We have enjoyed our final week in Spain even though I have nicked named it the week of Death Marches! Longtime readers will remember that Mike accused me of setting up too long sightseeing days and started calling them Death Marches. Well it was Mike’s turn this week to do it to me!
Monday, we laid low and walked through the lovely park (pictured above and below) two blocks from the apartment. It is so well kept and a little oasis.
On Tuesday, we left the apartment about 11 am intending to walk to town to visit the City of Arts and Sciences which is a relatively new collection of buildings in the riverbed of the Turia, the river that was diverted in 1969 after disastrous flooding in the late 50’s. After reaching the river, which was about a 2 mile walk, I was beat. (I think it had to do with not having breakfast and not drinking water). Since our destination was at least another 2 miles and then once we got there we knew we were going to be doing lots of walking, we elected to stop and have an early lunch and then head back home.
We walked back via the Turia Gardens. It is so wonderful that rather than turning the former riverbed into high rise housing or more commercial space, the City instead, left the bridges in place and built a beautiful park. The park starts in the west at the Zoo and ends at the City of Arts and Sciences about 5 miles away very near the port where we docked three weeks ago. The park is well used (and loved) and includes ponds, playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields. Of course, since it is Spain, each of the play fields also includes a bar where you can buy coffee, soda, small bites and beer. I would probably enjoy taking a kid to soccer practice if I got to have a beer while waiting.
Anyway, we had a lovely stroll along the river and then along the Gran Via (Big Street) that leads back to our part of town. But the street part became a death march and we discovered when we finally got home that we had walked a little over 6 miles. Needless to say, we slept well that night.
On Wednesday, we tried again to reach the City of Arts and Sciences but with success this time. We rode the bus to the park and then walked (and walked and walked – I told you this was a week of death marches!)
The City is made up of the Performing Arts Palace, an IMAX/Planetarium, a Science Museum, a botanical park, a flexible use building and an Aquarium (we visited this as part of our Viking cruise, for more on it, find my post from March 16th or so). The City was planned and with the exception of the Aquarium all the buildings designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Calatrava is both an architect and an engineer and his buildings always are amazing engineering feats. His buildings typically are organic and heavily influenced by nature. In some cases, they have huge moving parts – the most extraordinary of which is Milwaukee’s art museum that looks like a bird whose wings open and close to shade the interior from the sun. See a short video of the wings opening here: https://youtu.be/4vXiwpWZ47U
While none of the buildings in Valencia have this dynamic, they are all pretty incredible. The Arts Palace is called by locals, the roman helmet. This is obvious when the building is viewed as a whole.
The “feather” of the helmet is supported at only two points – where it starts at the ground and at the very top of the building –
the rest of the feather is a cantilever hanging over the entire west part of the building.
But the building also references the sea and nature. The entire building is bathed in natural light on the interior – most of the paving of the terraces include glass portions which let the below grade levels receive sunlight. Note too that the building surfaces are covered with broken tiles (Gaudi’s influence?) which combined with some of the shapes of the building reminds me of fish which is an obvious reference in this seaside city.
We toured the building and throughout it is pretty incredible. There are four performance spaces along with a multitude of rehearsal halls, back stages areas etc.
The various lobbies are available for private events – the lobby of the Opera Hall was being prepped for a large reception while we were there – hence the hightops and some of the screens you see.
There is an incredible cantilevered stair that is used to reach the upper levels of the opera hall.
As part of the tour we also got to visit the Palm Terrace which is the highest point that is accessible. This space is where high euro donors get to have their champagne during intermission….or the peons get to rent for weddings. The last photo shows it from the ground so you can see where the previous pictures were taken.
Throughout the building there are custom details, such as the ceramic door pulls, in the opera hall they are singers, in another place where the hall is used more for dancing, they are dancers. All are in the blue tile that is seen throughout Valencia typically as roof tiles.
After our tour, we walked beside the Hemisperic (the IMAX theater) towards the Science Museum. The theatre was closed and as you can see it appears they were either working on it or cleaning it. I didn’t notice until late in our walk, that the outer shell doesn’t apparently completely enclose the interior dome – rather it stops just short of the water level of the pool and the pool goes inside the building.
As it is Spring Break here, we elected to not join the hordes of students of all ages lined up to go inside the Science Museum and instead visited the restaurant where we shared a salad and a pizza for lunch. That got us into the main hall, but not into the upper floors with the museum (and all the kids) itself. The building references the skeleton of a whale which you can see best in the main hall. The exterior is also an incredible composition of metal and glass.
