We now reside in this great flat just above one of the most popular streets of Valencia in el Barrio Del Carmen. Although the building is a historical one, the flats are modernized and updated, which means new balcony doors and windows that cut out noise from outside. It’s not sound proof though, so we still hear some action. This has become an endearing, and many times comical, part of our Valencia experience.
It’s the historic city-center and this beautifully tree-lined narrow road of Carrer de Sant Vicent Martir connects the popular Plaza de Ayuntamiento and Plaza de la Reina. You’ve got the Mercado Central, the main Cathedral of Valencia, the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), and tons of shops and restaurants to enjoy. A lot of visitors pass through here when visiting and, believe it or not, it’s proof that plenty of people travel even with their very young children…
Probably the most common sound we hear, aside of course from the ever-present light hum of traffic, is the screaming of little kids. My God – you talk about fit-throwing, wailing, crying hysterically and full-on sobbing. May sound cruel, but a lot of the time it makes us laugh. That is, once we’ve recovered from the initial cringe and reflex of covering the ears. Some piercing screams really make us jump!
The Horse Taxi
Moving on to more pleasant sounds…There are great horse-drawn open-top carriages that you can pay to have a ride in through the city’s historic center. We love hearing the clop-clop of the horse’s hoofs as they make their way down our street and just under our balconies. It’s become a habit to call out “horse taxi” as soon as we hear them getting near.
It’s amazing what can spur a person on to sing out loud in public. If anything’s going to do it here in Europe, it’s definitely their beloved futbol. Groups of people can be heard singing their team’s national anthem or some variation of a “fight song”. Once we hear them coming, we go out on the balcony to see what team they’re singing about. Such as the group of eight or so young men the other day…they sounded really good actually and were all decked out in their team’s jerseys and bright, bold colors. People along their way give them high-fives, shake hands, or just stare.
I feel pretty spoiled…we don’t have to be paying out big bucks at some fancy restaurant to get serenaded by beautiful music. We hear it frequently, floating up from the numerous restaurants below. It can be a solo violinist, Spanish guitar player, or an accordion player. These musicians go around the city, stopping to play at the terrace’s of restaurants all the time. It’s like a free little concert and some of them are very good. Just keep in mind that after a few songs they come around to every table to ask you for money. Sometimes it’s warranted when they sound great and play appropriate songs.
But boy…there’s one guy we see all over town who played at a restaurant we were at recently. He played all these American pop songs but his English was horrible, his accent super heavy, and his whiny voice was really off-key. You could tell he didn’t know the majority of words either and was just saying mumbo-jumbo. Needless to say, when he came around we sure didn’t pay him anything. It was bad enough I was thinking of paying him to stop singing! Fortunately we haven’t heard him from our flat. And when we do sit down to eat at our own dinning room table, it’s in the privacy of our home with beautiful live music in the background.
The Church Bells
My favorite – the clear ringing of bells. What is more classic of Europe than this iconic sound? I remember reading a review of the flat we’re in now where a woman complained about the bells ringing every hour…Really lady!?! Go somewhere else for a visit then. Talk about missing out on a lovely vibration that reverberates with history. It evokes romantic images for me and reminds me to stop and be fully present in the moment. There’s a beautiful church just across from us and a tad bit down the street, la Iglesia Parroquial de San Martin. The architecture graces the view from our balconies with its reddish-brown Spanish roof tiles, sandy-earth-toned bricks and mortar blocks, and its regal tower that is topped with large brass bells on each of its four sides.
They ring out the time every hour and, on special occasions likes festivals and weddings, they send out a cascade of pealing rings in a beautiful commotion of every bell ringing out together. In the latter cases, we can see the bells swinging intensely over and over again. The glorious clanging of bells is also heard from various churches when we are walking around town. They seem to echo each other since, after all, a church seems to be in every neighborhood when you turn the corner.
Open Your Ears
There is endless beauty to be seen throughout our wonderful city of Valencia. When you visit, take the experience even deeper by opening your ears to hear the sounds as well. You may find that you tap into that feeling of ancient history and romantic legacy. It is still here, reverberating through the ages and still ringing out like someone breathing. This heart of Valencia is not only to be seen and felt, but heard as well.
What sounds can you recall from your travels? Do you have favorite ones? What sounds of Valencia do you love?