Monday, December 21, 2009


Is February good for you? I sincerely hope so because I want as many of you as possible to get down to the America’s Cup port and cheer on BMW Oracle as they (hopefully) kick the stuffing out of Ernesto Bertarelli and his Team Alinghi.

Bertarelli who, five years ago showed vision and determination by selecting Valencia as the first European venue for an America’s Cup series in 2007and who went on to win the Cup for a second time. Bertarelli who, in his misplaced arrogance, dictated new terms for the next Cup series that many teams found unacceptable, leading to a series of court cases that have dragged on for two and a half years.

The event was scheduled to start on February 8th but has now been put back to Feb 12th to give both teams the chance to get their craft here (Alinghi from Ras Al Khaimah in the Arabian Gulf, BMW Oracle from San Diego,USA) and ‘up to speed’.

At this point, the main focus should be on how to stage the event in such a way as to create a new sense of excitement for the America’s Cup, a trophy which has been the subject of controversy ever since it was first awarded in 1851.

The two contending giant multihulls built for this one-off series are capable of speeds in excess of 80kph (50mph). Anyone who wants to view the event from the water will either need a very fast boat or some extremely powerful binoculars. Even then, things will happen so fast (by yachting standards, at least) that spectators will be left wondering what happened. The best bet may well be to watch the event on television. Even assuming this is an option, much of the excitement of the live action will still be lost.

A possible solution would be to mount television cameras in the tethered balloon, a feature of the 32nd Cup series, but with a racecourse 10 miles long and at least one mile from shore, the camera will need to be especially good. A better solution would be to use an airship, capable of following the action without the turbulence caused by helicopters (although these will certainly be in evidence).

On land, the America’s Cup port houses a giant screen, allowing visitors to get the atmosphere of the event. This needs to be able to accommodate a larger audience than before, since it should be the prime area for visitors keen to get a good ‘feel’ for what is going on at sea. The port might also consider building viewing platforms so that members of the public can get a closer look at these two monstrous craft as they prepare to do battle.

The spectator event itself should be organzised by Jorge Martinez Aspar of Valmor Sports as, heaven knows, he probably needs the cash after the poor turnout at Formula One Valencia. With one proviso, it must be affordable. No-one is going to pay huge sums of money for what could turn out to be a one-sided match. But they willl turn up if the price is right and they are promised the chance to hiss and boo Mr Bertarelli as he hands over the America’s Cup to the winners.

Mike O’Neill
21 Dec 2009
NB This article does not necessarily reflect the views of or its management.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Surel Not, Queen Elizabeth II just doesn't do that!

Christmas is fast approaching and very soon you won't be able to turn without bumping into a Belén. A Belén is a nativity scene, so popular are they in this country that not only are there public ones, sometimes comprising of thousands of pieces, but most homes don't feel complete without one, and they often take up enormous amounts of space in people's flats and houses, There is a particularly curious tradition in the the more northerly parts of Spain and that is the inclusion of El Caganer somewhere in the scene. Traditionally it is the squatting figure of a shepherd - crapping. The fruits of his labour beneath his naked rear for all to see. This year the website has some interesting celebrity caganers, most notably Queen Elisabeth(sic) II. I was always told that royalty didn't!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Opera Flash mob in Valencia's Mercado Central

Opera en el Mercado from esoqueseconocecomolaopera on Vimeo.

Wish I'd been there! I just love these things. Members of Valencia's wonderful opera house, Palau de les Arts a couple of days ago in the beautiful Art Nouveau Mercado Central, said to be Europe's largest covered indoor market. See more of this beautiful city by visiting or buying Tim Birch's excellent just published Frommer's guide to the city 'Valencia day by day'

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nick Nolte in Valencia!

Nick Nolte (centre) with Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Brandon T Jackson and Jay Baruchel in the action comedy Tropic Thunder

Could this be the very spot Nick Nolte films at?

Hollywood Veteran Nick Nolte visits the Comunidad Valenciana for five weeks when he begins filming a new movie to be made on location in Valencia and at the City of Light studios in Alicante, The film, provisionally entitled 'Mi Querido Desconocido' (My unknown beloved) is the directorial debut for Madrilenian Maria Kannon Cle, and tells the story of people who meet at a set of traffic lights. The traffic lights in question are said to be those in the Plaza Ayuntamiento in Valencia. Filming starts 29 November and also stars Ángela Molina and Fernando Guillén. It is being shot simultaneously in Spanish and English and has a surprisingly low budget of 2 million euros . If we can find out the actual day of filming in the Plaza Ayuntamiento - we'll let you know!!

Viva Valencia!!

