Monday, April 7, 2014
There are many reasons why we like Valencia and I have mentioned many of them before. The Mercado Central is a treasure and the fact that it is only a block away makes it even more attractive. The weather is rather ideal with over 300 sunny days a year. The city itself is rather compact and you can walk just about anywhere. If it’s too late or too far there is an excellent and affordable public transportation system. We are on the Mediterranean and the beach is a 20-minute bus ride away. Because it is a city of one million inhabitants you can find just about everything that you might need to make your life easier or more complete. However, Valencia’s best selling points are the people that you meet in going about your business.
Last week I had occasion to visit the main post office. I had purchased a pair of sneakers and I had cleverly ordered the wrong size, so I needed to mail them back. They had come in a large plastic envelope that was unusable once opened so I hoped to find a similar envelope or box at the post office in which I could place the rather large shoebox. The post office functions with a number system with a different numeration for the different types of transactions that can be performed there. I pressed the appropriate button and out popped my number. No sooner did I have it clutched in my hot little hand when that number was called. I quickly approached counter number 8.
I showed the clerk the box and asked if she had an envelope in which it would fit. The box was too big for the largest envelope she had. She then suggested brown wrapping paper as the best solution and produced a little kit that contained wrapping paper, tape and stickers. My immediate reaction was to look at the package and think that I would need to return home to have Susan wrap it for me because when it comes to wrapping anything I am an absolute disaster. The clerk proceeded to open the package, extract one of the two pieces of wrapping paper and handed me the remainder of the kit for another use another day. She then proceeded to wrap the package for me.
If that were not enough, she even generated the label that would take the package to its destination. We chatted during the entire process and I discovered that she and her family were originally from Cadiz and when she was quite young the family had picked up and moved to Valencia. Andalusia has always been plagued by unemployment and it still is in modern times. Back then the only hope for the children of the poor was to be either a farmhand if you were a male or a servant if you were a woman. The move by the father was intended to give his children better opportunities in life. Blessed with a good education, my newfound friend performed well on the entrance test for post office workers and was originally assigned to Madrid. She was later able to transfer back to Valencia.
The conversation was not all one-sided. I shared with her how we ended up in Valencia and all the reasons for our move. I next paid for the kit and the appropriate postage for returning the package. When I walked out I did so with the feeling that this had been a one of a kind experience that never could have or would have happened in the rush, rush United States.
Yesterday another of Valencia’s positive attractions was on display. On a Sunday afternoon everyone gets out of their house and does whatever floats their boat. Sidewalk restaurants are filled with diners, the Turia is filled with walkers, bikers, soccer players, picnickers and young lovers and one needs to pick their way through the baby carriages that command most of the sidewalks. There is a two-month long festival of food and music that is taking place on the terrace of the MuVIM. It is called Espai Mediterrani and it is intended to be a taste of the Mediterranean just like its name says.
Yesterday’s performers were a small flamenco troupe consisting of a singer, a guitarist and a box player. The beer and the wine were flowing and the food choices included hand slice Serrano ham, a variety of cheeses, tabbouleh, falafel, pincho moruño, croquetas de bacalao and other goodies. There were about 200 people in attendance and the mood was festive. Susan was a busy taking photo, as you will see and I found a variety of ways to busy myself. The party ended at a little after four and there were other events that would take place later in the day. This was our major outing for the day and we spent the rest of Sunday at home.