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  • Day653

    Visiting Valencia

    March 20 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Camping Valencia, 20km north of Valencia, made for a great base from which to visit Spain's third-largest city by train.

    The original city of 'Valentia' was founded on the banks of the Rio Turia in 138BC but was later destroyed in 75BC. The Moors made Valencia an agricultural and industrial centre, establishing ceramics, paper, silk and leather industries and they introduced rice cultivation.

    Its golden age was in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the city was one of the Mediterranean's strongest trading centres, before Seville took that title away and a decline began. The industrialisation of the 19th century led to the development of a lucrative citrus trade to northern Europe and to this day Valencian oranges are everywhere.

    Severe floods in 1949 and 1957 led to the Rio Turia being diverted away from the city centre and the dry riverbed was converted into a park, that winds through the city for 9km, providing the Valencians with a large, green space on their doorstep. How original!

    We arrived at Estacion del Norte, right on the edge of the historic centre, and made our way to Horchateria de Santa Catalina for a glass of horchata, a Valencian speciality, and - don't laugh - fartóns! The sugary, opaque drink is made from crushed chufas, which despite the name tiger nut, is actually a tuber. Into this you dip large finger-shaped buns called fartóns.

    Fortified by fartóns, we headed across the square to visit the cathedral where an excellent audio guide navigated us around. Built over the mosque after the 1238 conquest, the cathedral is mostly gothic in design with rich italianate frescoes. Recent renovations include a modern museum where you can get up close to centuries old artifacts and paintings. However, we could not get very close to the cathedral's crowning glory, the Holy Grail, the cup from which Christ sipped during the last supper. Apparently, the dating of the cup would suggest it could be true.

    After a delicious and great-value 5-course sampler lunch at Restaurant Delicat, we wandered the narrow streets and squares admiring scenes that reminded us of our time in Sicily. We climbed to the top of Torres de Serranos, one of only two remains of the imposing 14th century city walls and looked across the rooftops of the city and down into part of the Turia gardens. We weren't the only ones there though, groups of French and German students were all eagerly taking selfies, taking the volume levels up a notch or five!

    Whilst Valencia is a large and elegant city, it does have a laid-back feel as if the locals are very happy letting Madrid and Barcelona take the limelight, leaving them to get on with enjoying life there.
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