Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Valencia....continued adventures

First from Ricardo
My new favorite European city is called Valencia. I believed that Porto, Portugal was the best place to live in Europe until now...sorry Porto. This city which is situated between a high mountain range and the Mediterranean sea has it all.

We rented an apartment in the middle of the city within walking distance to everything that we could ever want or dream of doing. Years ago they redirected the river and transformed the river basin into a greenway and created beautiful gardens and walkways 6 miles long and it seems that everybody is using it to walk, run or bike etc.  It has to be experienced personally since my words can not do it justice.

We have been walking every day always starting with a decaf coffee and a croissant for me. The coffee is European bitter which I like and Susan is now getting used to. The people are very helpful and friendly.  One heads up is that very little English is spoken here.  We have needed our new second language and are thankful that we have invested much time and practice using it. The Valencianos have been very patient with our grammatical errors and seem to enjoy when I use Mexican slang.  Basic Spanish is all the same all over and I enjoy how every Spanish speaking country will have slightly different words to express themselves. It is so much fun as I enjoy the use of slang and the variations between countries.
Bridge over Jardines de Turia
I know that we will return here some time in the future and I can envision us living here for a month or two. Valencia is very safe with friendly people, clean air, great food and services and so walker friendly.

A few little bits of information. The food markets are clean and very inexpensive versus the restaurants. We have eaten out in places with great ambience and delicious food, but I like more to feast on Susan’s great culinary skills.
At Mercado Central

Another interesting thing about traveling outside of the US is the cost of medicine. A few days ago we purchased eye medicine without a needed prescription (which is needed in the US).  Xalatan which costs about 55 dollars at any drug store in the states cost us less then 8 dollars so we bought a few extra, of course. In Columbia it cost 5 dollars. Go figure.

I will end here not to repeat what Susan will write. Our next stop will be New Zealand.  I will miss this city but will carry the great memories that I have had here.
Sending love,
City of Arts and Sciences

Paella at Palmar
Life continues in Valencia and the second half was more like "living" rather than being "tourists". Yes, we continued to do something new most days but soon we exhausted the list of what we really want to see. We will come back again someday as many places would be worthy of a second visit and the city and life here would be pleasant for a long term stay. We are really glad that we gave it a whole month to get the feel of the city,

Our problem is the desire to find great places and then return to them versus the desire to add new places every year. Some how we have managed to include a bit of both for many years so I suppose we will continue this lifestyle till we tire of it.

I am going to list all the places we went for our memories and for those who end up traveling to Valencia. I can share more details if you have this city in your future.
  • Anthropology Museum and Roman Ruins
  • Church of St. Jerome
  • Jardines de Viveros with Museum of Natural Science
    Museum of Natural Science
    Jardines de Viveros
  • many walks in Jardines de Turia - redirected river basin turned into long greenway
  • Small village of Gandia which is about one hour train from Valencia. Visited Museum de Faller, and short bus to beach which was empty on a weekday and would be mobbed in the summer.
  • Museo de Arroz (Rice Museum) - interesting explanation of the rice fields surrounding Valencia and origins of paella because of the large quantities of rice.
  • L'Albufera and small town of Palmar - Natural park, lake and paella
    Boat at L'Albufera
  • Bioparc - very modern zoo
A few things are worth explaining though not sure I can really do it justice. The annual event - Fallas Festival which is held in the city and many of the surrounding towns of Valencia is held in March every year. We visited two museums for some explanation. From Wikipedia: 

"The Falles is a traditional celebration held in the city of Valencia, Spain. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments (Falla, singular; Falles, plural) burnt during the celebration. A number of towns in the Valencian Community have similar celebrations inspired by the original Falles de Val√®ncia celebration. The Falles festival was added to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage of humanity list on 30 November 2016.
Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the noted dish paella, a specialty of the region. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. A casal faller is also known as a comissi√≥ fallera and currently there are approximately 400 registered in Valencia."
Falla - 3 retired men walking
the tight rope of finances
as pensioners
The way I understand it is that these groups of people spend a year creating ninots (small doll like sculptures) that are put together into a larger sculpture called Fallas. They are very creative and are politically motivated having to do with something going on in the local world of Valencia. After 4 days of festivities which includes many other activities, the fallas are burned and the process begins again. These sculptures are a year in the planning. One is saved and is kept in the museum in Valencia. (We also visited and saw the ninots saved in the small town of Gandia). There are women (falleras) and men (falleros) who dress in special clothes for these events and there is a whole industry created around all the things that are important for this big yearly event. Firecrackers are another big part of the event, as is special food, etc. I don't think that there is a way to explain it rather than to visit in March. I am glad we were able to experience a little by visiting the museums.

