The last few days on Scolamanzi were just a battle to get everything in place … get the door fixed that was playing up when I tried to lock it and waiting for the diver to replace the zinks on the hull (which he could not do and has decided that it is still good enough to leave it for another season)… and then the packing of my bags! What a mission – I had way too much stuff already on board and need to take some of it home… but it would not necessarily be the clothes I need on my journey onwards!
On the morning of the 7th of September I took the bus to Valencia to stay there for 2 days and then fly to Rome from there. I was trying my best to stay awake on the journey but fell asleep every now and then… the last few days just took it all out of me!
Valencia (Pronounced Valenthia) is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona (which I did not realise at the time! – the 5th busiest container port in Europe and the largest on the Mediterranean Sea! Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC – and needless to say – it has a massive amount of historical beauty about it!
My hotel – Hotel Medium Conqueridor – was only a few blocks away from the old city and made it very easy to do sightseeing on foot. And so I did – knowing I had only 2 days and a lot to see, there was hardly time to stop for lunch!
In contrast to all the other old Spanish towns I have seen, this one did not have the same feel to it. No small alleyways with white houses on top of each other but instead a huge amount of of ancient monuments and beautiful historic buildings (magnificently kept in shape!) that just blew my mind! Those are the kind of buildings I have expected to see in places like Rome and Paris – it was the biggest surprise to me!
There are a few claims to fame for Valencia … The traditional Spanish dish, paella, originated here and Valencia was the place where part of the Da Vinci Code was made and therefore the place that hosts the Holey Grail!!There is a walking tour available to follow the trail of the movie sights. It would have taken all day so I ditched that idea and went straight to Valencia’s cathedral that is said to be home to the Holy Grail. An enormously impressive Cathedral with fantastic artwork inside!… and then right at the end of my audio guided tour I found it… a small room with only a few seats where the Holy Grail is kept behind double glass protection and a fair few security guards around! I sat there for about 30 min and just think about the legend behind this small ancient wine cup:
Some information on the Holy Grail as per different internet sites.: The Cup is made of agate stone – a popular material for drink vessels in those times. It is a homogenous piece cut out entirely from a large chunk of agate, 9 cm in diameter. Naturally, decorations of gold and pearls were added. The Holy Grail is believed to had been left in the house where the Last Supper took place – a house belonging to the family of St Mark the Evangelists, who later took it to Rome when he went to serve as an interpreter for St Peter … more and more researchers are now beginning to agree that all the evidence points to the item in the Valencia Cathedral as the authentic cup used by Jesus in the Last Supper.
Whatever the true story is… I like to believe that it was true and was totally in the moment when I first laid eyes on it! On the last day of my stay, I thought to go back one more time to the Cathedral – just to see the main entrance and the Holy Grail one more time …long and behold there was a wedding taking place in front of the grail and I had to attend it (uninvited! …like it is with weddings that is using such prominent locations – everyone is part of the party!!) – I caught the bride taking a quick smoke brake and found it hysterical!! See the picture! They continued to walk and great through the square and pose for whoever wants to take pictures! Unusual for me…
Another very interesting happening (more than a sight) is the Water Court! The Water Court is holding a public hearing every Thursday at midday outside the Apostles Gate of Valencia’s Cathedral. Its mission is to guarantee the correct functioning of the region’s huge and complex network of irrigation channels and settle disputes about water use mainly amongst farmers (irrigation water-users) in Valencia. It is the oldest democratic institution in Europe that has survived to our days, spanning a whole millennium … and here comes the truly unique thing – the court’s findings are legal and binding within Spanish legal jurisdiction.
And so there were plenty of amazing buildings and sights – too many to describe in detail… Mercado Central .. a fabulous place! The Bull ring, La Lonja (Apparently an old silk exchange – it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings! ),The National Ceramics Museum Gonzalez Marti … absolutely amazing to see how they lived in the 15th century with amazing ceramic artefacts!… So many wonderful art museums with work of many famous artists like El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Goya etc. The many piazzas all surrounded by these wonderful historical buildings could take me another week to explore!
But time is few and on the last day I had to spend some time on the modern part of Valencia…(too much was mentioned about it in the literature to miss it!) I hopped onto a sightseeing open roof bus (like the ones you see in London) and did the full circular tour and then decided to hop off and spend the rest of the day to explore “Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias” or City of Arts and Sciences!
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is a very modern complex devoted to science and culture. It is made up of five main elements: the Hemisfèric (IMAX cinema and digital projections), the Umbracle (a landscaped vantage point and car park), the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum (an innovative centre of interactive science), the Oceanográfico (the largest aquarium in Europe with over 500 marine species) and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (for opera and ballets and other performing arts). The Ágora gives the complex a multifunctional space.
