We woke up to a beautiful sunny day here in Valencia, though waking up felt a little bit painful even after nine hours' sleep. We had paid €4 for breakfast in our hotel in advance, but when we checked in yesterday the receptionist had tried to convince us we wanted to pay an additional €5 to upgrade it to a more superior sort of breakfast. €9 seemed like a lot to pay so we declined, but I wasn't sure what was going to await us when we went downstairs this morning! It turned out to be okay though; just a cup of coffee, glass of orange juice and a rather sticky croissant. Admittedly that wasn't terribly filling, so we decided to aim for an early lunch as soon as it got to midday. The extra €5 would have entitled you to an omelette as well, which didn't really seem worth it!
We set out shortly after breakfast to start exploring more of Valencia. First of all we retraced our steps back to the cathedral, which we had passed yesterday when looking for our hotel.
This time we walked all the way around it, searching for the best angle for a photo.
From a distance it's possible to see quite how big it is...
... whereas up close you can only really capture a few of the buildings at a time.
Round the back of the cathedral there is a useful model which shows all the different buildings and towers in the complex.
It was only just after 9am at this stage, but the sun was already incredibly hot...
...though the blue sky made a beautiful backdrop for photos.
We spent some time strolling around the old town.
Valencia isn't really a city I've heard or read much about before, so I was surprised at how much beautiful architecture there seemed to be at every turn.
I was also surprised at how many orange trees we seemed to pass on every other street. If you look carefully at this picture, you should just be able to make out some oranges on the trees.
Another thing which seems to be quite common in Valencia is beautiful blue-tiled roofs on churches. This one popped up on the horizon as we were walking down one of the side streets, though when we got closer we couldn't actually find the church.
After we had wandered for a while we found ourselves at the edge of the old town, which was marked by the impressive Torres de Serranos.
Our map indicated that we were not far away from the botanical gardens, and as our city guide to Valencia had suggested that entry to these was free, we decided to explore. The gardens actually turned out to be surprisingly difficult to find, being hidden away behind a wall, and when we finally got there we discovered that the guidebook was out of date and it wasn't free entrance after all. But in studying the map for this particular area of the town in detail, something else caught Tim's attention: Calle del Doctor Zamenhof! It was only a couple of streets away from where we were standing, so we just had to go and explore.
It turned out to be quite a long street and we walked along it for several minutes, passing numerous signs along the way.
So much for avoiding Esperanto on this holiday!
When we left Zamenhof Street, we found ourselves near to the Turia park. The Turia is a large river which used to run through the centre of Valencia, until there was a huge flood in 1957. After that the town authorities diverted the course of the river so that it now flows around the city instead. The old river bed has been converted into a long park which runs through the centre of Valencia for 9km. It was a pleasant place to stroll, with palm trees of all shapes and sizes.
We walked through the park for a while, and then when it got close to midday we turned back into the centre of town to investigate places to eat. Finding something to eat can be a tricky business in Spain, particularly if you don't want to eat paella or any other variation on theme of fish, but eventually we did find somewhere that had a promising menu of the day: spaghetti bolognaise for a starter, roast chicken for the main course and ice-cream for dessert
After lunch we went back to the hotel for a while to have a rest and escape the worst of the sun. It was late afternoon when we ventured out again, with the intention of walking through the rest of the Turia park towards the coast. One of the strange things about walking through the park is that because it is an old river bed, it is criss-crossed by numerous bridges. Some of them looked rather old...
...while others were covered in beautiful flowers. The most surprising thing about this one was that whoever had built the bridge had cut holes in it for the palm trees to grow up from the ground!
As we neared the end of the park, we encountered a space-age collection of buildings which seemed rather a contrast to the architecture in the city centre.
This is 'Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias', a huge cultural complex which was constructed in the late 90's. The buildings include a cinema, science museum and acquarium.
This large blue building was my favourite; apparently it is called L'Àgora and houses concerts and sporting events.
By this point we were at the end of the river park, which meant we were nearly at the sea. Valencia has a large port, from which ferries depart to the Balaeric islands. Valencia was selected as the destination for the America's Cup, a large yachting regatta in 2007, and so the entire harbour area has been spruced up.
I was quite excited to find these cactus plants near the sea front
The palm trees were impressive too.
We stopped for a drink to cool down and then had a little stroll along the (very sandy!) beach before heading back to the hotel for the evening.
We're off to Tarragona in the morning but have had a great time in Valencia, and I'd definitely like to come back another time