Like a leaf on that gust of warm air, we were off, blown down the coast towards Valencia and sights new in the drizzly remains of an overnight downpour. The plan had been to go to the pictures at 5pm (the only time for showings) after having seen the sights of Valencia City. Neither happened.
What we saw instead, was much more interesting.
The city is split by a long riverbed, some 200m wide, broader in some spots. Encased on one side by medieval city walls, the elongated enclave of activity has runners, cyclists, rugby players, scooter-riders and roller-bladers of all ages.
In the flower beds and bushes were cat shelters and trays of food. We looked for human habitations, like you’d find in London’s parks: bedding and boxes set out for the coming night, insubstantial and rain-absorbent, we found none. Wherever the homeless rest, we’ve seen almost no evidence of their dwelling on any Spanish public streets. It must be there; in England, Belgium and France its growing incidence is uncomfortably visible. Here, we’ve failed to see it.
It turns out that Valencia does have/has had an issue with homelessness. It started to tackle this by sending out hundreds of volunteers one evening in 2015 to walk the streets, to actually ‘see’ how many were sleeping rough. Of 400+ found, 250 were surveyed for mental and physical health issues and a strategy was devised. From then, they’ve had a number of projects to increase social housing and get people off the streets (one championed by Richard Gere in 2016). They also have police patrolling the park in panda cars so that the itinerant population can’t disturb the peaceful rest of the city’s kittens or musings of visiting tourists.
After a mile or so, we turned away from the verdant riverbed of health, into the city. The streets cobble and tarmac their way between tall apartment buildings, Parisienne in style, some of these towering edifices are elegant, beautifully maintained with long shuttered french-doors, their juliet balconies, overlooking the park. Other blocks are decrepit , crumbling, uninhabited, unsafe. The juxtaposition of sound and unsound, felt like a plan for the city was half executed. Perhaps, there are many property owners waiting for the next round of EU grants…?
During our wanderings, we found the smart and shiny theatre building, all glass and steel framing, not exactly what we’d set out looking for. But by burrowing further, we found even smaller streets with café tables and chairs and the great and the good sipping, not café-con-leche, but a dark red liquid in large glasses, served on ice with an orange slice.
As magnets gravitate to the pole, M and I had “naturally” been drawn to the cool and trendy part of town “El Carmen” (The buzzing old town district of the city – according to trip advisor). We were sat amongst the beautiful, and as such chose to hide our unqualified selves in the corner of one bar, from whence we could watch those who belonged, unchallenged.
From Vall d’Uixo, where we almost exclusively saw svelte runners and cyclists heading out into the hills, to here, wandering through this valley, we had firmly come to the conclusion that Spain must have a zero obesity problem. The entire population appears fit, trim and athletic by nature. Bar culture put our minds at ease, a more rounded perspective of the population showed that although there are lots of skinny fit people in Spain, there are more ‘normal’ body shapes too alongside them.
The liquid I’d spied was Vermouth. I smiled into my glass, thinking of Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter in Cinzano Rosso adverts of the 1970’s, as I sipped. Vermouth is apparently very trendy in Spain right now. It’s also very delicious, I needed a second glass, just to be sure 😀
By the time we got back to the van, walked Stan and had a little post-aperitif snooze, we’d missed the flicks.
Tomorrow we’ll go to the renowned Central Market and stock up on fresh fruit and veg, and get M to the pictures. Then we’re away again, down towards Alicante…