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Thursday, September 16, 2010


I am not going to talk about the great weather we’re having in Valencia, at least not directly. What I am going to talk about is one of the results of this tidal wave of beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures that have been washing over us for several weeks. The weather has been causing massive over-crowding in just about every café terrace in the city, especially in the late afternoon. On many occasions I've had to search out as many as three of my favorite spots in the neighborhood before finding an empty outside table—not a problem if you are traveling by bicycle as I always do when I am alone. On more than one occasion while with bike-less friends (when are they going to get with the bike program?) we have had to settle for an inside table.  ¡Qué barbaridad!

The corner bar/café in Valencia has little in common with the elegant café terraces in Paris. Instead of a place to see and be seen the cafés in my neighborhood are more like an extension of your own kitchen or dining room. To say that dress and attitude at these places is casual is sort of a grotesque understatement—I’m surprised that people don’t wear bathrobes and slippers down to the café for their early morning coffee and cigarette. The café newspapers are the epitome of environmentally-intelligent use because they are read by dozens of people before being relegated to the next link in the recycling chain.  I remember that one of the chain coffee shops in Seattle would throw away leftover newspapers so that customers would be forced to buy their own daily.

While I am on the subject of the environment I just have to say that after all this time in Spain the idea of returning to drinking coffee from a paper cup is just vulgar to me now. You see people here walking around with a Starbucks cup in their hands and you think to yourself, “Why the hell don’t these folks sit down and enjoy their coffee?” You don’t see too many people eating and drinking on the go here. Stuffing your fat gob while walking down the street is sort of bad form.  I don’t mind drinking from a paper cup; it’s the idea of it that bothers me. A paper cup—besides the environmental questions—seems to say that the experience of having a cup of coffee isn’t worth the effort of a real cup, or that you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy it.

The people here don’t multi-task when it comes to coffee. The Spanish don’t have the custom of drinking coffee while they work; for them coffee comes at very specific breaks in the work day. For a coffee break many Spanish workers leave their work and sit at a café. With the exception of Starbucks, there isn’t much in the way of coffee to go in Spain. Why go anywhere when you have a nice table in the sun right here?


  1. 'Gob' is a great word, isn't it? Is it commonly used in EEUU?

  2. Not really, I picked it up from one of my British friends. I also like the expression "To take the piss out of s/t or s/o." We don't have a similar expression in America and we need to adopt this one.


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