And there are a large amount of places set up for this energetic and healthy sport.
I loved the idea of them having converted the old Turia riverbed through the city into a park (called Jardines de Turia) and this is a great green stretch to walk taking you from the City of Arts and Science to the Bio Park at the other end – a few hours pleasant stroll will take you through landscaped gardens with tennis courts, football fields and other attractions all sporadically laid out.
The reason the riverbed is dried up is due to the fact that Valencia had a disastrous flooding in 1957. So the decision was made to divert the Turia river to avoid future floods. This they did and then they converted the riverbed to parkland
It is actually the best way to travel through the city on foot or bike ( & roller-blades or skates of course) and you walk under many bridges that are mainly used by traffic (although I did cross one pedestrian bridge during my stay there). Brilliant idea and certainly gives appeal to the city..
I did find the city rather unappealing to start with due to the lack of tourist information when I reached Valencia Nord station.
There was no tourist information or even a “You are Here” map at this mainline station and seemingly no customer service desk either. However, exiting the station to try and work out which direction I needed to take (Maps was not working on my phone for some reason!) I spotted a (small) sign telling you where to find the nearest tourist information place. Great I thought – that will do and I can get a map there so I headed towards Plaza Ayuntamiento which was a short walk away.
Having reached this place – where there was a tourist information booth only – I discovered a sign saying “closed until 4pm” (in Spanish of course) so that was frustrating and as the next info place was a further distance (and I would no doubt also find that one closed) I then was lucky to spot a large street map in one corner of the square.
Stopping there with my suitcase behind me I then proceeded to try to attract passers-by to show me where I was. Unfortunately, this map stupidly had no “you are here” sign on it either!!!
Now I started to feel invisible for a time! You would think that SOMEONE would offer to help you if they saw you looking perplexed and standing by a map with a case and looking lost. But NO!
In fact I actually approached 2 people to ask where I was on the map. They said “no se” (Spanish for don’t know – and they live there!) and walked on before I managed to grab the attention of a woman who was actually trying to avoid my eye. However, she had no choice when I stopped in front of her and asked her where I was in relation to this map!! Even then she just pointed the general area.
It did help a little though as I quickly now realised I was in the City area and heading in the wrong direction. So I turned around, found my route and then went back to the station took the road to the left side and in another 10minutes was at my destination! Fortunately although my Maps app wasn’t working I had already memorised a rough map and written down the streets I needed to take In fact if I had faced the correct way in the first place I would have been fine.
So I would suggest that a well-placed Map of the streets outside the station platforms would be a great idea for tourism in Valencia. If you are visiting, make sure you go prepared with information or prepared to waste time finding it.
I did discover the main tourist office a couple of days later when exploring the old town and it did close at 1 and re-open at 3pm. They were not the most helpful of staff either and if I hadn’t wanted to have information on the Bio-Parc would probably not even have spoken to me.
They seemed to feel that as long as all the leaflets were there we could just grab and go. As I did proceed to ask about the Bio-Parc she gave me one of those pre-printed blotter maps to show me how to get there. Decided to tell me where to get the bus from (the other side of the city to where I was staying) and then I pointed out to her where my nearest pick-up point would be for the bus!!!
So my first impressions of Valencia were not good as I felt the people were rude or uncaring and was not sure whether this was a place I would really like.
However, all that changed after arriving in my room booked through www.airbnb.com in Russafa area of town. There my hostess/ landlady Carmen took me in and gave me LOADs of information on where to go, what to do, etc. She gave me a local detailed map, told me where all the buses were, and which ones to get where, etc. Totally lovely and helpful she even gave me a travel card for me to top-up for the buses thus saving me some money! Thus she then changed my opinion somewhat and I was able to set off and explore without having to waste a day or so getting information.
I was well situated for everything and although during the daytime the streets were quiet they came alive at night with trendy little bars, cafes and restaurants in abundance.
The Old Town – this is only a small area and definitely worth a look although most of the historic monuments seem to be religious. In fact the old town is also the City centre so is full of hustle and bustle with workers and shoppers milling around as well as the tourists. It is in the Cathedral here that they have the cup of Holy Grail, although this is only one of several places throughout the world that claim it I understand. I did not bother to go in and spent most of my time in this part of Valencia taking external photographs..
Bio-Parc – well what a great place that is and truly the best zoo I have ever visited. So I was pleased to have chosen that as the “expensive” place of my holiday visit to Valencia.
OK, it is not expensive really (Euros 23.80 I paid) but when on a tight budget and travelling around one has to pick and choose which sights that have to be paid for and are a must to visit and Bio-Parc was it for me.
Now, I really am not a great believer in animals being locked up but I do also believe that we should educate people and kids and sometimes we also are protecting some endangered species by enclosing them in this manner. Well the Bio-Parc in Valencia is a wonderful place to visit and FEEL like the animals are free as they do not seem to feel hemmed in and are able to roam quite a wide area. A wide variety of African animals are on display there and there is one great small section of Madagascar where there are myriads of lemurs sleeping in and swinging through the tress above you –beautiful.
“Ciudad des Artes y Ciences” At the opposite end to the Jardines de Turia is the City of Arts and Sciences and many will have seen pictures of this 22nd century style area or architecture which I found pretty amazing. I did take numerous stunning pictures here and loved the unearthly landscape feel to it all..
I did not however venture into any of the exhibits however, and maybe this is where the place sadly falls apart and may not be making much money (it was very quiet the two occasions I ventured this way). Having said that it seemed that during the summer months everything quietens down here.
The Art centre had no performances scheduled until September and the review I read on the science museum sounded like it was great for kids, but a bit of a let-down otherwise.
The Hemisphere is a place that you apparently go into with 3D glasses and watch a movie on various parts of the planet or the stars and each show costs Euros 8 and last about 45 minutes. I didn’t bother with this as none of the films appealed as a learning opportunity as they were things I already had knowledge of (Egypt, Planetarium, etc.) but am sure they are highly educational and great for students.
Also, in respect of the Oceanographic area – although it sounded great it was expensive for my budget (Euros 30) and with a toss-up between that or the Bio-Parc I had chosen the latter. Having seen the Aquarium / Oceanarium in Sydney 3 years ago I did not feel the need to check out the ocean wildlife again on this trip to Valencia. Another time though perhaps.
Beaches – The beaches of Valencia are broad, long clean and white. On the first evening I arrived I got the bus there. A clean boardwalk takes you from one end to the other and there are a number of stalls selling various beach wares and souvenirs. However, as the beaches are set at some distance from the city they do really require a bus trip to get there unless you are staying close to them. They also have some nice sand art there..
I was not tempted to the beach again until my last morning for a stroll before departing Valencia because I was on an exploring holiday. On a health note and too avoid over-exposure to the sun, if you are going to the beaches make sure to take an umbrella if nothing else as there is no natural shade and the sunbeds and shade areas can be expensive to rent I understand.
Being there during a fiesta on the last night I got to see the Battle of Flowers parade where many locals were out to watch the floats and then see the girls with their tennis racquets repelling the flowers thrown at them by the crowd. Others people throw flowers at each other too if they want to. Apparently it signifies the end of the month of July festivities.
So that is my Valencian experience to date and I haven’t even touched on the history or the notorious family that came from there. I found these statues of the Borgias within the walls of the University complex – that maybe for another time though.
In the end Valencia does have a lot to offer, so I liked it after my initial impression not being a good one. Definitely worth a look & follow this link to get hooked – You will find it difficult to get out of your head!