In September, I will celebrate the six years anniversary of my move to Spain. In those six years, I have lived in Toledo, Linares (Jaén), Madrid, Valencia and Bilbao. While I am currently enjoying the five seconds of sun per year in Bilbao and everything this incredible city has to offer, there is one major fault with it.
It is not Valencia.
When I first applied for a grant to teach English, my first choice was Valencia. They gave me Linares. Talk about having to make lemonade out of apples. With my first paycheque, I caught the night bus to Valencia. From the second I stepped off the bus at 5:00 AM into the 500% humidity (my first trip coincided with a “gota fría” (a cold front from the Mediterranean that comes with an incessant downpour), I knew this city was amazing. Over that long weekend, I fell in love with the city, with the atmosphere, with the food (it is home of paella), the beach, the football club…everything. I went to see my first fútbol (soccer) game and saw David Villa score in the pouring rain.
Six months later, I returned as my farewell to Spain for the summer trip. The magic still was there. And after a horrible second year in Spain, first year in Madrid, a friend asked me if I could live anywhere in Spain, where would I live? The immediate answer was Valencia. I applied to do a master there that I didn’t end up having the money to do and moved there in August 2010. I ended up an auxiliar de conversación in a town in Castellón and went without being paid for several months. This lead me to leaving the city for Barcelona in July 2011…something that never came to frutition due to again, lack of money and a random work opportunity coming up. I ended up back in Madrid and missing Valencia. And I just have not been able to make my way back “home” to Valencia. But I will someday for more than a fleeting visit.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and one of the cheapest. It has several villages like Benimaclet and Cabanyal that have been absorbed into the city. Although Valencia’s city centre is located a bit of a distance from the beach, the presence of the beach is everywhere in the city. (And it’s a short tram or metro ride from the beach, although most Valencianos prefer to go to nearby El Saler to get their beach on.) The government leaves a lot to be desired. “The corruption in Valencia is like the paella. Like in no other place.” is the common saying. I still think Rita Barberà and Francisco Camps were using the money for my grant to teach English to travel to Italy to get a Ferrari theme park…
Despite the government problems there (and the fact it is one of the places the crisis de mierda is felt most in Spain), Valencia is an amazing city with tons of offer. The province also has a ton to offer, so that’s why I will split this into two entries as the city alone offers Set Meravelles.
Valencia has two languages, Spanish and “Valenciano”, which one could argue all day either way and never know for sure if it’s a dialect of català or its own language. (The government says it is different, but most people that actually speak it say “it’s the same, but it’s not català”. It’s safer to call it “valenciano” as it will lead to less fights.) They have two fútbol teams in Primera División, Valencia CF (AMUNT!) and Levante. It has amazing neighbourhoods like Barrio del Carmen and Russafa. It has two weeks of winter with temps of 10ºC (50ºF). It has oranges, lots of oranges. It has my favourite gay pub in all of Spain, ADN, and it is home to the first Spanish gay Internet series Lo que surja.
And it has, of course, set meravelles! It is hard to settle on just seven, but as I’ve written about Fallas, I can leave them off, I hope. And paella is, of course, the 8th wonder of not just Valencia but the world.
Set Meravelles de València Ciutat
1. Ciutat de Arts i Ciences. This giant museum complex is home to a big aquarium, an IMAX type theatre, a geeky-cool science museum and an art museum. Calatrava designed it. While it is a bit of a sore topic for some Valencians (they are still paying for what tourism has not), it is an amazing place to visit.
2. BioParc Imagine a zoo with only natural borders instead of cage walls. This is your zoo. I just wonder what would happen if the lions just took that jump to meet up with the giraffes…
3. Río Túria After massing flooding in the 1960s, the Valencians re-routed the river south of the city and turned the old river bank into a 7 kilometre park with running trails and the aforementioned BioParc and Ciutat de Arts i Ciences.
4. Catedral de València. Monty Python should’ve come here first as THIS is the supposed home of the Holy Grail. But then again, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.
5. Torres de Quart i Serrano Two of the old gates from when Valencia was a walled city. Both open to the public with incredible views of the city.
6. Places de la Reina, de la Virgen i d’Ajuntament. Valencia has some of the most gorgeous plazas in all of Spain. This is Plaza de la Virgen at night.
7. La platja de la Malvarrosa. A beautiful long beach. I usually walk to the end where there are less people.