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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Las Campanas de San Valero

I think that it is safe to say that Valencia is fairly noisy as far as cities go. I live above a very narrow but heavily used street so car horns can be heard most hours of the day. The Monday street market brings vendors who start banging iron poles together as they begin setting up their stalls usually well before I am awake. There is no escaping the heinous whine of tiny motorbikes anywhere in this country. There is one bit of noise that enters my apartment that thoroughly charms me every time I hear it: the bells of San Valero church.

Every morning you can hear the smaller bells ringing to signal the daily mass at this 15th century iglesia. The larger bells ares rung at irregular times during the course of a day. All of the bells are rung together for weddings and other special occasions and this can be heard throughout the entire neighborhood of Ruzafa, or the center of the universe as I call my new home. To me the ringing of the bells is very comforting; this sound is as much a part of where I live as the physical structure of the church itself.

Directly below my apartment lies the Plaza/Plaça Doctor Landete. The street sign is written as I wrote it, in both Spanish and Valenciano. The plaza begins at the steps of San Valero and sort of circles my building. On one side is the Ruzafa Market and on the other end of the plaza there is a small fountain. There are two nice outdoor cafes on the square which makes this area a natural meeting spot for the entire neighborhood.

Café Nou is the more modern and the bigger of the two cafes. The other is called Café El Ganxo which would be gancho in Spanish, or hook in English, but since this is Ruzafa and just a bit more local than many other neighborhoods, most business names are in Valenciano. This probably seems incredibly boring but one of my favorite activities is to sit at a table at Café El Ganxo in the late afternoon. I order a coffee (un café Americano con un poquito de leche, por favor) and read for 45 minutes or so, being careful to look over the top of my reading glasses for errant soccer balls as the plaza doubles as a playground at this time of day.

I also think that it is safe to say that I am completely enchanted by my neighborhood in this hidden corner of Valencia. Except for my bike rides, I will go days without venturing more than a couple of blocks from my front door. Why should I go any place else? I have everything I need right here. If it is out of earshot of the bells of San Valero, I don’t need it.

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