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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Valencia in the sun Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 07 March 2013 5:07am

Adrienne is done with her conference, so we spent the day exploring the city together. It was a beautiful day for a change, with plenty of sun and warm weather.

Valencia is in its Fallas season, a festival of fireworks and bonfires. Neighborhoods compete to produce elaborate papier mache scuptures which they will set on fire. Each sculpture has a smaller figure called a ninot, which is paraded around the city. Right now they're being exhibited at a central location and people are voting on which one is the best and should be saved in the museum, rather than being burned.

The ninot exhibition was our first stop today. There are some incredible sculptures, done in a wide variety of styles. Many of them are obviously political, but I'm not sure who some of the characters are. A lot of the text is in Valencian (a form of Catalan), rather than in Spanish, so I have even more trouble with subtleties than usual.

Next, we stopped by some gardens. We found the Garden of the Hesperides by accident while looking for the adjacent Botanical Gardens, and then continued on to the larger garden. It was fun to wander among the exotic plants and see the cats (cared for by the local animal society) who live in the garden.

There is a fireworks display in one of the central plazas at 2pm each day during Fallas, but we realized we were too far to actually make it there in time. So instead, we climbed to the top of the Torres del Quart (part of the medieval wall that protected the city) and tried to catch a glimpse from there. We saw a lot of smoke rising from the center of the old city, and the final burst of fireworks did make it above the rooftops.

We made a quick stop at the Central Market, just before it closed, and bought a box of wine, and then settled in for lunch at a nearby restaurant that served us a very tasty vegetable paella and some neat small dishes.

The afternoon was occupied with a walk around Valencia, looking at examples of Modernista architecture, a movement related to Art Nouveau. Lots of pretty buildings. My feet were ready for a break midway through, so we stopped for some orxata (aka horchata), which is made from tigernuts here.

Valencia's heraldic animal is a bat, which appears on the crest of the city in various places and there are bats on the transit cards. Walking back to our hotel from the tram, we got to see some live ones flitting about!

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