Ooh it’s been a while since our last post. That’s mostly because Valencia left us speechless! It was our first time there, and what a beautiful and vibrant city it is.
As there were no city centre campsites or motorhome parks in Valencia itself, we chose an out of town site in the Albufera Nature Reserve. We had the best of both worlds with somewhere peaceful to stay, contrasting with the hustle and bustle of the city itself. The Devesa Gardens Resort would probably be a bit too full-on for us if it were high season. It had a pool, mini-golf, a go-kart track, a restaurant and bar, chalets, a gym, and even a small zoo! Our granddaughter would probably love it. Fortunately for us it was very quiet at this time of year and the garden setting was very tranquil. On our day off from sightseeing we managed to get all our laundry done, gave Vince a good wash, and had a beach picnic watching the huge waves breaking on the shore.
And so to the city of Valencia itself. Where to start? Well it’s certainly has great public transport. With a quick download of two apps, we were able to book our bus tickets, find the nearest bus stop and even tell to the minute when the next bus would arrive. €1.50 gives you an hour of travel, and covers the buses, trams and metro. Great value.
We travelled to the terminus right in the centre of town, and at first we just wandered randomly around admiring the buildings old and new. And when I say old – it was founded by the Romans in 138 BC. We didn’t see any buildings quite that old, but the cathedral dates from 1238. The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia (it needed a very long sign) sits to one side of the Plaza de la Virgen, a vast and beautiful square with polished marble slabs. At one end is the Fuente del Turia – a huge fountain representing the eight tributaries of the Turia river – and at the other, stands the Basilica of the Virgen de Los Desemparados.
That’s the history bit; to us it was somewhere relaxing to sit for a while in the sunshine and listen to the water splashing into the fountain whilst gazing around at the wonderful buildings. Even the guy serenading passers-by with a loud trombone couldn’t spoil the moment!
In 1957 Valencia’s River Turia broke its banks and flooded the city, killing 81 residents and causing significant property damage. In response, the Spanish government embarked on an ambitious plan to re-route the river to avoid future flood damage. Work was completed in 1973 and what was once the river bed, rather than being developed as prime city real estate now forms the Turia Gardens which wind for nine kilometres through the city. It’s such a unique feature in a busy urban setting – we’ve never seen anything like it.
The central covered market was our next port of call. Over 1000 stallholders ply their trade under the cover of the market’s domed roof. To us it was foodie heaven. All of Spain’s favourite meats, fish, fruit and vegetables were on sale as well as beers, spirits, liqueurs and specialist chocolate. Not that we bought anything! I think we were just in shock from the noise, the haggling, and to be honest some of the more gruesome sights on the butchers’ stalls. The Spanish certainly aren’t squeamish about which bits of the animal to eat.
Our second bus ride into Valencia was a shorter one as we jumped off at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – the City of Arts and Sciences. Built on another section of former river bed, this complex houses a science museum, opera house, an IMAX cinema, an outdoor landscaped garden and sculpture park, and an enormous aquarium. The buildings have to be seen to be believed – our photos just don’t do justice to the incredible architecture.
Our budget only stretched to tickets for the Hemisferic, and the Science Museum. Hemisferic is an IMAX cinema, where the films are projected on to the inside of its concrete dome. Its design is meant to represent an eyeball, an illusion reinforced when you see it reflected in the pool around it. We donned our 3D glasses and our audio headsets and gave in to the Walking with Dinosaurs experience. Or we would have if our headsets had worked. We weren’t alone – there was a member of staff walking up and down the rows exchanging working kit for the knackered ones.
To be fair, the plot wasn’t difficult to follow with or without the audio commentary. Small dinosaur gets chased by bigger dinosaur but escapes by the skin of its teeth. Then gets chased again by a different dinosaur and escapes by… well, you get the idea. It was a fun way to spend an hour, and gave our feet a rest from all the exploring.
The approach to the Science Museum puts you in mind of a beached whale. Not in terms of its size, but in the way the architects have given it an exoskeleton of concrete “ribs”. Inside there are soaring glass galleries, large enough to dangle a full sized jet-fighter above the heads of the visitors. There’s a model of a DNA molecule rising from the floor to three storeys in height. And of course, endless buttons to press and experiments to try.
Our favourite part was the outdoor section on how the sun shapes our seasons. There were ancient and modern sundials, a contraption you could lie in to predict the sun’s path between the solstices, and among many other exhibits, a globe to demonstrate how the stars seem to move in different directions according to where you are on earth. At the North and South Poles (it said) they travel horizontally across the night sky, at the equator they travel vertically, and in-between (in the UK for example) they travel in an arc. All to do with the Earth’s tilt apparently, and nothing to do with the amount of rum consumed. Well, not always.
We finally tore ourselves away from Valencia after four nights, but we can’t wait to go back there. I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance. We’ve already found some cheap direct flights from Manchester so a fly-drive may be on the cards in the Spring…
Still to come – San Javier with 200 overwintering Brits, and a peaceful lakeside idyll. Don’t go anywhere! 😀