Into the Med, Valencia and the World Cup Final

The Bay of Biscay was kind to us – no big waves and only a slight Atlantic swell – so at dusk on the third day out of Southampton, we slid without incident between the Pillars of Hercules and into the Mediterranean. The edge of the Atlas Mountains and the tip of Gibraltar showed up a darker blue against the evening sky as the lights of Algiers glowed sodium red in the distance. We were much closer to the African than the European coast as ferries crossed quickly before and behind us in the growing dark. We docked after a full days travel across calm, blue seas at the modern port of Valencia and as a thousand more cars were loaded this Sunday morning, Sandra and I caught a taxi into town with Rudolph [a retired Swiss chemist] to explore… Valencia is somewhere I had never expected to visit and it came as a pleasant surprise to spend a few hours in this bustling, port with a beautiful cathedral square, surrounded by tall, old apartment buildings and shops restored to their 19th Century glory. Decorative metal balconies and tiled frescos adorned many of the buildings and by mid morning, the city was busy with families taking the air or sitting down to coffee and cakes at one or other of the numerous cafes. The cathedral rises straight out of the square like a medieval castle and is dominated by a huge octagonal tower, reminiscent of the famous lantern tower at Ely. Within, the Sunday service was under way and we stayed for a few minutes as the priest intoned the prayers and the faithful responded. I was surprised that there were so few people [maybe fifty] in a space that could probably hold two thousand with ease. It reminded me that even in Catholic Spain, the world has moved on and religious observance is not what it was. We were back on board by lunchtime and by mid afternoon had Ibiza in sight. We had hoped to remain in port during the evening so we could sneak to a Spanish bar to watch the World Cup Final but the schedule made that impossible so after dinner, we settled down with officers in their mess room to watch the game. Unfortunately, the only channel with the game we could pick up was being broadcast from Algeria, which meant that just before the end of the first half and during extra time, it was interrupted by the sunset and mid evening call to prayer… I suppose you could call it a very “physical” game. Holland seemed nervous from the start and their players had no compunction about hacking down their opponents. Mind you, there also seemed to be plenty of theatrics on the Spanish side with the merest contact being transformed into a gross foul. To be honest, I disappeared for the second half and when I returned, didn’t think I’d missed anything…


About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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