After the big, bustling city of Madrid, we were looking forward to the charming seaside Valencia which is supposed to have on average of 30 days of sunshine in the year. A super comfortable and super-fast Renfe train got us to Valencia 360 kms away in just an hour and forty minutes. To our dismay, when we pulled into the Valencia train station it was pouring rain. Of the 65 days of possible precipitation, we had found ourselves one if not more.
Not to be put out by such piffling matters we checked into the wonderful Hospes Palau de la Mar and set off for our first recce of the city. As we approached the old town we could hear bands and see waving crowds lining the street. We had arrived in Valencia on the day of their most important local celebration, the San Vicente Ferrer Festival. As the culmination of a week long festivity, people young and old representing different religious orders, dress in traditional, medieval clothes and participate in a procession that carries a statue of St. Vincent Ferrer to the city cathedral.
It was all very pretty and charming but after half an hour and over 10 music bands we were hungry and ducked into a nearby café for a bit of lunch. The Saint certainly smiled down on the procession as it started raining again almost as soon as the last person had ducked into the Cathedral.
The clouds loomed heavy and low when we woke the next morning so we decided to walk to the Science museum and what is believed to be the largest Aquarium in Europe and save the old town tourism for a brighter day. A fabulous 40 minute walk along the most lovely city park on streets lined with orange trees full of fruit. Across from our hotel are a series of bridges going across the now dry river Turia. Much of the dry river bed has been converted into the city park and each bridge is a work of art and beauty. You walk thru these 8kms of parks to the Aquarium and Science Museum complex. Absolutely fabulous city planning. The science museum is huge and impressive with a lot of interesting interactive bits and shows, but the aquarium absolutely blew us away. Incredible modern design, wonderfully planned and a great way to spend many, many hours. Look at some of the pictures.
The next morning the sun shone bright and clear and we set off to discover the old town. Our first stop was the mind bogglingly large Mercado Central – the restored market with over 1000 stalls. Rows and rows of the best possible produce and products imaginable. Absolutely clean, no ‘food’ smells and a happy buzzing atmosphere. After a look around and a bit of shopping, we stopped for a quick lunch of empanadas; a buttery puff pastry stuffed with tuna and tomato and of course glasses of orange juice.
Next stop was the impressive Llotja de la Seda, the 15th Century Gothic Mercantile Exchange followed by the main Cathedral which houses the Holy Chalice. The building are all very imposing and well maintained and the city have several small side streets that lead to smaller structures or pretty little unexpected plazas.
The Madrid motif of having winged beasts on buildings continued in Valencia. To add to this were some, in my opinion, really ugly statues.
However the beautiful buildings were not all over Valencia. The newer area had some really horrid Mumbai style buildings. Not nice at all.
The most beautiful buildings, in pristine state, complete with ornate decorations on the roof were in and around the Plaza Ajuntament area. These were really gorgeous.