A Home in Paterna – 1

None of the dozens of paintings I have created in Spain would have been possible without the friendship of Toti Romero and her husband, Manolo Blasco. We met on my first visit to Valencia 30 years ago, in August of 1988. The meeting was not an accident: Toti and Manolo were friends of my brother Tim, and so the gratitude I have for them also extends to him. (There are also many other generous Spaniards involved in the much larger story, especially Paco Julian, but I’ll relate those tales in future posts.)

During that first visit I stayed for several days with Toti and Manolo and their daughter Elena in an unusually beautiful old house in Paterna, a small town a few miles northeast of Valencia. The two-story house was surrounded by walls draped with bougainvillea and shaded by a variety of trees against the relentless Mediterranean sun. Toti had grown up in this house and, even though she, Manolo and Elena lived in a flat in Valencia, they used the house in Paterna as a summer home. Two years later, I had saved enough money to live in Spain for several months; Toti graciously offered her childhood home for me to live in.

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A Cathedral of Things to Eat

Nearly thirty years after the Eiffel Tower had been constructed and unveiled to the world in the Exposition of 1889, the civic leaders of Valencia, a major port on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, decided to demonstrate that their city was just as wealthy as the city of Paris. And so, in 1914, they began building El Mercado Central, the Central Market. Their claim of money and power was not a fantasy: since the Romans founded the city more than 2,100 years ago, the Coast of The Orange Blossoms, (La Costa del Azahar) and Valencia, its capitol, have stocked kitchens and pantries all over the world with ceramics, rice, pomegranates, artichokes, plums and of course, their most famous export, oranges.

Although the horizontally-designed Mercado Central and the vertical Eiffel Tower seem to have little in common, both structures share a material integral to their construction. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrought iron was used for manufacturing everything from horseshoes to rails for trains and streetcars. Many architectects and engineers regarded it as the perfect material for creating “modern” architecture.
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At Night, Somewhere

Some of the pleasures of leaving your home and traveling to Somewhere are your encounters with the new, the unexpected and the strange. Why else travel? During her long life, the British explorer Freya Stark (1893-1993) traveled to many Somewheres. The following words appear in her Baghdad Sketches, 1932:

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes.”                                                                                                    

Whether you tiptoe one step at a time into the stream or leap into it with a big splash, your acceptance of “whatever comes” is crucial to living in the Somewhere. But often, especially if you travel alone, you may find that, in addition to to being surrounded by adventure, you also carry your aloneness, the awareness of being a stranger. Natives may welcome you, but you are still someone from somewhere else.

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