Tuesday’s Terrace, Valencia

Valencia, Spain, Tuesday's TerraceIt was difficult to decide which image to use for this weeks edition of Tuesday’s Terrace so I gave you options.  This vertigo inducing view is one of my favorite vistas in Valencia, Spain.  This is an honest slice of Spanish life with each terrace as individual as any of us. Often I sit staring out at these terraces as if I am watching a film, no different to Rear Window by Hitchcock, except this version has Spanish subtitles.  – James


IMG_6495        Let me start by translating, you see, PEIM! PEIM! PEIM! really just transcribes to BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! At least this is what I was told by a true Valenciana, but I choose to believe her since she is a reputable source that I have known for a few years. I have visited Valencia many times in the past few years, since having family here, but never had I been during Las Fallas. I knew it was going to be loud, crowded with visitors and extremely chaotic but needed to experience it firsthand since my family has been talking to me about it since first visiting them in Spain. Las Fallas is a celebration that takes place over five days, happening each March to commemorate Saint Joseph in Valencia and the surrounding area. Valencia is the third largest city in Spain.


Each and every day at 2 pm, there are earth shattering fireworks, known as mascletas, that take place in the main square of the city, Plaza del Ayuntamiento. First thought was why are the fireworks not set off at night, so you can see them? Wrong… It is not about the beautiful display of light but about the incredible amount of noise set off by professionals that erupts from the square, with crowds upon thronging crowds vying for the closest spot, to be as close to the action as possible. People line the streets surrounding the square, every local terrace and even on side streets with no view, because remember you are not here to watch but to feel. Each display starts off slow, not so loud and builds up its tempo during the process, with crackles of light bursting before your eyes. The momentum builds up so much that during the end of the display you feel your face cheeks vibrating from the sound waves bouncing off of them: it is that intense. Each day the momentum is different making the proud people cheer so loud they rival the just finished mascleta symphony. Are they crazy? Yes, and I went 4 days out of the 5, each in a different spot trying to get as close as possible, and loved every intense second.

los ninos
The youngest children are pushed on a wagon while the adults march in the parade.

Las Fallas is a long standing tradition in Valencia with each neighborhood having its own Fallas Club, and since birth you have the choice to be part of everything. The beautiful costumes are usually handmade and worn with pride during these times. The time, thought and effort is apparent in the stunning visuals that make up the details of this tradition of customary dress. Each neighborhood’s club marches in a parade-like fashion, towards Plaza de la Virgen to bring offerings of large arrangements and of flower bouquets to Virgin Mary. Many participants have been involved since children, causing it to be a highly proud, extremely satisfying and emotional experience.  IMG_6797IMG_6803

Marching through the streets to Plaza de la Virgen, you can see that each handcrafted dress is exquisite, ornate, with each more beautiful than the last, with each lady being infinitely proud of her Valencian heritage. Their smiles shine brighter than the expensive and bright textiles that adorn their bodies.


For the women, men, and children every outfit is planned carefully with nothing left to chance.

MaryFrontUntitled-1Upon walking through many small and narrow streets, they reach the square called Plaza de la Virgen, where they first encounter the sight of Virgin Mary, who is fastidiously adorned with flowers upon flowers by volunteers. With each arriving group, each person brings a bouquet of carnations, or other flowers, which are used to fill out the body of the Virgin Mary, previously a wooden framework. This processional parade reaches an apex when arriving in the Plaza, which takes over the course of two days with people marching through at all hours of the day and night.


Untitled-1Untitled-1At this time, flower arrangements, both large and small, are deposited and placed in the square, put to good use in decorating the festive Plaza. It was clear to see how involved the Valencian people of all ages were, from newborns to adults, some of which I am sure have not missed a year in the chance to be involved. Touching it was, to see so many of the women enter the Plaza, kissing their bouquet before handing it over, and even taking a keepsake of a single bloom. Many women and men leave the Plaza while wiping tears from their eyes, understood since this is such a deep rooted experience for them.

IMG_7031Once Virgin Mary is fully adorned with flowers, remaining bouquets are put into walls that encircle the church, as seen on the left hand side of the photo.


Untitled-1Each Fallas club brings a large arrangement with them that has been carried during the course of the parade from their respective neighborhoods.  IMG_7160Each Falla club is also responsible for designing and building large sculptures which are then displayed prominently in the corners of the corresponding neighborhood during the festival. Each year a theme is issued and each club is judged according to how well their idea has been thought out and executed. Prizes are then awarded and on the last night of the festival, the sculptures are burned signifying the end of Las Fallas. Flames lick the sides of each piece until nothing but burning embers, smoldering in the street, are left behind.




