Despite efforts (and threats) to shut them up and to remain a secret place free of Amerikanisation, New York’s most prestigious newspaper The New York Times published an article in January 2012 in which it described Valencia as a city that knowledgeable travellers are increasingly visiting.
This increase in tourist visits is attributed to the inauguration of Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences, the 2007 America’s Cup and the opening of the high-speed rail service to Madrid.
Among the monuments highlighted were the Mercado Central and the Lonja de la Seda silk exchange.
The sweet tiger nut drink ‘horchata’ also gets a mention, as do the curiously named (for an English speaker) long pastries that accompany the drink; ‘fartons’.
A lot is made of the Barrio (district) de Carmen, the medieval part of the city brimming with bars, restaurants and original shops, although the writer, Charly Wilder, lets slip that he may have written the whole thing while surfing the Net by describing the Carmen as ‘hilly’, when anyone who lives there knows that there are pancakes that are hillier.
The increase in cyclists taken advantage of the absence of hills in Valencia is also taken note of, and the large number of cyclists who take advantage of the Turia Park, once the city’s river, which circles the old city.
Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences, which features in the film Di Di Hollywood and in many advertisements, and the Oceanagraphic also receive praise.
The Ruzafa district is identified as an up and coming Notting Hill kind of neighbourhood, where the Slaughterhouse Bookshop (named not after Karl Vonnegut but referring to its previous role as a butcher’s) gets special mention.
One of Valencia’s many museums, is given special attention and enables the reader to discover how old the city is with its Roman ruins dating back to the founding of the city in 138 B.C.
The Moorish history will also be remembered by fans of Charlton Heston, who conquered Valencia in the film El Cid, although the city was in fact represented in the movie by a very different town, Peñiscola, a hundred miles or so to the north.
The Balansiya restaurant, where medieval Moorish cuisine is recreated, is only one homage to the city’s Islamic heritage, which includes its unique agriculture and irrigation, and the presence of citric fruits, rice and many Arabic place names.
Valencia’s night life and night owl reputation also feature, and are compared favourably to the Big Apple’s own Studio 54 and Jersey Shore.
Shopping focuses on the Sunday flea market held next to the Mestalla football stadium, home of Valencia FC, currently third in the world’s best league, although no mention is made of the city’s other team, Levante, currently fourth.
The city’s world famous paella is of course on the menu and the Las Arenas beach is recommended as the place to try it. Once again the writer forgets to mention the little village on the Albufera lake just outside the city, El Palmar, which is the local Mecca for lovers of rice, and is actually next to the rice growing area.
All in all, the city comes across as an attractive place to visit and a wonderful city to live in. But of course, those of us who live here already knew that.