As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the pleasure of sailing to
Valencia onboard Riviera. Here I spent a wonderful day exploring the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or City of Arts and Sciences, one of the most
famous modern tourist destinations in Spain. The structures here, designed by Santiago
Calatrava and Félix Candela, were as fascinating as the events happening inside
of them. Built as an entertainment-based cultural and architectural hub of the
city, the complex offered a blogger with a camera the chance to completely lose
herself. It truly was photogenic from every angle.
The Hemisfèric is an IMAX theater
designed to resemble an eye. The centerpiece of the complex, it was the first
building to be completed in 1998. The exterior of
the building, or the eyelid, actually opens to access the water and reveal the
dome, or the pupil of the eye, which is the theater. Surrounded by water, the bottom
of the pool is glass, creating a reflective illusion that the eye is whole.
El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe was built to resemble the skeleton of whale. This interactive museum aims to entertain visitors while educating them about science, the environment and technology. It opened in 2000 and quickly became one of the most visited attractions in Spain, in large part because it is perfect for kids of all ages.
Looking like something out of a Star Trek battle,
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is the tallest opera house in the world. The
company attracts major names from the world of opera, including Plácido
Domingo, who performs there regularly. There are four separate performance
halls, and performances are usually held on Saturdays and Sundays.
L’Agora is a striking multi-purpose event space that can seat as many as
6,000 people. Officially inaugurated in 2009, it was opened to host the
Valencia Open 500 Tennis Tournament. When completed, the fixed roof will be
covered with glass panels, and the lower section will be covered with opaque
panels of Valencian mosaics.
En route to the oceanographic museum, I meandered through L’Umbracle, a
gorgeous landscaped walk with native and tropical flora that change according
to the seasons. The garden is surrounded by 99
palm trees, 78 small palm trees, 62 bitter orange trees, 42 varieties of shrubs
native to Valencia, 16 beauty of the night plants, 450 climbing plants,
including honeysuckle and hanging bougainvillea, 5,500 carpet plants and 100
aromatic plants, such as rosemary and lavender. And I thought weeding my
flowerbed was backbreaking work!
Built on 17,500 square meters, L’Umbracle allows
visitors to admire the views of all the buildings, lakes, walkways, and
landscaped areas of the whole complex. Much of the garden is canopied by the 55
fixed arches and 54 floating arches that stand a little over 59 feet high. In
contrast to the natural surroundings is an exhibition of contemporary
sculptures by internationally known artists including Yoko Ono.
After L’Umbracle, the rest of my day was spent at the truly impressive L’Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium. Containing
re-creations of all of the world’s primary marine habitats, each building is
identified by its ecosystem: the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and
Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands, and the Red Sea, plus
the added bonus of the Dolphinarium.
The aquarium is enormous, and after a leisurely
trip through all of the ecosystems, I had experienced over 45,000 examples of
500 different species of marine life. But what was even more impressive was how
the aquarium was designed to give visitors a truly unique understanding of the
different species through the architecture and
layout of the buildings, the lack of visual barriers, the superb educational
components, the huge aquarium tanks and the amazing underground tunnels, the
longest of which spanned more than 70 yards. I felt as if I had somehow
explored the oceans and seas of the entire world in a single afternoon.
“Aquarium” seems a woefully inadequate word to describe this
amazing museum, and I was so engrossed I failed to realize that the time for Riviera’s departure was imminent.
Luckily, the berth was immediately adjacent to the city, so I needed little
time to return to the ship and was able to savor every last moment in this
fascinating port of call.
Riveria will return to
Valencia just a few days from now, and I wish I were returning with her! On this
trip, I was so intrigued by the City of Arts and Sciences that I did not get to
visit the famous Central Market and the Plaza de la Reina with its renowned
cathedral. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to return and explore the other side of
Valencia, the historic city center that will offer the perfect contrast to my
thoroughly modern and thoroughly enjoyable experience at Ciudad
de las Artes y las Ciencias.