Wednesday, 24 June 2009


Plaza Del Ayuntamiento, Valencia

I promised to tell you about Valencia. But pictures speaklouder than words, they say, and everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand of those. Indeed, if you look at what photographers get paid, compared to writers, most commissioning editors would say that a single pic is worth a good deal more than a thousand, carefully chosen, thoughtfully arranged, crafted, honed, cherished words. But enough, already! Let the pictures speak.

I'm amazed to say that I shot no fewer than 317 images which is depressing when I see how absolutely crap most of them are. The Photographer General did rather better at 115 and has about three times as many usable pictures as me.

Meanwhile, to spread the pics out a bit, here are some things I noted about this remarkable visit.

The Torres de Serranos, gate tower at the northern end of the city makes an excellent set of goalposts.

1. Valencia is in Spain, where football and bull fighting are taken extremely seriously. The city issues 600,000 parking tickets per annum, but only 90,000 offenders bother to pay the fine.

2. Notices in the Metro and elsewhere are in two languages - Valencian and Spanish. Valencian sounds like a hybrid between Portuguese and French; Spanish, in Valencia, sound like machine guns going off.

The ceiling in the basilica of Nuestra SeƱora de los Desamparados - what a Anglican like me would call a Lady Chapel.

3. The best orange juice I have ever, ever, tasted - and yes, I've been to Florida, and California, and Cyprus but there is absolutely nothing quite like Valencian Orange Juice.

4. Got there in time for the feast of Corpus Christi (11th June) - wait for Part 2 for the pictures of that!

5. El Cid was born in Valencia. (Can't erase visions of Charlton Heston from my mind, when learning about El Cid.)

6. The best art galleries, like everything else, are closed on MOndays in Valencia - regardless of what it says in the guidebook.

Horticultural Tile decorations at the Estacion del Norte Railway Station.

7. The cathedral - built on the site of Valencia's main mosque after Spain had zapped the moors, again, - is a charming architectural dog's breakfast with Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles. The barrel tower is a delight, as are the decorated doorways.

8. Owing to a water shortage, the Turia Fountain, in the Plaza de la Virgen, was seldom turned, during our visit on but doubled as a pigeon perch.

The pigeon perch - Turia Fountain, which is more dramaticwhen it runs.

9. The Mercado Central is one of the finest food markets anywhere. Walking among such superb mixtures of fresh, dew-speckled fruit, fragrant hams, colourful sausages, glistening sea food and luscious vegetables made me ponder on the works of Tesco - and despair.

Your actual, proper, market. What have we lost in the UK?
Oh yes, we have posh markets, but my dear, the prices!

10. Valencia is not a gourmet's paradise. Cheap restaurants seem to cater more for tourists than locals - pizzas everywhere. The best lunch is a 'Bocadillo' or hunk of bread, moistened with crude olive oil and filled with a slice of Manchego cheese and a slivver or six of Serrano ham. The best place for breakfast, we discovered, was a bakery which also had a tiny coffee bar and, of course, the obligatory orange squasher.

The PG sizes up paella dishes. I'm proud of having spent 4 days in this city and managed to avoid eating Spain's most over-rated dish. Anyway, the best Paellas contain rabbit. Nuff said.

11. The mediaeval (1498) silk market, La Lonja has the most elegant barley sugar twist columns and most exquisitely vaulted ceiling of any building I 've ever seen, apart from Kings College Chapel, in Cambridge, and is built in the warmest, most huggable honey-coloured stone. It also has some extremely rude carvings. Bestiality was a bit of thing, among 15th Century Valencians apparently!

Barley sugar columns and ceiling at La Lonja, above, and naughty carvings below.

12. Smoking is encouraged in Valencia's restaurants and cafes.

I'm listening to Beethoven's 7th Symphony, inspired to do so by the soundtrack of the extraordinarily beautiful film The Fall - last week's film.

This week's film was The Departed, Scorsese's version of the the Chinese Infernal Affairs. I'm not a great fan of either Leonardo di Caprio or Matt Damon, but both were totally convincing in this strange 'through the looking glass' thriller. Clever of Scorsese to cast it so that the two were so doppelganger-ish and typical of him to have so much graphic bloodletting.

This day in 2006 it rained. On a bike ride, the PG and I discovered wild sweetbriar growing in a hedge in Morton Fen, Lincs. I noticed the apple smell first, then spotted the Rosa rubiginosa flowering among ordinary dog roses.

And finally: a wildly enthusiastic horticultural sales lady, desperately trying to persuade me to buy a plant.

Episode numero dos soon. . .


  1. Paella might be overrated, but when it's made by Margalida, the frightening Mallorquin cook who used cook lunch for the workers at Parc Natural de s'Albufera in Mallorca, it's absolutely wonderful.

    On most days she'd cook for about 10 people. On Friday (paella day) at least 30 people would magically appear. Taking her shopping to get all the ingredients and then assisting her was watching an artist at work.

  2. I love the horticultural tile decoration from the railway station!

  3. Thank you, Nigel, this is a really interesting post and really useful if you were visiting Valencia. I know what you mean about taking photos but worth taking lots for the few good ones. These pictures really tell one story but it is the words that are the most interesting and give a realistic view of visiting the city.

    Best wishes Sylvia