08/11/2009 - San Diego (USA, CA) - 33rd America's Cup - BMW ORACLE Racing - Wing revealed. Photographer: Gilles Martin-Raget

Team Alinghi have agreed that the America’s Cup ‘Deed of Gift’ series will, after all, take place in Valencia next February. The series will be fought by Cup defenders Team Alinghi against BMW Oracle, who challenged the Swiss team following the uproar resulting from Alinghi’s selection of a ‘tame’ Spanish challenger in July 2007. The ensuing litigation has dragged on through two and a quarter years and 8 court hearings.

The contestants will meet in two outrageously-modern multihulls, quite unlike any previously craft seen in America’s Cup racing. Team Alinghi have chosen a giant catamaran, whilst BMW Oracle have gone for a trimaran. Both craft are capable of speeds in excess of 50 knots (92.kph), so the closing speeds will be terrifying; especially for those on board!

Many details of the event are yet to be decided but one thing is certain – this contest will be a spectacular no-holds-barred fight to the finish.

Monday, November 02, 2009

‘Valencia is the best option’

The US Supreme Court last week ruled that the 33rd America’s Cup ‘Deed of Gift’ races should either take place in Valencia or at some venue in the Southern Hemisphere (it’s a bit warmer there in February, I believe). Russell Coutts, skipper of BMW Oracle said: “Valencia is the best option to get the America’s Cup back on track as soon as possible.”

A late-night telephone conversation between Rita Barberá and representatives from Team Alinghi seems to have confirmed Valencia as the probable venue.

There remain several obstacles to overcome before the event can truly be said to be certain. The biggest is the need for the two teams to agree to an independent, neutral jury with the usual powers to set courses and settle disputes. Another is the need to clean up the America’s Cup Port, which has been sadly neglected over the last two years. The jury question may be settled in court, following Justice Shirley Kornreich’s order that both parties should choose a rules expert who would then select an independent third. These three could then debate the whole matter in court on Wednesday 4 November.

The pace is quickening now, with just 3 months to go until the event. We will bring you up-dates as the news breaks.
Mike O’Neill
02 November 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BMW Oracle: ‘return America’s Cup 33 Match to Valencia’

“The America’s Cup is meant to be hard to win, not impossible to lose,” Russell Coutts

In the latest round of court battles with Team Alinghi, BMW Oracle’s hosts Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) of San Francisco have stated:

“GGYC has served our reply brief and exhibits on SNG and filed them with the NY Court. Our latest filing is a point by point rebuttal of SNG's opposition papers to our motion asking the Court to invalidate RAK as the venue and return the AC 33 Match venue to Valencia in February, 2010. The hearing on this venue motion, and our motion for fair rules previously briefed (and papers posted below), is Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 11am, Supreme Court of New York County, 60 Centre St., New York City.” 19 Oct 09

Team Alinghi, through their club Societe Nautique de Geneve SNG, replied:

Geneva, Switzerland - (2009-10-27)
“By filing their eighth legal action against the Defender of the America's Cup in two years, Larry Ellison and his Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) have demonstrated yet again that their true intention is to win sailing's most prestigious trophy in court instead of on the water. After failing in their attempts to circumvent the terms set in the governing Deed of Gift, Ellison is now seeking to snatch the Cup from Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) with a new round of baseless allegations,” said Fred Meyer, Société Nautique de Genève Vice-Commodore. “As two-time winner of the America's Cup and organiser of what was widely considered the most successful America's Cup event ever in Valencia, Spain, in 2007, SNG and Alinghi will continue to fight for their legitimate rights in order to promote the sport of sailing around the world. We hope that GGYC will abandon this unsportsmanlike conduct and either join the competition on the waters off Ras Al Khaimah this February or let other teams who want to participate challenge for the Cup,” he concluded.

Alinghi team skipper Brad Butterworth said: “BMW Oracle should clean up their unsportsmanlike behaviour with a dose of saltwater and sunshine and challenge for the Cup on the water. Otherwise they should stand aside and let other teams compete.”

"The complaint is an affront to the America's Cup, to the UAE, to our country's relationship with an important ally, and to the judicial process. It is just a PR stunt. There is nothing in the complaint that hasn't been the subject of prior or pending legal proceedings. Basically, GGYC doesn't want to race SNG on the water after it disenfranchised 19 other clubs from competing in an elimination series and dislocated hundreds of sailors and participants in the sailing industry,” concluded lead counsel for the Société Nautique de Genève, Barry Ostrager of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

It is perhaps significant that, where GGYC have simply stated their intention to continue their court action, SNG used their reply to continue maligning Team BMW Oracle and questioning their motives. It would be nice to think that, following the court’s decision later today, a line can be drawn under this sorry chapter in the history of the America’s Cup..........but don’t hold your breath... If Ernesto Bertarelli can be persuaded to put the bad feelings that exist between him and Larry Ellisson to one side, Valencia would welcome both teams back with open arms.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sorolla returns to Valencia

I was determined to see the Sorolla exhibition once again on its return to Valencia, the last stop before the paintings are returned to their rightful home in the Hispanic Society of New York. This marvellous exhibition has been all over Spain, starting and ending here in Valencia but visiting Sevilla, Málaga, Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid on the way and becoming a record breaker as the most visited Art exhibition in Spain with over two million visitors.