It is a week of chaos, with the sound of firecrackers bursting loudly at all hours throughout the streets of Valencia. Coming from a country where I would never witness such an event, I was ecstatic to see and feel so many things during this time. It was incredible to see how another culture celebrates their heritage while mixing in flowers, such as the carnation that so many of us overlook, into something that is held so dear to them in tradition. If you ever have the chance, I recommend at least one day to revel in the festivities: it is an opportunity not to be missed and one that definitely will not be forgotten.


Gracias, Valencia – James

Our Gentle Giants

DeWiersse, Vorden
DeWiersse, Vorden

Maybe it was the recent passing of Arbor day, or Eric’s response to the question,”What plant would you choose to be come back as..”, to which he chose the olive tree, or maybe it from being asked about my favorite photo; I am not sure exactly but it brought trees to the forefront of my mind. There is one quote about trees that is a favorite of mine, a Chinese Proverb that reads, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  It often makes me think about the admiration and respect we have for trees and wonder where does our love of trees come from, what is our fascination with them? Some answers are plain to see with the obvious factors of why we love them is that they are good for the earth and environment, the air, they provide wood which we have used to build our homes and shelters and most of our furnishings too, they provide the pencil we write with to the paper we write on, among many other rational reasons. There is no doubt that we are thankful for these things that trees provide, but there is something deeper, more emotional that they stir up in us.  Trees evoke so many deep memories that probably started at a young age, maybe being pushed on a tire swing hanging from a strong limb or running in the woods with friends as children? Apple picking with the family in the autumn, when some leaves mesmerize us while turning their bright, brilliant magical colors?


Steinhardt Gardens Mt Kisco NY
Steinhardt Gardens, Mt Kisco, NY (photo: Jennifer Neumann)
Winterthur and DeWiersse
Spring blooms at Winterthur, DE and allee leafing out at DeWiersse

One of my earliest memories regarding a tree was during my kindergarten graduation.  All the students, with help from our parents, collected money to purchase a flowering dogwood (I remember the attached white tag clearly) and gave this tree as a gift to our kindergarten teacher, as it was her last year of teaching. It was all kept a secret until the end of the ceremony, when it was pulled along in a red flyer wagon, by myself and a fellow student, up to our unsuspecting teacher.  As we pulled this beautiful little tree, with its peachy-pink blooms and root ball wrapped in burlap, we were met with gasps and smiles from those seated in the auditorium.  The whole situation was fascinating and confusing to me – why were we giving her a tree, why a tree? What did it mean? Where would she plant it? We all lived in the Bronx! Would she think of us every time she looked at in in flower or in leaf? What if she didn’t like trees? And where was she going?! There were so many unanswered questions about this ceremonial act that were clouding my young mind.

Ficus macrophylla in Valencia, Spain, and a giant Redwood at Killerton, Devon, UK

Growing up in the Bronx, meant spending the weekends upstate at my grandparents house, about a 2 hour drive north to Red Hook in the Hudson Valley.  My siblings and I would climb the huge trees next to the house, which were situated just outside the kitchen window, always trying to see who could climb the highest.  Pines, I remember them with very large trunks and limbs.  When we would be called in for lunches of baloney sandwiches and fresh cucumbers, we carefully descended  branch by branch, jumping onto the soft pine needle covered ground when we were within safe proximity. Once inside, we always needed to spend some minutes scrubbing the sticky pine sap off our tiny hands before we were allowed to eat our lunch.  I am sure if I saw these trees now, they would not seem as large as they do in my memories of those times. Could these early games have sparked my fascination with trees?


Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo in the Netherlands
natural landscape in the Hoge Veluwe National Park, Otterlo in the Netherlands

Texture and foliage keep a garden interesting through the season. Flowers are just moments of gratification. – Kevin Doyle

Winter silhouettes of trees and deer, Gravetye Manor, UK
Winter silhouettes of trees and deer, Gravetye Manor, UK
Magnolia campbellii anchoring the long border Gravetye Manor, UK

The sight of a single or grove of deciduous trees can invoke both pleasant and melancholy thoughts. The silhouettes of solitary trees in winter are their fingerprints on the horizon, stamping themselves against a bare sky. You might easily recognize what tree it is from a distance, whether in daytime or on a bright moonlit night.  In a Pennsylvanian winter, I always imagined the large Platanus trees in the forest were the ‘Kings of the Winter Wood’ with the  seasonal light picking up the silvery glints of their beautiful bark. Even in a mixed wood they easily stand out, it is the season for them to shine, glowing among a surrounding dreary sea of muted trunks of gray and brown, a king among men.

a single Acacia tortilis in the Negev Desert, Israel
a single Acacia tortilis in the Negev Desert, Israel

