Valencia - Cartagena

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October 24th 2010
Published: October 24th 2010
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Weird bridgeWeird bridgeWeird bridge

with reflecting pools
October 23-24 Valencia and Cartagena

I thought Barcelona was beautiful, and it is but Valencia blew me away. I took a ships tour and we started out at dawn, 8:30 am, to visit the Caves of St. Joseph and an overview of the city. Just outside the port we can upon the City of Arts and Sciences. They really need to change the name of this area. It is a complex of museum, planetarium, opera house and aquarium that has been built on a dry riverbed.
A river used to run through the center of town. Some years ago it flooded causing severe damage and loss of life. The river was diverted to prevent a reoccurrence and the question was what to do with the riverbed. The commercial interests lobbied for a highway but they lost our to the faction that lobbied for public space. It is here in this riverbed that the City of Arts and Industry was built. However that wasn’t the end of it. All along the former river’s path are public gardens, playgrounds, soccer fields, and venues for public entertainment. It was a brilliant concept and executed well. Bridges cross the space and each are different.
Narrow HouseNarrow HouseNarrow House

Can you find it?
I have two favorites, the bridge of flowers and the weird bridge. Fifteen thousand pots of flowers are rotated on the Bridge of Flowers, changing with the seasons. It must be magic at Christmas decorated with poinsettia.
After driving by the complex we entered the old city. Everywhere I looked there was an interesting building façade or turret or statue. We walked through the narrow crooked streets and marveled at the Moslem ingenuity. All the buildings are about five stories high and they shade the narrow lanes from the Mediterranean sun. Anyone who has walked down the streets of Manhattan on a windy day would have appreciated the winding streets that cut down the wind. Of course neither innovation would suit today’s traffic.
We enter a square where the world’s narrowest house is located according to the Guinness Book of World’s Records. It is one doorway wide. At the back are two small rooms slightly larger that prison cells. Don’t ask me why it was built. I can’t imagine anyone living there.
We strolled to the Central Market. As a wandered by the stalls of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and cheese I could imagine what a feast I could have if I lived here.
Then it was off to the Caves of St. Joseph. We drove about an hour through the countryside, past groves of Valencia oranges, lemons, and other produce. Though interesting, the drive was unremarkable.
Saint Joseph’s underground river is billed as the longest navigable river in Europe. We enter the cave and come to a dock where be board small boats and glide into the cave. This is not a natural living cave such as Karchner Caverns. Stalactites and Stalagmites are few but interesting formations are illuminated and there are lights under the clear warm water. Think Phantom of the Opera. We fall silent and slowly make our way, ducking down where the roof is very low. Music plays softly in the background. It is actually a lovely experience. We have time for a quick bite. Mine is Dark Chocolate and Coffee gelato.
We return to Valencia where we stop at the City of Arts and Science for pictures. From the bridge we see reflecting pools in the riverbed and an arbor of climbing, flowering vines, which will provide a shady promenade when mature.
Valencia is a city I would like to explore.

The port of Cartagena is a natural harbor and has been an important commercial city from the time of the Carthaginians. I have signed up for a tour to Elche that is billed as the last remaining vestige of a walled city from medieval times and features a botanical garden with large collection of palms and cactus. I would have been very disappointed if that were the extent of the tour. The drive is over an hour and the scenery is mainly farmland with colonies of condos and apartments where we come close to the sea.
What made the day was the medieval festival that was being held in the town square. Townspeople dressed in medieval dress were baking bread, cooking sausage and chicken, selling beer and wine, while musicians, jugglers and acrobats entertained the crowd. Booths sold cheese and candy, nuts and bonbons, jewelry and incense, and knick-knacks of all sorts. Mass was being held in the basilica each hour and there were lots of families with small children and dogs enjoying the wonderful warm sunny day.
Today my snack was freshly fried potato chips still warm from the oil and a glass of local red wine. It turned into a fun tour and I even had a little nap on the way back to the port.
The biggest surprise of the day was the gift of a small bottle of a local digestive (made in Cartagena) by the name of Cuarenta Y Tres. I’ll have to sample it one of these evenings.
Tomorrow, the Alhambra.

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