Saturday, 25 October 2014

Our first day in Valencia

One reason we chose to spend time in this area of Spain is the city of Valencia which has
The spirit of Valencia 
been on our bucket list for a while, but never quite made it to citybreak status. We also considered visiting last year when we stayed not so far away at Navajas, but it was Fallas time and neither of us are keen on crowds!

Camping Malvarrosa is fairly well situated for Almenara train station. It's not easily walkable in this heat, but is only a short drive and - joy of joys - has a free car park. The return fare to Valencia Del Nord was only 11 euros for the both of us and the journey time of about 40 minutes each way meant we got to see a bit of the surrounding towns and countryside. We stayed on through the Valencia Cabanyal station which looks like it will be the nearest to the City of Arts and Sciences as we're saving that architecture feast for our next visit.

The Del Nord station is beautifully tiled throughout the entrance hall. Ticket sellers sit in ornate wooden booths, and even the clock is worth a moment's admiration. There is a restored, originally horse-drawn, trolley car on the concourse. Interestingly, it was brought over from Bristol and used in Valencia for summer tourist tours. If you ever visit, be sure to turn back once you're outside the station to take in its exterior. I presume it has been fairly recently renovated and the paintwork and decoration is impressive with a hint of whimsy. Valencia must have been a very prosperous city when this structure was built!

Our destination for this first day was the El Carme district of the old city. It is a little run down, but no less attractive for that. Narrow streets are mostly one way which could make it confusing for traffic and there were a surprising number of cyclists taking advantage of the quieter routes. We spent most of the time, as we tend to do, in wandering the streets, drinking in the atmosphere and pointing out interesting murals or doors, etc, to each other. The pictured mural of an singer stood in a paella pan was just on the end wall of a house. I guess it depicts an interpretation of the spirit of Valencia. Dave said he'd buy me a similar dress but I'm not sure I can quite fill it in the same way!

We were delighted to stumble across a small museum called the House of Rocks. Nothing to do with geology, this is where the ceremonial figures and carriages that make up the Corpus Christi procession are housed for the rest of the year. We saw 10 huge human figures, each of which must be three times a person's height and which are wheeled through the streets by someone walking inside the base. The 11 carriages, or 'roca', have lifesize carvings detailing various biblical stories and are fantastically detailed. The earliest was first paraded in 1511!! It was a wonderful experience to be able to get so close to amazing workmanship. I am sure the carriages look impressive in the procession but so much of the work would be invisible at any distance.

More religion followed with our next stop which was the basilica. Somewhat bizarrely, it seemed to only be open because a service was taking place so all the clergy and choir were decked out in their vestments in front of a small congregation in the centre while, around the outside portico, a steady stream of tourists were muttering to each other and taking photographs! The tableau above the altar was absolutely stunning and with so much gilt that it was hard to make out the details of its scene. Obviously we weren't welcome to wander that bit! There was also beautiful paintings of angels and religious figures all around the high domed ceiling right overhead.

After all that history, our heads must have been turned a bit because, instead of our usual grabbing coffees and cakes for lunch, we actually sat down to a proper tapas meal at Cerveceria Navellos. We had croquetas, caramelised morcilla, a very-heavily-mayonnaised salad and deep-fried camembert. All delicious and elegantly presented!

We returned to the station via more contemporary shopping streets including one which had a dozen or so high-end designer stores. A quick stop-off in Valencia's Lush outlet for more shampoo bars and a rich Jungle conditioner bar - all the sea swimming is making my hair a tad brittle - and we stumbled back to our train with slightly sore feet!

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