Saturday, June 23, 2012

Briefly: Valencia, Spain

I went to Valencia this weekend to see my brother who is visiting Spain during his university holidays. This is the first time I've been to Spain, and I really liked it, though I was so afraid of my inability to speak Spanish that for the first twenty-four hours I ate only jambon iberico and bread.

Valencia overflows with decoration, from the facades of baroque mansions to the interiors of space age metro stations. It's in some ways a disjointed city. Areas compete in the same way that a scribbled tag and a refined shop sign compete; strong identities shout to be heard, struggle to push one another aside and never quite succeed. The city feels a little like a Battle of the Bands contest, with different personalities displayed on multiple stages.

There's the touristy historic centre, the futuristic City of the Arts and Sciences and the beach that feels unchanged since Hemingway drank there. The areas that lie between are sometimes languidly grubby and sometimes the same dull proof of globalisation that can be found, interchangeably, in Sydney and in London, with bank branches and Hugo Boss stores.

In general, I'd say Valencia is a nice, and complex, city. I can't really sum everything up in one blog post, so I plan to write several. I liked Valencia's decorative tiles, fanciful marketplaces, glasses of horchata, the small courtyard gardens and the soccer fields in the larger Jardin del Turia that fills the city's former riverbed. I liked glasses of orange juice with ice cubes in them and the noisiness drifting up from the Barrio del Carmen as I slept on Saturday night.

I want to go back to Spain and eat more tapas. I also want to try arroz negre (rice cooked in squid ink), which I didn't have time to eat, and finish reading Tender is the Night while sitting beneath a beach umbrella.

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