A clever friend rang me to tell me that as we were clients of Bancaja, the exhibition organisers we could have priority booking (entrance is free but only a limited number of people are allowed in at any one time and though you can turn up on spec, the queues are likely to be very long) so we got a time slot for Monday and met six friends there to see the show. Anyone who lives in Valencia or visits regularly cannot fail to know a little about this artist, his pictures crop up on posters and adverts all over the city- he is, after all one of Valencia's three favourite sons, along with Blasco Ibañez and Calatrava.

The exhibition consists mainly of the enormous panels he was commissioned by the Hispanic Society depicting life throughout his homeland of Spain painted in the latter years of his life, between 1890 and 1915. It is said that these paintings exhausted him and contributed to his stroke the year following their completion.

It is quite an experience seeing an exhibition with so many people. It is fascinating to realize that we all take different things from a work, what I found in one picture T would see something else, B spotted another aspect, or a piece left Th cold and was inspirational to D...Sorrollas work is extraordinary, apart from the sheer enormity of the pieces, (One is over 17m long), the way he captures light with a few brush strokes is fantastic.

I have two favorite panels, one was the 'Grupas' (actually a Valencian piece), a wonderful party of orange pickers and their families on horses riding through the groves. My other has to be the largest of the panoramic panels entitled 'Castilla- la Fiesta de Pan', it is a scene typical even today of a summer fiesta, the detail is extraordinary, the children and costumes beautiful, faces so alive, and baskets of ceramics so real you feel you could touch them.

On show for the first time in Valencia are two other wonderful paintings; the gorgeous 'Afternoon Sun' and the sweet image of two children playing on the shore 'Sea idyll'. Also on display is what is probably Sorolla's most famous work 'Triste Herencia' a moving painting of crippled children playing in the sea, a painting which earned Sorolla the Grand Prix and a medal of Honour at the Universal Exhibition in Paris 1900.

It is worth queuing to see this exhibition, the last time it was here in Valencia it proved so popular that it remained open 24 hours a day in its final weeks. Get there early to see this remarkable work.

Serendipity and the Beatles

It's not everyday you stumble upon the Beatles in the streets of Valencia!
On arriving in Valencia from out of town Monday morning, I came across a rock band setting up outside the bullring.
Intrigued, I hang around looking a bit like an ageing groupie! After a short warm up session whilst a few photographers and a crew from Canal 9 did some filming, the band finally got going.
The logo on their drum-kit was a good clue to the music we were about to hear! The Blisters, sang the music of the Beatles to a small but appreciative crowd, many of whom, including me, were singing, and even bopping, along to the rhythm. Very good they were too, though sadly they didn't look at all like the real Beatles! I must have been a little over zealous in my dancing because I ended up being interviewed by Canal Nou - what, I wonder is the 'Spanglish' equivalent of Valenciano and English? Whatever it is, it must have sounded funny!
A visit to the Blisters' website ( will show you that they appeared live at Liverpool's Legendary Cavern Club in August and their next live appearance in Valencia is at Abastos at 20:00h on 19 December. Their manager tells me they are available for weddings, Bar Mitzvas....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Holding up the traffic in Valencia

Around 200 cyclists braved the appalling weather took to the streets of Valencia again yesterday in support of the 'most democratic use of the public highways' during the European Day without Cars

Valencia's 600 or so annual fiestas

As we have mentioned many times before, there are over 600 fiestas annually in the Comunidad Valenciana alone. The biggest and best is the Extraordinary Las Fallas held between the 15th and 19th March each year, and the most famous is La TOmatina, the crazy tomato throwing fight held each year on the last wednesday in August.
Almost every town, village and hamlet celebrates Fiestas Patronales at some time of the year. This week it is the turn of Quart (among many others) and their fiestas are dominated by cattle, Bous y Vaquillas (bulls and cows). The entire village is gated with 2 metre high reinforced steel gates - bars just wide enough for pedestrian inhabitants to squeeze through - and the village is virtually traffic free for the duration.
The larger, and more sedate, bulls are let loose in the street, one at a time, twice a day on two days of the week-long fiesta. Once, in the early evening, they are chased (and chase) the younger braver men of the village. Then later at around midnight they chase around the village again - but this time they are 'embollar' - flaming torches are attached to their horns. The larger bull shown above unfortunately rammed the gate too hard and did serious damage to itself and had to be put down prior to the midnight outing.
The cows, who are fiestier and more nimble -and therefore much more fun to play with- make a San Fermin style entry into the village. Half a dozen of them enter the Plaza Mayor, which has cages to hide in all around the Plaza and one cow at a time is pitched against the young men. I was amazed that there was no sand on the ground and the cows kept sliding on the wax from the hundreds of candles from the previous night's religious procession.
It is all quite curious, but extremely popular with not only the locals but people from all around the area who descend on the village to take part or watch.
There is a fantastic sense of friendship around the villages during fiestas, on the night of the big procession people were sharing meals with neighbours and friendsat long tables in the streets in front of their houses and tradition holds that you open your front doors wide as the procession passes. Look in the press for Nuestras Fiestas and try and take a walk around a village during this lovely family time .

