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International Stumblings of a Moneyless Idle

Lazily making his way through the world

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Locations

Valencia

Valencia is a city without many superlatives. It is the 3rd biggest city in Spain by population, 2nd biggest on the Mediterranean. It is 3rd in Spain by square meters. It is not the hottest, coldest, driest or wettest. It has one of but not the biggest public parks in the country, the same can be said for its beach. It is neither the wealthiest or the poorest and has arguably the 4/5th biggest football team.

Valencia is not a city which tops many fact based lists but it is one that sits at the top of many an opinionated one. Ask anybody that has spent time in the city and they will speak highly of it. This is because it has a little something for everyone. The sunbathers go to the beach, the partiers go to the clubs, the foodies go to the paella restaurants and the shoppers head to the center.

Valencia is an amazing holiday destination but it’s an even better place to live. While Madrid and Barcelona are big and fat enough to swallow you up, Valencia is just right. (The city has nearly half the population of Barcelona.) It’s a big city, 800,000 people, but them people are spread across a large area. Its 6 miles from city center to the furthest end of the massive Malverrosa beach. This means you’re never too far from a gap in the urban sprawl. The biggest of which is the 9 kilometer long public park which sits in the old river bed, cutting through the city. El Jardines del Turia is a beautiful park of many different habitats, playgrounds, sports fields and ponds. The unmortised highway, I called it. There are not many cities where you can go from one end to the other without even crossing a road. Most Spanish cities are not the most bike friendly. They try to be but cycle lanes are often ignored or neglected. In Valencia that isn’t the case. The city is flat and bike lanes can take you to any part of it, obviously the park helps out here too. This is why the city has one of the most popular city bike facilities.

If you travel to the far end of the park you reach the City of Arts and Sciences. A project stooped in controversy because of its high maintenance and building coasts. It is truly a unique, futuristic and oddly relaxing place though. A garden above the project and an underground car park built into its side transform into serial, fantastical and undoubtedly cool nightclubs of an evening. Umbracle and Mya are just two of many you can find throughout the city, creating a constantly buzzing nightlife.

If you are one for a party, Valencia also has one of the biggest and craziest fiestas in a country full of big and crazy fiestas. Las Fallas, the festival of fire; where mascletas deafen your ears in the daytime sun, grand, skillfully crafted monuments pop-up in every crossroad and plaza just to be set alight in a blazing fire in the night of the last day, all while the city descends into a chaotic party.

Many people leave the city for Las Fallas. Too loud, too much. Many quieter people may also not enjoy the lively nights. On the other hand, if you are a big city person, Valencia might not feel like enough and only Madrid or Barcelona can satisfy your needs. If you are anywhere in the middle, you’ll enjoy Valencia.

#pontdelmar #bridgeofthesea #Valencia crossing the old river turned park. #jardinesdelturia

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Nàquera

#Cycling across the bridge into #Nàquera #Valencia #Spain

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Nàquera is a small and, in many ways, insignificant town on the edge of the La Calderona natural park. It’s only around 20 miles north of Valencia and can be easily reached by bike, car or if you really wish you can go half the way on the tram and half walking.  The town/ village/ pueblo in itself is very simple with few shops or tourist attractions but it does serve as a gateway into the natural park. From Nàquera there are several paths leading up into and through the surrounding mountains, the paths around La Calderona interlink creating paths between the villages. The mountains themselves are unlike those I have visited before in northern Spain, France and northern Europe as they are dry, almost desert like environments with only shrewd strong plants dominating the higher reaches. Lower down you have more pine trees and floral plants that in the summer are alive with the deafening buzz of crickets. Despite not being very touristy there are restaurants, cafes and bars to relax and recuperate.

La Calderona is home to more celebrated villages and higher, more intriguing wildlife than that of and in the immediate vicinity of Nàquera but if you are living in or spending a reasonable amount of time in the city of Valencia it is a northbound target to reach by bike or foot. I recommend it as a destination if you are a cyclist in the city. Cycling south along the sea and around Albufera is popular and I would advocate it more than cycling North. You will not be blown away but you will be intrigued. When you enter the valley it sits in you will see a different, in some ways more traditional Valencian life.

The #View back towards #Valencia from #Nàquera #Spain

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Madrid

#Madrid from the top of #PalaciodeComunicaciones near #Ratiro

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Madrid is the undisputed capital of Spain. I do not say that using a historic or political agenda but because its geography, aesthetics and culture all say so.

Madrid sits right in the centre of Spain and dominates travel throughout the county. If you want to go from North to South, East to West or even between destinations that do not have Madrid directly in-between them, you more often than not have to go through Madrid.

Aesthetically most Spanish cites are unique, Andalusian cities have many Arabic influences, Barcelona has architecture unique to Catalonia and the cities immediately east of Madrid look like well-preserved, medieval, outdoor museums. Madrid’s architecture, apart from being very Spanish is not that striking. It’s difficult for me to fully explain my reasoning for this because if you got to know Madrid and someone showed you a picture of a typical street within its centre you would be able to recognise it as Madrid. Decorated balconies protruding either side of two lane streets on five to six storey buildings. However being typically Spanish and being unique is something different. Its architecture doesn’t tell a story like in the other Spanish cities. Instead it has a style you see around many big European cities that went through refurbishments or growth in the early 20th century. Tall, fairly grand buildings on open streets with varying adaptions to this foundation in each district. I think that if all the bars and restaurants were abondoned and left empty, it would be difficult to identify the city as being truly Spanish.

One thing that solidifies Madrid as the undisputed capital of Spain is its cultural centres. It is the grand cultural hub of the country. Spain is obviously a major tourist destination, so it contains many, many museums, theatres, parks and various centres for music but Madrid has the most and the biggest.  The Reina Sofia, the Museo del Prado, Theatro Real and Retiro Park all have a home in Madrid and are all arguable the best of their category in Spain.

Its status as capital of Spain is undisputed, it is the biggest, most populated, most central and most European of all the country’s major cities but is it the best? No. If you heard some negative connotations about the cities architecture that is because I am far from believing that the city is Spains most beautiful. Nor, in my opinion is the city the most culturally colourful, despite the many cultural hubs. Many people who visit or who have lived in the city love it but I don’t. It is missing a little character that other Spanish cities have in abundance. That is not say I don’t like it, I just don’t love it.

Visit plaza mayor in Madrid and check out the beautiful buildings.

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