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Saturday, 14 November 2009

I see friends shaking hands

We treated ourselves to another day out in a city; we had read our Lonely Planet guide, but were unprepared for how fantastic Valencia would be. From the moment we stepped out of the Estacion del Norte and marvelled at the mosaics of oranges around the Modernista station building we were hooked.

We walked across the marble pavements of impressive plazas, joined the crowds at an open air exhibition of Rodin sculptures, drank tiger nut milk (Horchata) and giggled when asked if we wanted this with Fartons (yes honestly), wandered around the huge bustling Modernista market hall decorated with yet more oranges and had a fantastic vegan lunch in a meat-free restaurant.

In the afternoon we sought to walk off lunch in the Jardines del Turia; the former river bed of the Turia river. After particularly devastating floods in 1957, Valencia diverted the course of the river and now use the route of the abandoned river as a 9 kms green space. In the centre of the city you find an oasis for cycling and walking, with football fields, a rugby pitch and a skate boarding park, there are benches, and gardens for relaxation, all crossed by bridges and the bustle of the city traffic above you. The warmth of this calm and welcoming space sums up the attractiveness of Valencia.

The Spanish seem to understand public spaces and how to design them so they can be enjoyed: there are always places to find shade from the sun, benches to relax on, cafes, children's play areas and public art. We sat and watched people moving around the splendid Plaza de la Virgen; smart young Spanish couples doting on their well dressed children while they fed the pigeons, friends meeting up, business men talking earnestly on their mobile phones, older women walking their poodles and lustful teenagers wrapped up in each other.

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