Saturday the 29th involved a long bus trip. We left Granada at 11.45am and got to Valencia at 7.30pm. We had one 45 minute stop for lunch and then a couple of 5 minute ones. The time went very fast. Al spent most of the time working on photos for the blog, and I read the Saturday and Sunday Age from cover to cover. The countryside, as always, was great to watch. Quite mountainous at times, and at other times we were travelling along the coast, passing beach-side towns, very built up, many high-rise – a bit like the Gold Coast only much bigger. We had fabulous front seats so had an uninterrupted view. Also made friends with an Ozzie called Julie who lives in Elwood. About mid 40s, she is woman who teaches at Brighton Primary. She is on long service leave and travelling alone for 4 months. Gutsy!
Welcomed at our AirBnb by Linda. She is an Englishwoman who came here 3 years ago after many years in South America with her daughter Ambar who seems to run the BnB. We have a light and pleasant room. There are two German women staying here as well and we share the bathroom and kitchen with them. Very good arrangement except they talk rather a lot. They are here because the daughter of one of them is in Spain doing a course so they have come to see her.
We settled in and then went off to a local bar and had a few double size tapas – called raciones. Very tasty including a whole grilled cuttlefish (from which calamari rings are often sliced) and a bottle of Spanish red. We are enjoying Spanish wine! This meant we slept very well.
Sunday 30 April
First a little history, as is our practice! Lonely Planet tells us that Valencia was founded by Roman legionaries in 138BC. The Arabs later developed the town as an agricultural and industrial centre until 1094 when a Castilian knight, El Cid, took over, after which Christian forces took it in 1238. In the 15th and 16th centuries Valencia was a strong trading centre in the Mediterranean. It declined after that until it again industrialised in the 19th century.
We had read that museums are free on Sunday so decided to stick to museums for the day. On the way we dropped in at one of the old city entrances – Torres de Serranos, a 14th century gate. There were two main gates to the city and this one was the main one to Barcelona and the north. Since then it was used for a while by the military, and during the Spanish civil war it was used as a place to store precious works of art from the Prado (Madrid), Córdoba and Granada. Al went up the tower to see the view.
Museo de Bellas Artes
We then visited this gallery and spent a long time there. It is a beautiful space. It was once a convent, then a military hospital, and is now a bright and spacious gallery. It has an enormous number of late mediaeval religious pictures and altar pieces which had been in Valencian churches, with lots of gold on them and many of them very interesting. We are yet to discover why they were taken from the churches. There are a huge number of churches in Valencia so perhaps they closed or fell into disrepair. (We also heard that in the early 13th century 10 mosques were converted into churches). As well as this art there was an impressively representative collection of Spanish art from over the ages. We haves seen quite a bit now so are getting to know who and what we like.
While there we were amazingly fortunate to witness a performance of 4 young female flamenco dancers who we think were using this form of dance to act out a picture of Christ on the cross, in front of which they danced. They were very good indeed. The gallery had a marble floor so the clicking of their heels – characteristic of flamenco – provided a wonderful rhythm to their dancing and clapping. At times they were accompanied by a slow and sad cello melody, as you can hear from the video below of most of it, as viewed from the gallery above. We may be wrong about our interpretation and will be interested to research it. We felt very privileged to have seen this performance.
From there a bit of a wander around old Valencia including a paella and a glass of vino tinto at the central market. Very tasty – Valencia prides itself on its paella. There are some very impressive old buildings in the city – the photos will show you. We walked on further and came to the second main gate called Torres de Quart – our feature image for this blog – which is from the 15th century and is magnificent. It sports pockmarks made by cannonballs during the 19th century Napoleonic invasion.
A bit further on we visited a museum called La Beneficiencia which is the museum of Ethnology and Prehistory. It was interesting but hard work as there was no English at all other than a sheet every now and again. And confusing to try and translate the Spanish because in Valencia everything is written in two versions of Spanish – Valencian and standard Spanish (Castiliano). It would be terrific with an audio guide as it is a very comprehensive overview of the regions’s remote past. It left us wanting to learn a lot more about Spanish history and prehistory. We finished very tired but were close to home.
A good day getting to know Valencia, ending with a couple of hours of blogging with our feet up before finding a local place for a drink and a meal.
Monday 1 May
Today could have been a bit of a washout for us in Valencia. We discovered when we saw a procession in the street that it was May Day and therefore a holiday here. So nothing much open other than restaurants. In addition, on Mondays most museums close as they have often been open through the weekend. Anyway, it worked out well. We got going late after a bit of admin and went straight to the cathedral which we had not yet visited. As it turned out, a mass was happening and a whole lot of kids were taking their first communion. The boys were all dressed in sailor suits, and the girls in long dresses with a lot of petticoats underneath so they looked as if they were going to a party. Never been to one in Oz, so educational for us. We were very impressed with how much the priest had organised for the kids to participate. Lots of proud parents, grandparents and siblings filled the cathedral.
A nice place to look at too, not as over the top as most, and with an amazing chapel set aside for a Roman agate chalice which is meant to be the chalice Jesus drank from at the last supper. The Lonely Planet commented that at least the age of the chalice is about right.
Close by is another church called the Real Basilico – which means the Royal Basilica. As far as we could see it had nothing to do with royalty but was a church for the poor and the forgotten. Interestingly, for such a humble purpose, it was very beautiful, including an amazing ceiling, completely covered, and enough to compete with the Sistine Chapel. Again another Mass was in progress, with people around who had brought sick relatives, or children with disabilities. Another interesting place to see.
We did a bit more wandering and Al took photos, some of which are dropped in here and there.
By then it was 2pm so we went looking for somewhere to eat. We found another place which we would recommend to anyone coming to Valencia. It was called La Moma which we thought meant Mama’s restaurant, but in fact it was so called because Moma used to live there. Just why Moma was significant, we are yet to discover. The food, a lunch of the day, was terrific. A huge very sweet king prawn each and a beautiful salad for primo. For our secondo we had a fish dish with a mushroom sauce and fantastic vegies, and a meat stew. As we always do, we halved our dishes and had a taste of everything. Al then had a wicked chocolate, pear, and zabaglione cream dessert while I had a coffee. All eaten as we drank Sangria. For our record it was at Corregeria 14, phone to reserve +34 963 92 64 62, firstname.lastname@example.org. Website http://www.lamoma.com.
By then it was 3.30 and we decided we would take an early mark and go back to the BnB and get our blog up to date – so we don’t drive Ken and Joelie mad when we get to Barcelona. This means also we can get packed up and have a nice sane getaway to the station at 8.30am in the morning. We even ate a simple dinner at the B and B – first time in 5 weeks!
Of all the places we have visited in Spain, Valencia is the most relaxed and laid back. There is probably less to do and see here so people just happily wander – and eat and drink. There are a huge number of restaurants, tucked away in little alleys, and always packed with chatty crowds. Not sure we have eaten a Valencia orange yet, but the local oranges (more like navels to us) we have bought have been beautiful. Oranges of one kind or another are certainly featured in the amazing Estacio du Nord as we departed on Tuesday morning.