Armed with a pen, paper and a list of questions, we set out into the streets of Valencia to meet some locals. As we suspected, this turned out to be a simple task. Valencians practically live outdoors, especially during the summer, and are friendly and approachable. Almost every person we stopped was happy to take a few minutes out of their day to answer our questions.
We found Isabela sitting on a bench in the Plaza de la Patriarca, where she was taking a break with a book. When we asked if we could disturb her, she smiled and asked us to sit down. With her warm disposition, chatting with Isabela was a pleasure… and she seemed just as interested in learning about us, as we were in getting to know her.
Where do you work, or what do you study? I work at a nearby pharmacy.
What’s your favorite food? I’m sure most Valencians will say “rice,” but my favorite dish has always been patatas con huevo (potatoes with egg).
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? I really love the beach of El Saler, which is to the south of the city. In the city itself, my favorite spot might be the Plaza Redonda. I most appreciate all the ancient spots in Valencia.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? The climate, and the agreeable people. It’s a big city, but also quite small — you can really walk anywhere you want to go, and this is something you can’t do in many other cities, like Madrid or Barcelona.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? More than anything, I can’t stand the noise sometimes.
What kind of music do you like? Classical.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Asia has always been the place I’d like to see… more specifically, perhaps Nepal or Thailand.
We intercepted Amparo and Manuel in front of the Church of San Valero, on a pleasant evening when it seemed as though everyone in Ruzafa was out on the streets. A friendly couple who have always lived in the neighborhood, they were happy to take some time to answer our questions.
Where do you work, or what do you study? [Manuel] We’re both retired now, but I worked in commerce. [Amparo] I’ve always been an ama de casa (stay-at-home mom), so I don’t know if you could say I ever really “retired,” but I definitely worked!
What’s your favorite food? Valencian paella, naturally. And all the different sorts of rice dishes you can get here.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? We have to say Ruzafa. It’s changed a lot over the years, but this has always been our home and it’s our favorite place in the city.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? [Manuel] That’s hard… I suppose just the land itself. [Amparo] Come, we can do better than that. [Manuel] Alright, alright. I always feel proud seeing the Virgen de los Desamparados. [Amparo] And the City of Arts and Sciences!
And what do you like the least about Valencia? The politicians. [“Well they’ve recently changed, right? The latest elections have brought a whole new government into power.”] Ach, they’re all the same!
What kind of music do you like? [Manuel] We love zarzuelas, and good old Spanish songs. We’re not really into all that modern stuff. [Amparo] Oh I don’t know, I like some of the modern stuff, too!
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? [Amparo] I’ll say New York. We’re actually going there in a couple months, and I can’t wait! [Manuel] But for me, the best city in the world is Paris. Definitely!
Sylvia was walking behind us down Calle Baja, en El Carmen, and I think she was startled when we spun around and started peppering her with questions. But she recovered quickly, and was happy to talk. Although she’s lived here for years, she was careful to warn us that she’s not a born Valencian — she comes from Cantabria, in the north of Spain. But we decided she’s been here long enough to qualify, and might have a different perspective on life in Valencia.
Where do you work, or what do you study? Actually, right now, I don’t work anywhere. I’m taking the summer off before starting the search for a new job. I worked for a long time in a herbolario, which is like a health foods store or organic pharmacy, but we recently had to close.
What’s your favorite food? Perhaps because I’m from the north, I’m a fan of meat, provided it’s a good cut and well-cooked. In terms of Valencian food, I really love arroz caldoso, which is a rice dish thick with broth.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? For me, the most amazing spot in the city is La Lonja.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? The life in the streets, and the beautiful light. I love how people here live their lives outside, especially in the summer. It’s very friendly.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? Las Fallas. I don’t like how it’s organized, and there seems to be a lack of respect. The Fallas commissions get to do anything they want, and it seems unfair. Another negative of Valencia is that it can be quite dirty.
What kind of music do you like? Mostly, I’m a fan of Celtic and instrumental music. I also really enjoy the music of Joaquín Sabina.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Northern Europe. I’m fascinated by Scandinavia and would love to go there.
Rafael was sitting on a bench in the shadow of Basilica de la Virgen, taking a break from the summer heat. It didn’t look like we’d be disturbing him, so we approached and asked if he had a moment to answer some questions. And he was happy to oblige.
Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m retired now, but I used to work as a mechanic.
What’s your favorite food? I love seafood. Especially the gambas rojas (red shrimp) from the Mediterranean.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? Right here, the Plaza de la Virgen, is the best place in the city and the most historic. In the wider Valencian Community, I’d have to say Gandía.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? I suppose I’m proud of all the ancient buildings we have. It’s quite a cultural heritage.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? Well… if I could change something, I would normally say the government, but that’s just recently changed! So I suppose I’m happy.
What kind of music do you like? I just enjoy popular music, nothing special. [“You mean, popular Spanish music?”] Well, of course!
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I would love to visit the Grand Canyon in the USA. And Alaska must be amazing.
We entered the Mercado de Colón hoping to find a suitable candidate to interview, but only encountered either tourists or locals who were clearly in a hurry. And then, we spotted somebody who obviously wasn’t a tourist, nor would be leaving the market anytime soon: a friendly-looking woman working in the flower shop. “Good morning señorita, do you have a moment to spare?”