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Karpov vs Kasparov meet tonight at the Palau de les Arts

Valencia is host to two major Chess events this week; The internacional symposium on “Valencia Cuna del Ajedrez Moderno” (Valencia, cradle of the modern chess) and the long awaited rematch of Karpov vs Kasparov.
The Symposium starts today at 4pm and is followed at 7pm by the first round of the matches between Karpov and Kasparov - the SemiRapids it will be the first time they have played against each other since 1985 (picture above)
All very exciting stuff and Palau de les Arts is a great venue for the competition

Thursday, August 20, 2009

LES ALFABEGUES (or The Tomatina without tomatoes – see link, still time to book)

The legend:
I have never been to Les Alfabegues festival but this year I was invited so was forced to say 'thank you' nicely. I had, of course, heard about it ... such fun, all these hefty guys stagger through the streets of Bétera wearing flowery shirts and straw hats carrying huge floats (over 2 metres high) of Basil decorated with roses at the top, whilst drinking copious amounts of Sangria and a homebrewed concoction that is anybody's guess. Every so often they stop to sing loud, rousing songs in praise of the humble Basil plant accompanied by brass bands. And if that isn't joyful enough for you there are others guys with huge bags of confetti who throw it all over you (you are not allowed to throw it back) where its specially gluey properties clamps itself to your sweaty skin ensuring that you will be unable to remove it before Christmas unless, of course, you get lucky and one of the residents throws a bucket of water over you from a first floor balcony. By the end, then, you're knee deep in tiny bits of sticky paper, it's 43º and you're soaked in either sweat or water, or both, with confetti in your underwear where it's worked its way into awkward little places even you don't want to go, wondering what you're doing here ... how blissful is that?

The truth:
This is a joyous festival, full of fun and laughter, music and singing. Even the little ones join in carrying small floats of basil between them, their small faces shining with pride, dressed in their flowery costumes and straw hats. The confetti is hurled with wild abandon and in places reaches almost to your knees. In England this festival would be banned. One because it makes a terrible mess (no less than 6 tons of Confetti are used in the two hours or so) and, two lots of drink is involved and fighting would, sadly, inevitably break out. But here everyone is good-natured and here to enjoy the spectacle and be part of this most important day.

The facts:
No-one actually knows when the festival first began – some say the 19th century, some say it's been going on since Roman times – but the purpose is to celebrate the rebirth of life after winter, to honour The Virgin of the Assumption and ask for the protection and welfare of her people. The seeded Basil of Bétera is acknowledged to be the largest and most magnificent in the world. The previous record was measured by the Notary at the Garden of Basil and reached 2.59m. This year the long, dry summer has been perfect for growing the Basil, making Ramon Asensi, the man in charge of the cultivation of the plants, extremely happy because he has a new record - not in height but in girth this year.

NB: Basil is a native plant of Persia and South East Asia and was first introduced into Europe by the Greeks, becoming highly prized by the Romans both as a culinary herb and for its curative properties. In Egypt it was used in the process of mummification.

Valencia Formula 1 Experience at Bonaire

I read in one of the papers last week that a Scalextric replica of the Valencia Formula 1 circuit was being set up at Bonaire. Since Luke, my twelve year-old grandson, was flying back to England last Tuesday, I decided to take him for a look on the way to the airport. The model is housed in a tent by the main entrance.. There are six cars and a raised area where the joystick controls give the would-be racer a good view of the circuit. At the front of the stand is a full-size Formula 1 car with a large LCD screen, allowing drivers to pit their skills against the best in the world. The queues were long and, knowing we only had thirty minutes to spare, which queue should he choose? Luke went for the Scalextric track while I spoke to Dora, a member of the Bonaire marketing team. Explaining our predicament, I hoped she would find a way for Luke to take a turn with one of the cars. Instead, Dora called her manager over and an excited young man was boosted to the front of the queue. After five thrilling minutes racing in a highly competitive field (and the cars are very fast), Luke was escorted to the F1 simulator where, against a background of envious boys, he was pitched into an exhilarating ten-lap race.
All too soon, it was time to rush off to the airport. Before we left, Dora asked for an email address so that photos could be forwarded. A truly memorable experience!

