To reach the Costa Blanca Mountains, we trained from Barcelona to Valencia, then rented a car.* We glimpsed the city only briefly, but it seemed intriguing. So before our flight** from Valencia to the island of Mallorca, we devoted an afternoon and evening to exploring the city. We’re glad we did.
Most European cities have interesting historic centres. Naturally, some are more compelling than others. Barcelona’s ancient centre, for example, is fascinating, whereas medieval Valencia is more oppressive and dilapidated.
Most of the architecture here—including the Longa de la Seda (silk market), Torres de Serranos (Europe’s largest Gothic city gateway), and heavyweight cathedral in the Plaza de la Virgen—is somber. The National Ceramics Museum is a weird, garish, rococo affair. The modernisma Plaza del Mercado is unimpressive from the outside but houses an enormous, thriving market.
Urban floating (walking through a city at the pace of a float in a parade, slow enough to see and be seen) is always enjoyable. But in Spain, the joy is marred by smokers. Apparently, lung cancer is to the Spanish what global warming is to Americans: a myth. When we weren’t dodging the cigarettes they thoughtlessly wave about, we were ducking the clouds of smoke they spew.
Having seen enough of old Valencia, we began navigating back toward our hotel.*** En route we entered the Jardin Del Turia. In 1957, the Turia River flooded, wreaking havoc on Valencia. Fearing a repeat disaster, the city diverted the river and reclaimed the riverbed, cultivating it into a lovely, sinuous, leafy park running 7-km (4.3-mi) through downtown. It was now dark, so we were wary about walking here, but we soon realized this is where athletic Valencianos exercise after work. The former riverbed was coursing with joggers.
The Turia led us directly to La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (The City of Arts and Sciences). We anticipated contemporary architecture, but La Ciudad is magnificently futuristic, as if it had been beamed down from a distant planet whose civilization is far more advanced than ours. And La Ciudad is huge, comprising several, glorious structures. This, we realized, was all the reason we needed to visit Valencia.
La Ciudad ranks among Europe’s great monuments. The architect was Valencia-born Santiago Calatrava. The scope of the project he completed is staggering. It’s originality is inspiring. Its beauty is stirring. And the details he incorporated, such as Gaudiesque fragments of tile (an historically important industry in Valencia), are brilliant.
But La Ciudad isn’t just a monument. It functions as a performance venue, an oceanarium (Europe’s largest marine park), a planetarium, and more. In addition to the photos we’ve posted above, you’ll find more under “Spain” on the Photos/Videos page of our website. And La Ciudad’s website (http://tv.cac.es) is rich with imagery. Right of the main, homepage photo, scroll down to, then click on, “Great Events.”
*In Spain, we recommend renting a car from Gold Car (www.goldcar.es/en). Their Valencia office has a free airport shuttle. Gold Car’s rental vehicles and the quality of their service are excellent. Yet their rates are much lower than those of their international competitors.
**From Valencia to Palma de Mallorca, we recommend flying with Air Europa (http://www.aireuropa.com/en/default.html). Compared to other airlines, Europa is less expensive yet allows a higher weight allowance (23 kg) for your one, allotted, checked bag.
***In Valencia, stay at the NH Villacarlos (http://www.nh-hotels.com/nh/en/hotels/spain/valencia/nh-villacarlos.html). It’s clean, modern, quiet, reasonably priced, and the staff is very helpful. It’s also within easy walking distance of La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. And it’s very close to the busy roundabout graced with a fantastic sculpture by Juan Garcia Ripollés. To us, it looks like a huge, childlike, dancing, sun god. You’ll no doubt have your own creative interpretation. You’ll find it at the intersection of Eduardo Boscá and Paseo la Alameda, at the end of the Puente Angel Custudio, just above the southeast side of Parque de la Rambleta, a mere 2.5 blocks from the Villacarlos.