The pictures might be impressive, but NOTHING can capture the ambiance, the enormity and the pure artistically and architectural magnificence of it but to be there and see it for yourself! I have not booked any tours and was lucky enough to make it just in time for the private tour of the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia — an opera house and performing arts centre.
The tour took us (we were only about 8 people) to the back stages of the four theatres. The guide was brilliant and the information was exceptional!
Some facts about the Opera House as taken from their website:
It is surrounded by 87,000 square meters of landscape and water, as well as 10,000 square meters of walking area. The Opera House complex has four sections; the main hall, the master hall, the auditorium, and the Martin y Soler theatre. The building has a metallic feather outer roof that rests on only two supports and is 230 meters long and 70 meters high. (I do not know what it is suppose to resemble, but it looks like the helmet in the armour of an Roman soldier to me…I’m sure it is not … but anyway – very impressive!)
The inside of the main theatre of the Opera House: It seats 1,700 people (it is mainly used for opera, and ballets. The hall has four tiers of seating (with translating equipment behind each seat into 8 different languages … which would be handy when you listen to an opera and have no idea what is said, being in Italian or Spanish), a stage equipped with all major facilities. The stage is 1400 square meters and can host 4 full opera sets at once, and the third largest orchestra pit in the world, being capable of housing 120 musicians….The stage floor has 4 circles that can turn in different directions, can be elevated or sink to up to 15 meters below the surface of the stage … it is just impressive! The whole theatre is lined with ceramic tiles at different angles in order to enhance the acoustics. No fabric has been used to do so. The roof has curved panels for the same reason. It blows my mind! As I have said – you need to see it to really get the gist of it.
I am sorry about all these facts, but that is really what is making it so amazingly impressive!
The second largest theatre: the master hall: It seats 1,500 people and its facilities include sound and video systems capable of projecting displays of events taking place in venues below it. It is a spectacular venue with multiple uses, from classical music concerts (on a smaller scale as an opera) to political rallies.
The two smaller theatres:
The auditorium is capable of seating 400 people and is used for chamber music performances and conferences.
Martí i Soler Theatre was constructed below the base of the Palau’s plume and seats 400 people. It is mainly used as a training centre for the main auditoria where students in the performing arts can make their debut to a full audience – what a wonderful idea!
I could go on and on about this place just because I was in it and got the information first hand… the other buildings are as impressive! I did not have the time to go into any of them and just enjoyed the architecture of it and the wonderful water walkway and gardens all around them!
Here is just a few of them in order to make sense of pictures:
The Hemisfèric (IMAX cinema and digital projections)
Its design resembles an eyelid that opens to access the surrounding water pool. The bottom of the pool is glass, creating the illusion of the eye as a whole. The roof opens along the curved axis of the eye. It opens to reveal the dome, the pupil of the eye, which is the Ominax theatre. Apparently there is a miraculous echo inside of the building and if two people stand next to the two opposite pillars inside of the eye they can seamlessly speak with each other.
I had it all planned to go and watch an astronomy Imax movie that night but the tiredness got hold of me and I never went. I had to leave something for next time. It is a very cool theatre where you basically lie on your back and watch the all dimensional screen!… next time for sure!
El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (the Science Museum) is an interactive museum of science that resembles the skeleton of a whale. It occupies around 40,000 m² on three floors. The building is much more impressive outside than inside – apparently much of the ground floor is taken up by a basketball court sponsored by a local team and various companies.
L’Umbracle — a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia. Inside this dome of garden and fragrances and palm trees you find The Walk of the Sculptures, an outdoor art gallery with sculptures from contemporary artists. (Miquel from Navarre, Francesc Abbot, Yoko Ono and others). Pretty and very relaxing to walk through it!
L’Oceanogràfic — an open-air oceanographic park. It is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million litres of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily. I was dying to go in but the tickets were very expensive (35 Euro! .. my whole day’s budget!) and I would not have enough time to make it worth the while as it is huge inside and takes about 4 hours to go through it! On top of that there was a 1 hour queue which put me out of that one for now!
L’Àgora — The bright midnight blue building that is on the outside in total covered in mosaic tiles! – It is a covered plaza in which concerts and sporting events (such as the Valencia Tennis Open 500) are held. The Agora is a space designed to hold a variety of events such as concerts, performances, exhibitions, conventions, staging of congresses, and international sports meetings.
I am exhausted just writing about all these things – you can imagine what it felt like walking and through it all! I was done by the end of the second day … there were still so many things I would have loved to see and do …Hopefully we will pass it next season on Scolamanzi and make a quick stop there. In every step I took and every building I have seen, I have missed Johann so much – this is one place he would have loved to see! The marina looks absolutely fantastic! (and therefore expensive too I guess?) …that is where the boat Clipper (Scolamanzi’s neighbour in Denia at the moment) will go to soon … hopefully we will meet up with Alon there next year!
I am off to Rome now … cannot wait! I just don’t know where the energy will come from!?
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