So I have been in Valencia now for 4months. It feels like forever already but in a good way. In a way that it feels like home, it’s familiar to me now; my street, the locals, I have this school run routine that starts at 8.30am and makes me feel like I’m staring in “you’ve got mail”, you know when Meg Ryan couldn’t be happier walking though NYC in the fall and all the weird things that remind her of how happy she is.
Well for me it’s the friendly smile and wave that I give the Ecuadorean baker through the window in the morning, and the short “how are you?” “I’m fine thanks and you?” Conversation that I have in English with the Indian man in the fruit and veg shop, the man who owns the kebab shop who’s always there, every morning sweeping his shop floors and whistling, the lady who’s always walking her dog that I meet at the zebra crossing who always gives a smile to niko as he fusses about her dog, and the smell of coffee as I walk past the bar, full of old men playing dominoes and cards and smoking like troopers!
So I decided I would try to compile a list of the things that I really love about Valencia, just personal to me but worth noting all the same!
1- VARIETY OF PEOPLE
I live in an area that other people refer to as the Bronx of Valencia (it’s maybe something to do with my inner gangsta) but I love it. It’s known as the Bronx due to its being at the edge of the city, perhaps a little less looked after (there is slightly more graffiti and rubbish laying around at times) more families suffering from poverty and overcrowding of people from many different backgrounds, Indians, Chinese, Latinos, Romanian and Eastern European, African and middle eastern……. I’ve probably forgotten tons.
But for those reasons, minus the rubbish is exactly why I love it here, it’s always vibrant but still not half as busy as say other cities like Chelmsford, London or Bogota that I’ve experienced. And I love how people of all different backgrounds, cultures, religions and languages can live here side by side without obvious discrimination or racism. I never feel like people are looking at me for speaking a “foreign” language, and I’m not the odd one out. Plus because of the influence from all these different places, I can find all types of foods, my favourites being coconut milks, curry sauce and Indian products, couscous and a million other grains, Colombian coffee and vegetables from all over the world. English tea and other essentials like baked beans, naan breads, onion rings and well the list goes on you get it.
People here are interested by each others differences and not afraid of them, Spanish people as well as the immigrants here are friendly and helpful and are never too busy to help with directions or trying their best to speak to me in English if my Spanish fails me. I’ve seen or heard of no issues between races here, there appears to be very little if any violent crime, there is no gang culture here or threatening behaviour. Which leads me to my next point…..
Because of the above it is so nice to be able to go out the apartment after dark. It took me a good 3 months to re-train my brain that it’s ok to do that now. (Bogota left a deep scar) I still try not to unless I have to (but then it’s good to always be aware) But even with niko in the pushchair or walking we have been out till gone midnight and walked home and seen no gangs of people hanging around or drug addicts ready to pounce or anyone suspicious! It’s so awesome that we can be out and about in the day, or at night and be carrying money, iPhones, iPad and the laptop and have no worries, or even walk around after sunset without having to feel my heart pumping in my throat from fear and adrenaline of what might happen and will we make it home safe/ alive.
4- THE WEATHER
Well it’s December, and apart from early mornings and late evenings when it’s chilly enough to snuggle up with the blanket, and remind myself that Christmas is approaching, it’s still super sunny during the day, hot enough to that washing on the balcony dries in 1 day and that I can walk around with no sleeves! And well the summer temperatures were phenomenal I think this year it got as high as 45 degrees and not just for one day but consistently. I recently read that you know you are becoming Spanish when you feel cold once the temp drops below 25, which I never thought was possible, and well after the summer (and I was only here for 2 months of the “summer”) I did actually feel cold one day and the temp was still 22! Guess I’m Spanish!
Valencia appears to have everything in one, it’s a city, the 3rd largest one in Spain can you believe yet you can pretty much walk round the whole city in a couple of hours. And it’s a great city too, great architecture, whether it be the new modern city of the arts and sciences, the roman buildings in the old town or the typically Spanish coloured houses all in a line painted different colours giving the im-always-on-holiday feel to what now is my home!
Running right through the city is the river park. It’s a park, that once was the river Turia, that ran all through from one side to the other of Valencia, starting at the mountain range in a province called Teruel, and finishing in the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s now been turned into a fantastic park full of thousands of different types of trees, flowers, fountains, and playgrounds. It has a running track, a BMX course, football pitches, a baseball field, a huge gulliver (as in gullivers travels) statue laid down for kids to climb up and slide down and loads more…. In the summer the smell of flowers as you walk through it is to die for and if your as lucky as I was you might see wild parrots up in the trees and palms. And this isn’t the only park in Valencia there are many, and they are fab, lines with different statues, trees with fascinating trucks and branches, averys and lakes. All great for exploring!
