The timeless charm of Valencian’s old city with its harmonious colors and building patina repeatedly captivates the mind with its intriguing details. On aimless wanders through its corners, one is often pleasantly surprised, much like in Rome. Turning from a narrow, inconspicuous, and dark alley, one may unexpectedly find themselves amidst a grand expanse of resplendent, ancient structures or a bustling market square full of stalls and abuzz with noise.
At the Plaza de la Virgen, the rough stone facade is smoothened, changing color under the shifting light. At the edge of the square, a determined woman takes pictures of a doll-like little girl with a system camera attached to her tripod. The light reflecting off the stone’s color balance softens the girl’s features into a perfect portrait. Although there is no rush in the photoshoot between the woman and the girl, the latter gracefully lifts her lace shawl with her fingers, as if she were a model taught for the show, and perhaps she is.
The air is full of tableaus like distinct stories, of which one searches instinctively for recognizable meanings. Sometimes it’s just a fleeting thought, or a beautiful photograph in vibrant colors, that goes unrecorded.
On the steps of the opposite church sits a man intently bent over some paper, oblivious to all around him, a yellow bicycle leaning against a lamppost. His bearing exudes intelligence and the obvious importance of the paper arouses the curiosity of onlookers. Hurrying past him is a mid-aged career woman in a flowing pantsuit, one who can be imagined to have experienced the rollercoaster of emotions of a seasoned woman, the savvy escapes from bad male relationships and the female intuition like a snake’s pathways to the other side of the universe and back.
The woman, dressed layer upon layer, carefully covering her body, was both seductive and independent. She refused to surrender to anyone just because of expectations, instead confidently taking her own terms, and her body’s desires, for herself and only herself. The man sitting on a church pew didn’t give her a glance as she passed yet sensing her as they have a similar tenaciousness of loneliness, with its own hormonal call, that only its subject can recognize. From their subtle, unconscious movements, both revealed how they reacted to each other in that moment. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day.
In the shade of the blue domed church’s park, an old woman sits on a stone bench, her life etched on her face, and looks around with a sorrowful gaze. Nearby, a young boy plays the guitar and sings passionately the Sound of Silence. Two different phases of life side by side, never touching each other. Time seems to stretch like the dripping clocks from a Dalí painting. An attractive woman dressed in red strolls through the square, taking selfies endlessly, searching for her beauty. Hardly a Virgin as the square’s name implies. She snaps one picture after another, fiddles with her hair to match a magazine cover, but never seems satisfied with the results. As the bill is paid, I rise unsteadily from the café’s table, ready to make my own solo contribution to the square’s scenery, let people think whatever they want, I have enough wine in my veins not to care.
The local wine is truly delicious and full-bodied, like a Tuscan Chianti, and there’s no better paella to be found in the Spanish kingdom. It is advertised on a huge graffiti mural on the wall of a nearby house. In it, a fat opera singer flutters in a giant paella pan in puffy clouds, spreading its wings like a butterfly and singing an aria from the barber of Seville. Behind the water fountain, a pine tree yearns for slanting light and looks like it’s about to fall. The taste of the paella that was just eaten still lingers in the mouth. One had the urge to lick the last grain of saffron-colored rice from the emptied paella pan.
It was obviously some national holiday. The young girls walked in their gorgeous national gowns, looking like little adults. They acted like grown women, evaluating each other with serious, jealous glances.
It was obviously some national holiday. Young girls walked in their beautiful national costumes, looking like small adults. They behaved like adult women, sizing each other up with serious and jealous looks. The festive crowd filled the square in an instant and took it back from the tourist hordes that stayed on the sidelines, gawking and taking pictures with their cell phones; it was time to move on.