Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Valencia; Who would have thought it held such interest

We were booked by train to Valencia from Barcelona. Getting through luggage screening was interesting, as our large and very efficient picnic knife was picked up on x-ray. Fine in checked luggage on a plane (it was a very well travelled knife) but not on a Spanish train. We were happy to throw it away but the anxious security guy needed someone to tell us that we couldn't take a knife on the train. It ended up in a plastic bag type bin. I hope the person emptying it didn't get cut. So don't carry knives on trains in Spain.

The train was not an AVE but it was still pretty fast, outrunning the trucks on the highway. If you are travelling in a foursome, get rows 5 and 6, as they face each other across a table. We travelled backwards which was a bit odd, as by the time you saw something, it was gone. In general, the land was given over to orange trees and market farms.

Orange farms from the train

Mostly we travelled along the coast which was interesting, some resorts obviously being better than others, but Segunt was exceptional for its castle and walls and warrants further examination. No photos unfortunately. Travelling backwards is not conducive to good photos. Into Valencia past the edge of the City of Sciences. Much to explore there later.

There are stations and stations. Most are boring and some are exceptional. Estacion de Nord is so very beautiful, in the manner of the Spanish Modernist movement, amazing windows, capitals of columns, mosaics and facades. Makes taking a trip a pleasurable experience, as it should be.

Estacion Nord

Decorative mosaic panels outside the station

Amazing ceiling and pillars

Charming Art Deco windows

We had a nice apartment to share with Cam and Christine, with a/c and elevator, reasonably close to a supermarket and within walking distance of the covered market area and the older quarter of the city. It would have been good to be a bit closer given that Christine's foot is still recovering from a break and I was getting pretty exhausted. The British owner was anxious that we be happy with the accommodation and spent some time assisting us with local knowledge.

The covered markets in Spain are often purpose built and quite beautiful in their own right, with decorative ironwork, tiles and even cupolas.

Decorative tiles on the exterior of the market

Elaborate cupola

Decorative iron work at the market hall

Nearby is the very beautiful Gothic hall of the old silk market, for which Valencia was famous. The hall is vaulted with amazing brickwork and lights. It is free to visit.

The hall of the Silk Market

The soaring ceiling of the Silk Market

Outside, beautful carving surrounds the old doors of the hall. We loved the little fellow rowing hard up the wall.

Forever upwards...

Other areas of the city are signed by beautiful tiled pictures, from libraries to churches to street names. It is a very lovely way, rather than something just written on metal.

Local sign

Sign for the church

The next day, not finding buses that went round the city centre (route closed because of metro works digging up the road) we took a tram out to the beaches. These are beautiful and well appointed stretches, backed by luxurious hotels or cute beach cafes, but it was so windy that the beaches were closed. This did not deter C&C from a paddle, then we found a cafe for paella and sangria and just relaxed. The architecture of houses nearby was varied, the colours bold, the patterns interesting. Many are old fishermen's houses and the area back from the beach is varied, some of it at least in the process of restoration.

Bright colours in the fishermen's quarters

And still more

A later bus took us to the City of Arts and Sciences, built in the bed of the old river (now diverted) and most architecture by Calatrava. WOW!!! This is such a visually exciting place. The buildings are really innovative, modern, amazing...what words do you use for something like you have never seen before. It was a reason to visit Valencia, but the reality is extraordinary. Even though we were tired, we managed some photos. C&C returned for evening/night photos and were well rewarded. We collapsed. To see inside is really something to return to in a future visit.

Panoramic of the City of Arts and Sciences
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía

Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía and Le Hemespheric


Vents line the road at the City of Arts and Sciences. Even they are covered with mosaic tiles

In the morning we explored the markets in their purpose designed hall, glad to be inside when it was beginning to rain. Later we whisked ourselves into the Basilica Real de los Virgens de les Desamparados to get out of the rain, finding a holy place where an image of the virgin, clothed in blue and silver, is venerated. Quite humbling to realise the depth of faith of the worshippers.

Virgen de les Desamparados

We found a small restaurant, Ness, for lunch and had an upmarket meal in stylish surroundings. We were the only diners which was a bit strange. Good food and wine with excellent service.

Cam and Christine in Ness

A bit of retail therapy, including some in a curious circular marketplace, then home for a rest and a light dinner. C&C leave tomorrow. The next day, after farewelling family, we spent quite some time in the Museum of Fine Arts which was a lovely experience. It was situated in an old convent and the paintings and decoration in the old chapel were beautiful, as were the courtyards and tiled areas which are so much a feature of Spanish architecture. No photos allowed, unfortunately. We visited an old market, now mostly cafe places, and flower shops, but with a branch of El Cortes Ingles in the basement.

Doorway into the market

Plants for sale

We revisited the area around the cathedral, this time with the Fountain of the River Turia working, though he looks for all the world like Archimedes in his bath. I expected to see "Eureka" emblazoned on the side.

River Turia Fountain and a tributary

After a bit of a journey by tram and by foot we eventually found the Museum of La Fallas, a collection of figurines from the Fallas festivals that have been judged worthy of saving from the flames. (Each year each district contrives a display of figures that comments on the social or political scene. At the end of the festival they are burned) We felt that one would need to know the story behind many of these figures but as we were allowed no photos, it is hard to convey what we saw. It was interesting, the artistry was wonderful, but I don't know that I would recommend it as a visit; it was hard to find and a great deal of what was on show was not meaningful to us. I also have a feeling that there may be two museums, one run by the artists co-operative and another by someone else. I can't comment.

We just scratched the surface of Valencia. I want to see inside those buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences and what they contain. I want to visit the beach when it is fine and I want to experience more of the market areas and the city and the restaurants. Maybe one day...

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