A THOROUGHLY MODERN EXPERIENCE IN VALENCIA
As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the pleasure of sailing to Valencia onboard Riviera. Here I spent a wonderful day exploring the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or City of Arts and Sciences, one of the most famous modern tourist destinations in Spain. The structures here, designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, were as fascinating as the events happening inside of them. Built as an entertainment-based cultural and architectural hub of the city, the complex offered a blogger with a camera the chance to completely lose herself. It truly was photogenic from every angle.
The Hemisfèric is an IMAX theater designed to resemble an eye. The centerpiece of the complex, it was the first building to be completed in 1998. The exterior of the building, or the eyelid, actually opens to access the water and reveal the dome, or the pupil of the eye, which is the theater. Surrounded by water, the bottom of the pool is glass, creating a reflective illusion that the eye is whole.
El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe was built to resemble the skeleton of whale. This interactive museum aims to entertain visitors while educating them about science, the environment and technology. It opened in 2000 and quickly became one of the most visited attractions in Spain, in large part because it is perfect for kids of all ages.
Looking like something out of a Star Trek battle, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is the tallest opera house in the world. The company attracts major names from the world of opera, including Plácido Domingo, who performs there regularly. There are four separate performance halls, and performances are usually held on Saturdays and Sundays.
L’Agora is a striking multi-purpose event space that can seat as many as 6,000 people. Officially inaugurated in 2009, it was opened to host the Valencia Open 500 Tennis Tournament. When completed, the fixed roof will be covered with glass panels, and the lower section will be covered with opaque panels of Valencian mosaics.
En route to the oceanographic museum, I meandered through L’Umbracle, a gorgeous landscaped walk with native and tropical flora that change according to the seasons. The garden is surrounded by 99 palm trees, 78 small palm trees, 62 bitter orange trees, 42 varieties of shrubs native to Valencia, 16 beauty of the night plants, 450 climbing plants, including honeysuckle and hanging bougainvillea, 5,500 carpet plants and 100 aromatic plants, such as rosemary and lavender. And I thought weeding my flowerbed was backbreaking work!
Built on 17,500 square meters, L’Umbracle allows visitors to admire the views of all the buildings, lakes, walkways, and landscaped areas of the whole complex. Much of the garden is canopied by the 55 fixed arches and 54 floating arches that stand a little over 59 feet high. In contrast to the natural surroundings is an exhibition of contemporary sculptures by internationally known artists including Yoko Ono.
After L’Umbracle, the rest of my day was spent at the truly impressive L'Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium. Containing re-creations of all of the world’s primary marine habitats, each building is identified by its ecosystem: the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands, and the Red Sea, plus the added bonus of the Dolphinarium.
The aquarium is enormous, and after a leisurely trip through all of the ecosystems, I had experienced over 45,000 examples of 500 different species of marine life. But what was even more impressive was how the aquarium was designed to give visitors a truly unique understanding of the different species through the architecture and layout of the buildings, the lack of visual barriers, the superb educational components, the huge aquarium tanks and the amazing underground tunnels, the longest of which spanned more than 70 yards. I felt as if I had somehow explored the oceans and seas of the entire world in a single afternoon.
“Aquarium” seems a woefully inadequate word to describe this amazing museum, and I was so engrossed I failed to realize that the time for Riviera’s departure was imminent. Luckily, the berth was immediately adjacent to the city, so I needed little time to return to the ship and was able to savor every last moment in this fascinating port of call.
Riveria will return to Valencia just a few days from now, and I wish I were returning with her! On this trip, I was so intrigued by the City of Arts and Sciences that I did not get to visit the famous Central Market and the Plaza de la Reina with its renowned cathedral. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to return and explore the other side of Valencia, the historic city center that will offer the perfect contrast to my thoroughly modern and thoroughly enjoyable experience at Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.