Sunday, 23 September 2012

Valencia, where glamour meets grunge

I arrived in Valencia ears popping and slightly dizzy, the fast train from Madrid ticked along at around 300km an hour ... enough to make me as woozy as a glass or three of local sangria.

I checked into the fabulous Home Hostel in the old quarter then hit the streets. I only had two days in this city so wanted to squeeze as much in as possible.

After Madrid, I wasn't sure what to expect of Valencia (I'm undecided about Madrid so am parking that post till I get back there). Being the third largest city in Spain, I didn't expect Valencia to have the 'in your face' appeal of Madrid or the edginess of Barcelona .... but it had all that and more.

My first stop was the local market, Mercado Central. An amazing building full of glamour and old world charm and also full of colours and smells. I gave the fish and offal annexes a very wide berth and headed for the fruit stalls.

I walked through the centre of town amazed, so clean, so ornate, so grand. So many statues.

I was impressed.

I then headed across Jardines del Turia. This amazing series of gardens and parks running through the town has been built on the bed of the former Rio Turia. The course of the river was diverted in the '70s after the town was once again devasted by flooding. I think I even spotted a gum tree. Is it??

What I found across the park was something quite out of place with the rest of the city. The Ciudad de las Artesian y las Ciencias, or the unfancy name of City of Arts and Sciences is a series of stark, contemporary buildings. All very white and shiny really.

The buildings have fancy new age names, but basically there is an aquarium, a concert hall, an IMAX (called Hemisferic would you believe) and a science museum.

The architecture of these buildings is truly amazing and many believe that they have given Valencia the contemporary edge it needed, but to me it felt a bit too over the top, a bit too try hard even. So I headed back to the old quarter for a rest from the bright shiny things.

The Cathedral stands grand and proud over the Plaza de la Reina. The building is a combination of roman, gothic and baroque architecture.

The Cathedral is home to what is claimed to be the Holy Grail, the chalice which Jesus drank from at the last supper. I was so in awe ... or maybe a little busy amusing myself with memories from Monty Python, that I didn't take a photo. Oops.

Anyways, it was time to dig around the back streets of the old quarter. Paved windy streets full of funky little cafes and shops, people laughing and happy to be living in this place.

The people in this city are very cool in a relax kind of way. And they party. Things don't really get going until around 11pm, and that's just dinner.

And the coolest thing about this grand city is the street art. Every shop roller door, pulled down during afternoon siesta, is an artwork. Valencia really is glamour meets grunge at it's best .... and none of it is try hard.

Posted from somewhere round the world...

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