The next day we planned a walk, I calculated this to be about five to six miles, along the linear garden of the Turia, through the City of Arts and Sciences and on to the marina and the beach and then back again.
We started straight after breakfast and made our way to the city gate and out of the old town and to the Turia River. When I say Turia River I mean the path of the river before it was diverted.
The river was once infamous for its floods. The one which occurred in October 1957, known as the Great Flood of Valencia, overwhelmed the city. To prevent this from happening ever again (hopefully), a diversion project was devised (Plan Sur de Valencia) and the river was divided in two at the western city limits. The river was diverted southwards along a new course that bypasses the city until it meets the Mediterranean.
The old course of the river has been turned into a central green-space, a cultural attraction known as the garden of the Turia.
This is a good web page if you want to know more about the flood – the-flood-that-changed-valencia-forever
Walking through the old town on the way to the gardens I especially liked this traditional old hardware shop rubbing shoulders with modern boutiques and souvenir shops…
Once in the gardens it was a pleasant walk among tree lined paths, running trails and cycle tracks and underneath bridges which once carried pedestrians and traffic over the river but now appear to be entirely decorative and simply cross the exotic gardens from one side to the other. I especially liked a modern bridge which underneath was designed like a medieval cathedral…
There was a sports field and a children’s playground and then a temporary equestrian centre where horses were being prepared for some sort of event but this was nearly two hours away and we had walking to do so we declined to stay and watch and just carried on.
By the time we reached the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias we had already walked over four miles and it was clear that my estimate was hopelessly wrong. This area of the modern city is a sort of futuristic arts and entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex, all steel and glass shamelessly showing off in a ‘look at me, look at me’ sort of way in the intense midday sunshine which made the glass sparkle and the steel shine, the water shimmer and the golden pavements glow.
What a fabulous place but we had no time to stop today to look inside the museums or the Aquarium but as we passed through with several backward glances we immediately put it very close to the top of our ‘must return to’ list!
As we passed out of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias we chanced upon a modern shopping centre and El Corte Inglés S.A, the biggest department store group in Europe which ranks fourth worldwide and Kim could not resist a peek inside so she left me at a pavement bar for a beer and disappeared into the belly of the beast.
To my surprise she reappeared thirty minutes later as agreed just as I was certain that she would surely take much longer and I was contemplating ordering a second beer so I abandoned that, paid up and we continued on to the beach front area of the city.
As it turned out it was busy, much more frantic than I expected and the much busier in the restaurants where they were serving elaborate platters of food which we instinctively knew meant that they wouldn’t be absolutely delighted if we staked a table and proceeded to order just a couple of beers. So we carried on along the beach until the restaurants ran out and then found a little bar in an adjacent street and stopped for our drink.
Now there was a decision to be made. With my walking estimate cruelly exposed as completely and ludicrously wrong should we walk back or find a metro station? Kim decided that we should walk so after consulting the map we identified the most direct route back to the old town and set off with steely resolve.
At a brisk pace it took us about forty-five minutes to walk back and we finished the return walk at the Royal Palace Gardens which were rather nice but there is no Royal Palace because it was destroyed in 1810 by the people of Valencia themselves to prevent it falling into the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte during the Peninsular War (War of Spanish Independence).
We sat for a beer in the Plaza, we had walked over twelve miles and we didn’t really want to do much more walking after that.
As it was Sunday evening the Cathedral was open for its intended purpose and on the way back to the hotel we slipped inside thus avoiding the staggeringly high entrance fee and I was glad that we did because I have to say that on this occasion I am forced to agree with Kim and report that it wasn’t especially thrilling inside.
Except for the Holy Grail! One of the many supposed Holy Chalices in the World is kept under lock and key in one of the Cathedral’s chapels and is claimed to be the one and only true Holy Grail. So now I can give up searching. So sure are they that it has been the official papal chalice for many previous Popes and was used most recently by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
Upon weary legs we made our way slowly back to the hotel and in the evening I left restaurant selection duties to Kim (she is so much better at this than me) and my decision was completely vindicated when she came across a traditional looking Spanish Bodega which served conventional food with a modern twist. It was wonderful.
We needed more time in Valencia but the next day we would be reluctantly moving on…