Alonso, YouTube and George Clooney - Formula One Valencia

George and his Nespresso Ads, If he's not here in person - these ads will be all around

The VIP Meeting Point at Valencia Street Circuit.

With the Second Formula One European Grand Prix about to take place on the Valencia Street Circuit rumours and news stories are rife:-
Confirmed is the fact that Renault won their appeal and Fernando Alonso will race alongside team mate Romain Grosjea. Alonso is hoping to score a podium finish in front of his adoring home fans this year. The decision came a little too late for Valmor, the organisers of the Valencia Grand Prix as ticket sales were so low that they didn't build as many stands this year...Schumacher's proposed visit boosted sales a little, but then he pulled out.
Confirmed also is that multimillionare Co-founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley has announced that he is the major backer of the new US F1 team, whose first car will be ready in October, they will be one of three new teams next season.
Unconfirmed, but a very strong rumour is that George Clooney is on his way down to Valencia with his yacht which he is hoping to more in the Marina within the Valencia Street Circuit - we'll let you know when it's confirmed!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alonso Will Race In Valencia after all!

The FIA decided at 09:30 this morning that Fernando Alonso will be allowed to race in Valencia after all. There are rumours all over Valencia that 'Saint Rita'- Rita Barbera personally intervened and had a word in Bernie Eccleston's ear. The decision is just a little too late to affect ticket sales for the Valencia Street Circuit, but it will come as a relief to all Spaniards. Tomorrow, the Federation will decide what the new sanction on Alonso and Team Renault will replace this lifted ban.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton is returning to F1 in Valencia after a four week summer breakand says he's "still buzzing from the win in Hungary and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into the Valencia weekend - particularly with our new upgrades to the car!"

Could be an exciting weekend after all!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“freakismo” The Valencian Oscar

Golden Delicious Fartons - the Freak Film Festival's version of the Oscar

The Freak Film Festival (FFF) draws to an end in Valencia on Thursday 13 August. The prizegiving for this “anti-festival” of film shorts will parody “Hollywood glamour” in a ceremony with a Valencian version of the Oscar, the “Golden Delicious Fartons”.
Ali G and Bruno star, Sacha Cohen Baron, is honoured and has been invited to the festival. Not clear as of yet if he is coming. (Almost definitely NOT. Though the organisers tell us they are trying to convince him to come with a video!!)
300 “videomakers” are said by the organisers to be projecting short shorts. The contest is now in its second year in Valencia but has also taken place in Berlin, New York, London and next, in Tijuana.

FFF define the concept “freak” as a rash (Lost in translation?) “the alternative thing, the different thing, the rare thing, the unusual thing” with a touch of “inevitable” humour.

But the philosophy of the FFF is the one of the “counterattack”, a proclamation of the “anti-festival” to supplant the “dawn of the cinema director” that abounds in the festivals of short films that flood the cities of the world. According to Sheila Conte, one of FFF's organisers, “We wanted something more democratic so that any person of the world through the facilities of the new technologies could participate”.

The films have been (and are being) projected on various locations around Valencia from a van mounted projector, and include “a squalid wall of a ruined farmhouse near a local cemetery in Benimaclet” and tomorrow 12 August on the beach at Puig close to a "30 metre high Pylon near an Urbanización!

Prizes will be in the Umbracle at around 23:30 on the 13th , and will include “a red carpet". Oh! and the official drink of the FFF - Horchata of course!
Mmmmm!! Don't you love Valencia!

Festival d’Estiu Sagunto Presents Ainhoa Arteta In the Roman Theatre

Ainhoa Arteta appears for one night only In the Roman Theatre in Sagunto singing songs from her latest album of famous songs down the ages. Songs include Presley's "Love me Tender", Lennon and McCartney's "Michelle" and Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". Inmaculada Gil Lázaro, director general of Teatres de la Generalitat describes Ainhoa Arteta as an artist who manages to generate moments of high voltage emotion of with her remarkable soprano voice, and who moves with this greatness between popular and classical music”. An artist of this stature together with the beautiful setting of the Roman Amphitheatre of Sagunto should make this evening, part of the Festival d’Estiu Sagunto, an unforgettable evening
Performance is at 22:30. Tickets are only 25€

Valencia - Schumacher deals another blow to the city!

So now Schumacher is NOT racing for Massa at Valencia Street Circuit. On Schumacher's website he says "Yesterday evening, I had to inform Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali that unfortunately I’m not able to step in for Felipe. I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn’t work out. Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1-day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible."

This is awful newsnot only for the city, but for the organisers, Valmor Sports too, they are going to be besieged by angry fans wanting their money back - though chances are very slim on that score .

Let's hope the persistent rumours that Alonso may be allowed to race here after all are true! More as we get it.

