Haphazard: That’s Valencia


Dreadlocked Dana from Savannah was referring to how she found her way here one day when she came up with the word that may best sum up Valencia: haphazard.

Where, years ago, I was looking to live somewhere on the Mediterranean and my Spain trip included plans for a week in Morocco. Two rough days in Tangier killed that idea and knocked any taste for more real travel adventures on that journey out of me. So when going to Lisbon by train called for a 6-hour night layover in Caceres and a 6 a.m. arrival in the Portuguese capital, I looked for an alternative for that vacant weekend.

Where I’d never heard of Valencia before but I’m one of those urban types and it was a big city on the Mediterranean. So I came, I loved it, I kept coming back and finding new things that cracked me up delighted me and made me want to keep coming back. Where The Claire from Austin wound up because Barcelona was too expensive and she couldn’t book a hostal during Semana Santa in Sevilla.

Where you can probably add your own story, because we’re not exactly talking about an A-list destination in Spain- how many people have asked you where the hell Valencia is when you told them you lived there?

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where there was a crumbling old building with five separate units near my piso I watched being renovated for a couple of years. They’re finished now-all five are shaped windows, all five groups of balconies are set at different heights, all five railings have different ironwork designs.

Where you would figure there would be some sort of consistent, unifying design and everything winds up looking slapped together.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where there are always fine sounding GENERAL PLANS and BIG PROJECTS being conceived. Where construction cranes are a seemingly permanent part of the Valencia skyline, open lots closed off by flimsy fencing sit untouched for years on end, and crumbling buildings draped in green mesh stand next to newly renovated facades.

Where jackhammer crews ripping up the pavement are coming soon to the stretch of street beneath your window, starting and stopping with no apparent rhyme or reason, leaving dust and barriers and open trenches in their wake.

Where the constant turnover of bars and bajos means buildings are always being ripped up and plastic bucket chain drop the debris into full dumpsters in the street. Where a new ticket office gets built for a religious art exhibit in the cathedral, sits empty for about two years after the exhibit closed, and then gets torn down.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where little green patches of huerta planted with artichokes and other produce pop up among the concrete in the oddest places.


Where jerry-rigging is the order of the day when it’s time to fix something, especially in an older piso where all the fixtures are way outdated.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where you try to find something in the Yellow Pages and find it works according to a logic totally indecipherable to you.

Where you know that if you call for information, you can only hope to hit the right place because no one will know anything about anything going on anywhere outside their department or where to refer you. Where you know you have to ask some official exactly the right question because any helpful information that falls a silly little millimeter outside your specific question won’t be volunteered.

Where trying to pry advance word of schedules of events or concerts or festivals is next to impossible before the big official presentation or the Friday papers and weeklies hit the kiosks.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where diagonal streets run into traffic circles that run into straight streets so none of the traffic lanes ever line up exactly right and driving through an intersection requires constant little maneuvers to avoid fender benders and find the lane.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia. Where the street names change every two blocks or so and the numbering…well, my street starts in the middle of the block.

Where I once tried to find some business listed in the phone book as San Vicente Martir 70, I think it was, and discovered that would be right in the middle of Guillerm de Castro or the P/San Agustin bus stop.

Where I was heading to pick up my glasses at 70- something Colon and figured if I walked up Paz, I’d hit it just about right. Came to the corner, looked up and saw number 45, cursed under my breath and crossed the street. Where I looked up and saw 82 Colon staring me in the face.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where Metro math means you can ride on lines 1,2 and 4- anybody out there know what happened to line 3?

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Where the pensat i fet fetish means trying to arrange anything two days in advance counts as long-range strategic planning and a pell-mell scramble to try and finish on schedule is standard operating procedure.

Where official opening ceremonies for the Palacio de Congresos and The Science Museum go off as planned even if the buildings aren’t opened yet. I mean, what the hell.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia.

Thing is, even with all the difficulties that come with trying to function in this city, what keeps creeping back in my mind is the chorus of this old ‘60s song.

Haphazard. That’s Valencia…but, deep down, I guess we have to admit that:

The name of the place is:

“I like it like that.”

Alto Gringo

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24/7 Valencia is the definitive English Speaking guide to Valencia. Extensive Listings, up-to-date and informed articles on restaurants, chill out, clubland, football, culture, arts, books, woman and much more.
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