Look up: A stunning array of buildings unfolds before me, one architectural wonder after another. The structures that pave the cobblestone streets of all the great European city are like exquisitely-restored antiques, and the love with which these buildings were constructed is a testament to the greatness of an age-old civilization that values art, and aesthetics. Valencia is no exception; this small European city near the South of Spain is lovely. And it is here, as in most any European city, that the greatest visual reward comes with the simple task of looking up and basking in the sheer beauty that surrounds you.
Clear skies over Plaza de la Virgen: Worth stopping for a moment
Look down: A fresh smear of dark brown dog poo spreads across the sidewalk directly in front of me. This instinctual glance down has come just in time, as my shoe is about one millimeter away from meeting a very smelly death. Welcome to Europe, my feet! Across this continent - and Valencia is no exception – the sidewalks are a dog’s best friend, and the idea of cleaning up after one’s four-legged pal remains a frighteningly foreign concept. Fans of Sex and the City certainly can recall that laughable (and sadly, all-too-familiar) moment when Carrie Bradshaw’s Choos become intimate with Parisian poos. I make a mental note of this, and as I meander through the maze of streets in El Barrio del Carmen, trying to (once again) find my way home, my gaze remains firmly fixed on the ground below.
In doing this, I have no doubt that a visual splendor or two have been missed. But I arrive back home with shoes relatively in tact, and happy for that. See, I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is one shoe-loving traveler who has yet to master a skill that is downright critical for touring the great European cities on foot: the art of simultaneously looking up and looking down. If any of you have figured out how to do this, please, share your wisdom. In the meantime, and intending no disrespect for the builders of this beautiful city, I will err on the side of avoiding the poo.
By now it should be apparent to you that I am in Valencia, Spain. A mere two months ago, I was offered a 6-month contract working with some London-based clients. I was informed that the work would be remote, and that as long as I had an internet connection, I could live pretty much anywhere I wanted.
What was that, I said? Anywhere? As in... anywhere in the world?
You can only imagine the absolute hell this threw me into. Filtering through options: not my strong suit. Weeks of agonizing over where to go. Digging deep into Craigslist ads. Becoming intimate with the travel agents at STA, American, United. Twittering. Facebooking. IM-ing. Emailing. Skype-ing. Blindly spinning globes and pointing a finger (I ended up in the Atlantic on one too many an occasion).
(I imagine that watching me go through this would have been a frightening, frustrating, nails-on-a-chalkboard kind of experience, and to those of you whom I tortured during the process, I ask your forgiveness.)
Thankfully, just as I was about to walk away from the job opportunity altogether and commit myself to a mental institution, I was yanked back from the brink of insanity by some very good ideas. The options began to narrow, and one in particular started to reveal itself as the most... logical. Now there’s a word I don’t rally around very often.
And so I chose Valencia, and apparently I have chosen well. Now if only I could figure out how to keep the Choos out of the poos...