Hello, friends–I’m back from Valencia, Spain, where I attended last week’s European Social Science History Conference. It’s a big conference–I had no idea how big–and it was an honor to meet and interact en Inglés with so many European historians and other scholars. I’m always in awe of people who can manage to give papers and communicate in a language besides their native tongues. We Anglophones are truly put to shame by our European colleagues’ virtuosity & daring.
Click on the video clip for a little sonic atmosphere–more trenchant commentary and my holiday snaps on the flip.
The conference put on a pretty boss cocktail party for us at the Palau de Musica on Thursday night (which was conveniently across the street from my hotel), and my co-panelists and I were at our roundtable on Friday morning bright and early at 8:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. MDT!). We had a great conversation about Women’ work and the Atlantic Economy, and I saw several panels on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
But of course I still had plenty of time to enjoy the city and the lovely, warm, dry weather. Spring flowers were blooming, and the orange trees were full of their fruits.
Interestingly, I saw more soldiers or police with big guns at the airport and on the streets of Valencia than I have seen in Colorado. It was quite a surprise to find men police armed like this, guarding the other side of the cathedral with its decapitated saints. The air of menace brought by heightened security concerns in Europe has arrived at the Mediterranean vacation coast.
The cathedral features the predictable relic of a saint, in this case, St. Vincent Ferrer, a fourteenth and fifteenth-century Valencian, Dominican missionary, and very wired-in church politician.
But this was an unusual intrusion of modern politics into the daily life of a cheerful provincial city. Many more sights were charming and lighthearted. Valencia was quite different from the major British, French, and Italian cities I have visited in the past, in that the streets were full of Spanish families with young children, and in general, the Spaniards outnumbered the tourists, even during Easter vacation week!
Like the police officers above, this guy was also lurking around the cathedral!
We ate incredibly well, enjoying massive late lunches of paella Valenciana, then bibidas y pinxtos (drinks and snacks) in the early evening, and then dinners at 10 p.m. Why not? You only live once. My theory is that eating and drinking well is a good antidote for jet lag (and I don’t want to hear any opinions to the contrary).
Hoy futbol! It turns out that Valencia has a futbol team that’s a pretty big deal, in third place after the equivalent of the Yankees and the Red Sox of Spanish sports:
Valencia is friendly, totally chill, and a great advertisement for la vida Española. (It reminded me a LOT of Southern California. That must be the reason!)
11 thoughts on “Where in the world is Historiann?”
I did study abroad in Valencia in college. I do not remember there being armed guards! I do remember the beach being gorgeous though…
The soldiers armed with AK-47s greeting us on the tarmac at the airport were a little unsettling, but I get why Europe is on edge. At the conference, I saw a colleague who’s living in Berlin this year, and she said that Berliners fear they’re next, after Paris & Brussels.
I studied there in college too, 15 years ago, and there were machine gun armed guards at the government buildings- but my plane landed during siesta and there were no guards, or customs officials, then! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Sounds like your hotel was about 2 blocks from my apartment.
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Yeay Historiann! Sounds like a productive and fun conference! I love going to European Conferences and workshops. The organizers usually do a good job of feeding the attendees and setting up some cultural events. They recognize that a life of the mind is both work and a sensual pleasure.
In general it seems like the European cops have two types of presence: the easy going tourist cop who is conspicuously unarmed and working the crowd, the heaviest thing they will hit you with is a ticket or stern admonishment. The cops in the Peoples Republic of Megalomania look like Maytag repairmen.The other side of the Repressive State Apparatus typically waits off stage in the form of a heavily armed military police / gendarmarie with automatic weapons who only show up if there is a threat or hippies in need of punching. The tussle in Brussels brought out the goon squad across the continent.
Valencia is a really easy city to navigate on foot or by metro. I even took the Metro from the airport after 24 hours in transit from Colorado, IN SPANISH. I am muy orgulloso of that, since the major non-English speaking foreign country I’ve been dealing with lately is still in North America. (And I don’t even speak Spanish! But I learned enough to eat and drink what I want there, which is the most important thing.)
I was not met by soldiers at the airport. But it was great to see you and other smart people. Also, because of the financing of higher ed in Europe, there are some really interesting international networks doing large scale data analysis in parallel ways, and it was great to hear the reports from these. And, of course, the eating and drinking!
Maybe the soldiers were greeting my plane specially!
I’ve never seen armed guards outside a European cathedral, or really, any cathedral anywhere. That was weird, but see Twinkle’s comment above too. Our Spanish historian host thought that the effigies outside the cathedral were beheaded during the Civil War, maybe like the heads on the statues that surround Notre Dame were beheaded by French Revolutionaries back in 1789!
I remember a lot of heavily-armed soldier-police at a Paris train station, and this was in 2004, after 9/11 but long before the current round of targeted attacks. As for conference hospitality, I was at a conference in Paris run by (logistically-speaking) the French Army. And they had the greatest contribution to conference social felicity I’ve ever seen before or since: very solid paper or plastic plates equipped with cup holders attached to the side of the plate. All sorts of wine spills averted, and all sorts of interactions possible that you never think about until you’re there trying to scribble down somebody’s number or e-mail while balancing a cup, a sandwich, and I don’t know what else.
And those of us going to the OAH in the cold and the rain begin to weep.
I’m sorry! I’ll be here in the Colorado sunshine, reading your Tweets from afar. . .
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A nice piece on Valencia in the Travel section of the New York Times today, “36 Hours in…”