As well as the fact that it’s a city, it doesn’t feel as if it is. It’s mostly quiet, there’s never appears to be any rush hour, Chaos on the streets, pushing and shoving at bus stops or in shops, no cars honking horns or continuous church bells or other irritating noises that you normally find in city’s.
And lastly, the only thing that beats being able to walk into the main city centre in 20 mins – 1/2 hour (15 mins on tram) is that I can also be on the beach in 20 minutes too! And the beach is beautiful, clean, safe and big.
My favourite Spanish food (meal) so far. A typical breakfast or brunch snack (although so good I’ve had it for dinners too) …..baguette, halved, then toasted till crisp and golden. Then drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated fresh tomatoes. Variations on the tomato mix can be found, and I always add pepper to mine, but absoulutly delicious. Simple but delicious!
I don’t think any more needs to be said about the fact that I live in a country where it is acceptable to rest/ sleep during the day between normally 2pm-5pm.
A little annoying that if you don’t want to sleep or rest there is not a lot else to do as most business and shops close during this time, but it’s amazing at how quickly you will adjust to this “you time”
At least for me anyway my experience of Valencia has been that when you need something done, it’s done. Providing you have your part of what you need anyway.
Put deposit on flat- was accepted the next day, moved in the next day.
If I have a problem at home, I call the estate agent and within hours the handyman is on the phone organising times he can come.
Got all my paperwork done without much effort (especially the social security number) which was requested for, reviewed and then issued to me all in 11 minutes.
Walked into a school that had been recommended on a Friday, asked to sign niko up, what we needed etc…gave copies of my passport and walked out with niko enrolled as a student and starting on Monday (oh and it’s all free and they provide him with a hot – healthy option- lunch every day too!)
The change of address on my residency card was printed out and sat waiting for me on the desk before I had even finished completing the change of address form!
The only thing you may have to wait for on a daily basis is your TOSTADA and coffee, but it’s ok- it’s worth the wait and a busy cafeteria is a good sign!
9- CLOSE TO HOME
I love that living here I don’t feel a million miles from home, it’s close enough that people can still visit us here without much effort and it’s reasonably cheap to do so, and if I need to I can go home too! A comforting feeling.
For a small city it’s so easy to get around and the choices are endless.
Walking is my favourite as I like to see new shops a hidden treasures down small streets, but there’s also a variety of other choices:
Taxi’s -safe ones with nice drivers, meters that are fair and drivers who will pre-arrange a price with you too. So you know where your going and what you’ll need to pay.
Trams that run all over the city that are efficient, clean and regular. A weekly tram card costs €7.20 (£5) and gives you 10 journeys. But as you beep it at the first station – costing you 1 journey, you can then travel on any tram within 1/2 hour with no need to re-tap your ticket. Needless to say they last a while. And at each station is a map that’s not covered in graffiti so you can work out where your going.
Trains- the same as a tram but underground, faster and with more stations and networks.i know certain people will kill me for that comment!
Buses- lots of routes, all bus stops numbered so you can use your app to check what time the next one is coming and where it goes, about 70p for a journey, and there’s not often a full bus so not much crowding, drivers greet you nicely and are helpful and there’s no dodgy tramps the jump on the back and either rob you or beg for money.
City bikes- at the ends of most neighbourhoods there are these bike racks. I can’t say I’ve actually used one but it’s a great idea. You can buy a yearly ticket for €25 ish (about £18), and then you can just check out a bike any time you like and return it to any other station within 40 minutes. If you want to ride for more than that you can check it out again it’s no problem.
11- ONE FOR LUCK
That we are lucky enough to live here on only Juan’s wage (I’m not working much right now but not complaining 😜) and he’s lucky enough to have a job that not only covers all our bills, rent and living costs, but that gives him a 3 day weekend every week, and time to come home for 5 hours between shifts every Monday and Wednesday too. We get to spend so much time to enjoy together as a family that after the year we’ve had of being separated from eachother and him from Niko, it’s finally like a dream come true!
THANK YOU VALENCIA
So there you have it, my list. When I have enough things, I’ll also do a list of things I don’t like, but for now it’s not possible sorry!