On a separate note, has anyone noticed that the Movistar/Telefonica poster of the event all over town shows the originally proposed route going past the City of Arts and Sciences - Did nobody tell them or their ad agents it had been changed?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Leonard Cohen to Play live in Valencia

LEONARD COHEN is to play live in Valencia at the Velodrome on 18 September as part of his world tour. The man is amazing, he will be celebrating his 71 birthday on the tour! Book your tickets now, this is bound to be a sellout.

33 America's Cup- Do you really care?

The long-awaited ‘grudge match’ between Alinghi and BMW Oracle is closer to being arranged........but not much closer.
For those of you still following this story after two years, yes two years of court cases and verbal sparring, this will not come as any surprise. For those who are reading about this for the first would take too long to explain, so read the back-pages if you want the full story. A brief summary is impossible.
But it is not going to happen in Valencia but in Ras al-Khaimah, bet the teams are happy about that!
read (much) more on this sad and convoluted story by clicking the headline.
Words 2009 Mike O'Neill
Image of First sail for Alinghi 5 on Lake Geneva ©2009 Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi


That’s it – it’s definite! The America’s Cup is NOT coming back to Valencia. (Although there’s always a small voice somewhere from the Town Hall that says, “Well, it might just if…and then gives a fairy tale list of if, buts and maybes that will never – but never happen.)

Which leaves us with the question, “What are we going to do with the beautiful white elephant that is the Puerto Americas Cup?”

This multi-million euro drain on the public purse had a brief couple of months of glory in 2007 and has since stood all but deserted. On the cusp of the Formula 1 event, whose track runs through the port, the only people in attendance were a team of cleaners washing down the enormous windows of Veles i Vents, the once posh VIP centre for the Americas Cup, now looking sad and dejected – but clean! A few workmen are tarting up the cafés and restaurants, but broken plant holders and streaked paint give off an air of neglect.

At five minutes before two on a Friday lunchtime (07 August - 3weeks before F1), when restaurants would normally be filling up, the staff at elegant Arribar set out on the terrace over forty tables, each with four chairs, with half as many again inside – with not one customer. Throughout the chi-chi area not one member of the general public moves, sits down to lunch or even takes a beer.

Weeds grow through the slats of the wooden seats built for people to watch the Cup races on enormous TV screens. It’s a perfect place to have an open air cinema, under the stars, with a cooling breeze blowing off the Med, but the Town Hall doesn’t seem to have thought of that, or thought of anything else to do with enormous area of big venue spaces, open air walkways, fancy bars and restaurants – it even has its own Victorian bandstand. But there’s no sign of the floating golf course we’ve been promised – at least we can be grateful for something!

So, wanted, an astute, inventive, far-sighted entrepreneur, with ideas, plenty of money and an ability to deal with a lot of bureaucratic plonkers.
words and images ©2009 Derek Workman

Saturday, August 08, 2009


This is an interesting and fragrant festival, most of the village turn out in flowery costume and the world's biggest Basil Plants (When I say big, I am talking over two metres high and carried by at least eight men or women) are paraded through the streets accompanied along decorated and painted streets by men carrying confetti (and throwing copious amounts of it) and pulling barrels of beer or wine. By the end of the morning the town is knee deep in confetti and there is a fair amount of hosing down by the Alameda. more by clicking the headline

Friday, August 07, 2009

La Tomatina - Get on the bus!

Thisisvalencia's Tomatina Tour is back again for another round of tomato-slinging fun this Summer 09! 26 August
Our day trip includes a return journey on a lovely cool coach, the whole Tomatina in Buñol, a shower and swim to cool and clean off, and a delightful lunch of tapas and Paella (and all the beer and sangria you can drink!) before heading back to Valencia for around 6pm.
The best bits are:
·You can leave your gear on the coach, so can slosh around in tomatoes without a care in the world, safe in the knowledge your things won't get lost, stolen or broken
· We give you a pair of goggles so you don't get nasty bits in your eyes
· The shower and swim on the way home - to get back to the City clean, dry, and tom-free is a luxury, believe us!
· You get to meet a really fun group of people on the bus! (and you get to meet the TIVlc team - always a pleasure!!!)

Our start point is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento at 9am, and we get back to the same place for around 6 in the afternoon. All this, including the goggles and lunch of course! for just 55 euros.

