Our plans for June

Folks, we give you: Valencia.

Folks, we give you: Valencia.

Today we’re winding up our stay in Valencia. It’s bittersweet. We’ve been comfortable and productive here, gotten to know some old family friends better, and also made some new friends (MOTIAFP). We’ll be sorry to leave these folks.

On the other hand, we’ve exciting things to look forward to elsewhere this month. Our bags are packed. The place is clean. Tomorrow, we board a train for Barcelona.

Steve and Catherine on the Mediterranean shore of Denia.

Steve and Catherine on the Mediterranean shore of Denia.

We’ll have a few days there to work like crazy before we take a week of vacation with our good friends Scott and Emily. They’re flying out from the Portland to party with us for a week. It would be difficult to overstate how thrilled we are that they’re making the trip.

On Saturday, FC Barcelona plays Juventus for the European football championship title. The game will be played in Berlin, but I expect the atmosphere in Barcelona will be unforgettable. ¡Vamos Barca!

We’ll just have Sunday (the 7th) and Monday in Barcelona with Scott and Emily. I’m determined to spend as much time inside Sagrada Família as they’ll let me get away with. My parents’ photos of Gaudí’s otherworldly cathedral were the biggest reason I wanted to visit Spain. I’m excited to see it for myself.

The four of us will be in Palma de Mallorca the 9th through the 13th. I know we’ll have fun; it will be interesting to see how much of it we remember later without photos. 😉

The Barcelona apartment we've rented.

The Barcelona apartment we’ve rented.

Then, as Scott and Emily return to real life (sorry, friends!) Catherine and I will continue on to Sevilla, in Andalucia, the southernmost region of Spain. We’ll be there through the end of the month. We’ll enjoy the heat. We’ll attend WordCamp Europe. I’m also hoping for a few weekend sorties to Cordoba — famous for cave homes, which are exactly what they sound like — and Granada — home to the Alhambra, a close second to Sagrada Família on my “must do” list.

Our new friend Mattheus also wants us to checkout Granada’s Muslim tea houses called térrías (sp?) and to experience first hand the origin of tapas: Small plates of food to cover your glass so the insects can’t get to your cerveza. Order a drink, get it with food. Sounds just fine.

We’ll keep you updated as these adventures unfold — although for the next few days, we have a few Valencia round-up posts in store.

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

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Week of Panos Day 7: Valencia’s Central Market

Pick your language: In Valenciano you’ll say “Mercat Central”. In Castillian/Spanish, “Mercado Central”. In English it’s “Central Market”. Either of the first two will work in a taxi, and probably so will the third.

180 degrees (or so) of Valencia's Central Market. Click image for a larger version

180 degrees (or so) of Valencia’s Central Market.
Click image for a larger version.

There are supermarkets and produce shops on every other block in Valencia, and few smaller open public markets on the periphery of the old city. Despite all of the choices, the historic Central Market remains relevant as the place with the freshest, greatest quantity, and best quality food.

The number of booths, the variety of food, the size of the building, and its architecture are all impressive. My favorite is the architecture.

This rotunda. Click image for larger version.

This rotunda.
Click image for larger version.

This roof.

This roof.
Click for larger image.

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

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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.

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Week of Panos Day 4: Plaza of the Virgen

Today’s panorama: Plaça del Virgen, a beautiful open space of stone in the Northeast quadrant of Ciutat Vella, about a 30 minute walk from our house. We’ve relaxed here on several weekend afternoons.

Valencia's beautiful Plaça del Virgen. Click image for a larger version.

Valencia’s beautiful Plaça del Virgen.
Click image for a larger version.

The Plaça del Virgen panorama from left to right

Wherein I tease you with topics for future posts.

  • At extreme left, difficult to see, a Valenbisi station, part of a shared city bike network system. More on that in a future post (MOTIAFP).
  • Apartment buildings where we’ve observed residents hanging tapestries from their balconies to match the theme of decorations in the plaza during festivals. MOTIAFP.
  • A beautiful bronze fountain in the foreground, which we mistook for Bacchus. MOTIAFP.
  • La Basílica Virgen de los Desamparados — The Basilica of the Virgen of the Homeless. MOTIAFP.
  • La Catedral Metropolitana — The City Cathedral. MOTIAFP.
  • The headquarters of Valencia’s organization of seven irrigation districts. Believe it or not, MOTIAFP.
  • Umbrellas shading restaurant tables. Dozens more extend behind the camera — there are more just outside the left of the frame. We’ve spent hours seated here, enjoying this view, people watching, eating paella, drinking espressos, agua con gás (sparkling water), and pitchers of Agua de Valencia (MOTIAFP).

BONUS Panorama!

Here’s the view from 20 meters further back, including all those tables.

Restaurant tables at Plaça del Virgen

Ustedes quieren cervezas? Entran!
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.

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Week of Panos Day 3: Valencia’s Old City

My panoramas are all just like COMING AT YOU. We’re saving some of the better ones for later, so bear with me.

Here’s Valencia, the city we call home this month. I took this on May 8th, I thought around midday, but the camera reports that it was at 5:36pm.

Valencia's Old City

Valencia’s Old City
Click image for a larger version

The back side of Torres de Serrano

The back side of Torres de Serrano, viewed from inside the historic Christian wall.

I took this panorama from atop the left turret of Torres de Serrano, pictured here. Torres de Serrano is one of two surviving gate complexes from the late medieval Christian era. They’re named for their view of a serrated mountain range visible to the north on a clear day. I stuck my camera out of a crenel for the panorama; the walls visible at the sides are the parapet.

In medieval times the Ciutat Veilla (“old city” in Valenciano) was walled to keep out invaders — or to keep in tax payers, depending on whom you ask. The Romans, a free republic, the Visigoths, crusading Muslims, and crusading Christians all took turns ruling here — each with their own infighting princes.

Each group in power cannibalized and built on top of the roads and structures left by groups they supplanted. The result today is a labyrinth of streets winding through buildings that incorporate Roman roads in their foundations, ancient city defenses in their structures, and in their walls, weathered marble plaques once blistering with political relevance.

If you blur your vision a bit while looking at a street map, you can make out rough concentric circles where these groups built ever-larger new walls in their times. The Christian wall is the latest, largest, and most distinct thanks to an unbroken ring of busy modern avenues. You can see this on Google Maps bounded by the serpentine river park on the Northwest and Northeast, Carrer de Guillem de Castro on the Southwest, and Carrer de Colón on the Southeast.

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.