With the move towards townhouses and towns and villages outside the city, whether caused by the pandemic or otherwise, we have been asked many times what is it like to live in a Valencian village or town. Today therefore we thought we would take a look at the aspects that make up a Valencian town.
Civic pride is a big thing with Valencian towns and villages and any local council that doesn’t work on the physical aspects of a town, and even more importantly the fiestas, will have little chance of being re-elected when the next turn at the urns comes. There are many common themes that we can see in what makes a town so let’s look at them in turn.
As you come into most Valencian towns and villages you are met by an ornate massively overdone roundabout in many cases with the name of the town in huge sculpted letters or in the form of flowers. This roundabout will have been opened by the local bigwigs and they will have had their photo taken for the local paper (Or council website) with a gushing story about beautifying the local town. Keep an eye out for the most elaborate roundabouts. There are plenty between Betera and Olocau and a rather excellent one as you go into Betera from San Antonio for example.
The Town Hall
The town hall is often the largest old building or palace in the old town of the town or village concerned. You can easily pick it out because these days it generally has a queue outside as access is restricted due to Covid measures. Three flags, the Spanish, Valencian and European will hang outside usually. If you need to do anything official or you have a question about bin collections, about what that fine is that you have just received or why you can’t have a parking space outside your house, then this is where you have to go and that explains the queue.
The Main Park
Parks are the biggest civic pride thing in Spanish towns and villages (or maybe those roundabouts). Without a lively park surrounded by cafes and bars you can’t really call it a Valencian town. Over the last couple of years, due to Covid of course, parks have become even more important as meeting points for families and friends who don’t want lots of family members crammed into a small flat.
Luckily because of the excellent climate parks are used all day and most of the night. There will be a kids’ play area, a central plaza where concerts and performances can be staged, seated areas, shaded grass or gravel parts and lots of times OAP exercise machines and more. We are also seeing the installation of Crossfit training equipment, fountains and skittle courts as being outside and performing some form of physical activity is encouraged.
The Niche Museum
There is always a niche, some would say, weird museum, that will be dedicated to some obscure skill previously done in the town, to its ethnography or to another little known aspect of the town. The opening times of this museum will be opaque at best and they will usually coincide with groups of small kids being dragged round by their teacher with a notable lack of enthusiasm.
The Main Shopping Street
And it will often be just one street! This is where you will find the butchers, the bakers and even the candlestick makers. There will always be an everything you didn’t know you ever needed shop, a Valencian Fallas dress shop, at least ten fruit and veg shops, a lottery shop, tobacconist, various bars, a picture framing service, a place selling white goods (hand held mini radios, various types of heaters and curlng tongs), loads of hairdresssers, a dentist or two, a local clinic, plenty of estate agents, the surviving travel agency and a bathroom shop.
The Local Shops
One of the major assets of local towns is that they mostly avoid the plague of big cities and that is homogenization. You will not find chain stores pushing out local shops. You won’t find Starbucks taking over from the local coffee shop or greasy spoon cafe or clothing brands moving in to their own place. There is a constant change of look, style of shop and what they sell according to seasons and when the local shop owner retires and someone else takes on the lease.
The reason for this is that the town population is not usually enough for a franchise holder to justify the franchise costs compared with the amount they can earn from opening a named chain store. Also the shops tend to be too small for the demands of a chain who require more space in order to be able to display their full range.
How do you distinguish a town from a village in Valencia? A great rule of thumb is that a village has a local general store or two, a town has a Mercadona and a big town will have more than one Mercadona and may also have a Lidl, Aldi, Consum, Más y Más, Family Cash or other supermarket chain. However Mercadona is the big daddy here.
Mercadona is a Valencian company which over the last decade has grown to be a chain all over Spain and beyond. Known for cleanliness, great staff retention as they treat their staff well, a good selection of fruit and veg, meat and fish and its omnipresence in each Valencian town, Mercadona is the real test of the village versus town question.