Where do you work, or what do you study? As you can see, I work here, selling flowers in the Mercado de Colón.
What’s your favorite food? I love jamón ibérico. Also, tortilla de patata, but it has to be juicy and well-made. I’m picky with my tortillas.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? In the city, my favorite area is the neighborhood of El Carmen. Further out, I really love the beaches of Xàbia.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? I suppose, the attitude and atmosphere among the people. Here, we live in the street, and that’s something special.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? Public transportation needs to be improved. There should be more connections especially for the towns and neighborhoods just outside of the city.
What kind of music do you like? Anything from the 80s. Bands like Supertramp are my favorite.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Egypt. Maybe not right now, with the troubles they’re having, but I would love to see the pyramids.
We were walking past the Mercado Ruzafa, when Manolo caught our eye. He was working at a shoe repair shop, and agreed to answer some questions… provided he could continue working. ¡Sin problemas, amigo!
Where do you work, or what do you study? I work here at the zapatería in Mercado Ruzafa. Also, as a hobby, I dabble in photography… so I’m a little reluctant to have my picture taken. I’m much more comfortable behind the camera.
What’s your favorite food? I most like beans. [“That’s a unique answer!”] Really? I love judias (regular beans), lentejas (lentils) and garbanzos (chickpeas).
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? I don’t know, as far as I’m concerned every place in the city is the same. [“What about outside the city?”] The only thing that comes to mind is Teruel, but that’s not even really in Valencia, so it might not count.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? Proud? Come on, I’m not an American, so patriotic and boastful of my country. I guess our beaches are nice. But I don’t think I could say they make me “proud”.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? Definitely the bull fights. They’re horrible. [“Are you a vegetarian?”] No, why would you ask that? [“I don’t know, your favorite food is beans, and you’re against the bullfights…”] Pffft, I like meat. And everyone likes beans, come on.
What kind of music do you like? Let’s just say, that depends upon who I’m dancing with, heh! I do like Spanish pop… currently, I’m listening to Dani Martín.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The Black Forest of Germany. That has seemed such a beautiful place to me.
Carlos was just leaving school for his midday break, when we stopped him in front of the Mercado Colón. As our chat progressed, more and more of his buddies from school joined us… all of them curious about why Carlos was talking with these strange foreign guys.
Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m still in school, and haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my life.
What’s your favorite food? Paella Valenciana is the best.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? I think that the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias is the best area in the city.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? Las Fallas. This is a great festival, so much fun.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? Hmmm… we always have a hard time skateboarding. There’s not enough places to practice, and the cops always give us problems.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I can’t wait to go to Paris.
It went exactly according to plan. We had passed by a culture center, where there was a large group of people milling about inside. “A-ha! These cultural types are always friendly!” It looked as though some sort of meeting had just ended, so they would be leaving soon and would have time to answer our questions. Nuria and Andrea were the first to step outside… and they fell right into our clutches!
Where do you work, or what do you study? [Both kind of looked at each other, and laughed at this. I assume “work” is a frequent topic.] We do a lot of different things, though I don’t know if any of them are really jobs. We help here (at the cultural center) with management. But I am really an actress, and Andrea is a dancer.
What’s your favorite food? [Nuria] Rice dishes, such as paella. [Andrea] I love anything Mediterranean.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? [Both] The historic center is the best part of Valencia. [“And outside of the city?”] [Nuria] I love Denía. [Andrea] I’d have to say the Albufera.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? [Nuria] The quality of life here is great. There’s a wonderful climate, and I love how flat the city is, which makes it very easy to bike. [Andrea] What I’m most proud of is our Valencian language.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? [Both] The lack of jobs, especially for young people. And just the general instability of life.
What kind of music do you like? [Nuria] Pop is my favorite music, particularly stuff from the 1980s. [Andrea] I love Valencian music of any kind. Aspencat, La Gossa Sorda and Gener would be some good examples.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? [Noria] I’d love to go to Australia. [Andrea] And for me, it’d have to be Cuba. I’m a dancer, after all!
It was getting darker, and we were just about finished with our interviews. But there seemed to be something missing… and then we realized it. We hadn’t yet talked to any scruffy young dudes! And, like, 90% of young Valencian dudes are scruffy. And then, as if on cue, Iván came around the corner. Sorry, we can tell you’re in a hurry, but there’s no way we’re letting you and your scruff get away!
Where do you work, or what do you study? I work in information technology.
What’s your favorite food? I suppose paella valenciana… although now that I think about it, I might actually prefer arroz al banda.
What’s your favorite place in Valencia? There are a lot of great places. For people new to Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences is amazing. I prefer El Carmen… and when I’m going out on the night, I like the port area, and the Umbracle, which is a club in the City of Arts and Sciences.
What about Valencia makes you most proud? I haven’t really thought about that before. I guess the climate here is wonderful, and is probably the best thing about the city.
And what do you like the least about Valencia? There’s too much corruption. And there should be more bicycle lanes. Actually, there are a lot of lanes in the Turia, and that’s nice, but there aren’t nearly enough in the center of the city.
What kind of music do you like? I prefer house music. [Any Spanish bands?] Well, I liked Estopa and El Canto del Loco, though it’s been years since I’ve listened to them. And I think El Canto del Loco actually split up… it’s just Dani Martín now.
If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Just one? I’d love to go to Mykonos, Iceland, and Australia. And there are so many more.