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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Valencia: an edgy and vibrant expat city

Expat author Jason Webster explains why the ever-changing city of Valencia is the perfect setting for his novels - and for him.

If I’d had a choice about where to come and live in Spain I probably wouldn’t have plumped for Valencia. But that was over 10 years ago, and the city was a very different place then.

Only in recent years has this Mediterranean city - the third largest in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona - emerged from an ugly-duckling image it has suffered for decades. Not without reason did the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan dub it ‘the world capital of anti-tourism’ forty years ago, revelling in the city’s griminess, perverseness and lack of attention to the needs of visitors.

“To be alone in Valencia,” he quoted Lady Harlech as saying at the time, “is to be permanently twenty minutes this side of suicide.”

Punished by Franco for being the capital of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, and unloved by much of the rest of the country, Valencia was a backwater, a jewel so encrusted with dirt that almost no one could see the treasure that was lying underneath - least of all the Valencians themselves.

But all that has changed. As I write, the very first high-speed trains are arriving in the city from Madrid, bringing passengers in from the capital - over 350 km away - in barely an hour and a half.

Yet this is only the latest in a long string of recent developments that have transformed Valencia into the most exciting city in Spain. Madrid may be the centre of power, and Barcelona a cultural mecca, but Valencia offers the light and vibrancy of a major Mediterranean port, without the stress of an oversized metropolis.

Perhaps the most emblematic symbol of the new Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences - a vast space-age complex of buildings designed by Valencian wunderkind Santiago Calatrava, one of the most feted architects around. An opera house, a science museum, aquarium and showcase tennis court have all been constructed, attracting visitors from all over the world, and are frequently used as the backdrop in adverts for new sports cars.

The attractions of the older part of the city have also been given some much-needed attention. When I first arrived, chunks of the Moorish city walls and wonderful 19th century town houses were close to falling down. Valencia felt neglected and down-at-heel. Now, however, a great number of these buildings have been restored and painted, their facades shining bright pinks, reds and blues.

For this is a city that loves colour, pageantry and show, in all its forms. Fallas, the biggest fiesta of the year here - and one of the most important in the country - heralds the coming of Spring. And Valencians like to mark the changing of the seasons with a concentration of fireworks, "fire-cracker concerts" and bonfires that would pull at the heart-strings of any self-respecting arsonist. Tonne after tonne of gunpowder is ignited in a seemingly endless display of pyrotechnics, both during the day and at night. While on the last day of the festivities, eight-metre-high statues of wood and papier-mâché, standing at almost every crossroads, are set ablaze, often scorching nearby buildings - and anyone foolish enough to stand too close.

There’s more to the city than a strong pyromaniac tendency, though. Valencia is the home of Spain’s national dish - paella. Here, the real thing is made with chicken and rabbit, not seafood - although there are fish and shellfish versions. But with the sea close by, and surrounded by a belt of fertile market gardens growing everything from oranges and artichokes to spinach and olives, this is an ideal place to test for oneself the health-giving benefits of the famous "Mediterranean diet".

Yet despite all this abundance and renewal, all is not rosy in Valencia. There is a dark side to the city, one that rarely comes to light or is seen by the visitor or recently arrived expat. Which was one of the reasons why I decided to write a series of detective novels set here. Having set down my roots over ten years before, I wanted to describe the place that had become my home, but to do so in a way that expressed the nuances, the shadows and tones of grey as well as all the colour and the attractions. Today no one could insist that this is a capital of "anti-tourism", but the dirty, edgy city that Tynan saw hasn’t gone away, not entirely.

Accusations of corruption in the city’s politics are so common now they barely warrant front-page attention. All that money that was used to help revamp the place was also used to line a few pockets, it would appear.

Then some of the decisions made in the name of progress have been very controversial. The Cabanyal is an old fishermen’s quarter north of the port area, running parallel to the beach. Here tightly packed houses from the turn of the century display facades of delicate ceramic work, with blue, green and turquoise zig-zag patterns or checker-board effects, with decorations showing sea creatures or the faces of water spirits. The area has been described by more than one visitor as an "open-air museum", a showcase of Art Nouveau design. Yet the Town Hall wants to bulldoze a great hole through the neighbourhood to extend a modern avenue through to the seafront. Local people have staged protests, and there have been clashes with the police, but the plans continue.

And of course, as with almost any modern city, Valencia has its own fair share of problems with drugs and the sex trade. In fact, the city had an official red-light district as far back as the Middle Ages. And as you drive along the local roads today you will often find a lonely building somewhere, the word "club" in fluorescent lights over the door. Don’t be fooled: this is not the local equivalent of White’s or the Atheneum, but a brothel.

