I like Valencia.
I said it. Now quick. Duck back into the foxhole.
Peer over the edge.
Is everybody laughing at me?
No? I've been liking Valencia since I got here, but there's been this bizarre dimension to it that so many people come here with their expectations twisted by something they've read, and it wasn't about the kind patience of the people, or the play of sunlight under the leaves of a tree in an outdoor café, or the endless surprises in store if you're willing to open yourself to another culture.
Fortunately, my homey Matt Gregory showed up en route to the Transpac 52 races in Alicante, and his reaction was enough to get me going on this. First he was impressed by the scale and quality of Port America's Cup. It's far beyond any Cup facility that came before. (Matt sailed in both of the Auckland editions of the Cup.) Then there's the town itself. Monday being a day off from racing, Matt and I had a morning bite at the outdoor café around the corner from my apartment, and he said how much he had enjoyed Valencia so far, in the neighborhoods he had explored and what he had in front at the moment—old architecture, broken Roman columns in the park, college kids scarfing coffee in a comfortably bohemian atmosphere—and how surprised he was at that. Because he came here, I think, expecting to see all of the negative things that he had read about.
Well, my purpose at the moment is to adjust the expectations of those yet to come. I like it here and lots of people agree.
I believe in being kind to houseguests, so I saddled up Matt on the bike that I bought for 45 euros from China Team and sent him off with a small briefing on how best to wander the old city (randomly) and how, when he felt saturated with ancient churches and narrow, winding streets, he need only trend "thataway" to eventually blunder into what the locals call The River, meaning the city park created by diverting the waters of the Turia into another river that flows around the city. (That was done after a devastating flood in the 1970s, and since the former Turia has a natural place to flow, the system has worked so far and ought to keep on working.)
In what became the Gardens of the Turia you can now ride a bike or walk or skate pretty much all the way across this city of not-quite-a-million, and you never cross traffic. The cars go by overhead on bridges that in some cases are hundreds of years old; other examples could (and do) show up in modern-architecture magazines. And "in the foot of the river" is the new City of Arts and Sciences, where Valencia threw a major budget at native son and architect, Santiago Calatrava, with a design brief that went something like, Do anything you want, but don't bore us.
Elsewhere, in the main parts of town, there are vast stretches of apartment blocks that are oh-so boring, so I don't go there, unless I'm passing through to the port. And I don't worry about thievery, nor do I carry all my cards or cash. Duh. Sort of the ABC's of traveling.
No, it's like this: I love the sights and sounds and surprises of old Europe. I love bold new architecture. I greet the people of Valencia as if I'm happy to be here. They treat me as if they're happy to have me.
And that's the report from the sunny side of lifeKimball
Note: For those of you with too much time on your hands, or a special interest, here's a tiny sampling of what Matt might have encountered on his wanderings. If you want a personal word re. this city where I'm spending more than three months, ring my chimes at my temporary email: email@example.com
First, walking out the front door, Matt would have seen this at the old college of art at the end of Editor Cabrerizo . . .
In the winding, narrow streets beyond the cathedral, he might have stumbled across somebody's cat door . . .
Repeat readers already know my images of the cathedral square, maskers, religious processions, and stilt walkers. They're still there for those determined to find them. We won't repeat, except there is this little girl, walking in a calle deep with rose petals after the procession of the statue of the virgin . . .
But I haven't previously shared this Senora from the same procession. Look at the way the neighbors line the streets with their folding chairs . . .
Or this young lady who just needed to get off her feet . . .
There was yet another festival/parade today, and I crossed the route as I was on my way to find a fast connection for this post. Not as colorful as the festival of the virgin, but worth watching, if only I were not in a hurry to get online. So I let it go. There will be another festival soon, and another parade, judging by the evidence. So, back to our project. I don't feel like repeating my many posts of festival activities in the Plaza de la Reina, for example, but anything can happen as you pass through. And when you get to the river there is the broad roar of traffic, but on the other side an opportunity to ride down the ramp and . . . there you are in the quiet space . . .
There's more than I can tell you about, but dig this little grove of whatever trees they planted to entertain us . . .
And when you get to the foot of the river, there's the Calatrava architecture . . .
It's hard to make a bad picture in this environment, but I have this sense that I'm running out of envelope. And yes, as a few of you will notice, these last few pics of the Calatrava are a year old. Except for riding through once on my bike, a month ago, I haven't been back to the Calatrava on this trip. I've got to get there. I love it. But there's this phenomenon called the America's Cup life. Maybe some other off day.
And that is not where I wanted to leave this, but I'm on a public wifi, and it's going buggy, and this may be the last transmission from my starship. Gotta find send . . .