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This Is Valencia

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By far the biggest cities in Spain are Madrid and Barcelona: these two dominate the country’s media, culture, tourism and (especially) sports. But what comes next? What’s the Chicago to Spain’s New York and Los Angeles? That, my friends, would be Valencia.

Valencia is the third-biggest city in Spain and capital of the Valencian Community, one of the country’s seventeen autonomous communities. The Comunidad Valenciana consists of three provinces. From north to south, these are Castellón, Valencia, and Alicante. The Valencian Community is about the size of New Jersey, and the city of Valencia has a population of about 800,000.

The comparison with Chicago can be extended a little. Just like the Windy City, Valencia is well-known for its modern architecture. This is the hometown of Santiago Calatrava, the star architect behind some of the most celebrated (and contentious) buildings of the last decade. To say that he’s left his stamp on Valencia would be an understatement of epic proportions.

But Valencia shares nothing of Chicago’s weather. It’s not all that windy, nor do its winters approach the misery which visits the shores of Lake Michigan. In fact, Valencia enjoys perhaps the best climate in Spain, and among the best in Europe. The city is ringed by a chain of small mountains which help to stave off clouds and ensure that Valencians see more than their fair share of sun. Winters are mild, and while summers are very warm, only a few weeks in August get so hot as to be unpleasant.

This is a port city, the busiest on the Mediterranean Sea. But you could spend an entire week in Valencia and never see a shipping barge. In fact, if you don’t make a specific trip to the beach, you might not even see the water. The city center is set back from the shore, a couple kilometers inland, and the great majority of Valencians visit the sea sporadically, at best.

The Mediterranean might fuel the city’s economy and provide its climate, but Valencian life is more influenced by the Turia River.. or, at least, its corpse. The river was rerouted in the 1950s, and its old bed has been converted into a park which runs straight through the city — a massive zone of recreation, bike paths, opera houses, theaters, sports fields, grass, trees and zero cars. For many visitors, the Turia is Valencia’s defining quality; the unique aspect which sets it apart from other cities.

Apart from all the facts and figures, Valencia enjoys a quality that’s impossible to quantify. The sun, the river, the nearby ocean, the Spanish lifestyle, the climate, and the frequent festivals all combine to make life here an absolute pleasure. That may sound like hyperbole… and perhaps it is. Valencia is our adopted home, after all, and it’s very possible that we’re exaggerating its magnificence, blinded by the immigrant’s infatuation.

Or maybe we’re right on the money. Maybe Valencia really is the best city on Earth.

-Compare Car Rentals Prices For Your Trip To Valencia



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February 26, 2015 at 6:40 pm Comments (0)

La Cridà: Ja Estem en Falles!

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The last Sunday of February is a busy day in Valencia. It starts early with the despertà, which awakens the city with a bang. There are events throughout the day, including pilota matches, marching bands, and a mascletà in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. But Fallas doesn’t officially begin until the evening, with the celebration of the Cridà.

Thousands of people pack onto the stone bridge in front of the Torres de Serrano, hours before the Cridà, or the “calling”, is set to start. Most of them come in groups, along with the members of their casal, or neighborhood Fallas organization. Some the girls have their peineta (hair combs) affixed, many of the guys are carrying flags or trumpets or beer, and almost everyone is wearing the ubiquitous blue-and-white checkered pañuelos (handkerchiefs) of Fallas.

The opening of the Cridà is different each year — this year it was a fantastic light show, and we’ve also seen acrobatics and concerts — but the act which follows is always the same: assorted dignitaries take the stage alongside the Fallera Mayor and her court. The city’s mayor gives a short speech, before the Fallera Mayor officially opens the festival with a rousing call for the Valencians to celebrate their culture, their language, their traditions.

Immediately following the Fallera Mayor’s speech, the Cridà ends with fireworks over the Turia riverbed. The groups which had been crowding the bridge alternatively make their way home to sleep, or over to the Plaza de la Virgen to dance, depending on their energy level and/or level of intoxication. We might be showing our age, here, but we think the sleepers have the right idea — after all, Fallas has just started. No reason to overdo things on the first night; it’s going to be a long month.

-Cheap Flights To Valencia



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February 25, 2015 at 5:46 pm Comments (0)

Wake Up, Valencia

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It’s the last Sunday of February. You’ve purposefully forgotten to set your alarm clock, hoping to enjoy the deep sleep of early morning. As you nestle in your comforter, just as cozy as can be, Valencia looks upon your resting figure with a smile. But it’s not a smile of maternal tenderness… in fact, it’s more of a smirk. And then the explosions start.

