The seas were a bit rocky on our first night of the cruise. We both passed out pretty early but each remembered some rolling. By the morning we were feeling more refreshed and ready to go after breakfast.
Since Valencia is quite easy to navigate and there was a free shuttle from the port to the historic center, we decided to forgo an official excursion. Thanks to What’s in Port and some other helpful sites, we had a game plan.
We were deposited at Torres de Serranos, one of the twelve gates that were found along the wall that protected medieval Valencia. I believe only two of these are still standing. That’s all we encountered during our extensive walking tour.
In case you don’t already know, I love details. I’m more likely to take some artsy shot than the iconic landscape photo. Compare and contrast my style with Mr. McB’s.
After getting our bearings, we were soon on our way to the cathedral. The walk included a short stop at the Plaza de Virgen.
The plaza is home to the Turia fountain (below) and the Basilica de Virgen de Los Desamparados (Virgin of the Foresaken). There are no photos of the basilica. We went in briefly but left when we saw how many people were earnestly praying. Neither of us wanted to interrupt such a sacred time with photographs and gawking.
We soon found ourselves at the Valencia Cathedral. The first stone of the cathedral was laid in 1262. It stands on the site of a former mosque.
This is the “Capilla Mayor” or the main altarpiece. The ceiling features a host of angels who are framed by a brilliant blue background. These were added to the cathedral under the direction of Bishop Rodrigo Borgia who later went on to become the infamous Pope Alexander VI and the subject of that racy Showtime series.
The main chapel is surrounded by many little side chapels that are dedicated to various saints. This relic below is from San Vincente Martir. After refusing to deny his faith, St. Vincent (or San Vincente) was killed. According to the story, ravens protected his body until it could be retrieved by other believers. This relic makes its way through town during the Festival of San Vincente.
Another chapel is dedicated to Rodrigo Borgia. There you will learn about his wisdom and decorum. Yeah… Even if you don’t go along with the efforts to rehab his image, you can view this Goya painting. It depicts Borgia interacting with a man who refuses to repent of his evil ways. What you can’t see in this image is the red squiggles (blood? fire?) shooting out from the cross or the scary little demons that Goya was so fond of.
This cherub sits at the base of the cathedral’s enormous monstrence. This is the largest example of Spanish goldsmithing. The people of Valencia felt the need to have this created to atone for their bad acts during the Spanish Civil War.
The Valencia Cathedral is also said to be home of the holy chalice or holy grail. Of course there is a great deal of skepticism as to whether this is the grail. It’s interesting to me that this piece is found in a very plain chapel adorned only with intricate stonework. In this way, your attention is on the chalice, not the rest of the room.I highly recommend the cathedral. It was inexpensive and lovely. It was also very quite. While many where there to take photos, there was still a respect and solemnity.
Turning away from the peace and quiet of the cathedral, we headed toward the bustling mercado to see how the locals shop. Of course from this photo, you will also see that some tour groups were there as well. Notice the group clustered closely on the left side.
After navigating the market and putting our Spanish to the test, we stopped to enjoy a lunch of clementines and circular bread. This clementine ruined me for the “cuties” you’ll find in American supermarkets. This was bursting with juice and flavor. It was sweet with a little pucker thanks to a healthy dose of citric acid. This fragrant beauty is the reason that you try the local produce whether it is an apple in Western North Carolina or a delectable citrus fruit in Spain.
After taking a break and grabbing sustenance, we began the heavy walking portion of our day. This included stops at the Plaza Ayuntamiento (town hall) and the Plaia de Toros (bull fighting ring).
Judging by the bandage on his leg, I believe this poor toreador (torero) has been gored. Mr. McB and I had a little discussion about whether this fella was a matador or a toreador. I’ve since learned that bull fighters are toreadors. You become a matador when you actually kill the bull. In other words, all matadors are toreadors but all toreadors are not matadors.
Our walk continued to the Quart Towers, another of the medieval constructions almost identical to the Serranos towers. This one used to be a women’s prison.
Below, you’ll see the little bat that is the symbol of Valencia.
From here, we continued on through the Turia gardens. The site of a former riverbed, this park features lots of green space and pathways. It’s a welcome break from Europe’s tiny, crowded sidewalks. It’s also home to the cafe where we enjoyed churros con chocolate and Coca-Colas. By this point, we’d walked at least five miles and still had a lot of ground to cover. This was a glorious spot for a sit, snack, and bathrooms.
As you can see, Valencia is not content to rest on the laurels of its historical sites. The city seems to be very forward-thinking by combining historical preservation efforts with these gorgeous new structures.
It was a great day. We both agreed that by touring on our own, we had a “soft,” though not slow, start to the trip.
Our next stop is sunny Palma de Mallorca. Look for more to come.