Valencia, Spain October 2014

by Emma Bumpus on November 11, 2014

Silky turquoise skies, sunny orange trees and perfumed Mediterranean flavours transport careertraveller and family to the exotic land of Valencia, triggering a never-ending journey of cultural treasures.

Bursting with 28-degree sunshine, palm lined streets and plazas teeming with ancient architectural delights, we step into Spain’s third largest city, which situated in the middle of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, boasts a population of one and a half million people.

Vibrantly busy yet relaxed the city offers an abundance of infinite sights and attractions that cleverly uncover a selection of discrete monumental symbols across Valencia’s Ciutat Vella or Old Town. Carved stone dragons on the declared UNESCO world heritage site Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) facade, display a selection of dramatic gothic detail, recounting the power and wealth of this 15th century historical landmark, once a civil commercial trading centre.

Our historical trail of dragons is an enlightening pilgrimage epitomised by the El Patriarca in Calle de la Nave, an ancient street that narrowly divides this 11th century monument from Valencia’s old university. Inside the lobby we uncover the Turia Dragon legend that dates back to 1392 with tales of a prisoner who slayed the city’s monster in return for his life.

Thanks to our TURIART family tour guide we capture the dragon, a commemorative wall mounted stuffed alligator! Set within the same grounds as Valencia’s so called “Sistern Chapel,” dating back to the renaissance period, we are dazzled with the city’s wonders and vivid imagination.

Lunch is a radiant mix of enchanting alleyways and fresh local tapas at LaLola restaurant whose cocina del mercato is selected just around the corner from the renowned Mercado Central, one of Europe’s oldest food markets.

A fashionable mix of homemade pea hummus, squid and goat’s cheese salad drizzling with honey and ancient mustard, gives new meaning to Mediterranean cuisine. Texturally crisp, vibrant and fresh we step up to Valencian gastronomy with traditional paella of chicken, rabbit and snails, a dish that epitomises the warmth, tradition and gastronomy of Valencia.

Around the corner stands Valencia’s landmark Cathedral, whose imposing 13th-15th century stature boldly displays a range of artistic architectural styles from Renaissance to Neoclassical. Built on the site of an Arab mosque stand 3 porticos with La Puerta de los Apóstoles (Door of the Apostles) boasting six statuesque apostles and stone carved Coats of Arms, commending Valencia’s Christianity community.

Inside is a world of gothic medieval legend with the Holy Chalice, which set magnificently within a shrine of an alabaster altarpiece conjures genuine images of the Last Supper.

A waltz around Plaza de la Vergine is no ordinary Sunday as we observe the tradition of Valencian dancing in folklore costume amidst crowds and the fairy-tale Basilica, one of Spain’s first Baroque buildings dedicated to the city’s patron saint Virgen of The Forsaken.

A justifiable “Horchata”, Valencia’s famous signature drink made of sugar, water and tigernuts, harvested locally, provides a nourishing and refreshing pick-me-up that dates back to the eighth century!

The city’s Tourist Card provides smooth access downtown, noticeably connecting the ‘old’ and ‘new’ as we approach the knockout City of Arts and Science. An astonishing complex of art, technology, nature and science makes architectural waves as the eye captures Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela’s sensational design sky high above the Turia River.

Valencia smacks of cultural choice as we indulge the five elements of the Hemisfèric IMAX cinema and Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (Royal Opera House) to Umbracle, a landscaped vantage point, Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, Oceanográfico aquarium and Ágora, a multifunctional space hosting the Valencia Open 500 Tennis Tournament.

72 hours of Valencia could not get any better as we hit the road for the City’s celebrated Bioparc Valencia, a 10-hectare estate of natural wild habitats spanning the Equatorial Forest and Madagascar to Wetlands and Savannah. Beneath the African carob trees of this nature and conservation inspired project we uncover endangered species and feel privileged to mingle amongst an array of striking animals and dedicated biologists.

A mooch around the trendy Marina Real Juan Carlos I takes us across the rather slick Formula One circuit to La Malvarrosa Beach where al fresco relaxation takes shape with a traditional meat paella in the steps of Ernest Hemingway at La Pepica. Devine flavours of pork tenderloin, butter beans and Protected Designation of Origin local rice beside an authentic open kitchen is our rationale for visiting Albufera Natural Park. It is here amongst the rice paddy fields and stunning wildlife that we discover the roots and fruits of Valencia’s diverse civilisation.

Sociable, amorous and buzzing, Valencia is a sporty and cultural mecca of soul and community, which sealed with the profusion of colour and passion unites the past with the present, making travel in Spain ‘special’.

Further details of Valencia’s tourist sights and attractions can be found by clicking on the official Visit Valencia website.

Information about TURIART’s “Catch a Dragon” family tours can be found by clicking on their website TURIART.

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