Yes, it is true. I have spent 18 years of my life travelling, living and working in different towns, cities and countries and I have settled for Valencia.
My first job was a part-time paper round at age 15, in Wrexham while I was still at school, followed by a weekend job at a fish & chips shop in Gwersyllt, before moving into full time work at Wrexham Industrial Estate, doing 12 hour shifts at Delta foods and Rowan Foods, from 6 am to 6 pm with only a 15 min morning break, 30 mins for lunch and 15 min afternoon break, making handmade spring rolls; I still remember the thrill of having a little bit of pocket money from my paper round and being able to buy my first record albums from my local high street or even switching my 80’s cassette player for a new Hi-Fi CD player with 200 watt speakers (at the time my pride and joy).
As an 18 year old wide eyed, virgin, I decided to leave home and both Wales and England in 1998 to move to exotic, exciting, vibrant Spain; the jewel in the sun! where instead of the grey, white, wet, watercoloured skies of England, there was a technicolour land of bright earthy, orange, red and yellow colours awaiting with blue skies. As a young lad, the thought of dancing along the streets of Spain with some pretty, brown eyed, dark haired señorita was all I could think about, throughout many a sleepless teenage nights 😉
So after a brief training course in Paris, we were sent to L’Escala in Catalonia, where I spent the following 4 years working at a summer resort called “Camping Las Dunas” working as an animator and later as a warehouse worker, and in the winter at another warehouse at a ski station in Baqueira Beret, near Lleida. I even remember one year King Juan Carlos and Jose Maria Aznar came to ski, nothing to be proud of really! …..but I am trying to give my story a little more colour (apologies to fellow socialists). I also spent one winter working at an Irish pub in Gerona which has since closed down, although nothing to do with me, of course and also a winter in Barcelona with my first girlfriend working at a “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. The two other winters I spent working at a pharmacy in Chester, England called “Boots Chemist” and another pharmacy in Shrewsbury, England called “Superdrug”.
After four years of working in tourism and catering, I decided I needed to get some qualifications so I moved back to England but this time to Manchester. I spent the following 3 years working full time from 9 am to 4 pm at the Children’s Hospital on Oxford Road, cleaning and helping to take food to the patients on different wards, while going to night college from 7 pm to 11:30 pm to get my “A levels” so as to be able to gain access to a University. I eventually got into University to undertake a BA degree in journalism and media. This choice would later become a regret, as I wish I had studied Biology with another language like French. …but we live on and learn to own our mistakes or even try to remedy them in some cases. On the plus side, I made a lifelong friend in Manchester who I still visit to this day, in spite of his current residence being in America.
During the last three years of my degree I worked as a lifeguard at the Manchester Aquatic Centre every night after University from 6 pm to midnight, including weekends, with a nice group of colleagues and supervisors, where I started a new, healthier lifestyle of regular exercise, consisting in running, weight lifting and swimming. I kept very fit for the next 9 years, until I began to travel again, thus breaking my routine and giving up on good habits.
In 2008 I finished my degree and moved to Madrid where I began to teach English at a family academy called “Open School of Languages” in “Nuevos Ministerios” for Alberto Moreno and his daughter Charo Moreno, both lovely people to work for, who provide their teachers with a friendly, supportive working environment, without taking themselves too seriously.
Then in 2009, I moved to Sevilla to teach full-time at the University of Pablo Olavide on the outskirts of the city. This is also the year when I became a daily cyclist, as I have never driven or had a driving license. I would cycle around 100 km a day, as I would commute several times a day from “Calle Fernando IV” and “Calle Virgen de Lujan” to work at Pablo Olavide, in addition to several other company classes at the other extreme end of Sevilla, including the Industrial Estate, near the airport. There was nowhere I couldn’t reach by bike.
After working for 4 years in Sevilla, I decided to move to Valencia!
It was here where I currently live that I rediscovered my love for Spain. As a child we had spent some time at a little village near Torrevieja, where all the other “guiris” live, so I already had plenty of memories of the Southern region of Valencia, which came flooding back as I walked and cycled the streets of Valencia city.
It is a strange thing memory and the human brain but even after more than 20 years of not being in the region of Valencia, my brain was still able to instantly recognize all the unique smells, sights and idiosincracies of Valencian lifestyle…… to use an oxymoron it was like “a familiar stranger” with an overwhelming yet pleasant sense of déjà vu.
Although, I had never lived in Valencia city before, I felt at ease strolling through its neighbourhoods. The smell of the “Turia” park as I cycle through it, especially on a rainy winter day like today, stimulates all my senses; especially the smell of pine trees, geraniums, thyme bushes, rosemary, basil and the colour of Valencia’s soil. The friendliness of the people and easy conversation that you can have with complete strangers……so different to England, France and other parts of Spain. The nightlife and above all its outdoor street life. Valencia has everything you need in terms of quality of life, a 10 km park that cuts through the whole city yet unifies it like a giant artery, as it is accessible from every angle to everyone, long extensive beaches, a wide range of restaurants and bars for all tastes, an airport with a wonderful metro link that can get you there from anywhere in the city in less than half an hour.
Having said this, I also spent 6 months in Lyon, France to improve my French, a couple of months in York, England and another year in Barcelona, including several visits to Paris, New York, Boston, once to Rome, Naples, Pompei, Salerno, Berlin, Norway, Denmark, Holland and Brazil but Valencia is the only city I have ever felt nostalgia for. Relax Valencia! you have nothing to envy from other world cities 😉
This is why I say…….Valencia ……I love you!