Paella, punk or an alternative route through Valencia…
La Punta begins at the periphery of what we perceive to be Valencia city, a stone’s throw away from the City of Arts and Science and the El Saler shopping centre on Bulevar Sur. Calatrava’s futuristic works and a speckling of newly built (and practically vacant) high rise flats are the last things that separate the centre from the fields, vegetable patches and lonely neighbourhoods that lie to the south and south west of the city.
While there’s no doubt you can get a banging paella at one of the famed restaurants in the area, like Alqueria del Pou, there’s also no point in denying the fact that many of the houses around La Punta have been squatted or left deserted. In fact, the whole area gives off quite a strange vibe. Old tiled houses, well kept gardens and patches of vegetation share territory with derelict factories, train lines and spookily empty labyrinthine streets. Boarded up houses are backdropped, on one side, by factories, silos and port cranes and, on the other, by the foreboding Iberdrola building, Oceanogràfic and other whispers of the city. Huge, empty concrete lots sit dormant opposite quaint properties and acequia water channels surrounded by graffiti. The fences protecting the train tracks boast scurry holes and many corners show signs of botellón or other extra-curricular activities, and the piles of broken tiles that occupy dead ends and kerbs may be a sign of a failed business or declining industry. It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words. The neighbourhood is home to over 2000 people and has formed part of the Valencia metropolitan area since 1877 but, despite the odd charming pocket, the prevailing theme is “abandoned”.
Due to the extensive barren land and sparse population, it’s a surprise that there isn’t more development in the area – although it does look like some of the huerta in La Punta will be sacrificed very soon. An extensive area of the Valencia region can be categorized as huerta (or horta in Valencian) – an area that was traditionally used to cultivate rice, vegetables and orange and lemon trees due to its close proximity to the mouth of the River Turia. Over the years, expansion of metropolitan areas has severely reduced the number of fields in Valencia. Residents of Benimaclet, a neighbourhood on the northern most edge of the city, are currently opposing local town planners who want to construct in nearby huertas.
And giving Valencia’s festero reputation, it’s even more of a surprise that no-one has set up any kind of rave in these abandoned areas. The universities, however, have quickly caught on that this is the perfect place to host their Paellas Fest later this year, gathering thousands of tanked up students to listen to a whole host of performing monkeys who you’ve never even heard of. Great news for the lovely little lady we saw sweeping her front yard opposite the Multiespai La Punta.
Other things to see include the Ermita del Fiscal – a tiny chapel that, so I’m told, was the somewhat uninspired destination for many a walking school trip in the early 90s. It’s nice, it’s small and it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by huerta and the odd alqueria farm house. Cross under the V-15 to see the absolutely beautiful Iglesia de la Concepción church on Camí de la Punta a la Mar – a road that continues down to the infamous barrio of Nazaret. A quick vuelta of this neighbourhood confirms that the area certainly gets more stick than it deserves. Probably the most shocking thing about Nazaret is the unfinished metro line that will supposedly connect it to the city centre and northern towns – something that residents have been waiting years for. And now that they’ve changed the metro map, who knows when, or if, this line will ever get finished. Again, port cranes and crates are omnipresent in Nazaret, which started as a barrio for fishermen and port workers in the 18th century. Maybe it’s the cranes or maybe it’s the dubious reputation of the area that got us thinking of the Baltimore docks in The Wire.
Here’s our gallery of a morning’s exploration of this interesting area:
If I’ve successfully convinced you that La Punta and the surrounding area is worthy of an adventure, don’t forget to pop into La Residencia in the evening. This self-sufficient semi-squat house, ran by non-profit collective Orxata Negra, provides cheap beer, regular rock and punk gigs and a particularly chill vibe. Located on the lonely Carretera Fuente en Corts near MercaValencia, La Residencia expertly blends in with other houses on the block – ring the doorbell and you might hear the gypsies nextdoor playing flamenco as you wait for someone to open the door.
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