A Tale of Two Cities

We went to Valencia today, the coach was picking us up at 9am so an early start. Mike had set the alarm for 6.30am and we duly got up in the dark and cold. We went for a shower and realised we had enough time for a bit of breakfast. All I had was half a baguette which we had bought the day before. “Put it in the oven for a bit to crisp up

So I put the oven on and within 2 minutes, I could tell we were on fire. What I had forgotten was there were some pans in the oven but we had separated the pans with some rubber non slip stuff…. Thinking quick (but not sensibly), I pulled the pans out of the oven with the rubber still burning but had forgotten to open the door, I’m shouting to Mike to open the door, but he couldn’ get past me. Eventually after dripping some burning matting on the carpet and catching the carpet alight, we threw the pans outside… black smoke billowing out the van, the alarm was ringing loud.    It was like one of those comedy sketches.  Whoops!!!!

The carpet was extinguished in good time and thank heavens it didn’t take hold. Needless to say, we left before eating breakfast….

Orange Groves

After passing thousands of acres of orange groves, an hour and half later we arrived in Valencia, where the coach dropped us of. I had done my homework and knew what we wanted to see. So along with another 15 coaches which had arrived at the same time, and what seemed like hundreds of people all walking towards the first attraction, we decided to do our itinerary the other way round. So we made our way through the narrow streets to Valencia’s Cathedral, we paid our €4s and received the ubiquitous headphones and made our way around the inside. There was a service in progress while we were there. So we quietly looked at the different chapels and listened the the commentary.

Valencia Cathedral

There is a fantastic museum here with relics and artefacts including a huge processional piece which is about 3 metres high and goodness knows how much is weighs, but is still used in the procession for Eucharist. There are other pieces like the original stone carvings of Saints and honourable persons which used to be on the outside on the cathedral.

The Eucharist Processional ‘thingy’

We discovered many things on the two upper floors and it is really worth seeing, the museum has been brought up to the 21st Centuary with great lighting, lifts and glass panels. Later we went downstairs to the crypt…. this area was brightly lit and not at all as you imagine, there has been a lot of excavation and the skeletons are tastefully left in their burial positions on the ledges. The boardwalk allows you to walk for about 50 metres underground and there is hi tec QR* cubes on the walls to keep you informed if you didn’t want the earphones (Those funny looking square barcodes are called QR codes. QR stands for ‘Quick Response’ and can be scanned by smart phones to give information).

In the crypt

The quest to find the Holy Grail has made its way from religion to literary fiction and even on to the big screen numerous times. But the real Holy Grail (the cup believed to have been used by Jesus Christ at the last supper), we found out is housed in its own chapel at Valencia Cathedral.

The Holy Grail
Close up of Holy Grail

We left the Cathedral ready for something to eat, so made our way to the Mercado Central which is a massive undercover market. With stalls and stalls of charcuterie, butchery, vegetables, fish, cheese and bread and many other items such as spices, herbs, oils, nuts, sweets,  so many smells, colours and noise. Everyone shouting about his/her produce over their neighbours but you could tell it was all in good humour.

In the Mercado central
Massive veg….
More oranges
Sea Urchins… how d’ya cook these?
What are these?

I would have bought loads of food, but some of the seafood I had never seen before let alone what their names were. These red ‘prawn’ looking seafood, still don’t know what they are. There were urchins, langoustines the size of small lobster’s, lobsters the size of cod… there were tomatoes the size of small football’s. The prices were good too. No wonder the Spanish eat well, I wish we could have markets like this in the UK.

Outside the Market we eat Xurros (churros) and chocolate from a stall, they were wonderful and €3 each. Sitting there in the sun, people watching was a good 30 mins well spent.

Xurros- Churros

We walked on and found the old Silk Market (La Lonja de la Seda), this has been restored to its original Gothic architecture, it resembles a medieval castle or fortress and this is accentuated by the stone walls. The building contains four main parts, each one for a different use: the main Tower, the Consulado del Mar room, the Patio de los Naranjos (Orange tree courtyard), and the Contracts Room (with many spiral columns). I can’t remember what the rooms were used for though. But it was an interesting hour spent especially in the coolness of the Orange tree courtyard.

