24th May 2024
La Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia
Spotlight Valencia News

Welcome to ‘Valencia in English’

Welcome to our new section – Valencia in English

While the lockdown has caused pain and suffering to so many, there are also some positives to come out of it. The environment is starting to breathe again and there can’t be many of us who haven’t learnt some new technological skill. Even my mother-in-law has had to download houseparty by herself while in confinement.

For me I’ve been fortunate enough to discover Spain in English and am delighted to be joining the team, giving a glimpse into what’s happening in the Valencia region.

I’m originally from a village near Canterbury, in the UK, where I used to be a reporter on a local newspaper.

I’m based in l’Eliana, where I live with my Valencia-supporting husband Juan, our four Spanglish daughters and two dogs. (I’m really a cat person at heart, but one of the small people in our family is extremely allergic to cats so we had to settle for a cat-sized dog instead).

Valencia Chelsea
Catherine at the Mestalla stadium on 27 November 2019 to watch a Champions League group tie between Valencia (her husband’s team) and Chelsea (her team). It was 2-2.

Before moving to Valencia we lived in deepest Aragón, just an hour south of the French border, in a small village near Huesca. Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of it, most people haven’t. The most famous former resident I managed to discover was Spice Girl Geri Halliwell’s mum, Ana María Hidalgo.

We moved to Valencia nearly five years ago to be closer to my husband’s family, because as they say in Spanish la sangre tira! As the eldest of six siblings, it goes without saying that Juan’s family is quite large. As we are the only ones with a garden, and space enough for everyone to get together, our house has become the venue for birthdays, saints’ days, mother’s day, Easter Egg hunts, Eurovision, Cup finals, the list goes on.

If anyone has ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, my background is like the husband’s: a small, calm, quiet Anglo-Saxon family, while Juan’s is more akin to the big, noisy, laughing, fun Greek family. That’s the Mediterranean way for you.

Since moving here we’ve settled in and got to grips, to varying degrees, with the local language, Valencià. It’s very similar to its cousin, Catalan and, like Catalan, is becoming ever more important.

I managed a couple of years of evening classes, which anyone can attend here for free – that’s how keen the government is on pushing the language.

I would recommend some basic classes for anyone relocating here, not with an eye to becoming fluent but just to have a basic understanding.

So much of everyday life here is in Valencian and it really will give you brownie points with the locals, especially in smaller towns, where it remains the main language.

The girls and I have also all developed a taste for the local speciality horchata (the cold drink made from tiger nuts) and fartons (the delicious elongated pastries for dipping in the horchata), much to Juan’s horror!

Las Fallas
Catherine Dolan, her husband Juan and their daughters at Las Fallas in 2019.

During the 10 years we lived in Huesca, we never once missed the Valencia Fallas festival – and the girls have always dressed up, ever since they were babies.

Dressing four falleras doesn’t come cheaply, however, so soon after we moved here, I enrolled in an Indumentaria fallera course and have so far made two complete outfits of the traditional costume. The only thing I haven’t yet done is dress up myself. Maybe one day.

To the untrained eye, yes, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re made of curtain fabric and I must confess, the first time I saw a fallera with her coiled plaits over her ears, I immediately thought Princess Leia. (But just don’t say it out loud.) And a word of warning, never refer to it using the Spanish verb disfrazar. Dressing as a fallera is a very serious business, not to mention being a huge part of the local economy.

For the past two months we’ve been confined to our house in l’Eliana. We’ve certainly been much luckier than those living in city apartments. We’ve been able to use the garden, swim in the pool and even take the dogs for walks. Which I suppose makes them more useful than a cat would have been.

I fear that when we finally do make it to Phase One of deconfinement and larger groups are allowed to meet, I’ll be inundated with girls as my daughters’ cousins descend on us to jump in our pool.

La Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia
‘La Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències’ (City of Arts & Sciences) in Valencia. (Zebbache Djoubair / Unsplash)

But when I find some peace and quiet among the barking dogs and the splashing girls, I will be rounding up the main stories in the area, concentrating on those which people are talking about.

Having worked in Spanish secondary education for the past 10 years, there may be some bias towards school issues and children.

At the moment I shall mostly be looking at how we are dealing with lockdown, how we will come out of it and how on earth the government will face the mammoth task of social distancing at swimming pools, beaches and bars.

Will we be able to swim in the sea this summer? When will we be able to travel between provinces? When will it be safe for Madrileños to visit their second homes on the Mediterranean?

