Playing tourist again
The advantage that Valencia has over the location of the previous resort is its proximity to the centre of the vibrant Valencia: a lively university city with a fine cathedral and many museums – the third largest city in Spain. There is so much to see and do here that it is impossible to get bored and there is bound to be something that will appeal. Some of you may know that I am passionate about motorsport so it was with fascination that we viewed Valencia’s Formula 1 street circuit. Likewise, we were interested to see where the 2007 and 2010 America’s Cup had been hosted. Here are just a few of the other highlights of places that we saw on our various excursions.
One of the ‘must sees’ for me was Valencia’s magnificent Cathedral which had its foundation stone laid in 1262 and which has an octagonal bell tower, El Miguelete. The style in which it is built is early Gothic with neo-classical additions in the 18th century and the overall effect is an austere one due to the use of brick. There is a small entrance charge and everything on the ground floor is completely accessible. We hired English language audio guides which helped us to get the most out of our visit and appreciate the story behind the purported Holy Grail (the cup that Jesus Christ drank out of at the Last Supper) which is said to be the small, dark red agate cup displayed here, which in the 14th century was set in a gold framework studded with jewels. We took great delight in seeing the Chapel of St. Joseph as Pep is the Catalan for Joseph and the Chapel was very glitzy. Prior to my accident I was an Expert Witness in my field and thus I find legal matters of interest. I was therefore fascinated to discover that the Water Tribunal meets every Thursday outside the Puerta de los Apostoles. Eight judges, dressed in black, who are farmers elected by their peers, decide disputes between farmers over the use of irrigation water in the huerta (the fertile agricultural plain) around the city but no records are kept, decisions are binding, and there is no right of appeal.
Estacion del Norte
As an ex-long distance commuter, I was envious of the beautiful mainline railway station which celebrates the agricultural abundance of Valencia by way of sculpted bunches of oranges in an Austrian art nouveau inspired design on the facade. Inside there are stained glass oranges and there are also ceramic murals of the life and crops in the huerta.
Plaza De Toros
We also admired the architecture of the bullring, the Plaza del Torros, which was built in the 19th century. This has four floors of 384 identical brick arches which reminded me of Rome and its Colosseum.
The City of Arts and Sciences
Valencia grew up on the right bank of the River Turia but, after a disastrous flood in 1957 the river was diverted via an artificial channel away from the city around the outer suburbs. The old riverbed of the Turia is now an ingenious 10km (6 mile) ribbon of gardens, playgrounds, concert hall, open air theatre, aquarium, planetarium / IMAX cinema, museums and culture with futuristic architecture designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. Indeed, such is the stunning architecture of the five main buildings that George Clooney and pals are currently filming “Tomorrowland” there.
We visited the enthralling Museum of Science which is totally accessible. There we found a thermal imaging camera and were intrigued to see how the pain in my body that day was showing up as bright white heat on the camera. Pep and Andrew also had fun exploring the various other exhibits, especially as Andrew is a civil engineer and always keen to understand how things ‘work’.
Santa Catalina Horchateria
Horchata (or Orxata) is a sweet creamy cold drink made from crushed or ground tubers called tiger-nuts (chufas) and I really recommend you try this as it is far more delicious than my bald description here implies. We visited the Santa Catalina Horchateria just off Plaza de la Reina where we dunked the childishly amusingly named fartons (warm, soft sweet cake sticks) into it. This delightfully beautiful cafe has glorious ceramic murals explaining the story of Horchata and cold marble topped iron tables. There is one small step down into it from street level with no hand rail and no accessible loo (the loos are up curved stairs with no lift) but if you can manage the one step, even with a struggle, then I guarantee it will be worth the effort.
No trip to Spain would be complete without sampling a traditional, properly cooked, fresh paella, complete with snails! Accordingly, after we had tried some succulent octopus and tuna for starters, we enjoyed the very best paella I have ever tasted at lunch with Pep and Carlos at the Mas Blayet Restaurant (check out the website www.blayet.com). This was rounded off with some delightful desserts that we shared. If you want a restaurant recommendation then this is it and yes, it is accessible.
Still on the food’n’drink theme … if you wish to stay near the resort then there is a lovely, fully accessible restaurant on the seafront close by called the Brassa de mar Beach Club. This also has accessible loos. I had not been feeling up to lunch on the day we were due to fly back to the UK but couldn’t because of my health, and Andrew, kind as he is, opted to stay with me and skip lunch in the resort as well. Accordingly, later on, when I felt well enough to spend some time in the sunshine but still not well enough to eat, I suggested we pop in here so he could have something in lieu of the lunch he missed on my behalf. He happily partook of a beautifully presented juicy steak with a beer and I was happy to watch him enjoy this, slaking his thirst and hunger.
• Read Unico Care Costa Blanca Chapter 1: Joy in Villajoyosa
• Read Unico Care Costa Blanca Chapter 2: The Care Service
• Read Unico Care Costa Blanca Chapter 3: Food-tempting tapas
• Read Unico Care Costa Blanca Chapter 4: Excursions