On our first full day in Valencia we set out to explore the Jardí del Túria where the City of Arts and Sciences was built. Admittedly when we first heard that Valencia had turned a dry riverbed into a park, our expectations were pretty low - perhaps a dusty bike and walking path? Were we ever surprised.
In 1957 the Turia river caused a great deal of damage and death in the “Great Flood of Valencia”. The decision was made then to divert the river around the city. Much debate ensued about what to do with the now-dry riverbed. The citizens of Valencia fortunately rejected the plans for a highway and instead created the largest urban park in all of Spain at 9km long and over 250 acres. You take the stairway down from the street and the noise level drops. As far as you can see there are beautifully manicured pathways, fountains, pools, colonnades, flowering plants, exotic trees, and play structures. Every so often you go beneath a unique bridge, from the 16th Century Puente del Real, to the Serreria Bridge finished in 2008 as part of the City of Arts and Sciences project, to the Puente de las Flores that is thickly lined with flowers that are changed throughout the year - red geraniums were on display. We were staying a short walk from this park and it became a frequent stop during our two-week stay.
We emerged from our first stroll in the park close to the city center and the Puerta de la Mar - a Spanish Civil War monument arch in the center of a large city square. We scouted out a hotel lobby where Nancy could set up her “office” for an hour or so. Richard headed back to the Arch where we had noticed a funky print shop - Mr & Mrs Peleman. We had been looking to have “friendship cards” made up so we could share them with new friends we made along the way. This place could have them done in just a few hours!
Back strolling the city center Nancy spied an interesting modern building. It turned out to be Museu de la Almoina - one of best-curated archaeological museums we’d come across - and we’ve seen quite a few. It uncovered the heart of the ancient Roman outpost of “Valentia” from the 1st century.
Paella had been on our minds ever since we left Madrid. A suggestion from Google Maps brought us through cobble-stoned twists and turns to Arrocería La Valenciana. Our waitress “Leo” - short for Leonora - suggested the “Mountain Paella”, a variation of the classic Valencia Paella substituting pork for the traditional rabbit. [Paella was invented in Valencia - more about that in a later post and “Recipe from the Road”]. When it arrived 20 minutes later, she gave us a short lesson on paella etiquette. You eat it straight from the pan, always with a spoon not a fork, starting from the outer edge and working toward the center where it stays warm longer. And don’t forget to turn your spoon over to scrape up the “best part” - the thin layer of crusty rice at the bottom of the pan. A local wine was all it took to create a truly delicious late lunch.
We walked back to the park and found a shady bench where we stopped for a FaceTime call with Nancy’s brother Tom and his wife Anne. Seeing their faces and hearing their voices and swapping stories was a highlight of a truly delightful day.
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Nancy McCabe &