We’re back. Just in time for That Meaningful Vote. Let’s not go there. Instead, let’s focus on something that England is undoubtedly good at: mid-winter hope.
Yesterday, I showed you a Valencian scene from centuries ago: a man fishing in the River Túria.
No, the water you see isn’t the river. Cooling ponds and watercourses break up the space.
Come with us now to see it as it is today. No longer a river, but a long sinuous public park wandering the northern edge of the old city centre. By 1957, the river had flooded once too often. Too many homes had been lost and livelihoods ruined. The city made the bold choice to move the river, and give the vacated space not to a road, not to housing, but to the people, as a park. At any moment of the day you’ll find commuting cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, families, elderly couples, sporty types – all enjoying this 9 km. long space.
Today, we were there too, walking under ancient 15th century bridges, through cool wooded glades, all the way to the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia’s iconic futuristic cultural and leisure centre.
So this is part two of my contribution to Saturday’s Ragtag Challenge: and no river in sight.
This fisherman is trying for his daily catch on Valencia’s River Túria. I found him on the staircase of the Horchateria Santa Catalina.
Horchateria? Yes: it’s a café where you go to drink horchata, a traditional Valencian drink made with dried and sweetened tiger nuts. It’s rather good, if a little sweet.
Anyway, we were just leaving after our break when we spotted this bucolic scene. And it reminded me that we haven’t yet gone for a walk along the Túria, Valencia’s river-that-is-not-a-river. More of that tomorrow.
I’m very keen on Valencia’s central library. It’s situated in a wonderful building founded in 1409 as the Hospital for the Poor Innocents. Astonishingly, it was a psychiatric hospital – Europe’s first. The splendid space shown here was for male patients. Females had the same arrangement upstairs. Suitable ceramic panels showing suitable saints still remain.
In 1979, the hospital moved on, and the library moved in. What a place! It was busy with readers choosing books, students writing essays. Malcolm and I sat and read yesterday’s Times.
We looked round the children’s section. We found a good selection of books in other languages, including a large selection in English. There are two reading and philosophy clubs: one for pre-teens, the other for teenagers.
And look at this list of activities. I draw your particular attention to the last one.
As one of the volunteers at Ripon Library – one of hundreds us working throughout the UK to help keep the library services functioning now that Government funding, or lack of it, prevents libraries employing a full complement of professional staff, I was beyond impressed.
If you’re walking down a street in the older parts of Valencia – this one perhaps – look around you.
Look at the drainpipes. At round about head height. You might find someone like this…
Keep looking. You’ll find lots more. I don’t know why they’re there, but I’m enjoying hunting.
Valencia is paella’s capital city. And l’Albufera is its birthplace. Here’s why.
When I was last in Valencia, I was captivated by Albufera Natural Park, with its dunes, Mediterranean forest, and above all, the immense lagoon of the Albufera. Water is king. I had to show Malcolm.
Once, l’Albufera was open sea. Rivers such as the Turia dragged silt and mud to the coast, and gradually this patch of sea became a lake. A saltwater lake. Aquifers beneath gradually sweetened the water. And over the centuries, man intervened, claiming shallow waters for paddy fields. Rice, rice and more rice grows here. Here’s a paddy field, resting for the winter.
Water both shallow and deep ensures this place is a Mecca for birds. Northern birds fly south to winter here, birds from Africa come too.
Locals spend their summers cultivating rice, and their winters fishing the rich waters of the lagoon for carp, eels and other fish, sharing their catch with the bird life.
We explored some of the park before moving on to the small town at the edge of the lagoon, El Palmar. No need to ask what we had for lunch. There were all kinds of paella on the menu, but paella it was. Eaten in the open air – 18° in January seems miraculous to us.
Then a boat trip. We had to have a boat trip. Restful, restorative…. a wonderful afternoon, shared with herons, egrets, cormorants and all kinds of ducks. A truly special day. Camera photos once I get home. For now, we’ll make do with the phone.
It was back to work as usual for Team Barcelona on Monday, so we left them to it and came to Valencia.
It’s lovely to be back, revisiting old haunts from last November, and making fresh discoveries. Pottering down streets in long-established communities is the best: grand imposing doorways; delicately wrought balconies; elegant stucco. Or these days, street art. Here are a few examples I snapped this afternoon.