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Second cruise stop: Valencia, Spain

Tuesday, January 9, 2024, we'll visit the third largest city in Spain by population. Valencia is the capital of the ancient kingdom of the same name. It presents itself as a dynamic city, combining its historical past with contemporary vitality. Its festivals like Fallas, and its famous Zoological Biopark attract visitors from all over the world, as does the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, which symbolizes Valencia's commitment to innovation and progress.


A little history...

Consul Decimus Junius Brutus rewarded his legionnaires, veterans of the Lusitanian wars against Viriato, with fertile lands near the Mare Nostrum in exchange for their courage and years of service. So, in 138 BC, Valentia was born.

With the decline of the Roman Empire, Valencia fell under Visigothic rule in the 5th century and later became part of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba in the 8th century. During this period, Valencia flourished as a center of trade, agriculture and art under Islamic influence. The city's architecture and irrigation systems, such as the famous Turia Gardens, bear witness to this era.

In 1238, during the Reconquista, James I of Aragon conquered Valencia from the Moors, inaugurating a new Christian era. The following centuries marked a period of economic and cultural prosperity, with the city becoming a major commercial hub in the Mediterranean.

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, Valencia grew through the silk trade with the Americas, Asia and Northern Europe. A golden age which led to an economic, social and cultural revolution with buildings as representative as the Silk Lodge.

Jacques 1er d'Aragon
Jacques 1er d'Aragon

The 19th century witnessed significant urban expansion and modernization, marked by the demolition of medieval walls.

The 20th century brought both ruin and transformation. The Republican government, led by President Manuel Azaña, established its headquarters in Valencia and the city became a hub of anti-fascist activity and international support for the Republicans. Many government buildings, including the Palace of the Generalitat and the Central Market, still bear the scars of bombings by nationalist troops. In March 1939, with the fall of Catalonia and Franco's victory imminent, the Republican government fled Valencia, marking the end of the war.

My selection of sites to visit

The Cathedral: Built on an ancient Roman temple which later became a mosque, Valencia Cathedral is predominantly Gothic in style, but retains many elements from different periods, from Romanesque to Baroque. Construction work began in the 13th century. In the 15th century the chapter house (today Chapel of the Holy Chalice), the ciborium, the Miguelete and the Apostles' Gate were built.

Its walls and doors also protect treasures as precious as the Holy Chalice. It is a polished agate cup, of oriental origin. Tradition has it that after the Last Supper, Saint Peter took it to Rome and that the popes who succeeded him kept it until Saint Sixtus II. He sent the relic to Huesca and during the Muslim invasion, the chalice was hidden in the Pyrenees and it was Alfonso the Magnanimous who transported it to the palace in Valencia.

Another gem of Valencia Cathedral are the Renaissance frescoes above the high altar, which were rediscovered ten years ago by removing the Baroque vault that covered them.

If you are in good shape, you can also climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete, the 50.85 meter high tower, built between 1381 and 1424. It is accessed from inside the cathedral.

The City of Arts and Sciences: the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias signed by Santiago Calatrava, is a reflection of the 21st century. The Hemisfèric includes a state-of-the-art Imax theater and a planetarium. The Museo de las Ciencias is a building that hosts interactive scientific exhibitions and the Oceanogràfic is the meeting place for all the ecosystems on the planet.

Fondation Bancaja
Fondation Bancaja

The Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia: the second largest picture gallery in Spain, with works ranging from the 15th to the 19th century, including rooms dedicated to the work of the famous Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla and that dedicated to Francisco de Goya .

The central market: it is the largest fresh produce market in Europe, located in one of the city's most emblematic modernist buildings. With a surface area of more than 8,000 square meters, it has more than 1,200 fruit and vegetable, meat and fish stands.

The Bancaja Foundation: The Bancaja Foundation is currently presenting the exhibition “Sorolla through light”, organized in co-production with Light Art Exhibitions, the Sorolla Museum and the Sorolla Museum Foundation and with the collaboration of the Generalitat Valenciana. It brings together 45 paintings by the master, dated between 1890 and 1920.

The Silk Lodge: it is a jewel of Valencian civil Gothic which is full of symbolism. The gargoyles of the Patio de los Naranjos or the palm trees that touch the sky of “paradise” at the Salón Columnario or Sala de Contratación (Hall of the Columns) are just some of the reasons why it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

Some local personalities...

El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar): Although not born in Valencia, El Cid is a legendary figure associated with the city. A medieval knight and warlord, El Cid fought in the Reconquista and served both Christian and Muslim rulers. His presence in Valencia and his subsequent reign from 1094 to 1099 left a lasting impact on the region. His widow Chimène held Valencia against Youssef ben Tachfine until 1102 with her meager forces, without really being helped by the king of Castile or the count of Barcelona. The city of Valencia was only recaptured by Christians 136 years later during the reign of James I of Aragon.

Vixente Blasco Ibañez
Vicente Blasco Ibañez

James I of Aragon: Born in Montpellier, France, in 1208, James I played a central role in the Reconquista. He succeeded in retaking Valencia from the Moors in 1238 and establishing Christian rule, marking the start of a new era for the city.

Joaquín Sorolla: Born in Valencia in 1863, Joaquín Sorolla was a renowned painter known for his bright and lively works. His art captures the essence of Valencia and its surroundings, and his legacy lives on at the Sorolla Museum in Madrid, which houses a significant collection of his paintings.

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez: Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867-1928) was a Valencian writer, politician and journalist. He gained international recognition for his novels, notably "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Blasco Ibáñez was also involved in politics and the cultural and social life of Valencia.

Incursion culinaire...

Paella: perhaps the most famous dish associated with Valencia. Traditional Valencian paella includes rabbit, chicken, snails, beans and the essential saffron for flavor and color. Seafood paella is also popular in coastal areas.

Horchata: a refreshing drink made from tiger nuts, sugar and water, horchata is a Valencian specialty, particularly popular during the hot summer months. It is often served with fartons, long sweet pastries.

Agua de Valencia: This cocktail is a mixture of orange juice, cava (Spanish sparkling wine), vodka and gin. It is a lively and fruity drink appreciated during social gatherings.

Paella Valenciana
Paella Valenciana

Arroz a Banda: This dish features rice cooked in fish broth and usually served with a side of aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and fresh seafood. The term “a banda” refers to the separate portion of rice and seafood.

All i Pebre: a hearty and tasty fisherman's stew, all i pebre is made with eel, potatoes, garlic, paprika and pepper. It is simmered and often enjoyed with rice.

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the 19th century in France...


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