Friday, 30 June 2017

Valencia: The port

The restored section of the former maritime station

Today's plan was to visit the port of Valencia, looking in particular for the former Maritime Station, and enjoying a fish lunch at one of the many restaurants along Passeo de Neptuno at the port end of the beach. We got there by taking the metro to Benimaclet and then tram to the Arenes tram stop. Our first sights were the massive beach (both long and deep), mainly to the north ...

... and a tree-lined path heading towards the port.

We soon found there was much more to see than we had expected. The first surprise was the former Varadero Public (which translates as public repair yard).

It was built in 1915 and appears to be nearing the end of a modern refurbishment and extension. We especially admired the bright red-orange brick, the windows and the frieze of ceramic tiles.

 Almost opposite was the enormous Customs House.

We followed the road to find the former station. It consists of a train shed with a stone building at each end. The engineer was Federico Gomez de Membrillera. The building at the far end has been fully restored and looks wonderful, restoration of the the one at the near end seems to just be starting. It looks rather picturesque.

The tiled frieze of fish and the extremely ornate plaster work were especially impressive.

Just next door is the Port Authority building with a wonderful Italianate tower.

As we walked back we noticed some pleasing new office buildings by the quay ...

... and another intriguing one beyond.

Conditions: hot (32 degrees) and sunny.

Distance: a couple of miles.

Rating: five stars.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Valencia Art Nouveau: houses

Casa el Punto de Gantxo (Crochet Work House)

We spotted this wonderful building yesterday behind the Basilica of the Virgin of the Abandoned and decided to make it the start of our second art nouveau (modernisme in Spanish) walk in Valencia (see also the Markets and Station walk). It is in Plaza de la Almoina and was the work of Manuel Perris Ferrando. A close up will illustrate the combination of the coloured facade with the extraordinary columns.

From here we headed to the Plaza de la Reina, in front of the Cathedral, where at the southern end are a nice pair of buildings. On the right is Casa Sanchez de Leon (1896, by master builder Luca Garcia).

And on the opposite corner is La Isla de Cuba (1896), with its fine relief figures. The design was also by master builder Lucas Garcia (shades of Ibsen).

We headed along Paz to see this lovely house, about which I can find nothing

At the end we turned into Calle Colon to soon turn left into Jorge Juan which leads to the celebrated Mercado de Colon (see separate post). Immediately we were confronted with the extraordinary Casa del Dragon (1901, by Jose Manuel Cortina).

The facade on the right side has the most impressive dragon coiling at the bottom of a column. I had to omit part of its tail because a large rubbish bin was in the way.

After a thorough exploration of the Mercado, and a nice lunch there, we continued our walk. There were two pleasing houses adjoining each other in Carrer del Comte de Salvatierra at the back of the Mercado. Number 25 with its exquisite circular window was especially attractive.

Then we made a brief left into Carrer Ciril Amoros and enjoyed this lovely building at number 74. The carved roses are spectacular.

Now we doubled back and walked along Ciril Amoros towards Calle Colon, soon reaching, at number 29, the astounding Casa Ferrer (1907-08, by Vicente Ferrer Perez).

Here is a closer view of the rose decorations at the top.

We were lucky enough to find the main door open and so we had a quick look inside.

This was effectively the end of the walk - we headed back towards the city centre. However, I can't resist adding another couple of gems. The first is the Casa Ordeig in Plaza del Mercado, facing both the Mercado Central and the Lonja, or Silk Exchange. It dates from 1907 and was the work of Francisco Mora. Mora was also the architect of the Mercado Colon. The suggestion of battlements is presumably a nod to the medieval Lonja, but there are also some delightful flower motifs.

The site is very cramped and partly obscured by trees, but there are some lovely tiles and stonework on the right side of the building in Calle Ramiletes.

A bit northwest of Plaza del Mercado is this recently renovated house in Plaza del Mercat. I rather doubt that this was the original colour scheme, but the overall effect is excellent.

Conditions: hot and sunny again.

Source: some inspiration was taken from the visit Valencia website, although the pictures are poor and the map illegible. There are also clearly many more good art nouveau buildings than are listed in this document. We stumbled on several, but doubtless there are more in the Eixample area.

Distance: a couple of miles.

Rating: four stars. Some lovely houses, but only two real gems.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Valencia: Turia Gardens and the City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences: the Science Museum and the Hemisferic

One of the most extraordinary things about Valencia is the Turia Gardens. The River Turia, which arcs around the old town, had repeatedly flooded the city and after a particularly devastating flood on 14 October 1957 it was decided to divert its course some way upstream. It now reaches the sea to the south of the city and the former river bed has been turned into an immense linear park, 9km in length. The gardens were inaugurated in 1986 and comprise areas of a very different character from football pitches to children's play areas. The astonishing City of Arts and Sciences is at the end nearest the sea.

