Valencia Inspires an 'F' Word

 

VALENCIA, Spain — As we departed this port stop during the Oceania Riviera's Christening Cruise, one word seemed to cover the experience of visiting Valencia.

Fascinating.

When the America's Cup came to the city in 2007, the port had to be re-built. There was some controversy and, in the end, an "open vote" of the people was taken. When the Turia River was diverted around the city because of terrible floods, another open vote…what to do with the river bed. The government asked the people, and then acted accordingly.

Fascinating.

In the geographic center of the city, there is a cathedral — naturally — at Virgin Square (above). Not that many years ago during an excavation, Roman ruins were discovered under the area where the cathedral sits, and it is now an underground city of ruins from 138 BC that can be explored by locals and visitors alike (a glimpse of it is available through water-covered glass in the square). In the same square every Thursday at noon, a "water tribunal" of eight people in traditional dress emerges from a building to mediate any and all disputes arising from the eight irrigation channels designed to share the water. What they say is law. It is all done verbally. Nothing is written.

Fascinating.

The streets and sidewalks of the city are clean. The old architecture of yet another typical, centuries-old European city is almost all restored, so that it looks new. Our tour guide (Alicia) says she likes to think that the fact the mayor is a woman (Rita Barbera) has something to do with it, because during her 21-year reign this city has been transformed. The cars, the bikes and the pedestrians sometimes share the same space, and there are no middle fingers nor angry voices raised. It just works. At least during our walking tour of such city streets, it did.

Fascinating.

The dried-up river bed knifes through almost every neighborhood of the city. It is almost seven miles long and each section — between the bridges — has a different look and theme. While sparsely populated on the day of our visit, it is a veritable beehive of activity in evenings and on weekends. There is a huge children's playground built around a giant image of Gulliver, lying on the grass, and traveling there is safe. There are bike paths, athletic fields, swimming pools. It could have been a giant parking lot except that the government, a political power appropriately called the People's Party, asked the people first.

Fascinating.

As old as Valencia is, it is modern enough to have the Formula 1 race it has staged since 2006, the high-speed 90-minute train to Madrid since 2010 and the magnificent City of Science that has punctuated the old river bed since its first building went up in 2002. The "city" — almost all of which was designed by Santiago Calatrava (he's a household name here) now includes the largest aquarium in Europe, Oceanografic, which is really five aquariums displaying inhabitants from the waters of the world…and an impressive dolphin show for tourists who need a rest. It also includes a planetarium that seems to open and close like an eye at day or night, science museum, IMAX theater, arts museum and the only opera house in Europe built solidly on a tiny base that was designed for a communications tower. Construction of the tower was halted because the people in the neighborhood didn't like it. An "open vote" led to the opera house.

Fascinating.

In Medieval times, this was a walled city. Only two towers from the old wall remain. "One tower was used as a prison for women," says Alicia. "Thanks to that, because it was still in use, it was not destroyed." For those of us from the "new world" there is much about the "old" that always educates us. Much of it doesn't fit into the same descriptive category that Valencia does.

Fascinating.

 

 

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas
11 nights
September 14, 2012
Vancouver, Lahaina, Hilo, Mount Kilauea, Kailua, Nawiliwili, Honolulu
Inside: $1,204
Cost per day: $109
www.rccl.com

 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.

  • Categories

  • Archives