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong. – Churchill



The sense of coolness we feel in the warm summer months, as we sit beneath the shade of a single specimen or enter a dark grove, tingles the skin and puts the mind at ease, giving us a break from the heat of the blazing sun.  A nap can easily be brought on by listening to the lullaby of the branches swaying slightly in a breeze, leaves rustling to and fro, causing our minds to wander into a sleepy landscape, protected underneath a large and looming canopy.

single tree adorning the end of a London Street and Hurricane Sandy damage, Brooklyn, NY (photo: Migan Foster)
single tree adorning the end of a London Street and Hurricane Sandy damage, Brooklyn, NY (photo: Migan Foster)
Prunus blooms and colorful washings, Colombia Road, London
Prunus blooms and colorful washings, Colombia Road, London

The plethora of trees in the countryside is always pleasurable due to their sheer amount surrounding us, so it might be possible to take single trees for granted there, but not the case for a city dweller.  They might not know what the tree is, where it came from, or its significance to the world, but that single green tree in a sea of concrete puts a smile on the face of many neighborhood folk rushing about their daily activities.  Is it the the short-lived colorful blooms they love, the soothing green color of a fully leafed out tree, or is it the thickness of the eye level trunk which quietly proclaims its sense of history in such a rapid paced environment? Perhaps it is why when we see one go down in city streets, we feel a tinge of panic, a moment of sadness, a shortness of breath because someone we saw each day is now gone, another piece of the present is now forgotten history. Some blossoming trees are sometimes further enhanced by surrounding garish city colors, letting the tree be an individual among other city folk, standing its own quirky ground just as it own citizens strive for individuality.


Vincent van Gogh Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890
Vincent van Gogh, Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Confucius


If there was only one tree I could plant, I would most definitely choose something from the genus Malus because of its continual hard work most of them provide through the seasons. Spring brings the beauty of delicate blossoms that attract and feed insects, lush foliage with developing fruits while providing good shade in summer, gorgeous and colorful delicious apples dangling from each branch in autumn and some with fall color, and finally the wonderfully twisted silhouettes to look at during the winter, especially pleasing in an orchard.

Platanus allees
Fleeting moments in Platanus allees in Spain
tree reflections at DeWiersse and Beech tunnel of 475' at Kasteel Weldam, Netherlands
tree reflections at DeWiersse and Beech tunnel of 475′ at Kasteel Weldam, Netherlands

The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration. –   Claude Monet

There is no denying that trees are the elephants of our plant kingdom; they are larger than us, old, gentle, wise, experienced, and have stories to tell. They are the plants we know have seen a lot, probably more in life than you and I have, and probably ever will. In keeping with the favored Chinese Proverb, remember to plant those trees for future generations, not just for the pleasure of ours today.   – James

Blood Orange Sorbet


As always, a trip to Mercado Central is necessary when I am in Valencia, where I can see, snack, and take home some of the delicious treats that are sold here. With a splayed open fruit  being its best advertisement,  my eyes and salivating taste buds were immediately drawn to the beautiful Blood Oranges.  Filling a bag of 16 fruits cost me only 2 Euros which I gladly paid for to take back with me on the train to Madrid.  Racking my brain to find a special recipe for them during the week, I came across a recipe for Lemon Sorbet, which was adapted to suit my precious jewel tone fruits.

This recipe was adapted from 1080 Recipes, by Simone and Ines Ortega/Phaidon, for Lemon Sorbet.

IMG_7382Ingredients for Blood Orange Sorbet:

  • grated rind and juice of 8-10 small Blood Oranges
  • 200g/7 oz caster sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of salt



  1. Place 500ml/18 fl oz water into a large pot, stir in the caster sugar and bring to a boil, cook for 10-12 minutes, until it is syrupy.
  2. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool.
  3. Stir the Blood Orange rind and the juice into the cold sugar syrup.
  4. Then pour this mixture into a freezer-proof container and put into the freezer.
  5.  When the mixture begins to freeze, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a clean, dry bowl until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the mixture. (It is best to add the liquid, little by little until all of it has been incorporated into the egg whites.
  6. Return to the freezer and freeze until firm, around 4 hours.
  7. Serve in glass cups or use the skins from the Blood Oranges
  8. Top with a garnish of fresh mint and enjoy.

IMG_7509IMG_8009 Since the recipe was originally for lemon sorbet, I might use less caster sugar next time (which was probably used to help cut the acidity of the lemons), as the Blood Oranges are sweet enough.  I guarantee that those you share this with will beg for more.  This recipe will be on heavy rotation for now.. – James

‘If you reject the food,’

The Falles, Valecia, 2014

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. – James A. Michener, American author

My fake plants…

faux plants in Spanish apartment
faux arrangement in an empty apartment, Valencia 2011


My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them. – Mitch Hedberg, American comedien