Despite its faults, though, I have developed a deep attachment to Valencia. I came originally because I had fallen in love with a Valencian woman; today she is my wife. And although, in that sense, the choice of where I was to come and live in Spain was made for me, I now know I would have it no other way. Valencia is, and will continue to be, a great Spanish city. And there is more than enough material here for many more crime novels to come.

Jason Webster has lived in Spain since 1993.


Valencia Costa Blanca - Tourist information for the Costa Blanca

36 Hours in Valencia, Spain

FOR the last decade, Valencia, best known as the birthplace of paella, has been steadily inching onto the radar of savvy travelers. Since 2005 — when work was completed on Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic museum complex, the City of Arts and Sciences — and 2007, when Spain’s third-largest city played host to the America’s Cup, Valencia’s Moorish-accented neighborhoods have been filling up with boutiques, restaurants and night spots. Last month, a new train line on the AVE, Spain’s high-speed rail service, linked the city to Madrid, about 200 miles away, making it even easier for travelers to visit this seaside city, which is cooking up a lot more than rice.

Friday 4 p.m.

In hilly Barrio del Carmen, the oldest part of the city and its creative center, bearded students and elegant urbanites trek over graffitied passageways where cafes and galleries spill onto medieval squares. The sprawling Mercado Central ( has recently become a high-fashion party locale, hosting shindigs for Prada and Aston Martin, among others. Stylish boutiques are tucked behind the 15th-century late Gothic Lonja de la Seda silk exchange. Two of the best, Bugalú (Calle de la Lonja 6; 34-963-918-449) and Madame Bugalú y Su Caniche Asesino (Danzas 3; 34-963-154-476;, carry clothing and accessories by Spanish, French and Swiss designers, as well as international labels like Paul Frank.

6 p.m.

Valencia is the birthplace of horchata, a drink made from the juice of chufas, or tiger nuts, and said to date from the city’s Islamic period, the 8th to 13th centuries. You can sample it at the Horchatería El Siglo (Plaza de Santa Catalina 11; 34-963-918-466) in the Carmen. Pair a glass (2.20 euros) with a café cortado (1.30 euros) and another Valencian original: the farton (.50 euros), a fluffy pastry finger dusted in powdered sugar.

9 p.m.

Valencia’s once-middling restaurant scene is seeing the emergence of creative young talent. Carosel (Taula de Canvis 6; 34-961-132-873;, a chic but unpretentious restaurant that opened in the Carmen in March, has become a standout. The Valencian chef Jordi Morera serves up delectable twists on traditional cuisine, like a mini cuttlefish stew with artichokes and almonds. The prix fixe menu changes weekly and is always a bargain at 22 euros.

11 p.m.

In the Carmen, late-night action converges on the Plaza del Tossal. Locals avoid the splashy tourist traps and pour into the Stone Age-themed Bar los Picapiedra (Caballeros 25;, where students, bohemians and miscellaneous walk-ins guzzle cider out of large, spouted glass porrones, which look vaguely like watering cans (7 euros), and listen to Spanish alt-rock.


10 a.m.

Last summer, Valencia adopted Valenbisi (; 10 euros a week), a public bicycle rental system. Pick up a bike near the Torres de Serranos, one of the gates to the city, and cycle under a series of bridges through the palm-filled Jardín del Turia to the City of Arts and Sciences (Avenida Autopista del Saler; 34-902-100-031; The buildings’ curved, billowing facades resemble everything from the skeleton of a whale to the upper half of a giant eye completed by its mirror image in a reflecting pool. Farther south , at L’Oceanogràfico marine complex, you can wander through underground tunnels as sharks float overhead. Entrance is 24.50 euros; a three-day pass to the entire City of Arts and Sciences is 32.40 euros.

12 p.m.

Built largely in the 1920s, the neighborhood of Rusaffa became a center for the city’s Muslim immigrant community in the second half of the 20th century. This influence still dominates, with Middle Eastern and East Asian markets and cafes dotting the streets. But as the Carmen has become increasingly touristy, Rusaffa has also become an alternative hub for artists and students. A combination bookshop, bar, performance space, publishing house and gallery, Slaughterhouse Books (Denia 22; 34-963-287-755; used to be a butchery and still has the meat hooks to prove it. Gnomo (Denia 12; 34-963-737-267;, a design boutique, carries things like ceiling lamps made from recycled cola bottles and oil and vinegar pourers shaped like beakers.

2 p.m.

