Valencia of the Cid; town of Blasco Ibañez

Valencia of the Cid; town of Blasco Ibañez, the writer who celebrated the pleasures of Valencian life, and of whom it was said by another Valencian writer, Max Aub: 'It isn't the sea he praises, but the fishing; not the silence of the back-streets, but the clamour of the markets.' This is the centre of a happy, busy life, where the land is fruitful and the people gay. The beach restaurants provide a delicious paella, and the horchatas (an untranslatable drink) are fresh and cool. The only sombre note is struck by the black clothes of the huertanos of the Water Tribunal, who once a week sit in a circle outside one of the Cathedral doors on rustic seats. It is a city of fans, girls in bright colours, and public baths.

Not far from Valencia is the extraordinary and rather terrifying place where the troglodytes of Paterna are found. Several thousand people live here in the clean earth; they have hollowed out the white rock with their pickaxes, and made themselves living accommodation that looks like honeycomb cells dug out of sugar. They have whitelimed the chimneys that stick out of these dwellings, to harmonize with the earth that gives them shelter. Standing on a balcony of one's own height, one can look down into a small enclosure and see the women cooking their paellas -- like looking to the bottom of a well where flowers are still growing. These are the work-people of Paterna, the descendants of the artists of another age who used to paint the 'socarrats' and 'azulejos' (Moorish tiles) in the shadow of the tower that still stands. In the museum given to the town by its owner-curator Gonzalès y Mari, all the treasures of this Valencian and Spanish ceramic tradition are on display, from the cruder tiles of the 15th century to the 'amoroso' and baroque varieties of the 18th century.

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