Valencia, a secret escape

Last month I went on holiday to Valencia. The first morning of my holiday I have to admit that sustainability, The DoNation and my list of ‘to do’s’ was still whizzing around my head. Fast forward a few hours however and I was sitting in a beautiful beach bar, a gin and tonic clinking in my hand, looking out over the great mass of white sand, blue water and endless palm trees. It’s safe to say, work was no longer on my mind.

Chatting with friends it’s easy to see how a life by the beach in an eternally warm climate can offer all the happiness one could want out of life – the perfect alternative, you might say, to a non-stop, hectic, city-dwelling London life.

This thought whirled around my head as I explored Valencia –having lived in Spain for three years previously, I fell comfortably back into the Spanish lifestyle of ‘mañana, mañana’, the soft buzz of activity, the promise of what the evenings might bring as the sun sets. Wouldn’t everything just be so much easier, so much calmer if I moved back to Spain? And what is life all about anyway if you don’t do the things you love?

Every morning started with creamy avocados on toast and freshly squeezed orange juice in the sun – sitting our friends’ terraza gazing at the bright blue sky. Our Brutal10 race was discussed often – what should our friends pledge for Eliott? What could they possibly pledge? A quick glance through all the actions and it seems Fran and Tim are doing many of them already – no heating is needed here, recycling is the norm and taking your bike down to the beach through the vast greenness of the ‘Turo’ park is a no-brainer.


That is when I begin to see the real Valencia. This is a cycling city. It is an abundantly green city, with 100million euros invested in the redevelopment of park areas. It is a sustainable city – the Museo de las Artes y de las Ciencias a shining beacon of the future. Down on the beach, veggie and vegan food is plentiful. Valencia is ahead of the norm in Spain and I am excited about it. But if I didn’t work in sustainability, would I even have noticed? Would the signs in the aquarium suggesting people turn off their lights, take shorter showers and recycle – have even caught my attention? It’s hard to say. But one thing I know for sure is how much it resonates with me when I do spot them and how much their message appeals to every part of me.

Yes, waking to glorious sunshine, blue skies, and fresh fruit every day is a huge attraction. But there is also something bigger – that Valencia itself is also a part of. Opening people up to another way – a way that is different but much more logical; challenging (at first!) but much more rewarding; healthy, social, cheap; andultimately the only way that we are going to survive as a species – sustainability!

It can be easy to forget, if it’s not entirely engrained, behaviours can slip. My veg box order has been ignored these last few months as I’ve slipped into the habit of popping to Tesco. Valencia’s fresh veg has reminded me that there are opportunities for better food in England too and I’ll be sure to call Abel and Cole again when I get home.

Drawing on Hermione’s recent Guardian article, I suppose that for me, this is the reason that I do what I do.

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