Maipi (Maestro José Serrano 1; 34-963-735-709), a small tapas restaurant in Rusaffa, fills up in the early afternoon with businessmen who spend their siestas trading barbs at the bar and sampling dishes like fresh artichoke and morcilla sausage wrapped in a thin dough or grilled cod fish in lemon and olive oil, beneath a backdrop of country-kitsch décor and soccer paraphernalia. Lunch for two costs around 40 euros.

5 p.m.

One of the best spots for exploring Valencia’s history is at the museum L’Almoina (Plaza de Décimo Junio Bruto; 34-962-084-173;, which opened three years ago in the Carmen on the site where Valencia was founded by the Romans in 138 B.C. Visitors walk over glass floors, looking down at a stunning assemblage of ruins excavated in the area. The exhibition includes Roman baths, Visigoth tombs and a medieval Moorish ward for plague victims. Free on weekends and 2 euros during the week.

9 p.m.

The city’s Islamic past is the focus of Balansiya (Paseo de las Facultades 3; 34-963-890-824;, an out-of-the-way restaurant that authentically recreates the culinary experience of medieval Moorish Valencia. The décor is exquisite Arab-Andalusian, and the prix fixe dinner menus include tabbouleh, tagine and couscous plus lesser-known Moorish specialties like assaffa (Andalusian pasta with chicken, cinnamon and nuts), waraka inab (grape leaves stuffed with cereal in an almond-mint vinaigrette) and xarab Andalusi (a drink made of fruits, flowers, spices and herbs). Dinner is 20 to 30 euros.


Club life doesn’t kick off until after 1 a.m., so hit Café Negrito (Plaza Negrito 1; 34-963-91-4233) for an after-dinner drink. Later, witness Valencian late-night decadence at MYA (Avenida del Saler 5, City of Arts and Sciences; 34-963-319-745;, a domed club underneath a landscaped walkway leading to the Principe Filipe Science Museum. It’s Studio 54 meets imperial Spain meets Jersey Shore. Entry and your first cocktail, 15 euros.


11 a.m.

Every Sunday, Valencia’s antiques and junk shop owners convene at the Plaza de Luis Casanova, a giant lot tucked behind the 55,000-seat Camp de Mestalla stadium, the home field of Valencia Club de Fútbol, to sell their goods at huge markdowns to a fantastically eclectic cross-section of locals.

1 p.m.

The shore is lined with large restaurants that have made paella their specialty. La Pepica (Paseo de Neptuno 6; 34-963-710-366; is the best known (for good reason), but a few doors down is an even better choice, L’Estimat (Paseo de Neptuno 16; 34-963-711-018; On Sunday afternoons, the place fills up with the after-church crowd chowing down on paella Valenciana (made with chicken and rabbit). Lunch for two costs around 70 euros.

2 p.m.

There is a controversial initiative to bulldoze many of the gorgeous but decrepit turn-of-the-century buildings in the seaside neighborhood of Cabanyal, the former fishermen’s quarter, to link the city with the coastline and “regenerate” a district known for crime, vagrancy and prostitution. Before it’s too late, stroll past the colorfully tiled maritime murals and weathered but elegant Art Nouveau town houses. One can’t help but hope to some day come back and find it utterly unchanged.


The new AVE high-speed line travels between Madrid and Valencia in about 90 minutes, a marked improvement from the previous travel time of just under four hours. Round-trip tickets start at 96 euros, about $125 (

The Hospes Palau de la Mar (Navarro Reverter 14; 34-963-162-884;, a design hotel built in adjoining 19th-century mansions, melds grand arches, detailed woodwork and marble staircases with 66 minimalist-chic rooms in hues of white and chestnut, replete with Egyptian cotton sheets and plasma televisions. Doubles start at 115 euro when booked 15 days in advance.

Petit Palace Germanias (Sueca 14; 34-963-513-638;, also in a 19th-century residence, is a comfortable 41-room boutique hotel in up-and-coming Russafa; from 65 euros.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 23, 2011, on page TR10 of the New York edition.

Valencia Costa Blanca - Tourist information for the Costa Blanca

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fallas 2011 in Valencia timetable of events

Timetable of Events in Valencia City During Las Fallas 2011

These are just the official scheduled events.

1 March
2pm Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)

2 March
2pm Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
5:30pm. Children's ninot parade: Glorieta - Calle La Paz - San Vicente - Plaza del Ayuntamiento - Marqués de Sotelo - Calle Jativa.

8 March
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento).
6pm. Mascleta (Las Arenas Beach).
10:30pm. Ninot Parade (Route: Calle Jativa - Marqués de Sotelo - Maria Cristina - Plaza del Ayuntamiento - Marques de Sotelo - Jativa).Firework display.

