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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mediterranean Autumn

Life on the Mediterranean isn’t bad at all during these days of early autumn, especially if you are a cyclist. The weather is perfect for just about every human activity. It’s almost impossible not to stop at every outdoor café for a coffee or a beer. I have traded in my flip flops for my cleated cycling shoes and I have upped my mileage (kilometerage? Spell-check certainly hates that metric alternative) from lazy beach rides to long exploratory missions into the vast network of villages surrounding Valencia. The environs of Valencia never really interested me much before; they were simply obstacles to pass on my way into the countryside. More and more they have become the destination as I find that they have their own attractions of history and architecture.

As I explore these areas I am quickly become one of the foremost experts on the bike trail network of Valencia. I am constantly amazed by the depth and breadth of the bike trail system here. Name just about any two points in the Valencia Community and you can probably get from one to the other on a bike path. The problem with the bike paths of Valencia is that not enough Valencianos use them. It is really a shame how few people effect their transportation needs via bicycles. Even during this perfect weather you don’t see many people on bikes. The local government needs to do more to sell the whole idea of bike riding to the general public. I think a lot of people’s rejection of the bicycle as a means of transportation is their belief that automobiles are the right and privilege of middle class life. For this same reason many people prefer to drive in heavy traffic rather than use the effortless and staggeringly efficient mass transit network.

I can get around town and even out into the surrounding areas of Valencia much quicker on my bike than is possible in a car. When you factor in parking there isn’t any contest. I can even beat the metro on my bike when you include walking to the stations and waiting for trains. Riding at a fairly leisurely pace I rode from my apartment in the center to Valencia to Rocafort (about 20 kilometers) in less than an hour. I doubt if I could match that by taking metro. I turned around and rode back although I had every intention of just boarding a train at some point along the route. It turned out to be too nice a day for me to get off my bike so I pedaled all the way home again—not bad for a guy who was too sick to get out of bed only a couple of days previous (I had been stricken with the dreaded Swine Flu. Newsflash: it’s not some sort of deadly Andromeda Strain, people. It’s the flu.).

I didn’t have much time for tourism on this particular trip but I’ll get around to it soon as this will be a regular destination for me I the months to come as I plan on being out in that area three times a week. I had my camera with me but I didn’t bother to take a single snapshot which says a lot about my lack of commitment in the photography department.

I am always struck by how life in these outlying villages is just about the same as life here in the city: People live mostly in apartments; there are bars and other businesses on every block; people generally walk everywhere; and public transportation is excellent. I could move to one of these small towns and my lifestyle would hardly miss a beat. I would probably have to start speaking Valenciano but just about everything else in my life would be the same.