We’ve little experience of trundling, so we snapped up our friend Jane’s invitation to visit Valencia, which is a safe and welcoming city. Valencianos prefer Valenciano, similar to Catalan, to Spanish. With two languages to manage English can be a tad variable and a little Spanish goes a long way. Duolingo is a free online course and our efforts helped us muddle through.
Getting around Valencia is easy using rechargeable bonometro cads for the metro and trams and a bonobus for the bus, both cards are easily obtainable and if the issuer knows you are English they can produce information in English as you use the cards.
My Gent Mayor (65+) card cost a few euros. I took a passport photo, my passport/UK driving licence to Xativa station to buy my card and for 9.50 euros (2019) I have unlimited metro travel for a month.
The city bike Valenbisi scheme costs 24 euros for 12 months. The office is in Carrer d’Asturies at the end nearest the city. Their English is variable. You need a credit card and the 24 euros is deducted from it with a tiny bank charge. The 3000 city bikes are free for 30 mins, after which the charge is 1.04 euros per 30 mins (2019 prices), which goes onto your credit card. Instructions on terminals are in English. Docking stations are sometimes full – most likely at the beach and the city centre. Bikes are well serviced and rarely vandalised.
We experimented with metro lines for out of town walks. The best we found were on the line to Lliria, around La Vallesa. On a different line, Meliana has cafes and bars and there’s a gentle 1 km stroll to the beach.
The City of Arts and Sciences, is a magnificent white elephant and some of the structures appear to be under continuous repair from new. I don’t think the Agora, shaped like a helmet has ever opened it’s market place doors. The Hemspheric is a building devoted to IMAX movies and is a link between the Science museum and the Opera house.
Our trip to the opera coincided with the Mozart’s birthday. Sadly, he couldn’t be with us but his legacy including a little night music played by a quartet of saxophones, which were invented around half a century after he died but entertaining anyway. Another time we saw a foot-stamping, frock-swishing, Flamenco version of Carmen.
The Oceanographic has a big aquaria, with many fish, captive Beluga whales, a walrus and a dolphin show, all of dubious ecological porpoise.
The Science museum has lots of interactive exhibits, dinosaur displays and a not very good cafe. The vast empty spaces may help to keep things cool in the summer.
Oranges from trees in Valencia are pretty but inedible, being more bitter than their Seville cousins. In the countryside the fruit is sprayed with touristicide. The Turia gardens is a green gash across the city and great for relaxing, walking and cycling. Parrots fuss in the trees, held captive by high rise and busy roads, and small children frolic noisily in Gulliver’s World. The park was once a river bed but the river behaved so badly it was banished to the outskirts of town, where it maintains a chastened ooze into the Mediterranean.
Valencia Bioparc specialises in African species. Plains dwelling animals all live in the same enclosures, so it feels natural and the animals appear content. Expect to be “frisked” for illicit foodstuffs before going in, although the cafes are ok. We sat next to a deep pool of clear water, with big hungry looking fish waiting for crumbs to fall their way, overlooking a “savannah” where giraffe wandered with zebra and antelope of various types, whilst a pompous flock of guinea fowl patrolled the water margin. At the back we saw lions gazing hungrily at the feast before them from the top of a small kopje. It looks impressive because you can’t see the barriers. Nearly all the zoo’s barriers are out of sight or arranged imaginatively. In the central arena there are regular e supervised displays of free flying birds.
We decided we liked Valencia enough to buy a place on our unrealistically limited budget. We prefer Valencia to the costas because Valencianos are welcoming, tolerant and outnumber the expats. They even have a passable football team with it’s own stadium, outside which there’s a regular car boot-like Sunday market.
Property in the coastal areas of the Poblats Maritimes has risen dramatically as people far and wide realize what a magical place this is.
You can’t buy property in Spain without a social security (nie) number and a bank account. Bank accounts can be opened with just a passport but an nie number can be difficult, as it was for us, because of delays due to brexit. If you speak Spanish you can do it yourself by registering at any police station and the further from the costas, the quicker the service. The Spanish Consul in Liverpool (suitably distant from the Costas) was very helpful for us and we can resume looking for our own place in the Spanish sun.