All cities have their own unique set of smells and sounds, often not entirely pleasant, but always evocative of a place and a time, an urban olfactory “fingerprint” that defines every visit.
Our two days in Valencia were imprinted by the scent of honeysuckle from the tree lined boulevards. In fact its the smell of the Jacaranda tree, the purple blossom of which envelopes the streets with its wonderful perfume. We are visiting in late April, which is obviously Valencia’s more aromatic month as we hear that the old town within the walls can get very “piquant” during the hotter months!
Why are we in Valencia for only 2 days? One of the many perks of having PX as a partner, is that if I randomly thought bubble something out loud, such as…
“maybe I should sell my flat in London and buy somewhere in Spain”
… within less than 30 seconds he is already on the EastJet website booking tickets to Valencia. I’m not going to argue with the man.
Neither of us had been there before and it has been on the list for sometime. PX’s knowledge of Spain is pretty extensive, having lived there for many years, and being the proprietor of several Tapas Bars in London, but Valencia had so far escaped his experience.
After a very quick spot of Googling and my usual “skim the surface” style of micro research, the general gist seems to be that Valencia could be a really good place to buy property, and not just because its the home of Paella.
Located equidistant from Barcelona & Madrid, and with the new super fast trains linking the cities, Valencia is rapidly becoming very accessible with coastal appeal, cultural heritage, and, for the time being, affordable property prices. Although the feeling is that this is about to change as its reputation as a mini Barca is becoming more and more established.
With only two days to fill, our aim was merely to get a sense of the place. Is it somewhere we could potentially live? Or just visit? Whats the food culture like? Bars, nightlife, beach life? We would try and grab a taste of it all in 48hrs. And we’d booked a few hours with a property agent to show us some flats within our budget.
The Property Search
As tourists looking for a place to stay while visiting cities across the world, our instinct is to always try and stay in the Old Town. There is always an Old Town, aesthetically quaint traditional buildings with narrow cobbled streets and chance upon bars in hidden squares & courtyards. Proper holiday requirements. For us anyway.
Looking for a buy-to-let obviously means we have to think beyond our own personal tastes and broaden the search to include other factors. A casual glance at property prices within the Old Town of Valencia were already looking beyond our means, and not knowing the other areas of the city yet, we needed some help.
PX arranged a few viewings with Home Espana who apparently lend their services to programmes such as A Place In The Sun, so they must know their stuff right? We were driven around by Meira a very young, but knowledgable Brit who came to Valencia on holiday 3 years ago and never left. A good sign. She was keen to show us areas away from the Old Town, which she said was not only out of our budget but not actually the best place to be in the height of summer. Apparently it really gets too hot and without a through breeze, pretty whiffy too, and virtually draws to a close by July / August during the holiday season.
So. We were taken to the “Dalston” of Valencia City. The up and coming area of Cabanyal, the historic fisherman’s quarter, close to Malvarrosa beach and becoming populated with cool bars and restaurants as well as its own covered market. Meira told us this area had many benefits for rental properties, one being that its very close to the Universities so attracts student tenants in the winter months. And being so close to the sea, the Spanish themselves migrate to the ocean for the summer so there is a big demand for properties near the beach.
Sounds perfect! Plus the area had a really charming neighbourhood feel, dare I say “vibe”, just to reinforce its association with our own Hackney. The properties are colourful tile clad, low level, and often with traditional features such as thick wooden doors and shutters. We liked the area, and understood the positives that Meira was telling us, although there seems to be an uncertain future for this area as the dreaded “gentrification” is threatening the community. So this will be something to research further in case we end up having to lie in front of bulldozers to stop our house being knocked down.
I asked how Brexit was affecting the property market, and contrary to what I expected she said that British buyers were snapping up Spanish property before we actually leave, as they are then protected by the EU and are in no danger of having to return their properties. Once we have officially left, this protection is no longer in force for new buyers. This is another thing to verify before taking the plunge!
The next step for us is to get my flat sold so we can actually go with some serious intent to buy. It seems things move pretty fast out there at the moment. PX tested the process, and my blood pressure, by actually putting an offer in on one of the flats we saw! The system works in such a way that if an offer is accepted the property is taken off the market and you put down a €3000 first deposit. This initiates the legal process where the equivalent of surveyors do all the checks. Then a 10% deposit is required. The process will always take a standard 2 months minimum. There are taxes and commissions to pay on top of that, but as all apartments are freehold, there are no service charges as such, instead the residents of the block work together to maintain the building using a mutually agreed community charge.
The price range we are looking at is around €140k, the flat we looked at was a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom (shower rooms) with a balcony. Close enough to the seafront and in the heart of Cabanyal. A good bench mark for what we could be getting for our money. Although our offer of €125k was turned down, we could have got the flat for €134k if we had been ready to go with the cash.
The research I now need to do is a thorough pros and cons of buying in Spain. You do hear horror stories, but so many people do it, it can’t be that hard right?!
I’ll keep you posted with any fresh research & progress!
What & Where We Ate & Drank.
Apart from the consistently good snacks of tapas and cheeky nibbles of Jamon & cheese at various bars our highlights were:
Paella @ La Pepica
This 120yr old sea front establishment has the distinct attitude of “we’re living off our reputation for great food, so no need to update the decor”, and why should they? This ballroom sized, strip lit, sky blue and salmon pink dining room, sprawls out in front of you like a replica of a certain Torquay Hotel from the 1970’s. With sullen but efficient attention from the straight faced waiters, we weren’t here for sycophantic service or good lighting. La Pepica has a reputation for the best, authentic recipe Paella Valencia. Made with chicken, rabbit & green beans, and an unctuously rich stock that holds it all together. It was delicious, as most of the simplest dishes in life are.
Vermouth & Cheese at Casa Victoria
We stumbled across this ancient, and tiny, vermouth & tapas bar purely by chance. The wooden walls lined with bottles and the compact bar, with no room for seating, displayed enticing cheeses and jamon. We stopped for a glass or two of home brew vermouth, a recipe ageing back over 120yrs and some jaw tinglingly great cheese.
Returning again that same evening we spent a jovial evening drinking far too much vermouth and chatting with a Scottish couple on their travels through Spain.
Casa Victoria oozes with character and charm, and its vivacious proprietor (Victoria) is a wonderful bon vivant. Well worth seeking out if ever in Valencia.
Early Lunch @ Central Bar
PX was particularly excited about eating here. From the stable of Michelin starred Richard Camarena the Central Bar is located in the heart of the ornate Central Market, set amongst the hustle of the fruit & veg stalls, this is a very local eatery, with an extremely high standard. A no bookings, sit at the bar establishment and only open until 3.30pm, its worth getting there early before the “Spanish Lunch” truly begins.
We were there by 11am, and already the place was full. We grabbed the last two seats and proceeded to order everything that we’d heard was good. And boy it was good!
Traditional Tapas @ Casa Montana
One of the best known, oldest and most traditional Bodegas in Valencia. A simple tapas menu, perfectly executed, in an unpretentious dining room, unchanged for nearly 200yrs.
Other drinking holes we would recommend include:
A lovely Sideria, El Molinon
Great coffee from El Cafe de Camilo
More Vermouth at Bocatin Vermuteria
Not to everyones taste but a must try Horchata, made from tiger nuts and a Valencian main stay, we made use of it as a hangover cure, it does taste rather medicinal!