Getting around Valencia 2 – No pedal power needed.
Having used pedal-power to get around Valencia, it’s time for me to try a few less sweat-inducing modes of transport, so I wave goodbye to Trixi in the Plaza de la Reina, and climb onto the top deck of the Valencia Bus Turistic. Shame on me, but I’ve always been a bit disparaging of these tour busses, which is a bit ridiculous, as they are an excellent way to get an overview of the city and you can climb on and off a five points on the route for in-depth inspection, knowing that in half-an-hour there will be another one along to continue the tour. An audio guide points out the historic highlights but more than anything else, I enjoyed seeing my city from above ground level and going from ancient to modern within an hour’s guided tour.
I leave the bus at L’Umbracle, the great whale’s skeleton-like structure which is part of City of Arts and Sciences, because I’m about to try one of the weirdest forms of transport imaginable – a Segway.
A Segway is a strange looking two-wheeled thing with a pole sticking up and handlebars, but, where a bike has the wheels one in front of another, the Segway has them side-by-side, with a platform in between to stand on. My instructor, Ximo, explains a bit about the technology, but I’m so busy trying to keep upright that it passes over my head. Basically, it’s very simple; lean forward to go forward and lean back to go in reverse. To turn, you twist a grip on the handlebars, almost like an accelerator on a motorbike. For fifteen minutes I go up and down, do turns and stops, with Ximo running rings around me, until he decides I’m not going to be a danger to pedestrians, and off we go.
There are three top speeds, depending on which magnetic ‘key’ Ximo inserts; up to 8kph, 14kph, and 20 kph. I ask him if he ever goes at top speed, and in answer he almost bends double over the handlebars and shoots off like the clappers – the sight of which makes me extremely grateful that he’s only used the 8kph key on mine!
These things are seriously weird – apparently used by the NYPD, and there are even a couple in use by the Policia Local in Benidorm.
When we come to our first ramp upwards I nervously lean forward (but not half as nervously as I lean back when we come down again!). It’s surprising how quickly you get used to them, though, because no-matter how far I lean forward, I can’t exceed my maximum speed limit, which is enough to comfortably trundle me up the slope. Fortunately for both me and pedestrians, there were none about at the time.
Soon I’m whizzing about alongside Ximo, as he gives me a guided tour of the CAC and as far up the river as the Palau de Musica. I only realise just how much I’ve been tensing my legs and arms when we step off half-way round, and they almost collapse under me. Even static, the Segway won’t fall over until it’s switched off, and it’s a very strange feeling to be stood there on two small wheels waiting to tip over onto face or backside and discover that it’s not going to happen.
From the Turia I nip down Avenidad del Puerto to pick up a motor scooter from Cooltra, who’s motto ‘Move like a local”, sets the scene for my ride through the city. I’m given one of the scooters they build themselves, a Cooltra Cruiser. It may get looked down on by Harley Davidson and Triumph owners, but with its jet black paintwork, wide splayed handlebars and chrome eagle’s head riding on the front mudguard, it feels like the bees-knees to me. It’s been years since I’ve sat astride anything with a motor in it, but with a short course of instruction I’m off into the rush of traffic down the Avenida.
I’m tempted to try out the F1 race circuit, which has been open to the public for weeks, but as they are putting the finishing touches to the track for the next weekend’s Formula 3 race, that pleasure is forbidden me. Never mind – my ride along the beachside was wonderful, with the cool of the breeze in my face and the sea sparkling to my right.
It felt great to be nipping between the hectic Valencia traffic, and a scooter could have been designed for those tiny backstreets of the Carmen. The temptation to buy one there and then surfaced, but as my bike was tied to a lamppost outside Cooltra, I had to get that home first.
My final ride was one unfortunately not available to the general public. I rang my friend Paco, who has a collection of twelve vintage cars, including Jaguars, MGs, a couple of Bentleys, and a glorious Rolls Royce, and asked if he fancied a jolly in one of them. He picked my up in stunning, pillar-box red Mercedes Benz 190SL from the 1960’s. As we cruised down the Calle Colon, the poshest street in the city, with the top down, I lay back in a ‘this is the life’ pose – and was catapulted back to earth when he dropped me off and I had to pick up my battered bike and return once more to peddle-power.
Cooltra, Avenida del Puerto 47. Tel. 96 339 4751, 607 491 085. http://www.cooltra.com
Scooter hire €20 per day (insurance €10 per day). Guided tours from €56 for 4 hrs to €102 for 7 hrs, some including meals and refreshments.
Valencia Bus Turistic. www.valenciabusturistic.com . Step-on, step-off, half-hourly service with five stops throughout the city. Main pick-up point Plaza de la Reina. Tour lasts approximately 1hr 15 mins. Adult ticket €14, child 7-11 €6, valid 24 hrs. Also runs 2-hour tour to Albufera, pick-up point Plaza de la Reina. Adult ticket €14, child 7-11 €10, valid 24 hrs.