The City of Arts and Sciences is a large complex of museums and would be a wonderful place to visit with children, There are many buildings and exhibits to see. We spent a day at the Oceanographic Park. Amazingly, all these places are within walking distance of the historic center of the city.

Great Dolphin show at Oceanographic
View from Torre de Serrano 

Mama and baby
And lastly, our trip to the Bioparc - a modern zoo with lots of room for the animals who are living in habitats created to be as close to natural as possible. I took many photos and will share a few here but I highly recommend visiting in person (and with little folks, would be even better).
As you read, you can see that there is something for everyone's interest for a short or much longer visit. Our weather was on the cool side with one big 3 day storm of rain that kept us inside but on the whole - very sunny and pleasant most of the time. I managed also to draw most days and create an accordion book for the month. This was a new format for me and it worked out well.

Now we are on the train heading to Barcelona to leave tomorrow morning for our two day trip to get to Auckland, NZ. You can be sure that I will be writing again soon about the land down under which I know will be very different than here. We will be traveling both the north and south islands in a motor home.

Thanks for traveling with us and "see" you soon.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Valencia - our new "favorite" place!

 Xativa Castle
Life is sure good to us. We continue to find amazing places to visit. Valencia came to us on a complete whim.....we had plans to head to the other side of the world (NZ, AU and Japan) and when realizing we had a month free we just looked at a map to think of where in Europe we might like to spend one month, in one place that would not be freezing cold. We heard from a few friends who had visited here for a few days and all had good things to report so we booked an AirBnb in the center of town for the whole month.
The corner building on our
We arrived on January 1st and lucked out with a small apartment (Don Juan de Austria 4) very well located for walking everywhere as well as close to all public transportation. With online research I have come up with something great everyday to see and so far all by foot except outside the city when we took a train to Xativa.

Join me as I review the places we visited with a few pictures of the high points. After settling in and eating out the first two days (holidays so most places were closed), we found grocery stores so we can cook in our small kitchen since we are here for a month. People are always eating outside - morning coffee or tapas later in the day but we don't like to do this everyday.

In the Jardines de Turia
As we often do, we began with a "free" (asking for donations at the end) walking tour and get the overall view of the main monuments, churches, and historic sights that we can return to as we wish. The city is beautiful in so many ways - elegant buildings, large plazas and the 9K greenway or park right through the center of the city. In 1958 there was a major flood (the last of many over the years) which made the city decide to redirect the river to the outskirts of the city and turn the riverbed into this amazing park. We have walked some parts and have much more to see - museums and gardens await us. (Jardines de Turia)

Mercado Central
We have been to Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) with historical exhibit of Sorollo, an artist we became acquainted with on our trip to Madrid several years ago.

A favorite museum so far was the Museo de la Seda (Silk Museum) which had an excellent audio tour as well as demonstration. Valencia was the center of the silk trade. I recommend it highly to all visitors to Valencia.
Silk Museum

Date palms at the beach
Another positive of Valencia is it's situation on the coast, with a big port and many beaches both north and south of the city. Being able to walk to the beach is wonderful and we did so last week. It was chilly but still great to walk along the boardwalk and of course with a stop for french fries. We will return for sure before the month is up.

Another walking tour took us to the Barrio del Carmen, an area in change as it was severely destroyed after the floods in the 1950's and many left the area to slowly return and bring the neighborhood back. Now it is also a center for Street Art and graffiti and we learned much about some of the artists as we walked through the narrow streets. Some of the art is done with permission and some is done quickly on the run. We always enjoy these tours and have done them in many big cities that are friendly to street artists. Today after a visit to the big Modern Art Museum in the city we both remarked that we liked, and perhaps understood better, the street art than some of the art in the museum.

Xativa Castle
A side trip outside the city took us to Xativa with it's large castle overlooking the town. A train ride on the local Renfe line for 50 minutes took us to another world. We walked up to the castle and back and enjoyed our cup of tea at the top. It was a perfect day with a delicious vegan lunch at Restaurant Ganesh. Doing my research online helps to find these places and with google maps, it is easy to get all around and find whatever we want. The life of a map loving traveler (thanks to my dad who taught us well) has changed over the years. Trip planning, however, seems to be in my blood.

Having one month in one place is good for us as we have plenty of time to see new things and plenty of time to just "be" and do the things we love everyday - walk, out for a cup of decaf coffee together, read, watch our Spanish TV show at night, draw, do some exercise and find something new to see everyday.  We feel more like we are living here than being tourists. How lucky we are to have this time in our life to live in other lands.

Valencia Cathedral and Plaza de la Virgin
Thanks for joining us on this adventure and you can be sure that I will continue with words and photos as we travel.