In the Neighborhood

This morning, after a coffee, we decided to head out and run some errands. But first we stopped off and visited a local tower that used to be the gate tower for the old city of Valencia. If people wanted to enter the town, they had to pass through one of the 12 gates that were built into the walls surrounding the city, first. But this was the main entrance to the city as the road to Barcelona and the road to the surrounding mountains terminated at the gate.

Torres de Serranos

The tower is called Torres de Serranos and it dates back to 1392, when they started construction, and completed it in 1398. The rest of the city walls and towers were torn down in the 19th century but because Torres de Serranos, and a couple of others were used as prisons at the time, they were saved from the demolition.

The opening ceremony for Fallas is conducted on a platform in front of the tower every February. So it is kind of an iconic and beloved landmark now.  And with the 100’s of school children converging on it as we were finishing our 2 Euro self-guided tour, it is clear that it continues to have importance in the educational history of the area.

The views from the many levels are stunning. And I continued to be amazed at how these structures were built with no real technology – as we have today. No machinery. It’s clear why tradesmen were so highly prized back then. Stone masons and their knowledge passed from one generation to another. The precision for setting stone that last for more than 600 years is awe-inspiring.

The stairs throughout the tower have been largely left as they were. Hand rails are optional – even today. One thing we’ve noticed in some of our castle crawling is that the Spanish don’t have the same need to bubble wrap everything that Americans do. The stairs are treacherous – but, Oh well. The ratio of school children to adults is about 25 to 1. The attitude being ‘Don’t jump or you’ll die’. Basically, just have some common sense. We don’t take that tack back home. There would be wavers and a lot of modifications for ensuring safety would be virtually guaranteed.

Another thing we noticed about gathering clubs, whether its school children, groups of adults in the park or just friends, people here gather in circles a lot and hold hands before undertaking something. We don’t have any insight into why but it’s clearly a cultural thing. You don’t see this in the US. Especially with adults. We never hold hands with anyone we’re not dating, especially if they’re the same sex. Maybe it’s our puritanical grounding, but here they communicate by connecting everyone physically and encouraging people to look each other in the face, and talking. Imagine – looking at other people in your group. And they aren’t praying, so it’s not religious. I would be very interested to understand how this started and what this seemingly pervasive ritual is all about.

But it must work, because none of the children we saw, after their circle ritual in the square below, were out of control or jumping on the ramparts waiting to be scolded by an adult chaperone. Unheard of.

So far, we’re loving how we can step out our door into a bit of history while just walking to the Decathalon to return a couple of shirts. It seems strange but we’ve never incorporated a walk through a historical site into a quick shopping trip before. But considering where we live now, I think it’s inevitable going forward. And it’s exactly where we want to be.

Sights, Scents and Sounds

Yesterday, we decided to go the other way on the river. Usually, were heading towards the City of Arts and Sciences. Or to Colon to go shopping. But what lay the ‘other way’, we weren’t sure so we decided to find out. What a fun day!

The upper park is less Hollywood and more neighborhood. Its part of the older city and there are museums and parts of the old walled city that we’ll go back and explore. Stone bridges and towers from the 1300’s, and sculptures of popes and saints that festoon them.

We watched kids of all ages in organized rugby matches. Something I would expect in Manchester, not Valencia. We understand the rules, not at all, but it was fun watching the kids and the crowd getting into it.

We had a wonderful lazy lunch and then enjoyed a semi-pro baseball game. It seems that some of our US pro teams have farm teams here and the play was really good and FREE. It was nice to watch a sport where we know the rules and can cheer at the appropriate times.

Dr Seuss Trees

In that section of the park, found new types of trees that we have never seen before. Jeff calls some of them Dr Seuss trees. They have thorns on their bulbous trunks and they lean over under their own weight with large pods that look like larva for some terrifying bug, but are really filled with seeds and soft downy flax that protects them. In fact, there are a lot of trees here that have pods.

And we discovered a type of tree that looks like many leafy trees back home. Except it is covered with the most unusual lily-like cluster flowers in bright orange-ish red. Again, we have no idea what type of tree it is. Both of us have found this frustrating and I’m going to see if they have a tour of the river park by an arborist who can explain what they all are and where they originate. Or maybe there’s an app for that.

Lily tree

On the way home, we discovered there is a horse club near our house – right in the city. If I decide to take riding lessons I’m good to go. And speaking of animal friends, we are overrun with dogs here. Jeff stands at the window and watches them a lot. We can’t have a pet because we want to travel, but it doesn’t stop him from following some of our neighbor’s dogs and getting to know their habits.

One dog, a golden retriever I have dubbed ‘Rodriego’, is a regular. He looks exactly like our dog, Mr. Perkins who passed away in 2014. Jeff recounts Rodriego’s exploits in the dog park across the way and admires how he carries his owner’s newspaper home from a local bodega. Today, when we woke up, Rodriego was out and about and we had our coffee, charting all his idosyncracies – just like Perkins. Golden Retrievers are wonderful dogs and we’ve ‘adopted’ this one from afar.

I’m not sure we will ever get used to the persistent scent of orange blossoms everywhere we go and the sounds of church bells. I know I love that we are still making new discoveries in our adopted city and, I like that I can count on them to be a part of my day, every day.