Valencia, a place to quench your thirst with the freshest orange juice right off the tree and get filled with jewels from monuments to gemstones

I recall, once,
shortly after leaving the city for a day trip, our guide had the driver stop so that we could pick a small clementine off the tree.  And what a difference a day makes.  No oranges, no matter how fresh the shop keepers say they are, have ever tasted like this juicy sweet fruit. But whether it’s really a law or hearsay, you can’t just go around picking oranges off some one else’s trees. However, you can legally eat all you want if you stay under the tree.   But that’s only one of the surprises and offerings that Valencia with a population of 800,000, the third large city after Madrid and Barcelona, is known for.

Valencia rates right up there at the top with great sightseeing.  Although , as I write this, Spain s going through a terrible economic crisis, with high unemployment especially among the young (said to be 50%), it doesn’t seem to have hampered the visitors from traveling to this cultural city with the Turia River running through it  and bike and walking trails beside the rushing waters. There’s been a 12% significant increase since 2010 (this being 2012),  With hotel rates lowering their usual rates followed by restaurants and even high priced boutiques, this is certainly a help to tourism which  is very important to the economy of this country. And obviously, this reduction is working since the the hotel where I stayed, the wonderfully located Expo Hotel, had few vacant rooms.

The new and wond
erful landmark , The Arts and Science Complex, is unique and has  catapulted a new energy for tourists and locals and become a significant architectural statement worldwide. It’s a  showplace as notable as Sydney’s Opera House, the Burj Al Arab Hotel in to Dubai and Spain’s own Guggenenheim Museum in Bilbao.

The Arts and Science complex  which took six years to build, was designed by the very noted, Valencian born, Santiago Calatrava and Madrid’s Felix Candela. Included are a marvelous, sensuous round building which is the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia for opera and other performing art,  the domed L’Hemisfera, which houses  IMAX and a planetarium,  that  is the shape of a human eye and resembles a ‘blink” when the roof closes, El Museu de les  Principle Fillip, resembling a whale’s skeleton and is the centre for science elements.

Outside  are shallow pools, sculptures and fountains making this a very user friendly huge space. And all the condos that have been built and surround this area are the most expensive in the city. The Arts and Science complex, also was voted Best Convention Centre in the world  in 2012 and in 2012, the new Golf car was launched here.

But there are also breath taking older sites like the Cathedral with two original Goya paintings along with original 18th century carvings and amazing vaulted ceiling. Architecture  is of major interest for the locals and knowledgable travelers..  Even though the Town Hall is now empty, it’s a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

And not to forget, the most social of social events..eating… or in this country dining. Food seems to be on the mind at all times of the Spaniards.

First sniff of the local produce  for me was at the major steel and glass roofed, 8,000 square metre  market , one of the largest in Europe,where every fruit, veggie, sausage, rice, seems to have just been loaded off the farm truck and set in the artfully arranged stalls.  I couldn’t stop watching a butcher slice the covering from the outside of a ham with such passion and precision and the care and tenderness of a master craftsman.  That in itself, was a riveting performance.  But to add to this somewhat curious event, there was even a baritone and pianist performing, advertising their upcoming concert.  And it seems the siesta, the usual hour snooze  after lunch , is as dead as the dodo since retailing in these  difficult times, doesn’t allow for closed doors.

“We need to work,” the guide said with great authority.

Not to be missed, no matter rain or cold, is a walk through this historic town.

But still another surprise was my meeting with one of the most talented, imaginative and important jewelry designers in Spain.  Vincente Gracia is getting ready to leave for London where he will launch a book about his artistic jewelry designs. He is one of Spain’s true treasures, known as the jeweler of jewelers. Another jewel to add to Valencia.