Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Valencia, the Ever Evolving City

City of Arts and Sciences
Valencia, the third largest city in Spain has many layers going back into pre-history. Probably its most well-known historical figure is Rodrigo Diago de Vivar, better known as El Cid. During Hollywood's era of epic historical movies he was one of the characters immortalised in film. Played by Charlton Heston with Sophia Loren as his leading lady.

Bridge of the part (Opera House to left)
Twentieth century history includes, of course, the Spanish Civil War when much of the City was destroyed. For about twenty years after the war ended rebuilding took place. Then the River Turia flooded somewhat disastrously in 1957. More changes to the city.

The river was diverted away to the south and the dry river bed has been converted into a 4 1/2 mile long series of parks. A wonderful and popular green space in the centre of Valencia.

In the late twentieth century the City Fathers did away with the defunct industrial area, had the land de-contaminated and the fantastic City of Arts and Sciences constructed. All very modern with the use of glass and white mosaic tiles. They include the Science Museum (of course), an IMAX, Europe's largest aquarium and the Opera House.

From here we drove to the old City, leaving the coach at one of the old Gates to the city, from where we strolled to the Plaza de la Virgen to be set free and explore. Where to start first? The 13th century Cathedral, the Gothic bell tower (for super views over the city after climbing 270 steps!), stroll around the market, sit down for a coffee and watch the world go by? Me? I strolled through the square, turned right up a narrow street with small shops, then did my favourite trick of turning left, turning left, turning left - back to where I had started. As usual I found something absolutely delightful. A 'circus' (as in Piccadilly) surrounded by handicrafts shops which made me wish I had a list of items that I need. In front of one of the shops was a table where half-a-dozen ladies were working on various projects. To one side there was even an iron and padded surface where they could press seams.

I just wish I had had the time and energy to discover more interesting corners and admire the historical buildings such as La Loncha de la Seda. This was the silk exchange which was built in the 15th/16th centuries and is fabulous Gothic architecture with equally fabulous interiors.

Sports enthusiasts will remember the America's Cup of 2007 and, of course, the European Grand Prix which was held here for the first time in 2008. Now, alas, the City cannot afford to host the Grand Prix but you can see the road markings on the streets around the port so maybe they are hoping to host it again in the future.

Maybe one day I will return to this exciting city when on another PandO cruise!

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