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Letter from Valencia- Kiwis in ValenNZia

by Penny Roberts on 28 Jun 2007
Orange groves outside Valencia Ralph and Penny Roberts

New Zealander Penny Robert's is in Valencia for the America's Cup. Here is the event from a spectator's viewpoint. Monday is an America's Cup lay day and we are going to get out of the city and away from sailing for the day.

Our route takes us down the coast and we are able to get a good idea of the countryside. It’s very dry and dusty and the buildings echo the colour of the parched ground. We drive through the orange groves that we have seen from the air – the deep green of the foliage relieves the bland colours of the surrounding hills, but apart from the straggly remains of last season’s crop, there are no ripening oranges yet.

The orange groves give way to grape vines, but they are not vines growing in neat rows along fences the way we are used to seeing them. They grow like small shrubs in the stony looking ground.

It is hot; the temperature has climbed to at least 40deg and the mercury is still rising. Thank goodness for the air conditioned car. We reach the town of Calpe set under a very imposing rocky outcrop and guess what? There is a yacht club there! But our friends have been there before and know that it is a good place to have lunch. We dine on fresh fish and salad, crusty bread rolls with a delicious garlicky spread.

On the way home we stop at a couple of seaside towns. The beaches are extremely rocky but the water is clear and people are swimming and diving. It is after 7pm and little markets selling jewelry, small leather goods and souvenirs begin to open. It is still hot and the local equivalent of gelato goes down well. We drive back through more vineyards and orange groves.

Tuesday is race three and it’s on with the supporter T shirt and down to the port. We are back in the Foredeck Club and today there’s a large Kiwi contingent – Dean Barker’s mum and other team members’ families, some of the children draped in NZ flags.

After the race has been delayed for so long some of the people in the lounge are ready to pack it in and leave, but at the last moment the Race Committee decides it’s all go and everyone’s attention is riveted to one of the many screens in the room. This is not another boring old yacht race!

Alinghi is in front – the Alinghi fans cheer. The lead changes and they go quiet as the cheers erupt from the Kiwis. Dean’s mum sits unmoving. At times I can’t watch and walk around the room. Team NZ cross the finish line and the noise is deafening. Everyone has a mobile phone and is texting or talking. I get a text from our son that understates, 'that was a little stressful.'

It’s a slow walk to the media centre, as I meet nearly every Kiwi that I know. There are black shirts everywhere.

At one point, three young women cycle past singing the NZ national anthem at the tops of their voices. We all go to the Estrella Damm Bar that has become the gathering place for the New Zealanders and meet more friends. The mood is so up beat. Another son texts to ask what the atmosphere is like and I call his number and hold the phone up so he can hear.

It has been a great day to be a Kiwi in ValeNZia!

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