We started our day with a visit to the interesting Bellas Artes Museum. We then passed through the disappointing Royal Gardens, a conventional park, and joined the Turia Gardens at the Royal Bridge. Bridges are a key feature of the park, although the initial effect feels somewhat incongruous.

The park is quite wide at this point are there are several broadly parallel paths you can take. We took a middle line and soon reached the next bridge, the modern and rather striking Puente de la Exposition by Santiago Calatrava.

I had secretly hoped that the park might be home to some butterflies and was delighted when Ange spotted a Swallowtail while I was photographing the bridge. Apart from a few Geranium Bronzes and Whites that was it however.

We passed a funfair to reach the next bridge: the Puente Real, a magnificent affair with a small lake underneath and remarkable canopies housing statues at one end. It was at its most attractive seen through a screen of pine trees. It was rebuilt in 1519.

Soon afterwards we came to the large lake in front of the Palau de Musica.

The final bridge was a nice, fairly minimalist, art deco number. Soon afterwards, we reached the northern tip of the City of Arts and Sciences, the braibchild of Santiago Calatrav. We were greeted by the extraordinary Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts, an opera house completed in 2005, but still looking startling and fresh.

We spotted a bar area in the shady overhang and enjoyed a quiet drink there listening to an excellent play list of mainly 60s and 70s music. Ahead of us, seen under a road bridge were two more strange structures. On the left the end of the Prince Felipe Museum of the Sciences and on the right the Hemispheric, a cinema and the first building to be completed of the City in 1998. Everything we could see seemed so futuristic, that we were disappointed there were no robots or androids. Perhaps there were ...

Here is a side-on view of the Hemisferic, which houses a cinema, planetarium and a laserium.

Here is one of the Museo de les Ciences (2000). Its design is supposed to evoke the skeleton of a whale.

We thought the way in which all the buildings were connected by and to water was really interesting. It seems to reference the fact the site was once a river, but also serves to enhance the buildings.

Beyond the Science Museum was the wonderful l'Assut d'Or bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava, shown here with the purple Agora, a covered venue for concerts and sporting events, behind it.

The remaining buildings are the Umbracle (2009), an open structure enveloping a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia and a sculpture walk …

… and the Oceanografic (2003), designed by Félix Candela. It is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe.

Conditions: sunny and very hot, 34 degrees.

Distance: about 3 miles - we took a taxi back to our hotel.

Rating: 5 stars. The Gardens are a delight but the City of Arts and Sciences is truly astonishing.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Valencia Art Nouveau: two markets and a station

Mercado Colon

There are a good number of art nouveau buildings in Valencia, and the scattered houses are described in a separate post. This one focuses on the three big structures which should be high on any visitor's hit list. We started at the Mercado Colon, located off to the south east of the centre quite close to the Calle Colon section of the inner ring road. (Colon of course was the man we call Christopher Columbus.)

The market is a simply wonderful building of red brick with a riot of mosaic, ceramic and stone decorative features. The building was inaugurated on New Year’s Eve 1916 and was designed by City architect of the day, Francisco Mora, who was influenced by the Catalan Modernisme movement of Doménech i Montaner, Puig and Cadafalch.

Here is a closer up picture of the top section of the facade.

It no longer functions as a market and was renovated after having fallen into decline and disrepair. The renovation won a European cultural award in 2003. It now calls itself a Gastro Market and houses a selection of bars and cafes.

In the far corner there is a particularly attractive (and rather Gaudi-esque) wine bar where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

Now we headed into the centre of the old city to reach the Mercado Central, which still functions as a food market and is open every morning. It opened in 1928 and its style is less purely art nouveau than that of Mercado Colon and more eclectic. It is a much larger building also and its layout is rather like that of a church with three naves and an apse.

The main market hall is capped by a glass dome.

At the far end there are elaborate decorative tiles, glass and stone work.

All around there stained glass with floral patterns and some rather lovely tiled sunflowers (a classic art nouveau motif).

Now we headed towards the southern end of the old city to reach the third great sight, the Estacion del Norte (North Station, slightly oddly given that it is in the south of the old city). It was built 1907-1917 and the architect was Demetrio Ribes. The main facade is absolutely wonderful.

There are towers to the left and right, which currently highlight the station's 100th anniversary.

A more detailed look at one of the entrance doors reveals beautiful stained glass and fruit motifs.

Inside, the booking hall is a riot of decoration. This lovely sign is at the entrance to the main concourse.

The booking hall roof is held up by these magnificent columns.

Conditions: still hot and sunny.

Distance: only a couple of miles.

Rating: five stars.