The Contracts Room
The Chapel

We wandered down to the commercial end then, to see the bullring, which we presume is still used on certain occasions as the was a poster with July’s date on it and a bullfighter posing.

The Bullring
Bullfight poster

In the same location was the railway station. Not some dirty grimy building here, decorated with oranges and other sculptures this building invites you to come in, so we did and it was bizarre to see them decorating Christmas Trees and putting the Christmas decorations and lights up. I had forgotten that it will be Christmas next month. It doesn’t feel right when we basking in 24 degrees heat.

Arch de Triumph… (does every city have one?)

We walked through the retail area, with their shops equivalent to our John Lewis and Selfridges, Mike wanted to buy a man-bag but we couldn’t see anything under €250. Now come on, even my Radley bags don’t cost that much so no chance, matey peeps….

Narrow streets and plaça

We ate a tapas lunch on the street at a restaurant, there was a guitar player strumming The Eagles hits. We waited with anticipation as the tables were crowded, the atmosphere was great and the waiter friendly. We ordered Calamari, Patatas Bravas and a small paella and 2 small beers. Each came to the table separately, so we had finished the Bravas before the Calamari arrived. Unfortunately , I could have made a sling shot with the Calamari, I have had a lot better. But the paella was good. It was a good lunch and at €20 including tip wasn’t bad.

It was getting a bit late by this time and we wanted to climb the Torres de Sorranos before we left the city. In the morning massive crowds, when we got there in the sftrrnoon we walked straight in.  Result…. We paid our €2 each and started climbing the towers. I got to the second floor, that was enough for me, the vertigo kicked in. Now I wasn’t trying to chicken out but the staircases had no handrails and were narrow in width and deep treads, especially along the portico’s. No way Josè… Mike left me standing rigid while he went to the top and took photos which I haven’t been able to look at yet. On the way down we spied some people in traditional dress with professional photographers, obviously on a photoshoot. We stopped and watched as they posed on the steps leading up to the towers (I wonder if they had go pay their €2?). 😚

Torres de Sorannos
Trying not to laugh…

We had walked by a dry river bed, I say dry river, there are still bridges over this but the whole of the area is now a park where people run, exercise, cycle or just wander along the paths. It is filled with trees, plants and flowers. We have since found out that Valencia regularly used to flood from the River Turia, so the council diverted the river to underground!!!!! Can you imagine????

Playing the fools on the bridge over no river..

We got back on the coach at 4.30pm and they took us to the City of Arts and Sciences near the beachfront. By contrast, after the ancient buildings and narrow streets of the old city, this is just an amazing sight, this ultra modern complex, gleaming white in the bright sunshine, it was built on the dry river bed, construction started in 1996. The “city” is made up of the following;

  • El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía  is the Opera house and performing arts
  • L’Hemisfèric — Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium;
  • L’Umbracle — Walkway / Garden;
  • El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe — Science museum;
  • Oceanografic — Open-air aquarium or oceanographic park;
  • Ágora — A versatile space that will allow the holding of varied events.

Surrounded by attractive streams and pools of water, it and the surrounding areas of the “city” are typically used as a relaxing place to walk day or night, with an open air bar outside El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe during the evening.   (Information courtesy of Valencia City Guides)

City of Arts and Sciences
The other side
View of the garden area
The palms
“I’m on the road to no-where”
Outside pods
Mike on his way out

As we only had about 10 mins to take photographs it wasn’t long enough to form any lasting impressions but it made us want to go back, all the information you read says you cannot see all the areas in one day, so it is an excuse to go back.

We got back to the site tired but happy, enough time to put a few photos on Facebook, and I had fun with a selfie photo we had taken during the day, which made our friends laugh and comment most of the rest of the evening.  The trip cost us €12 euros each and I think it was wonderful value for money.

Don Quixote…

The van hadn’t burnt down so another bonus lol….

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne says:

    Wow!! You two must be exhausted ….all this touristing! Thanks for a very informative blog with great pictures. Despite the scary start with your oven fire, seems you’ve had another brill. day. Pleased neither you two or Vera were hurt.
    Have to make one comment tho……Mike , I just can’t imagine you in Wales with a Man Bag!!!!! xx

  2. sharon says:

    Anne. You’ve no need to imagine. It will happen. Mike is going European xxx

    1. Anne says:

      We’ll have to work on him, I think!!

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