Category Archives: Valencia, one year down the line.

Staying fit in Valencia


Call me a freak, but I LOVE going to the gym and doing exercise, especially fitness classes. I often wonder how people, especially in the UK, manage to get through a week and stay sane without the physical and emotional relief that exercise provides. You can even do it for free, but prescriptions and other drugs require less effort. However, I digress.

After we had arrived in Valencia and found somewhere to live, I joined the nearest gym to our apartment. I was especially pleased to see that it offered the ‘Les Mills ‘ classes I had so enjoyed back in York. These were: Body Combat, Zumba and Body Balance. My three favourites: challenging, fun and relaxing, respectively.

Now, I would say that it’s fairly obvious to any Brit who has participated in a Les Mills class that Les Mills is not a British concept in fitness (I thought it was American but it’s actually Aussie). Why do I say this? Well, whenever I’ve shaken my thing in Zumba or punched an imaginary foe in Body Combat classes in York, the instructors have persistently encouraged us all to shout/grunt/do other sound effects. I did not appreciate this. I am pretty fit, but it took all my energy to co-ordinate my moves and breathe without adding “huh!” “aargh!” or “woop woop!” into the mix. Judging by my fellow fitness buddies’ lack of verbal participation, it’s safe to say I was not alone.

When I entered my first Body Combat class in Valencia I felt at home. There was familiar British and American music; even some of the routines were the same as back in York. For once, I knew exactly what to do in this unfamiliar city. However, twenty minutes in, without warning, people started running around the room, high-fiving each other with sweaty palms. Was this a move/sequence I had missed from the instructor? I was confused, and must have appeared so. But that was not all. Halfway through one of the high-octane, fat burning tracks, my classmates started whooping and howling like the cowboys and Indians of spaghetti westerns. Were they in pain? Had the instructor already pushed them to the limit?

My questions were answered in subsequent classes, where I soon realised that the sweaty high-fives, whistling and howling like you are at a rock gig were de rigeur during Zumba and Body Combat. As this is my fourth time living on mainland Europe, I am well used to adopting the ‘when in Rome’ mentality.  So, on Tuesday and Thursday nights you will find me high-fiving and “Wooooooing” like the best of my Iberian classmates. ¿Porque no?


The Love Affair


It’s a love affair I sometimes wish I’d never started. I know that some people think it’s wrong, but it just feels so right. Now I live in Spain, it is more difficult for us to see each other, but I make sure it happens every now and then. Why do I love you so, Starbucks? Let me count the ways…

I love that when I am homesick, you are there with a hot drink and a warm embrace. You just get it so right! Your coffee is smooth and there is an excitement of options. Sometimes you tempt me with your festive flavours, or my old favourite, caramel macchiato, to sweeten my day.

I love your familiarity. When I sip the sweet coffee of Starbucks, I could be anywhere. I am back home in the pretty city, living in my own language,  choc chip muffins ahoy.

You are so good at what you do! From the comfy sofas to the Frank Sinatra floating softly through the aroma of freshly ground coffee, you always give me exactly what I want. Decent coffee being almost non-existent here in Valencia,  I can even overlook your massive exercise in UK tax-dodging, for lack of other available options.

So you see Starbucks, it isn’t really just about the coffee (though it is, a bit). It is about all the small things you do so well that just keep me coming back for more. Also known as: excellent branding and marketing. I’ve always been a sucker for buying experiences rather than material goods. Even short experiences that cost me €3.90 a cup (with some version of my name scrawled on it).