Valencia – without Paella

I can’t believe we went all the way to the home of paella and didn’t eat it there. Truth is, we found other interesting food and each evening meal was preceded by a drink in one of the many tapas bars.

Tapas was great. Most popular are the pinchos. All lined up on the counter. These morsels on bread are topped with everything imaginable, jamon, cheeses, egg, fish, seafood all beautifully arranged. You are given a plate when you sit down. Take your pick (literally) and don’t throw out the tooth picks. When you pay for your drinks you pay for the pinchos by tooth pick. In some bars the size of the tooth pick varies for the more elaborate and more expensive pinchos.

Valencia is another beautiful Spanish city. Some of the old buildings have been preserved including a healthy number of churches, however those worth a visit include the Estación del Norte (station), the old Silk Exchange and the central market.

We arrived by train into the beautiful Estación del Norte The station was finished in 1917 in Art Nouveau style with colourfully decorated tiles and richly carved wooden panels. The decorations represented the rich agricultural assets of the delta.

We used the hop-on-hop-off bus to get an understanding of first the Valencia Monumental or old city and then of Valencia Marítime.

Actually it is not a bad idea to use the bus when the weather is wet or dull. At least you can be under cover and photos from these buses are not great at the best of times.

The Llotja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) was built between 1482 and 1548 on the Muslim side of the city at a time of great prosperity. Valencia had become a very popular trading port and at the same time had developed a huge silk weaving business.

The Trading Hall, also called the ‘Hall of Columns’ is a magnificent Gothic styled room where the main trading took part not only in silk but grains, cereals, leather and much more. Here buyers and sellers would exchange contracts and bills of exchange, much like the modern stock exchange.

Honesty was important to the traders and is honoured by an inscription that runs around the trading hall.

The central market, built in 1914 and opposite the Silk Exchange, was big, bright and colourful. A huge array of Jamon (Spanish ham), mushrooms, oranges, olives and spices were offered.

Valencia was devastated by a massive flood of the Turía river in 1957. The river was subsequently diverted around the city and the original riverbed has gradually been developed into an urban living space with playgrounds including a massive Gulliver slide, football fields, exercise parks and more recently the highly innovative City of Arts and Sciences. This city is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex. The buildings are amazing: L’Hemisfèric with IMAX cinema, planetarium and laserium resembles a giant eye. El Museu de les Ciències Principe Felipe is an interactive museum that resembles the skeleton of a whale. L’Umbracle is a landscaped walk with indigenous plants and contemporary sculptures. El Palace de les Arts Reina Sofia is an opera house and performing arts centre. El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or is a massive suspension bridge with a single pillar 125m high. L’Àgora is a covered plaza for sporting events (Valencia Open 500) and concerts and is coated in blue tiles. L’Oceanogràfic an open air aquarium built in the shape of a water lily.

We spent a day in the L’Oceanogràfic. It is fantastic.  It is a huge park with fantastic exhibitions of marine life and birds. Of course being Spain, a lot was dedicated to the Mediterranean. There were also exhibitions from the Arctic with beluga whales and the Antarctic with a couple of varieties of penguins.

The walk through aquariums were amazing, taking you on a journey from California to Japan and from Spain’s Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

We were also entertained by the dolphins practicing their performance.  Great fun.

As we walked back to the old town, along the old riverbed of the Turía, the sun was setting and we got to see those magnificent buildings again, set on water and glowing in the fading sun.

Somehow, I didn’t miss the paella in Valencia, although I have been practicing cooking it at home.