Valencia seems to suffer from a public relations problem. It is not highlighted on the tourist circuit. In fact, Rick Steves, our generally accurate guide to Spain, didn’t bother to visit it and left Valencia out of his book. However, it is a completely gorgeous jewel of a city, very walkable, with surprises around every corner in the shape of well-restored 17th century apartment buildings, Roman and Visigoth ruins, an exciting free modern art museum, and a beautiful Mercado Central (central market). Even the traffic works, due to recent road design work.
By the way, it also has the Holy Grail. Yup. It does. Remember that chalice that Jesus used at the Last Supper, which everyone has been looking for, from Monty Python to Dan Brown? Well we can stop looking. It’s in the Cathedral in Valencia. Sitting in a little side chapel, in a glass case, all by itself. Completely intact, too. (Good thing no one broke it, or we would have tiny shards of the Holy Grail in churches all over Europe.) It has been in the private possession of various royals until XX, when Alphonsus the Nice Guy (not his real name, but something similar) gave it to the City of Valencia.
So I decided that I should take a job working for the Valencian Chamber of Commerce or equivalent, writing guides to Valencia and letting people know that they have the Holy Grail!
My German friend Iris, whom I got to know way back when she was doing her medical training at the Boston VA and living in Jamaica Plain, met us in Valencia for a few days. We all stayed in a little apartment down on the beach, 20 minutes south of the city. (This was a house exchange through the Intervac exchange program.) The water and air temps were lovely, both about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But Valencians have decided that this is wintertime and so they are done with going to the beach. It felt like Martha’s Vineyard in September: golden days, warm water, and a sort of melancholy after everyone has left for the season.
In the city, she and I wandered around the streets, exploring all the little squares and side streets. With the kids, we visited the new Aquarium, which must be one of the best in the world. It has about 8 separate buildings, each dedicated to a different part of the world from the Red Sea to the Arctic. Sharks, sea horses, and even a Baby Beluga up close and personal!
I’m putting Valencia on my list of top places in the world.