I’m delighted to be involved in this new project – Valencia in English just as we begin moving towards the New Normal, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

You can read more about my life as an English mum in Spain, including my Diary of Spain in Lockdown at www.catherinedolan.net or contact me directly with any news stories at catherine@catherinedolan.net

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Kathie Davies 14th May 2020 at 10:05 pm

Following with interest! We live on the outskirts of Rojales near Quesada. We live on an urbanisation of 56 villas. We’ve been here 16 months and love both the community and our villa. Our villa looks over the Marquesa golf club onto the opposite hill which in the evening is usually lit by the enthusiastic golfers, families, children playing in the pools and social gatherings. It’s a happy, relaxed area.
This year it’s quiet – almost as though the homes and villas themselves are in a suspended breath waiting to see if anyone arrives! How will our communities change? What will become of our little Spanish town??

Catherine Dolan 9th June 2020 at 8:16 pm

Thank you for your interest. It sound like you’ve settled in well in Rojales.
I hope we live up to your expectations.
Please let us know if you hear about anything of interest 🙂

Rick 15th May 2020 at 7:12 pm

Perhaps you could revamp that local mag, valencia 24/7 as it seems to be in need of a bit of a make over…
Your photos are a selling point! Of course, there is much more to the city of Valencia, I am sure you’ve done your homework. Before that area was created, I was trampling over mounds of earth like most out walking their dog.
Vastly overpriced with cracks in the buildings where there shouldn’t be and rents and rates close to those of Barcelona.
My god, this Valencia!

The other end of the riverbed and the old city of El Carme especially, are quite charismatic indeed. And there is much more to come once the Central park is finally completed and the surround areas knocked into shape as was the plan back in 1989 when the local council / government came up with the plans for a better future in Valencia.

As it would turn out, time is something that we have plenty of here as it takes forever to get certain things finished.
Meanwhile, life goes on and we get older. Most welcome the change but not at the cost of its local community so tourists are more than a welcome sight in Valencia. Although the Air BnB thing is now a problem.
Hotel advertising and hostels are the way forward if the city is to be enjoyed.

As a local now, I would not tread in the area you promote ( undoubtedly ) in your pics as it has out-priced itself.
If anything, the El Corte Ingles is probably the only reason for visiting the area for free three hours of car parking when shopping.
La Eliana was once so far away. Now it is just a stone’s throw thanks to la Pista de Ademuz!
Disfrutar de la vida sin prisas!

Catherine Dolan 9th June 2020 at 8:20 pm

Hi Rick,
Thanks fo r your intesreting insight into the history of Valencia. You proabably knwo far more about the city than I do!
Personally, I wonder when they’ll finish the New Mestalla satdium.
I’ve been told by people here that l’Eliana was once a place people went for the summer, or for the weekend. Now it’s a commuter town!

Lyn Smith 17th May 2020 at 11:39 am

Hello Catherine. I’m happy to find any potential source of information about the area that I live in. Like Kathie we originally moved to the Torrevieja area given its convenience and accessibility for ex pats and retirees. Then, two years ago, in search of somewhere with a bit more history, we moved north to Ontinyent. We love it here. The locals are friendly, supportive and helpful. The only thing is, after spending a couple of years trying to get to grips with Castillian Spanish, we find ourselves in an area of predominantly Valenciano speakers! Ah well. Perhaps in a few more years!

Catherine Dolan 9th June 2020 at 8:22 pm

Hello Lyn,
Glad to hear you’ve been welcomed in Ontinyent. I must get there sometime.
Good luck with the Valencian. I think of it as somewhere between French and Spanish with a bit of Italian thrown in!

Susan Bond 17th May 2020 at 7:20 pm

Loved the article and introduction to your beautiful family. We live in Valencia as expats and would love to,learn more about this lovely region. The falla dress making course itself is facinating who knew!!!
Wish you all the sucsess with the new paper.
Sue x

Catherine Dolan 9th June 2020 at 8:25 pm

Many thanks Sue.
The fallera dresses are incredible! They are all handmade, with only a small of the stitching done by machine. Hours and hours go into each one. And I’m told, by my daughters, that they’re really uncomfortable to wear. They weigh a tonne!
One day I’ll write an article all about how to dress a fallera.

Terence Charles Langley 23rd May 2020 at 10:56 am

we live in Denia, have residencia, but at the moment are trapped on Tenerife, do you have any news on when we could get a flight back to the peninsular to return home?
I love your articles.

Catherine Dolan 9th June 2020 at 8:26 pm

Hi Terence,
Sorry for not replying sooner. Have you managed to fly back to Denia?

paul j seastron 31st May 2020 at 6:05 pm

Hi, Can you please tell me when can gardeners start to work in peoples gardens, we are senior citicens and need our garden doing. Thank you for all the info you give, keep up the good work

Catherine Dolan 9th June 2020 at 8:29 pm

Hi Paul,
Thanks for your message. I’m pretty sure gardeners are fine to start working in Phase Two as long as they’re outside and wearing a facemask or maintaining two metres social distancing.
I know what you mean, plants here seem to grow extremely quickly!


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