at home 1 – the park
Last week marked three years since we moved to Valencia. A lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same.
Honestly I feel a bit melancholy about my end of three year review and where I am with some projects and the state of my life.
At the same time I feel enormously grateful for what I have and what has happened and content as content can be.
a growing relationship
Tonight as I walked the dog through the park I realized with warm satisfaction that I am getting to know and making friends with the landscape in general, but I thought particularly about the park.
I always liked the park, but I didn’t love the park. I do now. The Jardin del Turia is a 9-kilometer green zone built in the former Turia River channel. I especially take heart in the fact that it was a citizens’ movement that stopped the government from constructing a motorway there as originally planned.
Walking with my neighbor (and the dogs) in the Turia last summer, “Juan” mentioned that he remembered seeing a model of what the park would be like once it was constructed. This was in the 1960s, the country lived under Franco. My neighbor said he didn’t believe the park would ever come into being because nothing good ever happened under the dictatorship. He said he was glad he was wrong.
The park did get built. And they also built several new bridges to help with the flow of traffic. Another neighbor told me that until the 1990s there were only 4 bridges across the river/park in the whole of the city. There are 15 now. I haven’t fact checked the 4 bridges, (she is 18 years old) but several do look “modern”. And in my experience — the city that does not suffer much traffic congestion, maybe that’s why.
to the right, and to the left
The bridge / entrance to the park nearest our house is “Demon Bridge” and turning right takes me to what I originally called “Disneyland,” but now I acknowledge is the City of Arts and Sciences. I suppose I have warmed to the area because it is some pretty cool architecture (really, if nothing else, click on the link to see the buildings in the City of A & S) and I have enjoyed concerts and other cultural events in the zone. Although I do not like or approve of the dolphin shows in the Oceanografic.
Back at Demon Bridge, turning to the left takes me to olive groves and piney “forest” next to the Palau de la Música, one of the first buildings in this park project. The riverbed/park continues on west towards the center of the city, through downtown and out, eventually running up into the mountains.
wild and woodsy versus nice and trim
I think my basic block about the park was I simply missed Hackney Marshes, that vast green patch of East London where I lived for 10 years. Yes, it was London, yes I could still hear traffic, but the marshes has some densely forested areas and felt vaguely “wild and woodsy” and I tended to be there when there were few other visitors. That was my daily landscape and dog-walking zone.
The Jardin de Turia in contrast is heavily used. I see fewer people the earlier I go in the morning, but I’ve never been there and felt alone. The park felt a bit too trimmed and manicured for my taste at first, the most wild and woodsy things are the colonies of cats living in the park. Now I appreciate the space more: the public furniture and sculpture, exercise equipment, sports zones, playgrounds, tiny bar/cafés and flowing streams of water, fountains and ponds. Also I’ve started studying tree identification and the gardening teams are out every morning doing a variety of jobs and are helpful and knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.
Ultimately I suppose what has made the difference is I have gone out and done things in the park: walk the dog twice a day, have picnics, meet old/new friends. I have developed a relationship to the landscape.
Lula has made a difference too I would say. Since she joined the family, daily walks are routine again (hurrah!), she likes the park, and she’s even starting to enjoy meeting and playing with other dogs there. Lula likes to go to the left. Beyond the Palau de la Música there is a bit of park landscaped with orange trees, and I think the territory feels familiar to her coming as she did from an orange farm-family.
So that’s where I am with be-friending the park.
Local people feel very fond and nostalgic about the orange groves, and Valencia oranges do have some fame around the world, so this may not surprise you.
10 minutes from home by bicycle, is the Horta Sud, and being so close to the city it is vaguely urban, several of the old farmhouses have been converted into elegant restaurants among the orange trees. The famous local dish, paella, is said to be best if cooked on a fire with orange tree wood and eaten under the same trees.
I’ve been to restaurants in the Horta Sur, it is a nice experience. But I just can’t find it in my heart to feel a warmth for this landscape of orange trees.
This little urban/rural patch by my house is not much, but the train from Valencia to Barcelona passes kilometer after kilometer of orange orchards. They are squat and fat trees for easy-picking, and though I can see some beauty in the landscape, it looks like scars to me. Row after row of mono-culture farming, no diversity, no difference, and something that has been in the region for hundreds of years. It’s the source of many people’s livelihood, it’s not going away, nor am I, and so neither will my relationship to this landscape. My feelings about orange groves too will change I am certain. So watch this space, more soon another day.
The Jardin del Turia