November 25, 2011

Local Vocab: "Echar de menos"… homesick in Valencia, part 1

This time of year I think a lot of American exchange students and expats get a bit homesick. Halloween passes by, and it is not quite the same as in the States. And along comes Thanksgiving, and nobody here cares quite as much as you do about having turkey and organizing the big meal. And soon Christmas will approach and we will remember how far away our families are. And why lay all the blame on holidays? What better season for feeling nostalgia than autumn? (Once again, I'm not alone. Is it a coincidence that Spanish Sabores just posted this entry on "Things I miss about the US when I'm in Spain"?)

While I have still not yet properly introduced my favorite city, Valencia, on this blog, here I wanted to take a moment and do a call out to those places around the city which have done a service to expats here who have, at least momentarily, found themselves longing wistfully for their native land, and missing ("echando de menos") certain typical products. Here I've charted out a map of the places that I have come to know where Americans and Brits frequent when looking for a genuine taste of home...

• Hip locales:
I'll start with hip locales. For Americans, _the_ place to get in touch with other American expats, or Spaniards looking for language exchanges, and which captures that very American vibe of draft house, is Portland Ale House. I also have to say that, in my personal opinion, they have the best burgers in Valencia, and possibly in Spain. For Brits and Irish, the two local pubs (for some inexplicable reason pronounced "paf" by Spaniards) with the most history in Valencia are probably Sally O'Brien, where you're sure to find Valencian Philology students scooting out language partners (it's located not far from the University of Valencia Blasco Ibáñez campus), and Finnegan's, more centrally located. (But I don't pretend to have the pub radar of your standard Brit... maybe one of you reading would have better suggestions?)

Though comparatively new to the scene, Portland Ale House has gained a loyal clientele by hosting
both predictably popular events like American sports events, but also English Language nights,
where native speakers earn free beer through language exchanges with eager listeners.

Finnegan's, a typical Irish Pub whose central location on Plaza de la Reina
makes it a popular hang out for expats and locals

Two other really great places in Valencia to get a taste of home are Café En Bàbia and DeliKate. As an Austinite, discovering Café En Bàbia a couple of years ago was a revelation. Austin has an old coffee shop culture. (In the U.S., coffee shop culture does not mean Amsterdam, but rather casual, alternative, non-corporate version of Starbucks.) En Bàbia provides a hip, casual atmosphere for hanging out and chatting with friends, including coffee shop 'must haves' like sofas to sit on. DeliKate, which is still comparatively new, provides great food, a fusion of NY-style deli sandwiches with Spanish tapas twists. It also has a nice, causal vibe, and features a Saturday brunch. (Can you get more American than brunch?). A third place which I have been meaning to try, but haven't yet had a chance, is Birra y Blues, an ale house located on La Patacona beach (just north of Malvarrosa), and which one local beer aficionado and blogger swears by.

For me, this image says it all. The chilled, hip atmosphere at Café En Bàbia will satisfy
any expat who misses that coffee shop vibe from back home.

And this image also says it all. It is really hard to find a place like
Birra y Blues in Spain that microbrews its own beer.

For those of you looking for original language cinema in Valencia, you really have only two options: Babel & Yelmo. Babel is one of the few remaining small movie house style cinemas in Valencia, since Albatros closed down last year (sadness). Yelmo is part of a national chain and does both regular (a.k.a. dubbed) screenings, but also has certain "versión original" (a.k.a. "v.o.") screenings.

• Shopping for expat products:
If you are hunting for some specific products, I can also recommend the following shops. La Petite Planèthé is a great tea shop, centrally located, with hundreds of tea varieties, standard and creative. My wife is a serious fan, and just walking into the shop (with all its glorious smells) is likely to commit you to buying some of the mixes. They also have a very classy policy of giving you a free small sample of any tea of your choice with your purchase... brilliant, because it encourages you to try new flavors and come back for more. I haven't been able to make it there, yet, but the shop's name alone has me convinced that Spainsbury is probably a good place to hunt for all things British food. (Though unfortunately it is a little out of the way, in the pueblo Llíria just northwest of Valencia.)

La Petite Planèthé, its walls covered with fragrant choices for teas to try

KandABooks, located a couple of
blocks off Plaza de la Reina
One thing I miss from back home is all the secondhand shops ("de segunda mano"). It is a business model that faces a bit of an uphill battle culturally here in Spain. There's no Ebay equivalent here. (To be clear, there is, in fact, an, but from what I can tell it doesn't have quite the same market presence as its US equivalent.) isn't quite as successful as (and Craigslist in Spain seems to only be used by Americans)... and there are a variety of other online secondhand websites, but none with quite the following and constant activity as those in the States. (Nobody here could pull off a "curbside alert" quite so fantastically as they happen back home.) But the real gap is in actual shops. A friend of mine in Barcelona tried to open a vintage clothing shop, Retro Collective, in Barcelona, and ended up having to close it an move her operations online. Still, especially given the economic crisis, I'm convinced that this market has a lot of potential here. So I was pleased when I recently visited KandABooks, a block off of Plaza de la Reina, whose expat owner has done a nice job of catering to people looking for used (and discounted) foreign language books, and has a nice market model based on book swaps. It reminded me of my oh-so-missed Half Price Books back in Texas.

And this is just a start. Tomorrow I'll continue this call out, and include some great shops in Mercat Central which us expats thrive on...


Lauren of Spanish Sabores said...

Thanks so much again for the link love! These places all sounds really cool-- Seville didn't have many places to fight homesickness and although I know that Madrid does, I still haven't had the time to discover them! I'm especially excited about finding a good coffee shop-- I miss that from the states. I'm looking forward to reading the continuation...

An American Spaniard said...

Lauren, my pleasure! When we were staying in Madrid a couple of years ago we found a few places worth hitting up. We liked la Taquería de los Alamillo located in La Latina. It had good Mexican food. Not the best, but pretty darn good for in Spain. I don't know if it counts as homesick food for you, but we also found a great Indian restaurant, Mughul, located a couple of blocks from Plaza de España.

One nice blog you might check for other options is:

In their "cocina americana" section they list a bunch of appetizing looking burger joints (though I'd skip Peggy Sue's, which we tried in Valencia and were not impressed by). If you try any and like them, please let me know. #TheEternalSearchForGoodBurgers

I'm afraid I can't help you on the coffee shop front there. Though there's bound to be some place good in Chueca. But we discovered through online searches an American products store in Madrid, Taste of America, only _after_ our time there:

Their shop is located near Calle Serrano. We are _very_ curious to know if they are the real deal. (And, FYI, they list bagels among their products!) Again, if you have a chance to check them out, let me know what you think.

Valencia expats said...

A great article and i couldn't agree more with you about the complete lack of a 2nd hand scene in Spain, they just dont "get it", but with times being tough for most people, you would think this would be more popular?

An American Spaniard said...

Yeah, I was talking with the owner of KandABooks, and he indicated that there were very few secondhand bookshops throughout Spain. I think with books he'll find a more open-minded audience... what with SGAE putting ridiculous surcharges on all new books. Selling secondhand clothes here is tough, but my friend at Retro Collective says she's going to try again with the shop. Maybe the culture will change. In the US it also helped draw people in when they changed the name from "secondhand" to "vintage"!

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Wild Rover Barcelona said...

Great article! If you come to Barcelona, you can also come to Barcelona, to our Irish, with the tradition of an authentic Irish Bar.

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