Off to the races
Valencia Travel Blog› entry 16 of 27 › view all entries
Tuesday was the focus of this whole vacation -- the Americas Cup Races.
For those of you not in the know on all things sailing, this is THE world class yacht racing competition. Not fancy boats but big expensive and very very fast boats. You race by country. There can be multiple teams/syndicates per country. Somehow, you end up with only one per country.
The races are held every 3-4 years. There are several sets of elimination races over the course of many months. The semi-finals are called the "Louis Vitton Cup" races. Whoever wins that is the challenger. The defender (who hasn´t had to be any part of these elimination races) is whoever won the Americas Cup last time.
It started in the mid-1800s and was, in the beginning, just between the US and England.
Then, in 2003, they lost to the Swiss. Whoever wins gets to choose the year of the next race (usually 3 or 4 years out) and the location. Usually, of course, that´s their home port.
Problem being, of course, that Switzerland is land-locked. So they chose to race in Valencia. Hence, this vacation.
We had signed up for a seat on a "spectator boat". These are (usually) power boats that put 30 - 50 people on board and go out and circle the race course so you can see the race from the water.
Our boat sailed at 1:30, so I ran some errands in the morning. Jeff went straight to the port to ogle boats. I went to the post office (very cool building with a gorgeous stained glass in the ceiling) and the central market.
For those of you who know DC, the central market is what Eastern Market wants to be...times 25. A very classic market --- dozens of stalls of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, spices, bread, sweets, some to-go food, some odd stuff. But primarily food.
I loved it. I wandered for about an hour, seeing things I haven´t seen before (fish I could not identify, live snails for sale by the bag-full), things I don´t want to see again, and some gorgeous food.
The weather was very strange that day. Rain in the morning, then hot sun, then wind, then overcast.....we weren´t sure if the race would go on. Races regularly get postponed for lack of wind (that´s about the only thing they get postponed for).
It turns out, the race was delayed 30 minutes but then they were off! New Zealand vs. Italy.
Now, we were never exactly close but we could watch all the action, running from one side of the boat to the other. I thought it would be pretty dull (even sailors admit that watching sailing is kind of a snoozer) but I was much more excited than I expected. I was watching, effectively "front row", world class competition.
It helped that they did have a TV screen on board that I could watch (Spanish commentary) and another broadcast of commentary in English. The race was fast. Four legs. NZ was behind in the beginning but then overtook the Italians in the first leg and never lost the lead. It was good racing. superb sailing, and a fun afternoon (including the nap I took during the 3rd leg).
I think about 60% of the people on our boat were rooting for the Kiwis. I was happy for them too. I have a soft spot for them. To win the Louis Vuitton cup, the teams need to win 5 of 9 races. This win meant the kiwis were 4 - 0. The last race was going to be the next day.
After the races, we went back to the apartment and finally met Carlos, a grad student in advertising.
He´s really a natural for couchsurfing. He grew up in Valencia and flat-out loves the city. Guidebooks tend to undersell Valencia because there aren´t any of the gee-whiz kind of sights there. No dramatic gothic cathedrals, no towering Moorish palaces. However, they do have some really cool architecture in the Modernista style, fantastic paella, and a great beach. And, now of course, a fabulous new port (major renovations in preparation for the AC).
He insisted on taking us out for dinner and a flamenco show. He and his friends are absolutely crazy for flamenco.
So we head out with Julia and pick up their friend Carmen. Now Carmen is the kind of girl who is a party whereever she goes. Full of life, knows everyone, enthusiastic, friendly, fun. She did a foreign exchange when she was a senior in high school to a suburb of ... Minneapolis. To say it was a shock would be an understatement. "Snow" was definitely not her idea of a good time. As soon as you meet her, you know they should have sent her to Miami instead. :) (No disrespect to my MN and WI friends!)
Jeff and I picked up the tab at dinner -- a variety of tapas, beer and more sangria. I tried a beer that is their verson of the English shandy -- beer with lemon.
Then off to a nearby bar for flamenco music and dancing. Wow. Such power, such fantastic music, such passion. Even better than the one in Sevilla. I really loved it. Carmen and Julia were happy to explain the intricacies of the art.
The show didn´t start till 11 pm, so we didn´t get back to the apartment till 1:30. And I was still awake! That´s amazing. The "young people" were still ready to party but Jeff and I had been going all day so we crashed and slept very very well.
This kind of evening is what we had hoped CouchSurfing would help hook us up with -- local people who could help us really appreciate an area and see it with different eyes. It was a fantastic day.