The Free Charging Point
The local politician who wants votes from all areas and at the same time wants to be seen to have Green credentials will install a couple of free charging points for electric cars in the town and make them for exclusive use of those living in the town using an RFDI card. Yes, we do have a couple in La Pobla where I live and of course they are totally free. Fair use applies and you can have up to two hours a day for nothing. All you need to do is join the queue at the town hall and get your card issued and kapow, your cheap energy supply for your car just became free.
The Youth Club
There will be events for young kids and teenagers all year round, often put on in the parks but the central point for meeting up is a space the council gives over to a youth club where kids and teens can meet up, play table tennis, sometimes rock climb and more. It also helps them to get out of the house and meet others rather than just hanging around the local bus stop though they can also be found at the local sports clubs, the park and just generally walking around aimlessly in groups enjoying life.
The Main Plaza
The main square of the town is often around the Park but not always. Plazas are common in each town and city in Spain and are often meeting points and centres of commerce because of this. The village plaza is where the gossip gets passed around, families announce their latest additions or departures and people go just to be seen in their best clothes. Therefore the main square is often immaculately maintained as part of that Civic pride thing as everyone sees it.
The Cheap OAP Bar
In every town you wil find a bar or cafe attached to the OAP equivalent of the youth club where people meet up, drink coffee and beer and play card games and dominoes. The prices in these places are really cheap and in most you don’t have to be an OAP to use the facilities as the person who runs the bar will accept anyone’s money. Obviously these were hit big time by the Pandemic but they are coming back strongly now as Spain insists on its societal ties being strong.
The Corrupt Ex Big Cheese
In each town you will find somebody walking around that everyone seems to know and defer to. Generally he, (And it’s always a he), is the ex Mayor who was thrown out after some major corruption scandal involving backhanders and large, unneeded building contracts. Pot bellied, rolled up shirtsleeves and with male pattern baldness you can spot these guys a mile off and yet people still talk to them in hushed tones despite their power being removed some time ago. You can often see them now newly annointed in the local Vox party blaming us immigrants for all of the ills of the town. Dickheads. Avoid.
The Trading or Industrial Estate
For towns and villages to flourish there is a requirement for people to have work in that town, at least there used to be pre-pandemic before remote work agreements became a thing. If there is no work then slowly you get depopulation as the Spanish love living near to where they work so they move closer. Therefore town councils allowed a local trading or industrial estate on the edge of each town where people could easily get into and out of work. Invariably going one way into town will be uglier than another because on one side you will have the totally over the top decorated roundabout and on the other the industrial estate.
The Huge Sports Centre
The penultimate test of the local politician is how much they have expanded and upgraded the local sports centre during their stay at the helm of the town. Every town and village has a sports centre that puts other countries to shame with classes in all types of sports, a gym, an outdoor swimming pool and often an indoor one too, big football pitches, fronton courts, tennis courts and even skate parks and Parkour areas and climbing walls. They are hugely impressive and whatever your interest you should be able to base it around the local municipal sports centre.
However the biggest test of the politician is how the fiestas are organised. Every town or village has its annual fiestas and the bigger the fiestas the better. They will involve a lot of fireworks, plenty of processions, religious imagery, concerts, street theatre, probably a Medievel Market, maybe something to do with bulls and/or horses, plenty of drinking, maybe a huge world record sized paella attempt and a whole lot of politicians appearing and taking the credit for making them the best fiestas ever. At times you go into a town and bump into a surprise fiesta because one thing they generally don’t do is publicize them too well. They rely on everybody in the town knowing about the fiestas already.
There You Have It
The anatomy of what a Valencian village or town is like. Most conform to these parameters but some are better than others of course. Essentially in this article I have been describing my town of La Pobla de Vallbona but the same can be found in most of the larger towns in the Turia valley; Betera, L’Eliana, Lliria and Godella come to mind but there are plenty of others and the smaller places have most of these features but in fewer numbers.
We have written before about the best inland towns and villages to live near to Valencia and you can see that aricle by clicking on the image below. Also read on about our latest Golden Visa Property of the week and more of our past articles below too. We hope you enjoyed this article and if you did feel free to share it.
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