Walking on the river bed in Valencia!!

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March 1st 2012
Published: June 26th 2017
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Gibraltar to Valencia

It was a nice, bright morning. Our balcony was finally facing east as we headed toward Valencia. The sun was shining. The temperature was touching 20°C. It was gone 9am and we were ready for our breakfast.

The Villa Verde restaurant is a waiter service and is much more civil than the free for all upstairs in the Bora Bora (been there) and Pago Pago (been there as well!!) self-service restaurants.

However, for some reason, ordering a simple cup of coffee was an ordeal today.

Roisin asked, " Can I have coffee decaf?"
You want coffee?”
the waiter asked, as he was about to pour.
“Yes, but can I have decaf, please?”
“You can only get that from the bar madam”
said Roisin.Decaf!!”
“Ah, you want tea??!”
“No decaffeinated coffee with milk”
At this point the waiter poured Roisin a cup of hot milk and walked away.

Not the end of the story. Oh no! 10 minutes later our waiter returned with a sachet of decaf (hooray!) and before we had time to blink, tore open the end and then emptied the contents in to, what was now only a cup of lukewarm milk (boo!)…and walked away to the amusement of a Dutch couple who had joined us at the table!!

This was like a sketch from the 2 Ronnies: 'F-U-N-E-M-N-X. Thankfully I didn't want any ham and eggs…just my herring with omelette. I half expected the waiter to bring me a fishing rod and a clucking hen. The story had a happy ending. Roisin got her begrudged cup of decaf and I got my omelette and herring.

The ship docked shortly before 12 noon. We had done some research prior to arrival and found that the cruise terminal is a 15-minute drive from the port gate! MSC were kind enough to lay a shuttle bus that would take one to the centre of Valencia. It was at a cost of 8 Euro return (each). We decided that this would be the best option. Today we had a couple of objectives; 1. Walk a section of the Valencia Grand Prix circuit. This circuit is used for the European Grand Prix and is a street circuit, so, when not in use, is open to the public; 2. Visit the Cuitat de les Arts y les Ciències (the City of Arts and Sports). The buildings we have seen in the various guides look out of this world and completely futuristic.

As we neared the shuttle bus we noticed a yellow bus about 100m away with the MSC logo in the front. This, we learned, was a shuttle laid on by the Port Authority to take passengers to the port gate. This was a free service so was obvious why MSC kept this a closely guarded secret.

Our shuttle took almost ½ hour to the final drop off point in Valencia centre. During this transfer we passed what looked like the pit lane of the F1 circuit. We also passed the Arts and Science city. Why couldn't we stop there, we don't want to be taken straight in to the city centre

On alighting we checked the map but couldn't work out where we were. Luckily there was an information centre across the road. A very helpful girl pointed out our location; adjacent a roundabout known as the Plaza Porta del Mar. From there it was a short walk to the main square and yet another cathedral!! The City of Arts and Science was a ¾ hour walk in the opposite direction.

There are only so many ‘old towns' and churches you can visit in one sitting so we both agreed that rather than visit the old we will stroll through the park and visit the Arts and science city. From there we could carry on to the F1 track. As the track encircles the port area, Roisin suggested we could take a taxi back to the ship. At the mention of taxis I broke out in a cold sweat. The previous experience of Abu Dhabi was still fresh in my mind. Then there was the Genoa experience prior to that. If we start getting pushed for time and hail a taxi he may decide to charge us an arm and a leg. We would be in no position to negotiate. He would surely know we would have no choice. Trust me. Taxi drivers are like predators. They can sense these things!!! As I'm running short of limbs since paying for our opera experience I was hoping it wouldn't come to that. In the meantime, we intended to enjoy the day.

The sun was still shining; the temperature was still 20°C. We headed toward the cathedral and espied the Miguete (bell tower) in front of us. Resisting the temptation of the effect towers have on me (an overwhelming desire to go up ‘em – I'm sure Freud would have something to say about that!!), we passed down the side of the cathedral. They claim to have the Holy Grail in a gloomy chapel within the confines of this Basilica. Now this would have saved all those who went before such as King Arthur, the Knights Templar and even the Nazis a load of grief if they had all spent £4.99 on a Berlitz guide to Valencia instead of spending years on their fruitless quests in the hope of securing this sought after treasure.