If you want to book a place on our great tour please go here and follow the link asap. Places are limited and sell out fast.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Amán - Ballet at the Roman Theatre in Sagunto

Sagunto's excellent Festival D'Estiu continued at the weekend in the glorious Roman Theatre that sits above the city, with 'Aman' by the fine company of Ballet de Teatres de la Generalitat. Choreographed by Patrick de Bana, and based loosely on the greek myth of Penelope and Ulysses, it was billed as a multicultural spectacular with not only classical music from Bach, Albinoni but also music from Armenia, Turkey and Morrocco. It certainly sounded like an interesting proposition at the press conference in Valencia last friday.
We arrived in Sagunto early to take our time walking up the ferociously steep Calle Castillo in the heat of the evening. I am so glad we did; street performers playing music or dancing or painting to music were dotted along our route all the way to the entrance, even so, we were still early and were able to get our breath back with a cool breeze sitting on the wall outside the gate to the Amphitheatre.
We finally took our seats and looked down to a stage bare but for seats for the orchestra and choir to the left and to the right seats for the Morrocan female musicians.
It all started rather slowly with two soloists singing with the orchestra and, dimly lit, two dancers walking along the back of the stage very slowly and making their way to the centre. That ended and they began to dance. It gradually became a delightful and hugely energetic and entertaining ballet. Th couple were replaced on stage by three wonderfully spirited dancers dressed in white, who were in turn replaced by a marvelously androgynous dancer, she was joined by more dancers in two's and seven's and so the pattern was set - the three in white danced to the drum and voices of Bnat Houriyat, one moment dervish-like and the next covering the stage in record time from side to side. There was music from a quartet of musicians playing Armenia and Turkey and the orchestra and choir played and sang the Music of Bach and Albinoni. mch of the dancing was the dance equivalent of 'rounds' in music and was so exciting and effective.
It was a remarkable performance which unfortunately was only on for two nights at the Roman theatre, but you will have another chance to see this beautiful show when it returns for a few nights in November at the Teatre Principal in Valencia, we'll remind you closer to the time and urge you not to miss it.
Amán Ballet photos ©2009 Festival D'Estiu
Street Photos © Diana Birch for thisisvalencia

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mercadona checkout

Since when did checkout ladies become sales assistants? That’s what seems to be happening lately at my local Mercadona, and at probably everyone else’s, I suppose.

I’ve been offered shrink-wrapped half-melons, two loaves for the price of one, a fold-up makeup bag for the beach – that was before the young girl looked up as saw I was a chap with a skin that was well past moisturiser and lip seal, although one little darling insisted on outlining the benefits of a new skin softening and anti-aging soap that was on offer. I’m sixty years old with a face like a washboard. I admired her persistence, but I didn’t think I’d be a perfect test case. I saw her a couple of weeks later and said I’d bought a bar and did she think it had made any difference?

I’ve just got back from the milk and bread run, and the checkout offers seem to have been continuing in personal care and hygiene mode. Dora, or so her name tag called her, asked me if I’d like some shower gel for only one euro, and opened the cap for me to appreciate the delectable aroma. I lost my sense of smell about five years ago, and besides, I prefer a bar of soap, so that did no good. Then she asked if I’d like some shampoo for the same bargain price, but even she had to laugh, along with everyone else in the queue, when I just simply pointed at my head. I’m bald as a coot, with only a fine stubble protecting my shiny skull from the suns rays.

©2009 Derek Workman

We’re all going on a lemming’s holiday

Everyone likes to squeeze the last moments out of their summer holiday, but no-one moreso than the Spanish. The ‘Salida’, the mass exodus from city to beach that takes place on Friday afternoon, the weekend nearest the 1st August, and the ‘Entrada’ the return on the Sunday of the last weekend of the month, are the times when you shouldn’t be seen dead on Spanish roads or that is what you might actually be seen – dead.
No-one seems prepared to leave a day later or earlier to avoid the record pile-ups or massive tail-backs, and each year the government and national police launch ‘Operación Salida’ (and ‘Entrada’) in an attempt to lessen the traffic blow – and invariably fail. The May holiday weekend is seen as a barometer of the August rush (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) and this year’s indicates that is going to be a busy time for the emergency services.
The Costa Blanca has been historically known as la playa de Madrid - Madrid’s beach, and hordes of escaping masrileños descend on the beaches and resorts of the region. Last year traffic jams covered almost 170 kilometres of motorway during the salida, almost half the distance from the Capital to Valencia city, and a trip that usually takes a comfortable four hours was taking up to twenty. On their return, the tens of thousands who fought their way to the coast fought their way home again, this time, according to pleased police sources, they only had to endure tailbacks of 90 kms trying to enter the capital city. It was also a good weekend as far as deaths were concerned, a mere 39 people died in 37 accidents, while in 35 accidents in which no mortality occurred a paltry 16 were considered serious.
After a month of wall-to-wall people on Valencia’s beaches last year, fighting for a restaurant table and facing the worst traffic jams for years, the madrileños and Spanish from all corners of the country will have forgotten all about them in their lemming-like rush to the sea for the August holiday. Only one question remains to be answered – why?

