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Xàtiva – Introduction & History

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This weekend we took our first trip to Xàtiva, a small city of almost thirty thousand about 50 minutes south of Valencia. I’m sure we’ll be going back — easy to reach with the C2 short distance train, Xàtiva has a ton to offer.

Xativa Valencia Spain

Natives have a couple different nicknames: setabenses (which stems from the Latin name for the city, Saetabis) and socarrats, which approximately means “the burnt”. This interesting moniker dates from the War of Spanish Succession when Xàtiva was destroyed and kept aflame for 8 days by King Felipe V. The marauding troops slaughtered the women and children seeking shelter in the church of San Augustín, and even renamed the city “The New Colony of San Felipe”, which is so dastardly, it’s almost comical. Nowadays, wherever you find a portrait of Felipe in Xàtiva, it’s likely to be upside down.

For years, Xàtiva had fame as the European birthplace of paper. The most famous family to come from the city — and probably the most infamous family in Valencian history — was the House of Borgia. Through any number of crimes, including rape, murder, adultery, bribery and theft, they rose to unspeakable heights of power and two family members even became pope: Alfonso & Rodrigo.

The touristic highlight of Xàtiva is the incredible castle which was built by ancient Iberians and populated by all of the city’s subsequent rulers, including the Borgias. We’ll be posting about that later, along with some photos of this fantastic little city.

From Valencia’s main train station, a round-trip ticket with Renfe Cercanías C2 to Xàtiva costs €6,90 (as of date of writing) and takes about 50 minutes. Trains run all the time, and you can check the schedule here.

Stay in a Villa near Xativa for as low as 37 Euros a night

Rent a car to get to Xativa:

Xativa Car Rental

January 4, 2010 at 5:05 pm Comments (4)

El Puig’s Medieval Festival for Jaume I

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This weekend, El Puig, a small town about 25 minutes north of Valencia by train, celebrated its liberator King James I. In 1238, he took El Puig and used the its strategically important location for an assault on Valencia, and his presence was honored with a medieval festival.


Just a note: El Puig is not pronounced “El Pwig”. Asking locals about “El Pwig” will result in confusion. Everyone here knows it by the Valencian pronunciation, which sounds like “El Pooch”.

Among the highlights of The Pooch’s festival was a medieval tournament, with a number of knights involved in tests of skill. A story ran throughout this competition, pitting the King’s champion against a sneering “Black Knight”. You get one guess who triumphed in the end.

Even more impressive was the marketplace. Silk spinners, soap makers, blacksmiths, chair makers, and other artisans practiced their craft in the plaza underneath the monastery. We saw a tea house, farm animals such as donkeys & baby pigs, acrobatics and enjoyed excellent food. Unlike the lame medieval festival recently held in Valencia’s Plaza de Toros, El Puig managed to convey a real sense of the times, with monks wandering amongst the crowd with other characters, like an executioner and a crazy woman with leprosy.

The concluding espectáculo del fuego, unfortunately, was a mess. But an entertaining mess, as it was immediately apparent that the jugglers and flamethrowers were just winging it. We left early, but overall had a great day in El Puig.

More photos:


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December 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm Comment (1)

Cayetano Ripoll – The Last Victim of the Inquisition

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Cayetano Ripoll was a schoolteacher of humble means, executed in Valencia in 1826 by the Spanish Inquisition — the final victim of that infamous ecclesiastic tribunal.

Torture during the Inquisiton
[Gerichtsmuseum Wolkenstein]

Ripoll was accused of teaching Deism to his students in Ruzafa — an act of heresy that would be harshly punished. In the early 19th century, the Inquisition was mostly a relic, and Ripoll’s sentencing and execution were widely and roundly condemned throughout Europe. That didn’t matter to the Archbishop of Valencia, though, and on July 31st, 1826, Cayetano Ripoll was hung, his body dropped into a barrel painted with symbolic flames, and the barrel then thrown into an incinerator.

Ripoll had been a patriotic soldier who fought in the war against the invading Napoleonic forces. He was taken by the French army as a prisoner, and during his time in a French jail, exposed to liberal ideas. Deism was considered heresy, because it claimed a belief in God should come through reason and observation, not blind faith.

A plaza in Valencia, near the end of Blasco Ibáñez, is dedicated to the memory of Ripoll and this black date in Valencian history (location).

Horchata in Valencia

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August 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm Comments (5)

Valencia’s Regional Expo of 1909

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In 1909, Valencia inaugurated its Regional Expo. “Regional” doesn’t sound like that big of a deal — larger cities like Paris and San Francisco were celebrating World Expos — but it had a huge and lasting impact on the city.


The exposition took place north of the city walls, just across the Paseo Alameda. In 1909, the Turia river was still flowing strong, and the land north of it hadn’t really been fully developed. The Exposition, though, changed that — a large number of buildings were specially constructed, including even a gondola which brought visitors over the river.

A huge undertaking, the Expo lasted for over a year. It welcomed important guests like Blasco Ibáñez and saw the inauguration of the Valencian Hymn. A huge success popularly (if not financially), it would eventually earn status as a national exposition.

The Spain of 1909 was an unhappy, humiliated country — it had lost nearly all its overseas possessions and was losing a nasty war in Morocco. The Regional Expo, with its focus on the future, helped the citizens take their minds of their troubles for a little while.

Until the 30th of August, you can be transported 100 years backwards in time, by visiting an interesting exhibit at the Palace of the Exposition (location). Entrance is free, and you really come away with a good sense of the times.

The following pictures are from the concurrent expo exhibits in the Palacio and the The Ateneo Mercantil building:

Link: Batalla de Flores these days!

El Racó de Feri – Mercado Central

August 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm Comments (2)

Colegio Arte Mayor de la Seda

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The neighborhood of Velluters is one of Valencia’s more colorful areas. And by colorful I mean, of course, crack-ridden and whore-infested.

I’m not joking. Velluters is the last bastion of prostitution in the city, and the one downtown neighborhood where any tour guide worth his salt will urge visitors to steer clear of.


Interestingly, the name Velluters comes from Valencian word “vellut” or velvet. Back in the day, this neighborhood was home to the collective of silk weavers — silk was one of Valencia’s most important industries. And the most important building to the silk guild was the Colegio Arte Mayor de la Seda, on C/ Hospital 6 (location)


Construction began on the Colegio in the 15th century, and it was officially made the seat of the Valencian silk guild in 1492 (a year in which seems half of Spanish history occurred). Now a large, dour building, it was redone in Baroque style with a facade that features a relief of San Jerónimo, the college’s patron saint.

Although the Colegio de Seda was made an official museum of the city, it’s been under construction for some time, and currently can’t be visited. When we walked by, there didn’t seem to be any work being done, so we’re unsure of what the status on the construction is.

A lot more information can be found here, in Spanish.

Colegio Arte Mayor de la Seda
Location on our Valencia Map

Rent Cars in Valencia

July 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

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