We then walked through the small botanical park back towards the Arts building. The shade structure appears to have been designed with the idea that vines would cover it, but if that is the case, they have not yet done so….only along the edges at some locations are they starting to creep towards the top.
We did not visit the last building in the complex, the Agora – it is the building behind the bridge and covered with scaffolding. It has been “open” for several years but apparently has “issues”. I think it is likely an expensive white elephant. It is a multipurpose space but while very tall, isn’t very big. It hold 6,000 for a tennis match for example, which is a lot, but given its exterior size, I expected it to hold many more.
Both of us remarked that unlike the rest of the Turia park, where you only know you are in a former riverbed because of the bridges overhead, in the City of Arts and Sciences, Calatrava has brought the water back to the riverbed. The use of water to join the various facilities together not only provides background noise, cools the space but reminds one of the former river. For anyone visiting Valencia, I highly recommend a stroll anywhere along the Turia park but especially through Calatrava’s portion.
After leaving the City of Arts and Sciences, we walked west beside the park until we reached Gulliver. This huge sculpture is a well loved play space. It was great watching the kids slide down his shirt or climb on the ropes holding him to the ground.
From Gulliver, we wandered through L’Eixample (the addition), the beautiful part of town with wide boulevards (Gran Via) that reminded me of Paris and Mike of Buenos Aires headed towards Russafa, the up and coming trendy part of town. Galleries, boutiques, breweries, etc.
My intention had been for us to arrive about 6 pm when the cafes and bars open for tapas, alas we arrived at 5:30 so we HAD to have ice cream instead…So sad. We split one of Dulce de Leche – delicious and another of tiger nut (the horchata one) and orange – omg, delish!
Since I am not one for ice cream followed by beer or cocktails and because we had blown our daily budget with the tour and the museum lunch, we decided to head home. At this point we had walked about 5 miles and both of us were starting to feel it so we decided we would take “our” bus home. Bus 28 runs right beside our apartment and it starts at the Central Market which wasn’t too far away from where we were. So we headed towards the market….without checking the Valencia Transit App to confirm exactly where the market stop was….remember I said it was a week of death marches? Well, after walking to the market, we discovered that even though the start/end point of #28 is the market, it in fact starts and ends at Government Plaza, which we had passed back there about a half a mile back. Dumb Dumb Dumb but who knew? Anyway, we trekked back (by this time I am at least half a block behind Mike at most points) to the plaza, found the bus (and a Taco Bell!, jeez, can’t we import Killen’s BBQ or something better than that? – we went in but did not partake, though given the line, apparently many spanish do) and finally made it home at 8:15 pm where we collapsed after walking 7.5 miles!
Yesterday, we went to court! Thankfully neither of us was involved in the proceedings. Once a week for the last several hundred years, the Water Court has met on the steps of the cathedral to rule on conflicts between farmers about the use of the canals and water systems. Europe’s oldest continually operating justice system is made up of one judge from each water district and they hear (nothing is written including their rulings) the case and make a decision. Yesterday, after the judges were led by the bailiff with his staff across the street from the water department to their leather and wood chairs, the bailiff hollered something about six times in Valencian (not exactly Spanish) that I suspect was, ” ya got a problem-come on up and tell the judges” and two older gentlemen and a young one (the court’s administrator?) came up. The young one talked (the crowd watching was too big to hear what was said-like I would have understood anyway), a judge or two asked a question and then it was done. I couldn’t tell if the ruling was announced or not-but I think that happens next week. Anyway, the judges’ walk over before and the standing with tourists for photographs afterwards both took much much longer than the proceeding.
After court we visited the basilica and intended to go inside the cathedral but the long line and 8 euro price tag made us decide to have a quick sandwich and beer instead before heading back to the apartment to get ready for our dinner guests.
That’s right after being here almost three weeks, we have apparently become fully settled as we entertained last evening by having the Canucks over for dinner!Nothing fancy, charcuterie & olives with wine, a rotisserie chicken from the take away place, some rice with mushrooms and our version of the goat cheese and strawberry salad we had on Silk Exchange day. But it was nice to know that even in this small kitchen we can follow Ina Garten’s rules of entertaining successfully – buy something, make something, keep it simple and most importantly have a good time.
Today, we are taking it sorta easy and enjoying blogging and reading while the pictures upload. Tomorrow we think we will walk some of the Turia Gardens between our tram stop and Gulliver and I am hoping it won’t be another death march, but who knows?? At some point I guess we also need to start packing as Monday and our flight to Milano will be here before we know it.