayton, artist, illustrator and designer during the psychedlic era he started to use the t-shirt as a new medium to explore; our modest gob shirt never looked back.
In 1975 Vivienne Westwood famously reprinted an illustration by artist Jim French called ‘Longhorns’. Malcolm McLaren added some text and the ‘Cowboys’ t-shirt was born. It caused waves of controversy through mainstream culture and thrills of delight from trendsetters and creatives. Shop worker Alan Jones was arrested on the Kings Road for wearing one. It was deemed too provocative and he was fined. The design is still in print today.
So the word was out – the t-shirt was a powerful tool for freedom of expression, communication and advertising, a banner for bands to promote their music and fans to celebrate their songs.
The teenage agony aunt. When no one understands you the t shirt will shield you and speak for you. I remember with great fondness my Cure t-shirt, my comfort blanket as a shy fourteen year old. It was my armour, giving me a sense of security and belonging. My parents hated it…
In 1977 the graphic artist Milton Glaser single-handedly elevated the city of New York with one simple logo….I ❤️ NY is still symbolic today. A momentous moment within the realms of advertising but what about us, the ordinary person, the civilian on the street, what does the t-shirt mean to us?
I believe it’s an opportunity for us to express our creativity; we’re all born creative but alas some of us grow up too fast. For some, choosing and wearing a t-shirt in the morning could be the most creative thing we get to do all day. It could be something that triggers a memory or emotion close to your heart that keeps you smiling inside through the day.
Let’s not forget those dark days we sometimes encounter; there are plenty of tees to suit every mood. The company T-shirt Hell celebrates those controversial designs, priding themselves on being politically incorrect, allowing the wearer to laugh in the face of doom and gloom.
By moving your existing emotion into another domain or dimension, can your t-shirt affect the rules of attraction? Of course, that logo or band could make or break that first date… it’s symbolic, a visual communication of who you are and your perspective on the world. This power can sometimes be cultivated, so that instead of offering clues to our identity it could be an opportunity to disguise, hide and even surprise.
Once the ‘deal is sealed’ there’s that post coital t shirt…cute, coy and full of promises of future adventures.
One thing’s for certain – a t-shirt is infectious, to be revered. We covet the rare and the limited editions just like a piece of art. The Victoria and Albert Museum now features a permanent collection of tees through the ages in their fashion gallery.
Those that choose to live first and later philosophise are the perfect ambassadors, so put on your t-shirt – let’s dance.