Today was our first day in Valencia and I really didn’t know what to expect of this city. I had spent more time researching Madrid and Barcelona, so I didn’t really have any expectations for Valencia. All I knew when I woke up was how thrilled I was to be waking up in the amazing Caro Hotel.
I had slept in a tiny bit but when I awoke I jumped out of bed looking forward to checking out the Caro Hotel’s breakfast room. I knew that the breakfast room had been part of the old Arabian City Walls. It was pretty cool being surrounded by so much history just in your hotel. I didn’t even realize yet all the history that was waiting for me right outside the hotel doors.
The kids were just finishing up as I moseyed on in.
The breakfast here was my absolute favorite. Everything was so fresh and there was a menu you can order from if you wanted more than what was already out.
I was so stoked to see the freshly squeezed juices. Today they had a blueberry, with a few other berries, freshly squeezed and put into this cute little bottle. How often do you find that anywhere?
I chose a seat near the wall. It was cool to be able to stand on the other side of the wall and know that a few centuries earlier I technically would have been outside the Valencia city limits.
I was in no rush, so after the kids left I was pretty much alone in the breakfast room, which I took advantage of. I ate slowly and looked at my pictures I had taken so far on this trip.
I must have spent about an hour sitting there, so I figured it was time to start my day out in the world. I did want to look around the hotel a little bit before I stepped out.
They have the QR codes on the wall to give you more information. I didn’t have time to listen to them all, but it was really interesting. It was like staying in a posh museum.
Once I stepped outside in the sunshine I was able to really appreciate how pretty and well taken care of this hotel is. It’s obvious the owners and staff put a lot of love into their hotel.
This was the first day I was really venturing out on my own. Mom and Marion and I had similar itineraries and I knew at some point I would be running into them but this was the first time I was going to have to figure out where I was going without Marion.
I put in the my first destination into google maps and was off. At least I thought I was. Google maps is a tricky thing when you are walking because it doesn’t know which direction you are facing. I literally walked around this area a good 5 to 6 times before I got myself going in the right direction. I can only imagine what people thought of all my stopping and turning around I was doing.
My first stop I was trying to get to was the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados in the old city center but I’m pretty sure I ended up taking the long way around.
I did get some pretty photos on my walk and I also got to witness some very brave men painting the outside of a building.
I noticed some orange trees and started to think about the connection between Valencia Oranges from California and the oranges from here in Valencia. It was bugging me enough I had to do a quick look up on the good old iPhone.
The Valencia orange is named for the city of Valencia in Spain because lots of orange trees and citrus fruit grow here. The Valencia orange was created in the U.S. by a citrus farmer who created the Valencia hybrid in California and they became so popular that the company who bought the orange from the original grower spent half of their resources just growing Valencia oranges.
Valencia oranges are the most well known type of orange and are the only oranges that are available in the summer. They are very sweet and have a distinctive bright colored juice and that is why it is the most popular orange used to make orange juice.
Also the city of Valencia, Ca is named after the oranges that were once grown there.
It was kinda neat to associate home with Spain through oranges.
I finally made my way to the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, which is located right next to a very pretty courtyard.
The Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados is a Baroque church that is dedicated to the city’s patron saint and was the most important religious building constructed in Valencia in the 17th century.
Built between 1652 and 1667 by Diego Martínez Ponce de Urrana, it is the only church in the old part of the city that was built new from the foundations up, and not on an existing parish church or convent.
This particular church hadn’t been on my original list of things I wanted to see, but I added it after seeing it on Mom’s. I really hadn’t read much about the church, so I didn’t have anything in particular I was looking for. I just looked around quietly and took some pictures.
My next stop wasn’t far but it was down a little alley way.
At the end of this little alley way is the beautiful San Nicholas Church, this is also where I ran into the kids who were just coming out. They opted to hang out and wait for me to finish my visit.
This is Valencia’s oldest church and was built around 1242. The church became a mosque during the Muslim conquest and is one of the 12 parishes in Valencia that was reconquered after the Restoration of the Diocese which ended under the command of a Christian king.
Every inch of this originally Gothic church is covered with exuberant ornamentation and has been referred to as Valencia’s “Sistine Chapel.”
There is so much detail on every inch of the interior of this church that you can come here every day for years and still not see everything.
Back outside I joined up with Mom and Marion and we started making our way over to Valencia’s Cathedral.
On the way there I snapped a picture of the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados and the Cathedral right next to each other.
The Basilica is on the left and you can see what almost looks like the roman coliseum on the right. That is actually part of the Cathedral. There are so many different looks to this cathedral, it just depends on where you are standing looking at it. The architecture styles include Baroque, Romanesque and Gothic.
We made our way over to the entrance of Valencia’s Cathedral which was built between 1252 and 1482 on the site of an earlier mosque, which was an earlier Visigothic cathedral and perhaps even before that a Roman temple of Diana.
The Cathedral of Valencia is known for its sacred relics and religious works of art; even though some of the artifacts were looted or destroyed during wartime, like the ‘great silver altarpiece’ that was melted down in 1813 in order to pay the troops who fought against Napoleon.
