It was the day before our return to the UK after our Spanish Christmas break. I was meant to be tidying and packing but the Sales were starting that day, so I'd thought I'd go and check them out hoping to find something nice at a good price.
I left the house at 10am, picked up my niece and we headed into Valencia's town centre. Parking sorted, we walked towards the very heart of the shopping area in Calle Colón and, as we approached, my niece pointed at the crowds swarming. It was quite shocking, I lived in Valencia for 26 years but never saw so many people in the streets!
The first thing I wanted to get out of the way were shoes for my little one - the only thing I actually needed. So off we went braving the crowds and headed towards my favourite kiddie shoe shop, Oca-Loca. The quality is fantastic and the styles are cute beyond belief! Oh, and prices are reasonable too - I paid €130 for these three pairs of shoes and the snow boots.
After stocking up at Oca-Loca for the winter, we aimed for the nearest branch of Bimba & Lola (another one of my favourite shops) to check out the deals, especially on bags... But the shop was a complete nightmare, the shelves were empty and the queue to pay went right to the very back of the shop. Needless to say we turned on our heels and left as quickly as the people trying to get in let us, that is, in spite of the beautiful handbag sitting on the yet to be 'looted' window!
A couple of doors down, a gorgeous pair of ballerinas in black suede with a cut-out flower on top and reduced to just €19 caught my eye but, once again, the queue at the till was impossible, so we gave up.
The next stop was El Corte Inglés (the Spanish John Lewis), where I was hoping to buy a pair of jeans. No chance. Even the seriously expensive, designer concessions, such as Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani were packed to the rafters and the clothes were flying off the shelves.
We thought that perhaps if we took an early lunch tried the shops again at lunchtime, they would be less crowded. But apparently everybody else had the same thought and by 1pm (way before the traditional Spanish lunch hour of 2 to 3pm) the restaurant on the top floor of El Corte Inglés was full and had a queue of about fifty people waiting.
Ultimately, we accepted defeat and left the city centre in favour of Arena, a new shopping centre called not far from my sister’s. Arena has all the Spanish high street brands (Bershka, Blanco, Casa, Lara, Mango, Mayoral, Oysho, Springfield, Stradivarius, Zara, etc.), as well as international names such as Agatha, Benetton, H&M and Hollister. It also has lots of wonderful shoe shops and several restaurants and coffee shops. And being in the outskirts of the city, it was bound to be a lot less crowded. So we jumped in the car and made our way there.
Arena was heaven. We had no trouble getting a parking space (right by the entrance) and there were no crowds. Hallelujah! We hooked up with my sister and three friends and enjoyed a delicious three-course lunch at La Piazza. Sadly, a lady trying to leave the premises after her lunch didn’t notice the glass doors and walked straight into them, getting a bleeding nose. The restaurant staff was quick to react though and took her away immediately to the First Aid room.
When we left the restaurant we split for more efficient shopping - no need to drag everyone to the same shop if people want to go elsewhere. My niece and I went to Zara, where the clothes were in such a mess that we were put off and left, and then on to Benetton, where we found a couple of nice pieces of knitwear reduced by fifty percent, as well as a few T-shirts for my little one to wear at nursery. But paying for the items took forever, not because the queue was particularly long when we joined it (about five people in front of us) but because the spotty teenager working the till didn't seem to know what he was doing...
It took twenty minutes to get out of Benetton and, by then, we were bored. We had had enough of crowds, queues and shops that looked like the place had been raided, so by 5pm (still a few hours before the shops were due to close) we called it a day. My husband was actually surprised to see us back so soon – he was expecting us to shop until we dropped…
I had never gone shopping on the first day of the Sale before, neither in Spain nor in the UK, but it’s an experience I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat. As much as I like shopping and I appreciate a bargain, it’s just not worth the hassle. Next time, I’ll look online, just as Caradiaz customers do!