First, the good news. On the day we left Montevideo, Aeorlingua Argentina called. Our flight from Buenos Aires to Madrid at 11:25 pm. would probably be cancelled because the airline workers (pilots? flight attendants? mechanics?) were going out on strike at midnight. “To insure you can fly to Europe, please take the earlier 5:35pm flight from Montevideo.” We were to have left Montevideo for Buenos Aires at 7:30), but now our new flight would leave Madrid at 7:25.
Good news, indeed. That meant arriving in Madrid almost six hours ahead of our original schedule. Then we could catch an earlier train from Madrid to Valencia and Jesse Bentley, who was planning to meet us at the station, wouldn’t have to wait until our scheduled 9:22 p.m. arrival, and our Airbnb hosts could stay home for the evening rather than coming to let us in the apartment around 10:00 p.m. Excellent!
Then the not-so-good-news. A taxi rushed us across Madrid from the airport to the station to catch the 2:00 train (instead of the 7:40) to Valencia. We got there–just one minute after the gate closed. Not to worry. Another one would be leaving at 4:00. So we waited around, got in line, and were rejected at the gate. Train’s full. Tears were futile. So it was back to Square One, Plan A.
Then came what could have been a disaster. Another parcel missing. Since we had several hours to kill, I invited Joy to join me for an elegant meal in the train station diner. On her credit card, of course. While we were eating Joy spotted an electrical outlet, sought and got permission to plug her computer in for a recharge. That went well until we got up to leave—and discovered the computer had left ahead of us. She had been keeping her eye on it, but in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, it vanished. A few moments of, shall we say, mild consternation. Turned out that a waitress had fretted over what she thought was an abandoned computer and carried it to the kitchen for safekeeping. That was her story and we believed her. And began breathing normally again.
All was well until our gate was called. I walked ahead to secure us a place in line and then waited for Joy. And waited. And waited, as the line moved past me. Finally she arrived, looking a little befuddled. She hadn’t been able to find her purse. Checked everywhere. Was really worried. Then finally found it hanging on the other side of her suitcase.
Do you think people our age ought to be turned loose on the world?
[Joy just read what I wrote. “Surely you did something wrong also,” she harrumphed. I admitted I might have been a little more forceful with the lady at the information booth who could have issued us the tickets for the earlier train but didn’t. “Put that in there,” she said.]
MONTEVIDEO RETROSPECTIVE. We looked at each other in our Uber to the airport. Neither of us wanted to leave the gang at La Ruta, Montevideo’s Globalscope campus ministry. This has become a recurring theme for us in country after country. We arrive, we embrace, we learn to love, we leave, we regret we have to leave. What remarkable young people we have been hanging out with! Now it’s on to Spain and some time with en Vivo in Salamanca and en Vivo in Valencia. It’ll be more of the same. In Valencia we’ll not only be with the Bentleys and Allsops and teammate Noemi but coincidentally we are arriving at the same time Globalscopers from England, Scotland, and Germany are meeting together with Spain in the annual Euroscope Celebration. And we get to join in the fun. We won’t forget our friends in Australia and South America, though.
VALENCIA ARRIVAL. Jesse Bentley, who with his wife Sophie, heads the new Valencia Globalscope team, was a welcome sight as we finally stumbled off the train in Valencia late Thursday evening. Scooping up our large suitcases, he led us to his waiting minivan and chauffeured us to our new home at Carrer de Rodrigo de Pertagas 22.
We knew immediately we were going to like it here, a spacious two-bedroom apartment with good lighting and an extra table for Joy’s painting.
After what seemed a very short night we joined the EuroScope meeting the next day for lunch and then returned to be with them the next day for their final dinner together.
It was a great party, leaving us once again grateful that we could be with them and a little sad that it’ll be some time before we get to see them again.
You’ll not be surprised when I confess that my record of getting lost in a new city remains unbroken. My first morning out for my daily walk had two possible destinations: either the port in one direction or a city park in another direction. I managed to not find either of them but had a good walk anyway. I discovered that our apartment is pretty much on the edge of this large city. Since I couldn’t find my destinations, it was a longer walk than I had intended. Good exercise for the heart, though. (Now before you’re too critical of my propensity to get lost, I should remind you that Valencia is a city of 1.5 to 2.5 million inhabitants–depending on who gets counted–and they’re spread out over a pretty wide area and the signs are in another language and the natives seem to have little interest in English and besides what should you expect of a septuagenarian, anyway ?)
Our first “on the town” together took us into Valencia’s Ciutat Vella (that’s “Old City” in English, “Ciudad Vieja” in Spanish; Valencia has its own language, Valenciana, which is used for street and place names—a bit of a challenge for the foreigners in their midst).
Thanks to instructions from Erik Allsop, we safely negotiated the distance between home and Ciutat Vella on a city bus. Not without our usual comedy of errors, of course, starting with boarding through the back door instead of the front where we should have swiped our boarding card; the bus driver was quick to correct us! But we got off at the right place—which we didn’t do on our return trip, so we saw other parts of the city we didn’t mean to. We enjoyed the sightseeing. After awhile, though, we noticed we were the only people left on the bus. The driver noticed that also, just before he kicked us off and sent us scurrying to another one he told us (in Spanish—or in Valenciana, we couldn’t tell which) would be going in our direction. It was and it did and it deposited us within a short walking distance of our apartment. We felt rather proud of ourselves for arriving safely back home. I don’t think anyone detected we were not natives of Valencia.
A highlight of our time in the Old City was a free visit to the Centro Cultural Bancaja, an elegant museum in a converted bank building. It featured two modern artists, Julian Opie and Juan Fabuel. I was prepared to be bored, bewildered or simply turned off. In visiting other modern art museums in our Next Phase those were my reactions.
The minimalist abstract landscapes of Julian Opie captivated us, however. I would have even paid an entry fee to see them.
This old city is actually misnamed. It does have several old churches, monuments, and well-preserved commercial buildings, but they are far outnumbered by sleek modern constructions that have transformed the area into a dynamic business district. It felt a bit like being in downtown Manhattan, NY.
Valencia’s outstanding feature is the greenway that arcs its way across the city, the Antigua Cauce del Rio Turia, the “ancient bed of the Turia River.” Romans founded Valencia on the riverbanks in 138 BC. Several times throughout history, the last time in the 1960s, the river burst its seams and flooded the town, wreaking havoc everywhere. Finally the city fathers had had enough, so they rerouted the offending river, dried out the former riverbed, and created the beautiful park that delights residents and tourists alike. Here you’ll find gardens, playgrounds, sports fields, fountains, a zoo, bicycle paths and the modernistic City of Arts and Sciences (the focus of a later lawsonsontheloose.net post). You have to admire civic leadership that would create this mecca–and wonder how they paid for it!
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS