Week 1 1-7 October
MONDAY. I boarded the Valencia-bound bus at 8.35am. As I’m waiting, a woman points to my back-pack and says “Bien Camino”; she walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela from A Coruña two years ago. Perhaps we were in Santiago at the same time; that’s a nice thought...
The bus is packed; the journey to Valencia takes 90 minutes and then a 5 minute walk to the flat from the bus station. My new home is a large, airy modern flat on the 8th floor; the sitting room over looks the old Turia river bed, now a popular and verdant park.
My bed room looks north and has views of the concrete of modern Valencia with a reassuring glimpse of the Serranos mountains on the distant horizon.
TUESDAY I happen to be on a bus that followed the diverted River Turia for several kilometres. It’s a vast, empty concrete channel hemmed on both sides by crash barriers, motorways and spanned by numerous bridges; nature banished and subjugated.
WEDNESDAY The tap water in Valencia makes undrinkable tea; an unappealing brown scum floats on the top. So my first outing is to buy a Brita water-filter jug at my local ‘El Corte Inglese’ (tr. ‘The English Cut’- as in tailoring; a department store that bears an uncanny similarity to John Lewis.) I also buy three cheap white mugs, as it takes too long to drink tea out of tiny espresso cups. I’m intrigued that my first purchases here are vessels for purifying water and drinking.
My neighbours arrive from London early afternoon and we have a few days of tourism ahead.
We eat lunch at a restaurant without tourists, hidden in a side street behind closed doors; a recommendation from a foodie local. A delicious ‘Menu Del Dia’ which included paella.
The Central Market is a marvel; hundreds of stalls selling spices, hams, whole chickens with their heads on, pulses, fish and vegetables. I finally discover what the orange fungi are called: rebollon. We were tempted by rosemary-coated sheep’s cheese, knobbly Valencian tomatoes, bread and white grapes.
We also visited the Llotja de la Seda (Silk Exchange). A stupendous piece of Gothic (1482 -1548) stone masonry with an extraordinary hall of tall twisted columns and a shady courtyard with orange-trees. The wealth of medieval Valencia was built on the silk trade and this hall was the trading floor; wealth built on those bales of beautiful Crimson clothe; kermes dyed.