Agua de Valencia

I will always remember getting to 40. How could I forget?

Men seem to worry about reaching 30, and 50, but for me 40 was the one that made the difference.

There is no way you can kid yourself any more that you are that bright pretty young woman
who has just left university. Even in your 30s, you can fool yourself that you are just in a slight extension of your 20s.

But 40 no. All your friends have kids, invariably more than one, usually two – one of each because your friends have ordered lives. Some of your friends or work colleagues have died.

Your female friends are dyeing their hair – not to look young and glamorous – but to hide the grey. (Not me – no grey hairs when I got to 40 – thanks mum).

Anyway, determined to face up to it bravely, I planned the annual holiday. By some strange quirk of fate, Helpful Partner has his birthday the day before mine, so we had started taking our holidays at birthday time.

Sometimes we celebrated on his (as it came first), and mine was a more restrained affair. Sometimes we partied for two days. And if they fell over a weekend we turned it into a birth-weekend. So much more fun than just a birthday. We have been known to make a birth-week out of it too.

This year, my birthday was clearly going to be the event. After much rejection of virtually every destination in the world, I decided on three weeks in Spain. Part back-packing, just to prove I WAS NOT OLD, and the hire of a villa plus car for a week.

I say villa but that is a bit grandiose as it was actually a quarter-detached house, ie a semi and a back-to-back all in one. And there was a brill pool about 10 yards away which was always pretty empty in the morning as all the Spaniards were still in bed.

I digress. For my 40th we had back-packed down the coast to Valencia and I had splashed out on a decent room which even had its own shower. Not too much of a splash mind, about 25 quid instead of 15-20 quid.

Our daytime activities on that momentous day have faded somewhat in my memory. I think we wandered round and didn’t have much to eat. The previous day we’d eaten at La Luna (C/San Ramon, don’t know if it is still there, unlikely I guess), which was good but we didn’t want to eat at the same place again. I think by 4pm we’d managed a few small tapas. Like tiny tapas.

I blame it all on the Rough Guide to Spain, sixth edition, p688. This was where I read all about Agua de Valencia. Water of Valencia is something of a misnomer. Anything further from water you can’t imagine. Freshly-squeezed orange juice (yum), champagne (cava I should imagine), and vodka (ouf). I think they do it with gin too. It’s slightly irrelevant as the orange juice masks the spirit and it tastes like a rather interesting Bucks Fizz, which pales into insignificance next to Agua de Valencia.

So I was determined to try it. When it got to a civilised (British) hour to try this racy cocktail for my birthday, we hit the bars. Now one of the best things about this delicious concoction is that the bartender makes it up freshly for you and it comes in little jugs. Actually they are not very little at all. You can get some three glasses of Valencian Water (hah!) out of one jug.

“Do you like it?” says Helpful Partner.

“Yes,” I said (bit of a stupid question I thought but he is a beer drinker).

“Have another one,” he said.

So I did. And then we went to another nice olde bar, wooden floors and dark, you can imagine it, and I had a couple of jugs there too.

In fact it was very dark in there. I really couldn’t see very well. I staggered to the toilet, and gazed meaningfully in the mirror at this 40-year-old woman.

And opened the reservoirs. “Boooooo. I’m never going to be young again. Booooooo. I’ve had the best years of my life. Booooooohooooooo. What am I going to do for the next 40 years? Booooohoooooohooooo.”

Eventually there were no more tears left in the reservoir, just a few dribbles, so I made an undignified exit and appeared back at the bar, somewhat baggy-eyed and probably looking ten years older than when I had gone to the toilet. Helpful Partner had finally twigged that he had been a bit over-generous in plying me with Agua de Valencia. He finished off the remaining jug and dragged me home. I think. Who knows?

I did not feel well the next morning. Not at all well. Sensibly, I had planned down to the finest detail exactly what we were going to do. Stagger halfway across the city with an incredibly heavy rucksack to the bus station to get the bus down to Alicante and pick up the hire car and go to the villa. This was a great plan originally but on the morning of the Biggest Hangover Ever it was not such a good idea.

Helpful Partner was not sympathetic and we lurched off to the bus station. The bus driver was clearly not sympathetic. BUMPETY BUMP went the bus. BUMPETY BUMP went my head. The horrible sun was not sympathetic and shone brightly at me even behind dark glasses. Up and down, up and down endless sick-making hills. I super-glued my head to the headrest and tried to look not very ill/sick/vastly hung-over. More sort of the I’ll-just-doze-off look and hopefully not vomit on the bus.

I can still remember it all too vividly. But it did make me think I needed to change my life.

Agua de Valencia. Your life may never be the same again.


8 comments on “Agua de Valencia

  1. Damn, sorry I missed it! I will have to try it when I get back to Valencia! It sounds quite yummy and much more tasty than horchata, which while sweet, was rather chalky…


    • It was nearly 14 years ago! Bet you weren’t an ex-toper then.

      I am extremely sanctimonious when I don’t drink too. A bit like ex-smokers I suppose except I never smoked so I can’t say from personal exp, but I’ve seen other ex-smokers wrinkle their noses when the fags are lit up.


  2. Yikes! I can relate. I have to be extra careful with alcoholic beverages that taste like fruit. We have something here called Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider. Must.just.sip.


  3. Popped over from Lady of the Cakes.

    Sounds like a drink I would like. I had a boozy night in Barcelona a few years back and the next morning I was up at six for a bus tour. The Better Half thought it was hilarious. The Salvador Dali museum and a wicked hangover made for an interesting experience.

    I turned 40 last May. I actually had a harder time when I turned 30, until I woke up that morning and didn’t feel any differently. However, I’ve been getting gray hairs since my twenties. Now they are turning white.


    • It was good. Very good. I’m sure if someone offered it to me I’d be totally unable to resist it. Even the memory of the Biggest Hangover Ever wouldn’t deter. I’d just make sure the next door could be spent in bed and not on a bus.

      Yes, I can imagine Dali museum + hangover = bizarre.
      Dali museum is bizarre when sober. I like Dali but that museum was a bit much even for me. That spooky car set up just freaked me out.

      I think a few grey/white hairs can look quite chic. Although easy for me to say. Don’t know what I’d do if I had a headful, have to change my (non) hairstyle I guess.

      The post was actually partly written by the prompt that blogger has when you set up your profile. Something on the lines of changing your life, hence the ending. And in fact I did change my life after 40 as I was determined not to just decay in suburbia after 40 interesting years. Fifty was OK, I’m still feeling just over 40. I think I have a ten year minimum age delay recognition factor. I’ll probably start feeling fifty at sixty …


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