Sunday, October 30, 2011

¡Hola Valencia!

The schedule was tight. The rain posed a formidable challenge. Yet, thankfully, I got to explore bits and pieces of this eponymous capital of the Spanish autonomous community of Valencia. The cityscape of Valencia is a strikingly unique blend of the past, the present, and the future. The architecture ranges from Gothic splendor to flamboyant postmodernism interspersed densely with mundane arrays of lackluster modern midrise apartment buildings.  
The predominant language here is Valencian, a local dialect of Catalan Spanish, recognized as a different language from Castilian Spanish, the latter being the official language of the Spanish state. Interestingly, while a majority of Spaniards would pronounce the name of the city (with a Castilian lisp) as baˈlenθja, Valencians call it vaˈlensia, which sounds closer to the English pronunciation. 
When I reached the Old Quarter, the city was in the throes of a torrential downpour. I decided to continue on to see maritime Valencia and come back to the old town during the later part of the day.

View of the Old Quarter from the bus warped by refraction through rainwater pouring down the glass - pretty in its own way  
The City of Arts and Sciences was the most fascinating part of Valencia for me. It is a complex with a glamorous, futuristic look designed by architects Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela. It includes, among other fabulous buildings, an Imax movie theater in the shape of an eye, a museum of science resembling the skeleton of a whale, and the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe, mimicking a water lily. Here are some not-so-beautiful captures from this site on a day when the sun seemed particularly cranky. I would recommend getting a better look from Google images
Inside the City of Arts and Sciences

L'Àgora, an indoor plaza
Inside the Oceanogràfic. It is an open air park. The water lily shaped main building is visible in the background.
"Up above the world so high.. Twinkle twinkle little sharks."
Performers at the Dolphiarium. The show was SeaWorld-esque, except it had a splendid, dancing Spanish audience in accompaniment with great music. :-)
Beluga whale: beautiful and near threatened
The bus route was in parts adjacent to the verdant Jardín del Turia, which has an interesting story behind it: "After a catastrophic flood in 1957 which devastated the city of Valencia, the river was divided in two at the western city limits (Plan Sur de Valencia). The water has been diverted southwards along a new course that skirts the city, before meeting the Mediterranean. The old course of the river continues, dry, through the city centre, almost to the sea. The old riverbed is now a verdant sunken park that allows cyclists and pedestrians to traverse much of the city without the use of roads. The park, called the 'Garden of the Turia' (Jardí del Túria/Jardín del Turia) boasts numerous ponds, paths, fountains, flowers, football pitches, cafés, artworks, climbing walls, an athletics track, a zen garden and more.."

The greenery is a part of the Jardín del Turia adjoining the City of Arts and Sciences.
I then hopped on board a time machine a.k.a. the bus turístic and flew back in time to revisit the Old Quarter of this city that was founded as early as 137 BC. It continued drizzling as I strolled through the narrow alleys peeking from underneath my umbrella at some of the historic splendors.

Partial view of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Valencia 
Entrance to the cathedral
Inside the cathedral
Plaza de la Virgen
Plaza del Ayuntamiento
Inside an antique shop
The town hall at dusk
A lot of places remained unexplored. The photos could have been better. And communication, for the most part, was a battle I valiantly waged. Of course I learned more Spanish than I ever did in all my years of California. Given a chance, I would love to visit the Bioparc, the Umbracle, or the zero gravity room at the museum of science, which, unfortunately, was fully booked for the day I was there! Before I wrap up, I must mention I got to taste Valencian paella, with its traditional ingredients of chicken, vegetables, and rabbit meat. It was absolutely delightful as was every other part of this exciting trip. 

1 comment:

  1. Hola Valencia!!
    I liked the fact that they split the river into two!!
    The city looks cool and the futuristic designs are awesome.