Monday, December 02, 2013

History and Modernity in Valencia

Valencia, Spain's third largest city, is known for the beautiful City of Arts and Sciences structures and the birthplace of paella (more on Valencia's paella in my next post about Valencia's markets).  It is a beautiful coastal city that combines history and modernity, and it's worth taking the time explore.

The City of Arts and Sciences, or Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencas, is an entertainment based cultural and architectural complex.  It is the most important and known tourist destination in the city.  The structures began in 1996, with the latest addition inaugurated in 2005.

There are currently 7 structures, including an IMAX cinema and planetarium, an interactive science museum, a landscaped walk, the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe, an opera house and performing arts center, a suspension bridge, and a covered plaza for concerts and sporting events.  It sounds like a lot and in person it's even more incredible to see the architecture and modernity.

Balancing the modernity is the appreciation of history.  The Valencia Cathedral, also known as the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia, was built between the 13th to 15th centuries.  Christians, historians, and Indiana Jones fans will find it fascinating to learn that one of the chapels in this cathedral holds one of the Holy Chalices - as in, the true Holy Grail.  Christian historians say this is evidence that this chalice is a likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper.  It was also used by many popes, including Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Aside from appreciating Valencia's architecture and history, there is also plenty to eat - it's Spain, after all.  Valencia is known for their chufa nuts, or tiger nuts.  The key ingredient in horchata.  There are a few famous horchaterias in the city.  We saw two of them which are right across from each other.  Horchateria El Siglo and Horchateria Sta. Catalina.  After trying one horchata in Sta. Catalina, we reached our sugar capacity with just a couple of sips.  Wow, it's incredibly sweet, and not in a way I like at all.  If you love super sweet things, you may enjoy this.  I actually preferred the horchata in Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo in Palma, which used almonds instead of tiger nuts.  It was way less sweet and had a nuttier taste as opposed to the tiger nuts' earthier taste.

Valencia's Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencas
The City of Arts and Sciences

L'Agora for sporting and music events

El Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe

Interactive science museum

Our Lady Square, a plaza by the Cathedral

Catedral de Valencia, the Apostles' Gate entrance

Inside the Gothic cathedral

Paella shops

Tapas/pintxos bar

It looked too good not to try a few

Specialty cakes.  Torta Santiago (Almond Cake) and Ensaimadas

Fartons.  Baked sweet rolls covered in confectioner's sugar.  Eaten with horchata for breakfast or during the day

Horchateria El Siglo

Horchateria Sta. Catalina

Horchatas y fartones.  VERY sweet.  If you like a lot of sweetness, you'll probably enjoy this.
I actually prefer the horchata of Mallorca (from the island's own almonds) over Valencia's version with tiger nuts.

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