We have spent months in València over the past 2½ years and this city continues to surprise and delight us.
We did revisit two places we blogged about more than two years ago, but museums are worth multiple visits, especially to catch the temporary exhibitions. It was in spring, two years ago, when we last visited the botanical gardens; this year we walked through the gardens in mid summer so naturally there are completely different flowers in bloom than the ones we posted previously here: Lladro, Botanical Gardens and Museums
University of Valencia Botanical Gardens
One of the apartments we stayed in this summer was a block away from the University of València’s 450 year old botanical gardens. July temperatures hovered between 85-91°F/29-33°C with humidity between 65 and 85% so our excursions have been limited mornings whenever possible.
The Universitat de Valencia Jardi Botánic was created in 1567 and there is currently an impressive 4500+ different species grown at this site.
Initially the gardens were used to study plants for medical education. The gardens still today have a section called “useful plants” which include medicinal plantings. We enjoyed exploring the separate greenhouses filled with orchids, bromeliads, ferns and carnivorous plant varieties. Belonging to the University, there is a library, herbarium and germplasm bank on site as well as a building dedicated to protecting and growing endangered tropical plants.
Institut València d’Art Modern (IVAM)
The coronavirus has changed so much, including the rotation of temporary exhibitions in museums. We hadn’t visited IVAM in awhile so were lucky to find a couple of different exhibitions we hadn’t yet seen.
To begin with, Jorge Peris’s (1969-) unusual style was intriguing and we both enjoyed his creativity and unique perspective.
We couldn’t help but smile at Julio González’s lounging ‘Cactus Man’.
There was also an interesting exhibition called Orientalism with pieces primarily from the Near East and North Africa.
Crest of the Bat
High above the street on València’s City Hall is a black bat resting on a crown that caught our attention. The bat, also known as a reremouse, was the symbol used by the former powerful Crown of Aragon. Originally the Kingdom of Aragon’s symbol was the royal dragon but the dragon was apparently transformed into a bat by the municipalities. With so much information to absorb, we had missed this cool symbol on our first pass through in 2018.
There is also a legend of a bat that may have helped King James I of Aragon to win a crucial battle against the Saracens allowing him to win València for his kingdom. So perhaps it was meant to be a bat and not a dragon.
Food + Beverage
One of the most common dishes found in any Spanish tapas bar is, ensaladilla rusa. A Russian chef is credited with inventing this version of a potato salad. In Spain, the recipe generally includes potatoes, peas, carrots, tuna and mixed with a garlic aioli. We have been served this many times and every bar, cafe or restaurant adds their own spin to it. We have had it with shrimp, hard boiled egg or green grapes added in. Crunchy little bread sticks, the size of your little finger, called picos, are often served with ensaladilla rusa.
At the end of your meal, when dining out, waiters often offer a complimentary after dinner drink. A new one for us was Ronmiel topped with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Ronmiel is a rum and honey liqueur, made in the Canary Islands. The fresh lemon floating on top added a perfectly tart accompaniment to the sweet liqueur.
Cementeri General de València
Cemeteries up until the mid 18th century were always right next to a church. But in 1787, King Carlos III issued a Royal Order that for health reasons and practices, would move cemeteries to far outside the city. Work began on the General Cemetery of València in 1805 and it was officially opened in 1807. The Cemetery has been enlarged a number of times and today is huge. Up until 1988 cremation was prohibited in Spain but today there is an avant-garde crematorium on site. Walking through the cemetery we noticed there are primarily two distinct styles of graves.
The large old intensely decorated mausoleums, above and the more modern aisles or streets of 10-12′ foot walls with layers of niches inserted into the walls, below, belonging to those who have died more recently. Both are quite attractive.
Outside the main entrance of the General Cemetery of València is a small British Protestant Cemetery which is a misleading name as it actually has gravestones from 21 nationalities and various regions. It is permanently locked but you can get permission to enter.
Another hidden gem we discovered was Casa Judia.
Sandwiched between ordinary apartment buildings is this mesmerizing 1930’s art deco house. It was built for a Spanish Jewish man and there is a striking Star of David in the building’s lintel overtop the front door. We loved the colors and how well they work together. Isn’t it colorful and pretty?
The 12 year old Bioparc València covers 25-acres of zoo park and is home to more than 4000 animals.
Called Zooimersion in Spanish, the concept is that visitors are immersed into the animals’ habitat and not the other way around. The zoo achieved this by using rivers, ponds, streams and rocks to separate visitors from the animals instead of the traditional railings and cages that are common in many zoos. The result is a peaceful and natural feeling environment. As adults we often forget how educational and enjoyable a zoo can be. Loved watching these two below strolling along together and then settling in for a nap.
We have googled multiple ways searching for things to do and see in València and talked with various tourist offices. We have visited every place we have found or been recommended to see so we are feel we have a great sense of this beautiful city.
València is very hot and humid this time of the year so it’s time to seek somewhere that offers slightly cooler temperatures. We are finally hitting the road again, albeit cautiously.
Feliz verano – Happy summer.
Salut from these valencianos,
Ted & Julia
View the Valencia Bioparc photo gallery here
View the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) photo gallery here
View the Jardin Botanic photo gallery here