Friday, February 05, 2016

A week in Valencia

Infinitely impressive, if somewhat underused, City of Arts and Sciences

For New Year holidays we went to Valencia. We've never been before, and the only thing I knew before taking the trip is that they grow a lot of oranges there.

This post is just to show a few pics from this beautiful town.

They do grow a lot of oranges. And not only oranges. But orange trees were everywhere - on the small strips separating the lines on the streets, in front of the cathedral, at the bottom of the former river, and of course in the shops. 3 kilos for 1 euro! I like these prices, I do. The choice of things that grow on land and live in the waters was amazing - and I am saying this after we lived on the Canaries for a few years. It might well be that the choice of other foodstuff is equally impressive, but I didn't pay that much attention.

We left it a bit too late (as usual) with booking the stay, so we ended up in a apartment that was about 25 minutes walking distance from the old town. It was perfectly adequate and of course it gave us an excellent excuse to make the kids do their essential bit of daily walking. We were lucky with the weather, too. It was warm, just a bit under 20. We were told by the landlord that only the tourists were happy about the unseasonable warmth. The farmers complained about not having enough rain, the nearby skiing resorts about not having enough snow. Well, there is no pleasing some people. On this occasion we were the easy ones to please.

Old town is delightful. The Central market is huge and full of all sorts of foodstuff imaginable.

Ranunculus peltatus (Pond Water-crowfoot) grows on the water.

On one of the days we visited El Palmar - a small village, seeming to consist entirely of restaurants, on the shore of Albufera lake. The city bus (number 25) goes there. We walked the "high street" to its end and had lunch in one of the restaurants in the somewhat less touristy part. It was excellent. One interesting observation - "jarra" of beer there means big jug - at least a liter, maybe even more. We are used to "jarras" as "big mugs" (0.5 liter), so a jarra priced at 6-7 euros seemed somehow scandinavian till they brought it to our table.

The village itself is not that pretty, but the surrounding rice fields were, covered in flowering pond water-crowfoot, something I never saw before.

The bus number 25 has a creatively written schedule. It branches towards the end. Very few of the buses go down El Palmar route; the majority go to El Perellonet. The El Palmar branch of the route is only about three kilometers. So when the bus back failed to materialize (don't know why), we walked back to where the two routes part (or join) and caught our bus there. While walking, we saw a whole flock of white egrets flying - another new visual :)


Another day we went to El Saler, on the same bus, except we got off earlier. Valencia itself has some wide sandy beaches, but we are somewhat spoiled by Canaries in this sense, so weren't particularly impressed. The beach in El Saler, to the south, is backed by a nature reserve, so it seemed like a more interesting choice.

It was, sort of. The beach itself is OK, reasonably clean, with some of the necessary infrastructure to it - showers, picnic tables, a couple of restaurants. Kirill had his first swim of 2016. On the pic above you can see the port of Valencia of the horizon; the view the other way is equally uninspiring.

The beach is backed first by northern-style dunes, covered in grass, and by a pine forest, mostly (maybe only) of Aleppo pine trees. There are walking paths in the forest; at some point the forest became a fen, with some old boardwalks and piers. Everything was really empty and spooky — in a nice way. I don't know how busy the beach gets in summer. We had a nice "nothing special" day there. Maybe when the sun is shining and you can stay in the water for more than a few seconds things are different.

If you step a bit away from the very centre of the old town, you can find some really interesting graffiti. Have a look around the area between the cathedral and botanical garden, for example.

More of the "Arts and Science City". I found it fascinating.

Beautiful glass roof of the Central Post Office
The Central Post Office is a fine-looking building across the square from the Ayuntamiento (city hall). The New Year celebration was held on the square. There we had a bit of disappointment. We (and a few thousand more people it seems) came there for midnight fireworks. Only they were cancelled — on the 30th of December, would you believe it. I had a look at some news sites later — looks like there is some politics going on there, one party trying to annoy another. Well, at least I decided against bringing my very heavy equipment there.

The force is strong out there

The strongest visual impression for me was, without doubt, the City of Arts and Sciences. It seemed somewhat underused — the Auditorium (above) stayed dark for most of the nights. But it was very nice to look at.

Overall, Valencia seems a nice place for a short visit. Although I could imagine myself living there, too.

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