Our visit to Valencia was based solely around the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s release of End Game. The movie had been out in New Zealand for three days and Carmelo’s friends were already talking about it. He was suffering silently, desperate to watch it. He did not want any spoilers so he committed to staying offline until he could watch End Game in a cinema in English.
Being in Vinaròs, English movies were not available. The nearest place for us to watch an English movie was a minimum train ride of two hours north to Tarragona or Barcelona, or a two hour ride south to Valencia. Since we had visited Barcelona, we decided Tarragona or Valencia would be ideal We had hoped it would be a day trip but the English movies were only showing in the evening and would end after our last train home. It was clear we would have to do a a few nights, and since Valencia was high on our list of places to see, we visited Valencia.
To make the trip cost effective we booked the cheapest tickets which were the 7am trains from Vinaròs to Valencia and the the 8am return train from Valencia to Vinaròs. That created some fun with ordering a taxi so early in the morning.
Above all else, our first priority on arrival was to buy the tickets. The online ticketing system did not accept our New Zealand credit cards, so we were nervous that we would miss out on the few sessions available in English. Our Spanish was improving, but nowhere near good enough to watch a movie. As soon as we arrived, we snacked at a cafe at the train station. We rushed outside to the street, completely missing the beautiful entrance to the building.
We don’t have any credit on our phones, relying on free internet access, so we couldn’t use google maps to find the cinema complex. Fortunately, I had downloaded the Valencia maps onto maps.me before we had left Vinaròs. It eats a lot of battery life but it lasted just long enough to get us there.
Because it was a lovely cool temperature of around eighteen degrees, we decided we would walk. It was 9am and the complex didn’t open til 10am. According to the map it was only three kilometres. This gave us a chance to see some of the pretty buildings and some of it’s awesome greenery.
Valencia has so many beautiful parks and in those parks are many play areas for all age groups. The first street we walked along had a park that ran through the middle of the street. It was hard not to stop at each playground because they catered to our teens as well as Ajay and I.
The next park we came across was part of the old river bed. The main river that ran through Valencia used to cause major flooding in the city due torrential rains in spring or autumn. The city decided to divert the river out of the city and turned the seven kilometre river bed into a recreation area.
All the bridges crossing the river are still in place and below that, in the empty river, are fountains, bike trails, playgrounds, gardens, ponds, monuments, statues, and sports centres. It’s a beautiful designed space for play and recreation.
We made it to the mall and found the cinemas were closed til 2pm. Fortunately there was a machine that sold tickets and accepted our New Zealand credit card. The plan was that since I was as desperate to see the movie as Carmelo and Giselle were, I would go with them to the first session on the first night. Ajay would go with them to the session on the second night. So now that we had our tickets, our next step was to find our Airbnb and ensure that Ajay and the two little ones would be settled in for the night.
We arrived at our Airbnb weary from walking and decided to rest. But I had itchy feet so I forced everyone out of the house to go sightseeing. We ended up at the Oceanografica, the Valencia aquarium. You can read about that in my next post. We barely made it back in time to pick up some groceries and then taxi to the cinemas. Carmelo, Giselle and I were too excited to care about dinner or snacks so we joined the queue to go in.It was so strange to be amongst so many English speakers after a month of surrounding ourselves with Spaniards who barely spoke English. It was a mix of locals and foreigners, including accents from America, England and Ireland.
The cinema was packed and I had to sit by myself because we’d had only a few seats to choose from. What a blessing in disguise this was. I hate it when Carmelo and Giselle look at me when I cry, and I cried! I didn’t know I had become so engrossed in this fictional world of the MCU. I cried when Black Widow died. I cried when everyone appeared with Dr Strange. And of course I cried when Pepper Pots said her final words to Iron Man.
What I loved about being in that theatre was all of the cheering and clapping . It was like watching a live game. Every time a new superhero came on the screen they cheered as though the actor was in the theatre with us. I found it weird at first, coming from NZ cinemas where we’re pretty respectful about being silent. But I settled into their vibe.
In the centre of Valencia are many old and beautiful buildings. We explored quite a few of the streets and churches. One thing Giselle pointed out was the braille sign. As we tour around, we forget that if you are blind, there is not much to see. Sometimes historic places have sign boards. The cathedral and it’s main square had a tourist board and right next to it was a brass carving of the cathedral and a placard in braille. I thought this was brilliant. Now a blind person could feel what the cathedral and the square looked like by using the carving.
The city of Valencia was once a small coastal town but 2100 years ago the Roman governor of the area settled his troops there after they had claimed that region as part of the Roman Empire. They built castles and colosseums and created a thriving population. Valencia still has some ancient Roman ruins. Ajay spotted some ruins as he was taking a photo that had been excavated in the middle of the city. It was under a water feature in the town square, which had a glass base so we could look down through the water, onto it. Eventually the Romans became Byzantines and their empire fell in this part of the world.
By 600AD, Germanic Christian invaders had settled in the area but not much is known because the Christians of Europe were generally an illiterate people. At this point, the temples were destroyed and churches were built. But during the 700’s AD the city was invaded by Moors (North Africans and Arabs) and hence the churches were turned into Mosques. There’s lots of buildings and walls remaining in the central area from this period. One of the main gates still exists from this era. There was a lot of fighting between Muslim and Christian people for this city until the 1200’s AD.
After this the Christians including Knights Templars, seized the region of Spain and forced the Muslims to leave. There are poems written from this time by some of those that were exiled from their Valencia. Much of the architecture is still influenced by that period.
As with many Spanish towns, there is a central market place. This one is beautiful outside and bustling inside. There were all sorts of local foods including fresh produce and seafood. Unfortunately we had eaten before stumbling upon this area. But if you get a chance to explore the central markets, choose from any of the beautiful cafes surrounding it for a meal. They looked very inviting.
We had passed many playgrounds when we caught the forty minute bus to Oceanografica the day before. One of the playgrounds that stood out and Ajay was adamant we find it. It is called Gulliver’s Playgrounds. It depicts Gulliver tied down by rope and the concept is that all the children are the little people tying him up.
It’s not the safest playground because there are big heights to climb with narrow paths so that you can slide down, but there were no falls or accidents because most children go up with their parents. After having slid down many of Gulliver’s slides, I think the parents enjoy climbing up because it’s so much fun. Gulliver’s playground is for all ages.
That evening Ajay went to watch End Game with Carmelo and Giselle. I’m not one to sit still so I took Kenzo and Lui for a walk around the neighbourhood. It seemed like we were just outside the middle class area. It’s an odd thing to notice but I enjoy people watching and this was one of the things I observed as I took these little two for a walk down the road. We picked up some juice and wandered to the nearest playground. The playground had a castle theme, probably because there are many castles surrounding Valencia.
On our way home we stopped to look at the rose garden of the police station. One of the officers was walking through it admiring the roses. When he noticed us he picked a rose and gave it to Kenzo. Assuming we spoke Spanish he said, “For your papa”.
The next morning we were up early on the first bus to the train station. That’s when we realised the magnificence of its exterior and the beautiful interior.
It was a hectic two day trip but we were all glad to have visited Valencia, perhaps for different reasons though.