Valencia Sights & Sounds
Armed with Hop’s list of “must-see” attractions, we set out to take in as much as we could of Valencia (pronounced “Ba-LEN-thee-a” by the locals). Here are just a few of the highlights.
Another stroll through the riverbed Jardí del Túria park brought us to the Museu de Belles Artes (Museum of Fine Arts). They have a great collection of works by Joaquin Sorolla - who was born in Valencia and has become one of our favorite artists. They are exhibited along with paintings by those who influenced him and those whom he influenced. Not quite as captivating as the museum in his Madrid home, but a great take nonetheless.
La Llotja de la Seda (the Silk Exchange) - built between 1482 and 1548 - was an unexpected treat. The excellent audio guide gave us a greater appreciation for the architecture and decorative details of the building - a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it's such a great example of the “Late Valencian Gothic” style. The intricate carvings tell the story of good versus evil - over and over again. A popular carving of a snail in one of the doorways especially resonated with us - a creature that carries its home everywhere it goes - just like we do!
It’s easy to get tired of touring churches in Europe - there are just so many! But Valencia's Church of San Nicolás was on another level altogether. From the outside it’s hardly noticeable except for the sign encouraging tourists to pay a visit. But the interior is covered with frescoes that remind you of the Sistine Chapel in their brilliance and intricacies. We again took advantage of the audio guide that especially demystified the complex symbolism of the frescoes.
Nancy particularly loves museums that feature decorative arts. The González Martí National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts is a great example. It’s housed in a beautiful palace and is filled with period furniture, clothing, paintings, and, of course, ceramics. The doorway is particularly beautiful, leading to the carriage patio where an 18th century Empire style carriage is on display. As we strolled the galleries it was easy to imagine the day-to-day life of the family that called this place home.
Hop insisted that we take the guided tour of the Palau de les Arts (the opera house) - and he was right. The 45 minute tour was a fascinating look at the amazing architecture and ultra-modern decoration up close and behind the scenes: the cantilevered balconies, the spiral staircase seemingly floating in air, the organically sculpted door handles, the tiled walls made in an undulating pattern to improve the acoustics. At the end of the tour, the guide encouraged us to look into discounted same-day tickets to that evening's performance of Rossini's "Il Viaggio a Reims". It would be our first-ever opera and we jumped at the chance. We read up on the story line and were grateful for the libretto translations projected on each seat-back. We spent the savings on the tickets to enjoy the fabulous intermission buffet where cava flowed freely and the array of tapas and desserts was endless. It was funny to be at a social event where you know absolutely no-one and can't easily strike up a conversation, but we made the most of it. In just a few days we had enjoyed stellar musical performances in three different concert halls in the magnificent Palau de les Arts.
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