Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Rain in Spain thankfully stayed on the plain!
Last Thursday I took flight and when I landed I found myself in a city of surprise. Valencia, my destination, is a truly fantastic place, and I mean that in its literal sense. Never have I seen such decorative buildings anywhere in a European urban centre. Nor have I ever seen such ornate fishermen's cottages as there are in the charming Cabanále district behind Valencia's long stretch of sandy beach.
The city is large - much larger than I imagined - with a population of more than a million. It combines ancient medieval edifices with elaborate renaissance sculptures, gothic monuments and charming art nouveau and decorative work from the arts and crafts movement. It is rich beyond description and vivid with colour and life. I was totally charmed.
My main intention was to visit my friend Marion. True to her long stated ambition, she upped and left Rotterdam almost two years ago to follow her dream of living and working in Spain. We spent a good deal of time just talking and I appreciated more than ever just what guts and determination it took for her to make a life there on her own. Her story is hers and not mine to tell, but I came away mentally doffing my hat to her with immense respect for what she has achieved so far.
During our chats, however, I learned things I have never known about the Spaniards, although maybe this is more about the Valencians in particular than Spaniards in general. They are absorbed in their own world to the point of tunnel vision, even to the brink of blindness, and it seems they barely appreciate anything that is not Valencian first and Spanish second. The shops only sell Spanish wines; the radio plays mostly Spanish music and everything that is good in their world comes first from their own country - although I have to admit that in Valencia they have a lot to be proud of! As for languages, Spanish is the only one that exists for the majority of their people, and even French is not an optional extra.
Nevertheless, I had a great weekend and totally fell in love with Valencia. I have posted a few of my favourite photos here, these being mostly of the Cabanále district I was so drawn to. My next post is going to centre on the hike we did in the mountains a mere hour's drive from the city. As a lesson in both endurance and confusion, it deserves its own piece, so in the meantime, you can click here for more photos of this incredible city.
Oh, and by the way, the rain really did stay away...I had the most wonderful weather. Lucky me.
The newly built harbour for expensive yachts next to the commercial port
My favourite photo of all. An old gentleman uses his Vespa scooter (just like mine) to power a grinding stone for sharpening tools!