We headed in the direction of the Jardins del Turia; a long meandering strip of green belt – an urban park. This is very similar to the Planty that can be found in Krakow, Poland.

In 1957, Valencia suffered some serious flooding from the River Turia. In order for this occurrence not to be repeated, the local officials decided to divert the flow of the river around the outskirts to the South of the city. This must have been a bummer for people who lived on the outskirts to the South of the city!!! This pedestrian urban freeway meanders through Valencia for 4 miles. It is a procession of gardens planted with a variety of trees and shrubs native to the region or adapted to the climate.

We picked up the trail by the Puente Exposicion and strolled pleasantly through the botanical gardens. We passed orange trees growing freely and an array of other trees that we didn't recognise. It was a surreal feeling that we were walking on what used to be a riverbed through the heart of the city.

Beyond the Puente de Aragon, the path we were walking opened out to a plaza with a reflecting pool as its centrepiece complete with dancing fountains. We had reached the Palau de la Musica. This gave the impression of a giant greenhouse. This started to make sense because a short while further on we came across a giant sculpture of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver striding out AWAY from the ‘giant greenhouse'. Mind you, seeing a greenhouse that large and the amount of maintenance needed to grow tomato plants that size is enough to make the most greenest fingered gardeners run a mile!!!.

We could now see the top of what looked like a giant Roman centurions helmet. We had reached the edge of the City of Art and Sciences. The buildings and designs were certainly extraordinary. The first building we came to was the Palau de les Arts Reins Sofia. It is a music hall with a 250ft high domed roof clad in white mosaic tiles. It is Valencia's answer to Sydney's Opera House. However, studying the surreal design leads me to believe that if this is the answer, it must have been a bloody stupid question!!!

Dali or Picasso could have designed the ‘helmet' shaped building we had seen peering over the treetops. This is the high tech L'Hemisferic. The eye shaped cinema has slides like folding portcullises that imitate the blinking of an eye.

We had neared the end of this amazing parkland. On studying the map we realised that we should now only be a stones throw from a section of the F1' track. We walked on to the main road only to fall in behind a couple why were carrying a camera, rucksack and a map.

They must be from our ship”, whispered Roisin. My heart lifted. Perhaps they are going back to the free shuttle bus. As we weren't 100%!s(MISSING)ure where this bus stopped I suggested we follow this couple. Probably not the best plan I had ever suggested as Roisin had visions of us following them in to their own front garden. How would we explain that one??!

As we reached the bottom of Avenida de Francia, we didn't need to follow the unsuspecting couple any further. It was Nirvana!! Roisin was overcome with a sort of Ready Break glow. She went in to Cheshire cat mode!! Rogue taxi drivers were put at the back of her mind for there, across the other side of the road was…THE PIT LANE!!!

We spent the next half hour wandering this part of the track, trying to etch in to our memories every nook and cranny, every burned tyre mark skid and graffiti so as when this Grand Prix is televised we can watch contented with the knowledge that we made the cut!!!

It gets better….Roisin noticed a yellow bus less that 200m away turn in to a gate. We investigated to find a temporary sign with the welcome words: ‘MSC Splendida'!! 25 minutes later we were in the Pago Pago buffet enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake!!

Looking down on the quayside, there were hundreds of Ford cars lined up ready for export. A gang of dockside workers were randomly moving cars and depositing them in different rows. There didn't seem any pattern or logic to what they were doing. From deck 14 looking down, it seemed that they were enjoying a giant game of Connect4!!

The ship cleared the quayside at 18:00 precisely and headed toward Marseille, our last port of call before disembarking back where it all started, in Genoa. Nearly at the end of another successful (but with a different vibe) cruise. Almost time for reflection…but not just yet!

Additional photos below
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3rd March 2012

I've just realised who your wife is Chris.
3rd March 2012

I think that Chris already knew who his wife is - she is called Roison.
3rd March 2012

OK Chris, You can take the Tai Chi lesson when you get back!!!

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