Riverbeds and Orange Trees: Valencia, Spain

FUN FACT: You will hear the phrase/word VALE? more in Valencia than probably anywhere else on Earth. It's used in several ways but the two most common are to check for understanding, vale? "Get it?" And then once you've gotten confirmation to say, "Ok, right, moving on." FYI it's pronounced with the Spanish "b" for the "v" so you say it like "ball-ay." Y'all ready to learn about Valencia, Spain? Vale.

Some of you may already know that at one point, I lived in Valencia, Spain. I did a study abroad program there the summer of 2009. I ran with the bulls, I had a TON of granizado limón, and devoured as much of Spain's history and culture as I could. When I came back, I worked as a student recruiter for FSU International Programs where I would present to students and others alike about the amazing benefits of studying/traveling abroad. One of the girls I used to work with asked me to do a post about Valencia as a guide for her parents who are visiting soon. So, join me on this little adventure to Spain's southwestern coast and to the country's 3rd largest city (Madrid and Barcelona in the lead).

First thing you should know, Valencia is a coastal city. It's on the Mediterranean Sea and is home of some of the prettiest beaches I've ever seen. I'm convinced the sun is just different there. I never tan and I walked away from that summer looking like I was some Esmerelda-esque ethnicity. IT. WAS. AWESOME. Grab a lemon granizado (like a lemon slushy or shaved ice) and hit the sand.

My favorite thing about Valencia is definitely the riverbed which is today, not a riverbed at all. It's 100% dried up aside from the fountains and is used as a type of park system. I used to run from Barrio Del Carmen, the oldest part of the city, to the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias (The City of Arts and Sciences) every morning as everyone was walking to work. I absolutely loved seeing the orange trees (I wouldn't suggest eating them however), the kids playing fútbol, the rock climbers underneath the bridges (they've put mounts in so that people can), the old people sitting on the benches, and all of the concerts and festivals that took place in the riverbed all summer long. I still remember how it always smelled like a spice market in the dry heat. 

If you're in Valencia, go walk the entire riverbed and stop by the Palau de Música. There is a SERIOUS fountain out front (or back depending on how you look at the building) that has dancing waters that are timed to match the music coming from inside-so amazing. 

When you're headed there, don't miss the Gulliver's Travels park. It's a playground for children that actually looks like the man who was tied down in the book however most people never notice. Check it out, here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/parque-gulliver

Spain is obviously a Catholic country so in the Spring and Summer, there are tons of saints holidays and festivals, most of which are held in the gardens of the riverbed. In the summer especially there are a lot of concerts and movie showings (James Taylor was there when I was). One of the prettiest festivals was the Batalla de las Flores (Battle of Flowers).

The last stop in the riverbed is the City of Arts and Sciences. It will change how you see the world.It is some of the most complex and beautiful architecture I've ever seen. It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. It is home to an opera house, an aquarium, a science center, and an art museum. The aquarium is the largest in Europe and I have to say, their dolphin show kicks Sea World's ying yang. 

The opera house is also called "The Oyster" also. Half of the building opens up with hydraulic lifts revealing a round area in the middle that looks like a pearl and is actually the roof of the opera. Just go.

Plaza de la Virgen is also pretty great-lots of restaurants and shops and is also where the cathedral and basilica are located. Supposedly, the cathedral houses the Holy Grail, the actual chalice. Whether that's true or not, there are more weddings there and in the plaza, than a lot of other places in the world. That being the case, there are also tons of amazing wedding dress shops throughout the city. 

Just to the left of the plaza, if you're coming from the riverbed, is a museum of the ruins that lie beneath the city. At various points, the Moors and the Romans all occupied Valencia. 

The FSU study center is actually direction behind 1 of the 2 sets of towers and is a National Historic Landmark. One of the walls is apparently from the Arab occupation and there are Roman tanning tanks (for leathers) in the very bottom. It was an amazing privilege to be able to live with all of that history. The pictures below are of the Torres de Serranos. You'll notice the huge openings in the back-those were for ventilation. Spain gets extremely hot, particularly when you're crammed in with a bunch of other soldiers trying to keep invaders out. These were the gates to the city-the area that is now called Barrio del Carmen and home to some of the oldest architecture in the city. The riverbed is in front and is how people would access the rest of the city.

The picture above, of my feet-these are holes in the floor of the tower. They are located directly above the entrance. These allowed soldiers to dump burning hot oil or tar on invaders and those trying to gain access to the city that were unwanted. Sucks to suck, suckersssss.

As you can tell, Valencia has had a pretty tumultuous history. The picture above is one of the walls near the market. It has the heads of statues along with other broken pieces of art shoved into it. Pretty amazing and kind of sad.

And this is the market. Valencia is obviously known for the oranges that got their namesake from the city itself. They're so incredibly juicy as are the peaches. I didn't like the meat or paella (rice dish which Valencia is famous for) when I was there so I ate a LOT of local fruits and veggies from this place.

This is the spice/silk market that is now only a historic site. It was built my merchants, not necessarily holy men. It's right across from the market that I just mentioned and can be recognized by the gargoyles of men masturbating into jugs among other things. I'M NOT EVEN KIDDING. Just go, and look up. Once you get past that, the inside of this place is gorgeous. LOOK AT THOSE COLUMNS! It might be the fat girl in me being released, but they totally look like ice cream cones...#dontjudge

Although I could go on forever, I feel like some of the last places you should go (after walking from the riverbed because everything is seen better on foot) is the Plaza del Toros (bull ring) and the train station. I hate bull fights having seen one before so I didn't go to another when I was there, but it's something to see if that's your thing. Also, there are flea market-like stalls on the first floor where you can buy fun little souvies-just watch your bag. Gypsies (called 'gitanos' locally) be everywhere stealin' ery'thang. Hide yo' camera, hide yo' cash. After it's all said and done, you can jump a train down the coast to Alicante (another coastal town just south by about an hour). The train stations throughout all of Spain are really quite pretty but maybe that's because I'm a transportation planner...who knows, get cultured. Love the trains.

Hope you enjoyed and have gotten the itch to get out and see some more of the world. XoR

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