Espana Part 3: Valencia
Following some good experiences on Spain’s cheap and comfortable intercity buses we decided to take an overnight bus from Granada to Valencia. It would prove to be a reasonably long journey but I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep and compared to previous overnight bus trips in Vietnam it was luxurious. We arrived quite early in Valencia and rather than stay in the slightly decaying bus station we waited for MacDonald’s to open outside a department store. We couldn’t check in until around 1p.m. so we spent the morning slowly eating breakfast and taking tiny sips from cups of tea and coffee. Checking in at the hostel we had to wait a little longer for our beds to be made before we could head for some much needed sleep.
The first day was a pretty lazy one and I was beginning to feel the strain of being on the road for so long. I had gradually grown tired of moving from place-to-place and I definitely needed some time out for myself and to ease off on the desperate need to go to places, see things and do things.
Over three days in Valencia I spread out my desires equally with time to sleep, read and generally relax. Elle was busy making new friends and testing out some Valencian beaches, so we just hung out a little whenever we were both around the hostel. On the first full day I got up late and went on an a lovely 10k run through the Jardin del Turia. This expansive park lies along the dry river bed of the river Turia that used to flow through the city of Valencia. After a devastating flood in 1957 the river was diverted and the river bed redeveloped into a park that now holds football pitches, grassy gardens, sculpture, a disused waterpark and the City of Arts and Sciences.
Later in the afternoon I took some time to walk around the old centre of Valencia. getting my camera out to get some photos. It wasn’t as peaceful as Sevilla or Granada but certain areas like the Barri del Carmi had a unique charm.
The view of the bell tower at Valencia’s cathedral from the Plaza del la Virgen. You can see a view of the jumbled old quarter streets another photo above.
Looking down on the central hub of Plaza del la Reina. I had a really crappy lunch there!
The view from the climb up the Micalet tower at the Cathedral.
Inside the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, definitely worth a visit for the impressive fresco that adorns the dome.
Two of the more unique buildings I encountered on my walk around town.
The next day I went on another long walk. I went back to the Barri del Carmi and walked around the neighbourhood checking out some street art, independent shops and enjoying what appeared to be a very tight knit community where local people ate late breakfasts together, helped each other move house or drink in the small cafes.
After my time in old Valencia I headed for the ultra modern. Walking back to the riverbed park I followed the park trails towards the sea (I had run in the other direction the previous day) and towards the space-age City of Arts and Sciences. Set amongst sky blue pools of water dramatic buildings take over the widening river bed. Comparable to extra-terrestial sci-fi spaceships the buildings of L’Hemispheric, L’Oceanographic, L’Agora, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, L’Umbracle and El Museu de les Ciences Principe Felipe shimmer in the sun and pierce the crystal clear skies. I didn’t go inside the museum but just enjoyed the bold architecture with some ice-cream.
On the walk to the City of Arts and Sciences I passed Parc Gulliver. It seemed to be abandoned, if not only closed, but the sight of a monstrous giant playground set into the riverbed was treat enough.
I walked back on the far side of the dried river and tried to buy some tickets for a football game later that evening but some touts said the ticket offices were closed and it was sold out. Calling their bluff I decided to come back later. On the way back I saw this lonesome brick chimney, now resigned to being a resting place for bored pigeons.
Some of the street art in Barri del Carmi was quite unique.
During my final evening in Valencia I abandoned Elle again in favour of a pre-season tournament match between Valencia and Inter Milan. Pre-season tournaments come and go in various different guises and this one, the Guinness International Champions Cup will likely follow suit. However, this turned out to be a surprisingly competitive and thrilling match. The Mestalla, Valencia’s aging aging concrete behemoth was the arena for this match-up of Mediterranean titans. I arrived early and collected a face-value ticket from the ticket office (in your face ticket touts!) and took my choice of seat amongst the home support. The stadium is a precarious construction, soaring, steep stands lean on an unimpressive support of bare breeze-blocks and concrete that are mostly open to the elements from the outside and were certainly not planned with any sense of architectural flamboyance. The stadium was merely half-filled at kick-off, but that still managed to rouse an excellent atmosphere once a silent and poignant tribute to the recent Spanish rail crash had concluded.
The match itself was a fiesty affair full of controversy, cards, splendid goals, a saved penalty and shots thumping against the woodwork. I will spare you an in-depth analysis and if you wish you can read a match report here. The main point was that I thoroughly enjoyed it, the stadium, old and shambolic turned out to be an inspirational venue for an exciting match, one that would be worthy of gracing the Premier or Champions League.
The Valencian ultras showing support for those involved in the national high speed rail tragedy from a few days before.
Dusk descended on the Mestalla as the floodlights went on and so did my time in the city. i probably could have made more of my time in Valencia, and definitely been more sociable, but it was equally enjoyable to relax and take some time out in the unique urban environment that is Valencia.