Outrageous. Abusive. Disrespectful. Welcome to the despertà, Valencia’s annual wake-up call for the month-long festival of Fallas. Barbaric. Obscene. Inconsiderate. Yes, the despertà is all these things… but it’s also pretty awesome.

Long before sunrise, the wake-up crews gather around Parterre Park, where they queue up to receive their “alarm bells”: boxes of ultra-loud firecrackers. Then they stand around in groups, impatiently awaiting 7:30 and the beginning of the parade.

“Parade” I call it! That’s like calling the Battle of the Bulge a “picnic.” The despertà is more like a warzone than a parade. Infinite mini-explosions rattle buildings, deafen participants, and terrify residents. These firecrackers are like cherry-bombs on steroids, hurled onto the ground and releasing not just the explosion, but heavy amounts of smoke and shrapnel. Protective goggles are standard gear at the despertà.

The “parade” continues all the way down Calle La Paz to the Plaza de la Reina, and into the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where the marchers gather around an immense metal cage. By this point, they’ve mostly exhausted their boxes of firecrackers, and the noise has finally died down. So what, might you guess, will be the finishing touch to the despertà? Perhaps a folk dance? A community breakfast? Or will it be more firecrackers?

Firecrackers it is! Eardrums that were damaged during the despertà are finished off with a thunderous mascletà, or “noise fireworks.” Squealing, screeching, banging, exploding, deafening, body-shaking, noise fireworks.

Back in 2008, shortly after moving to Valencia, we were among the sleeping residents along Calle La Paz, absolutely ignorant of what was about to happen. When the explosions started, we awoke with a fright. Leaping from the bed, we ran to the window, saw the smoke, and truly believed that some sort of battle was happening. It was terrifying!

Before experiencing the despertà, Valencia had been like a fun new acquaintance. We got along perfectly. But you never really know somebody until they let down the facade, and you see them do something crazy. Something totally unexpected, and totally inexcusable. After the despertà, we were kind of scared of Valencia. I mean, what is that? Who does something like that? You’re not just this laid-back, sunny city on the sea, are you? You’ve got a dark side… and I think I like it!

-Framed Valencia Photography



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February 24, 2015 at 5:20 pm Comments (4)

¡Hola Valencia!

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Hey there, Valencia, did you miss us? After nearly five years spent traveling the world, from Tokyo to Bolivia, from Iceland to Sri Lanka, we’ve returned to our adopted home. I’m from the US, and Jürgen is from Germany, but this Spanish city on the Mediterranean Sea is where we’ve decided to settle down. And it’s about time we show the world why.

In 2008, Jürgen and I moved to Valencia on a whim. We had been living in Western Ireland; a beautiful area, but one with an absolutely disagreeable climate. After a year and a half of daily rain and wind, we needed to see the sun. We were desperate for it. So when we heard about Valencia’s 300 days of sunshine per year, we packed up our things. Neither of us had ever even visited Valencia, but like I said: we were desperate. A few weeks later, still in the middle of winter, we were laying out in the sun with our shirts off, snacking on jamón serrano and laughing about the excellent decision we had made.

We had expected to be happy in Valencia, but we hadn’t expected to fall so completely in love with the place. It happened quickly. We loved everything about living here. The people, the language, the beach, the city’s size, the festivals, the lifestyle, the markets, the bars, and of course the sun. Oh, that glorious sun!

One year in Valencia became two, and then two became three. And eventually, consciously or unconsciously, we decided that this city would be our home forever. We still had the itch to travel, and over the course of a long, wine-soaked lunch, we came up with the concept of “For 91 Days”. It was one of those life-changing “Eureka!” moments. We could still travel the world, and even live in other places, but Valencia was the city to which we’d always return.

For the past five years, we’ve been on the road, but have returned to Valencia frequently… visiting friends, taking care of “life stuff” like dentists and taxes, dropping off accumulated souvenirs… but this time we’ve returned on a more permanent basis. In fact, we’ve decided to buy an apartment in Valencia. We’ve never been homeowners, so this is a huge step for us, but it’s time for a place of our own. A home to which we can return, in which we can have our own furniture, and from which we can base our lives. And we’ll have an address… an actual permanent address! That might seem like a minor detail, but trust me: after five years of living without one, I know the importance having an address.

Buying an apartment in Spain is a long, painstaking process, so we’re going to be in Valencia for at least the next 91 days. That should be plenty of time to remind ourselves why we fell in love with this amazing city. And I’d wager that it’s plenty of time to convince you, too. Perhaps to visit… or perhaps to move here, yourself!

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February 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm Comments (6)