11 March
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento).

12 March
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento).

13 March
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento).

14 March
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento).
6pm. Closing ceremony of the Ninot Infantil Exhibition.

15 March
8am. Setting up (la Planta) of all the children’s fallas
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
6pm. Closing ceremony of the Ninot Exhibition
12pm. Setting up (la Planta) of all the Fallas
1:30am. Firework display (Paseo de la Alameda)

16 March
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
4:30pm. Children’s Fallas Award Ceremony
10:30pm. Cabalgata Folklórica (procession with examples of regional festivals)
1:30am. Firework display (Paseo de la Alameda)

17 March
9:30am. Fallas Award Ceremony
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
16:00pm. Floral offering to Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken)
1:30am. Firework display (Paseo de la Alameda)

18 March
11am. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento). Tribute to the poet Maximiliano Thous (Calle Sagunto)
12pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento). Tribute to Maestro Serrano (Avenida Reino de Valencia)
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
16pm. Floral offering to Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken)
2:00am. Firework display (Paseo de la Alameda)

19 March
11am. Floral offering to St. Joseph (St. Joseph Bridge)
12pm. Solemn Mass to honour St Joseph the Patriarch (The Cathedral)
2pm. Mascleta (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)
19pm. Procession of Fire (from Calle Ruzafa, Calle Colon, to end in Porta de la Mar)
22pm. Crema (Burning) of the children’s Fallas
22:30pm. Crema (Burning) of the children’s Falla awarded first prize in the Special Section
23pm. Crema (Burning) of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento children’s Falla
00am. Crema (Burning) of all the Fallas of Valencia
00:30am. Crema (Burning) of the Falla awarded first prize in the Special Section
1am. Firework display (Plaza del Ayuntamiento)

More information on the Fallas firesta in Valencia here

Valencia Costa Blanca - Tourist information for the Costa Blanca

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Petrol and Fuel Prices in Spain - cheap fuel locator

Found a site that shows you the cheapest petrol prices in Spain

Valencia Costa Blanca - Tourist information for the Costa Blanca

or the forum

The Sat and PC Guy FORUM - Digital Satellite and Terrestrial Installations and Maintenance for the Costa Blanca

Formula One Winter Testing in Valenica

2011 F1 Testing dates

Valencia (February 1-3)
Jerez (February 10-13)
Barcelona (February 18-21)
Bahrain (March 3-6)

The Valencia test will be at the Cheste Circuit, Valencia Spain.

There is no guarantee what teams will be running on the days or locations. But with Valencia being the first offical test day, expect a number of teams to be there testing and launching thir cars around the date of the first test.

For example Force India’s 2011 F1 car will make its first appearance in the second test of the year at Jerez. The VJM03 will remain in service for the first test 2011 at Valencia.

Mercedes GP will launch their 2011 car in the Valencia pit lane ahead of the first multi-team test of the year. The MGP W02 will be unveiled in front of the team’s garage on the morning of February 1 at the Spanish circuit, before it's given its on-track debut later in the day. Mercedes GP’s driver line-up for the 2011 season, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, will be on hand to meet the media at the launch.

Sauber and Renault will also be launching their new cars in Valencia on January 31, whilst Toro Rosso will reveal their 2011 car a day later.

Valencia Costa Blanca - Tourist information for the Costa Blanca

or the forum

The Sat and PC Guy FORUM - Digital Satellite and Terrestrial Installations and Maintenance for the Costa Blanca

Thursday, January 6, 2011

High Speed train cuts the time between Valencia and Madrid

Spain hurtled past France as Europe's high speed rail leader last month when it opened a 6.6-billion-euro line from Madrid to Valencia, banking on a boost to the economy.

The 438-kilometre route, which opened on December 19, slashes travel time between the Spanish capital and the Mediterranean port of Valencia, Spain's third-biggest city, from four hours to just 90 minutes.

The project, built at a cost of 6.6 billion euros ($A8.6 billion), brings Spain's high-speed rail network to 2056 kilometres.

Advertisement: Story continues below It places Spain ahead of the 1896 kilometres of high speed rail in France and 1285 kilometres in Germany, home to Siemens, the world's largest manufacturer of high-speed trains.

Spain's high-speed train service, known as Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE), boasts trains with noses shaped like a duck-billed platypus moving at speeds of up to 300 kph.

Money off Costa Blanca Holidays and Flights

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More information on Jet2 Costa Banca Holiday offers and deals

Jet2 operates flights from a number of bases in the UK: Belfast, Blackpool, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle.

Jet2 Holidays offers great value low cost flights and holiday packages to top resorts on the Costa Blanca, like Benidorm, Torrevieja and Calpe.
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