I have recently moved with my family from London to Valencia. Uprooting 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
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