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Week of Panos Day 6: The City of Arts & Sciences

Oh, the City of Arts and Sciences. It is one of the most photogenic locations in Valencia. Every time you turn around, there’s some gorgeous natural or architectural beauty to admire.

Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences

Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences.
Click image for a larger version.

To the far left is the Opera House, “Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.” It’s the building that looks a little like a white orca leaping out of the water. Next to it, the half dome is the “Hemisphéric” (appropriately named), which houses an IMAX cinema. Dominating the photo is the “Museo de las ciencias,” which is Spanish for “brontosaurus skeleton.” This is the home of their interactive science museum. (Here’s where my Portland pride rears up and says, “Go OMSI!”)

Off in the right you see the “Ágora,” a large hollow space for conferences and concerts. Beyond that, but not pictured is the “Oceanográfic,” which is the largest aquarium in Europe. Last but not least featured in this photo is the “Umbracle,” the cage-like structure to the far right. This was a really nifty, beautiful space filled with trees and plants, and is used for weddings and concerts and the like.

Our friend and informal tour guide here in Valencia hates this place. Alba was here during the construction of the CAS, and witnessed rampant waste, miss-management and corruption that turned a 300 million euro “emblem of civic ambition” into a 1.1 billion euro symbol of Valencia’s massive debt.

As United Left party member Ignacio Blanco puts it, “The buildings are like symbols of an era when the politicians thought we were rich.”

The place is inspiring in its beauty and grandeur, though. Here are a couple more shots:

Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences

Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is an an art and a science, itself.
Click image for a larger version.

Next to the Valencia City of Arts and Sciences

Click image for a larger version.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

The Monastery of Valldigna

Today our friends Steve and Pura drove us about an hour south of Valencia to Valldigna. The valley is a long, gradual slope from lush mountains down to the Mediterranean, covered in orange groves. “It means dignified valley, if you like,” offered Steve, and it fits.

We stopped for an hour in the middle of the valley, at the municipality of Simat de Valldigna to visit its star attraction: An historic monastery nestled amongst the orange trees, called Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna.

The gate of Convento Santa Maria de Valldigna

Our new friend Juanjo (more on him later) stored oranges in this building as a kid.

Inside the Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

The floor of Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

La Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

All of the vibrant colors are painted on recently-added plaster in an attempt to recreate something of what this place was centuries ago. Compare to the relatively bare stone above the doorway.

All of the vibrant colors are painted on recently-added plaster in an attempt to recreate something of what this place was centuries ago. Compare to the relatively bare stone above the doorway.

Why don't we build like this anymore?

Why don’t we build like this anymore?

Outside was beautiful, too:

Arches at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Arches at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Historic ruins at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Inside the Convento Santa Maria de Valldigna

Proof we were here. Remind me to lose 20 pounds.

Proof we were here. Remind me to lose 20 pounds.

After visiting the monastery, we drove further up valley into the mountains and enjoyed a home-cooked paella at the summer/country home of Steve and Pura’s good friend Juanjo. This was a special treat for me, because my parents met Juanjo on their trip here two years ago. He taught Dad to make his own version (which is fantastic), and Mom and Dad have raved about his paella ever since.

While waiting for the paella to cook, we enjoyed tapas with meat, cheese, bread, and olives, a swimming pool, good drink, and 360 degree view of orange groves, the company of new friends, and the energy of three young boys running around. The boys were Steve and Pura’s son Ethan, and their friends Rencho and Maria’s boys Enzo (short for Lorenzo, like his father) and Albi.

Rencho had heard Catherine was a singer, and he kept on playing show tunes until he got her to sing along to something from Grease (I think). Everyone agreed with me that Maria looked a lot like Kimbra when I pointed it out with help from the Internet.

We also enjoyed Steve and Pura’s other visiting friend Virginia, another fellow to reflect with on our experiences here. And our dear Alba — another American who’s in Valencia over twenty years. Alba understands (and forgives) my futile attempts at bilingual humor, and generally helps us with the subtleties cultural translation.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.