Thursday, 7 April 2016

Cafes and Days

FLTrencat - genuine locals' café for simple breakfasts and snacks, no pretensions and a pleasant feeling of not being exposed as one of the tourists ...

St Martin's Irish bar - every European city seems to have one, and this was great, relaxed and relaxing and decent simple food again.  The craic is international with a local flavour!

Day one proper ...

Bus turistico, and a visit to the wonderful Oceanografico sea-life centre with many settings and sea creatures from penguins to dolphin displays, sharks, flat-fish and so many others. Abundance of sea life even in an artificial setting.

Tapas at Senía, pricked but delicious, cosy and again so genuinely friendly.
I love the local style of smaller bars, cafes and restaurants and smaller dishes with tapas, away from hearty overeating and exuberance (oh dear!)

Day two ...

Historic bus tour A is more long-winded than the coastal route, especially through the narrow streets at the end.  Town historic museum part way along the route is very much a visit though and gives a proper feel for developments and settlements from Roman days of Valentsia through Moorish Spain to 
Twentieth Century strife, ending apparently with Franco's death in 1975. Atmospheric and cheap entry at 2 or 3 Euros.
A local park, if a little artificial but giving some green space and relaxation.

Afternoon rest and later Tapas.

Day three ...

Ceramics Museum just down the road from the hotel, strange bent and twisted figures at each side of the door, and some attractive displays inside, one from across Europe and including items from the Potteries museum in Stoke on Trent: thanks to an EU programme and funding (anti-EU campaigners take note).

Botanical Gardens, a real treat of tall palms, cacti of a size I haven't seen indoors in Birmingam, multitudes of collared doves calling in a carpet of sound, the official garden cats snoozing on the bench or the ground, all in a very relaxed setting.

Walk around town, enjoying sights and sounds at the weekend, café and bocadillos.  
More tapas ...

Day Four
Museo archaeologico is on the site of original Roman walls and ruins.  Another way to gain a feel for the history of the city, well-laid out too and the right amount of information.  Interesting to see which languages are on the boards, and in which order ... Valencian, Spanish, maybe English.
Free entry on Sundays.
Processions and ceremonies over the weekend, read about some festivities for the local Saint, Vincent de Ferrer.
Wonderful collections at the Museo de bellas artes, the classics such as Goya and Baroque masters such as Murillo, and Joaquín Sorolla the Impressionist ( ) who has been represented in the Painting the Modern Garden exhibition in London too, beautiful scenes and colours.

Salads at the friendly local Irish pub.

Day Five 
Had a walk round the El Carme area of the old town, gentrified apparently, side-streets, some high buildings, a mural or two, small shops, a feeling of a distinct quarter
Seemed like a Saint's Day with folk in finery and a procession with statue on a platform, from a side-street church, other ceremonies around over the weekend but some held inside the cathedral due to rain!  Refuge in the Venezuelan café with a group of Italian guys at the next table and a couple alarmed by a cockroach on the window-seat, which landed next on the ground to be pushed away gingerly by the Italians. 
Rain led to standing umbrellas for the outdoor cafe-goers, more rain meant invitations to come inside the café.  Mothers staffing the café, children at a table with colouring or homework, mum with a cycle helmet, guests with fajitas and such, small glasses of beer or fresh juice - zumo de naranjas is wonderful as the oranges probably grow locally - or cortados and so on.
Friendly greetings, staff chatting with customers, waiting for the rain to die down, time for the moment, but not too much, moving on tomorrow to Düsseldorf before Birmingham two days after.

Monday, 4 April 2016


The greatest pleasure in travelling being the people you meet, those who are really part of that world, giving you a piece of belonging and community when you've willingly cut yourself off for a few days, a week or more.  You see part of their life, local customers and friends passing by, given a hug and words of welcome, the cafe the frame and the conversations as stitching in the community fabric or tapestry.
Café, restaurant, bar staff work long hours or balance commitment to family and customers.
Perhaps this is more so in some cultures such as in Southern Europe or the Mediterranean coast.
We felt that in Alicante and now in Valencia too, in a cosy and smart Tapas bar, in a side-street Latino café,  with simple and tastier chile or fajitas than a chain Tex Mex in a chain-recipe flat-pack in an artificial eating mall typical of many cities.

Friday, 25 March 2016


It feels like gorging on light after the Winter.
Monet and the lilies and late scenes awash into almost abstraction.  A real find of Spanish painters Rusiñol and Sorrollo, with clay or terracotta colours of buildings and deep red light even in a green garden.  Pissarro and English suburbs or villages in snow or subtle sun.  
Scenes recreated for their beauty, artists absorbed in what they see, love of light and landscape and flowers and being absorbed and taken into a richer world by taking in the world.  
Bonnard with a reclining model resting in the garden against a backdrop of trees and shrubs or a low break before fields to a village and gentle hills. Sleepy outlook. Not the usual Bonnards, a broader sensuousness of nature.
A cool getting warmer sunny day in London, washing the South Bank concrete and colouring the covered food stalls behind with multiple offerings and smooth coffee with an earnest conversation about indies and chains behind me.
Royal Academy exhibition in London: Painting the Modern Garden. .
March 2016.