@2009 Derek Workman

Monday, July 27, 2009


JT on his Guitar
Signing Autographs in the interval
JT and the Band

When I told my Spanish friends I was going to see James Taylor perform live in the city they seemed unimpressed. But I wasn't fooled, I know this deadpan expression well; they didn't know who the hell I was talking about. I was a bit worried however. If they didn't know who JT was, did this mean I would be sitting with 3,000 Brits and the odd tourist? This lack of knowledge about one of the most influential musicians of the 20/21st century (JT has collaborated and performed with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, who used to be one of his backing singers, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Neil Young, Carole King - who is also back on tour - et al), is staggering. He's been around forever and, despite the ups and downs of earlier years, this current European 'Down Home' Tour could be straight from the 60's. When he walked quietly onto the stage to thunderous applause (mostly Spanish, I was relieved to see), he seemed vaguely surprised to see us. His band, Steve Gadd, Larry Goldings, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Landau, Kate Markowitz and Arnold McCuller were all dressed in the 60's uniform of jeans and T-shirt. All except the remarkable Andrea Zonn, the sweet-voiced fiddle player, who wore a shapeless black dress and sandals. They looked as though they'd come to play at a small town benefit.

As Taylor began to sing, his voice was a bit shaky. He's been on the road since April; was he already fatigued? But it didn't last and he gave us what we wanted: 'Sweet baby James', 'Fire and Rain', 'You Got a Friend'; the familiar numbers came streaming over the warm, appreciative Valencian audience.

Live, he's amazing. His band unfailingly excellent, the vocal harmonies lump-in-the throat wonderful. He was relaxed and amusing, joking with audience when they yelled for him to sing their favourite songs, picking up the list from his feet and telling them where it was on the schedule - and when a heavily-accented Spaniard yelled 'I love you James', he paused and volleyed with 'Gracias,Señor'. Even during the 20 minute interlude he stayed put signing autographs and T-shirts, smiling that gentle JT smile.

The highlight of the evening was his rendition of 'Steamroller Blues'. First written in 1970, where it appeared on the album 'Sweet Baby James', this current arrangement was astounding, bringing the entire audience to its feet. Now he allowed us to hear just how extraordinary his vocal range is and, of course, we knew all the words. In fact, the first time Elvis heard 'Steamroller Blues' he put it straight into his repertoire and sang it time after time until his death in 1977.

We came running to see him again .... but was it just a little too understated ... a little too 'warm and folksy'? I, for one, would have liked a few more new songs but I suspect I'd have been outnumbered. The audience wanted familiarity and this he gave – in spades. A truly memorable experience.
Barbara O'Neill

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yann Tiersen Live in Viveros Gardens

On a sticky night in Viveros multi-instrumentally-talented Yann Tiersen, showed he’s not just a one-trick pony. Despite repeated bellows from the audience of “Amelie, Amelie”, the film for which he wrote and performed the soundtrack, and which made his name, Tiersen didn’t play one single track from the movie. Instead he played a totally new set that, funnily enough, was in some ways better because it perfectly suited the style of the audience, which was mainly 20-30 year-olds of a wide range of nationalities. It was a shame not to hear his wonderfully atmospheric accordion playing, but the stunning way he handled a pair of guitars, violin and keyboard show just how brilliant a musician he is.

From the moment Tiersen stepped on stage he had us all in his hands. It was the first time we’ve been to concert at Viveros and didn’t know what to expect, which meant that we could be surprised by anything. And we were! The ambience swayed between mellow and electric, which showed its effect on the audience, where pockets of people spent the whole ninety minutes lost in their own dancing world.

Viveros is fantastic place to have chosen to show Tiersen’s talents, because it’s not a formal venue, and walking through the gardens toward the stage built up the anticipation of a great concert to come – and we weren’t let down!

Jemma and Sophie Prendergast

Let's clear up a few things about Fib Benicassim

A longer summary is on its way but we would like to clear up a few facts about last weekends events at Benicassim. There was no hurricane. The festival was not cancelled. On Friday night there were horrific winds. There was a fire in a field across from the festival site but it was under control and put out within half an hour. The winds were so strong that the site was evacuated for the safety of everyone attending. The organisation did all they could to get everything in order for the next day, and things ran pretty smoothly the rest of the weekend, considering the fact that the kind of weather that hit Benicassim on day 2 of the festival was completely unprecedented.
Perhaps the only thing that could have been bettered was the information given out by the organisation, as it was unclear when the bands from Friday would be playing if they could reschedule them at all, but general feedback is that everyone had a pretty good time considering! There are several reports flying around the internet that it was all a disaster, mainly fuelled by Oasis' technical problems onstage on the Thursday, but by all accounts this has been happening during their whole tour. We also have heard reports of hundreds and hundreds of passports being stolen, but the British Consulate Press office in Madrid have confirmed directly to us that they have issued around 160 emergency passports around that weekend - from Barcelona down to Alicante, so could be anything from 1 to 160 in Benicassim only.
....And we can only begin to wonder what Bianca Gascoigne got up to between Friday and yesterday - if you're one of the boys she hitched to Calais with we would love to hear from you!