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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mi (Nuevo) Barrio

If I had to pick the best thing about my neighborhood I would have to nominate my corner bar. Bar Canadá isn’t just any corner bar. In the trivia game of my life it happens to be—strictly by chance—the first bar I entered in Valencia when I arrived over three years ago. My brother and I were making our way to the city center from the vacation apartment I rented when I first arrived and we were passing by Bar Canadá at beer thirty. It is on one of the loveliest boulevards in all of Valencia, Avinguda Regne de València (I think it's called Atiguo Regno in Spanish but don't quote me on that). Now Bar Canadá is just a few doors away from where I live.

Bar Canadá has a great terrace on the boulevard and I sit outside in all but the foulest weather. I like to read outside during the day because if I have sufficient ambient light I don’t need my reading glasses. This bar has become my reading room. I go there at least once a day to plow through a few pages of whatever book I happen to be reading (I am rereading Mario Vargas Llosa’s Travesuras de la Niña Mala which I cannot recommend highly enough). I will also go there to watch football (last night I killed two birds with one stone as I read and kept one eye on the Mallorca-Barça match [0-1 Barça]). The food is basic Spanish bar fare and I will grab a quick bite there from time to time. I cook so much at home that I rarely eat out.
There is another bar on my block that has pretty good food, a decent terrace, and just about everything else you would ask of a corner bar. I go there every once in a while but I prefer Bar Canadá. Just two or three doors from my apartment there is yet another bar but it seems more like a private club. An older guy owns it and he opens only when he feels like it. We went there once to watch a football game. He has a nice projection screen TV in the dark back end of the bar. We were surrounded by a group of older men and it looked like we were going to witness a Mafia hit. I like the bar but I don’t seem to be on his VIP list.

My block also has a big supermarket. Here in Valencia we have two major supermarket chains: Consum and Mercadona. I much prefer Mercadona but we have a Consum on my block. I will shop there but only grudgingly. There is also a greengrocer next door that I frequent when I am too lazy to make it to the Ruzafa Market. There is also a really good bakery on the end of the block where I buy bread. I will buy unheated bread for dinner parties that I just have to heat up in a hot over for about ten minutes. They come out crusty and fresh and better than anything I could ever bake. There is yet another café next to the bakery that has some tables outside on the broad sidewalk—another great place to read.

There are at least another dozen businesses on my extended block that I don’t have much use for, but you never know. There is a tailoring shop where I keep meaning to drop off a few items of clothing for alteration. There is a pharmacy on the corner, a toy store, a tobacco shop, a pet store, a pizza joint, and a carry-out food place that specializes in empanadas. There are a couple of furniture stores, some sort of school, an electronics shop, a travel agency, and a few other things I may or may not need at some point in my life’s trajectory.

My block is fairly typical, at least here in Spain. It’s an almost completely self-contained unit with absolutely no need for an automobile. Even a bike would be overkill as everything you need is only a few steps away. All of the apartment buildings are either five or six stories with the first floor dedicated to businesses. As far as I have seen and experienced in my life, this is the perfect way to construct a city. I don’t think that an automobile is very necessary at all if you live in a city like Valencia. I look at all of the traffic here and I wonder why people are driving.*

*I had my suspicions that a lot of driving here is pointless confirmed the other day. I was visiting a friend when he mentioned that he had to pick up his son from an activity. We went down the elevator to his garage, got in his car, drove out of the garage which can be an incredibly tight fit in spots, drove out into traffic along an unbelievably roundabout path because of the patterns of one-way streets to eventually arrive to pick up his son. As it turns out, this place is only about five blocks from his house and it would have taken less time to walk there. I can’t understand why he just doesn’t make his son walk to and from the activity.


  1. Nice, you even have comments now!

  2. Cool, John. By the way, when you get a chance, listen to James Howard Kunstler at Kuntslercast.com. I think he'd love to hear you comments regarding urbanism.

  3. Sorry, I should have read your earlier post regarding JHK. Great minds think alike. Cheers!

  4. What a great description of real life in Valensia. The way you spend time at the pub is exactly as I would have pictured it. Glad to see the comments back!!!

    P.S. I'm not really anonymous


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