Upon walking in you are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Cathedral.
The interior is predominately Gothic and contain numerous religious and artistic treasures, including the Holy Chalice which has been defended as the true Holy Grail.
We made our way over to the dark, simple chapel in the corner of the Cathedral where the “Santo Caliz,” as the chalice is called here and waited for the small service they were having to be over with so that we could look at this ancient cup.
There were some really gorgeous paintings to look at right outside the chapel while we waited.
The service was finally over and as the crowd dissipated we quietly walked into the chapel and realized we pretty much had the chapel to ourselves.
After looking around the chapel I turned my attention to the Chalice, which at no surprise is kept basically under lock and key and you aren’t allowed to get too close to it.
Whether this is the “real” Holy Chalice or not, it is still an intriguing artifact. It is of ancient date, experts have dated it to the 1st century BC with a provenance of Antioch or Alexandria, and was hidden in a monastery in northern Aragon throughout the Dark Ages. It has been enshrined in the cathedral since 1437 and was given to the Cathedral by king Alfonso V of Aragon in 1436.
The Santo Caliz is made of two parts: an ancient stone cup attached to a medieval stem and base. Fashioned out of dark brown agate, the main cup is 6.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide. The medieval stem and handles are made of gold and the alabaster base is decorated with pearls and precious stones.
The curator of the Santo Caliz has asserted the relic’s authenticity but the head of the Vatican Museums’ department of Early Christian Art, Umberto Utro, has stated that it cannot be the cup used by Christ because it is much too fancy for a poor man and there was no tradition of saving relics back then.
The experts can argue all they want but one thing can be said about the Chalice is it has inspired many legends, books, and movies.
The chapel started to fill up so it was perfect timing to continue walking around and looking in awe at all of the Cathedral’s stunning art and architecture.
The Cathedral’s other popular treasure is the two Goya paintings they have displayed. One painting depicts an exorcism and the tube-like 14th century lantern over the crossing and is said to be the first one to display his characteristic demon-like phantasmic creatures.
The Cathedral also has a museum that contains lots of religious art and artifacts.
There is a 2300-kg monstrance made of gold, silver and jewels donated by Valencians. It is carried through the streets on festival days.
The statues that use to adorn the Apostle door are kept in the museum now.
The Apostle’s doorway current statutes are exact, but modern day copies of the statues in the museum.
There was a stairway that seemed to take us down into the remains of what once stood here as well as taking us to an ancient graveyard where human remains could be seen behind a plexiglass barrier.
You have to look closely at the last two pictures to really see the bones.
We made our way back up the stairs and out of the museum and continued to look around the Cathedral. There was just so much to see.
Wondering around Marion and I came across a group of people all hovering around one area taking pictures, so of course our curiosity was peeked.
Turns out what was fascinating so many was a mummified hand.
The mummified hand belonged to St.Vincent who served as a deacon of the Biship of Saragossa, St. Valerious. During the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, both of them were imprisoned in Valencia where St. Vincent was tortured to death on January 22, 304, while St. Valerious was exiled.
Around 1104, the Bishop of Valencia went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and carried with him the left arm mummified of St.Vincent. I wonder what his packing list looked liked, ‘got my shoes, my underwear, my big hat, and oh yeah my mummified arm.’
We finished up at the Cathedral, I’m sure we missed seeing a ton of stuff, but we still had a lot more to see in the short time we were in Valencia.
We walked down the well taken care of alleys in this area of Valencia on our way to Santa Catalina Church.
Santa Catalina Church is one of the city’s oldest church’s and is the city’s only Gothic church. It was built on the site of a former Mosque in the 14th century.
The Church has survived fires and civil war, but it did take quite a beating.
The inside of the church didn’t have a lot of decoration, which in my opinion gave it a nice, quiet charm to it. There was a very beautiful rose window and stain glass windows to admire. I’m always amazed at the craftsmanship of these windows.
Once you walk back outside and walk a few feet away you can see the church’s bell tower which is one of the city’s landmarks. It also marks the entrance to the popular Barrio del Mercat neighborhood.
We were now in the popular Mercat neighborhood that is located in the center of the city. This area was developed starting in the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the Central Market, that was built here in the early 20th century, that this area became the place to be. The neighborhood abounds in historic sights that pass centuries old traditions on to the new millennium.
The outside tables were filled with people enjoying a relaxing meal among the gorgeous, historic buildings.
One of this area’s historic buildings is the La Lonja de la Seda building which is also known as the Silk Exchange.
La Lonja de la Seda was built between 1482 and 1533 and was part of a group of buildings originally used for trading in silk. It is one of the most important and best preserved examples of Late Gothic architecture in all of Europe. In 1996 the La Lonja was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was built during the Golden Age of Valencia and no expense was spared on the lavishness and luxury of the architecture.
Upon entering the building we stepped out into a beautiful and peaceful walled court yard known as the Orange Garden.
We stepped inside and found ourselves inside the main hall, Sala de Contratacion (The Contract Hall), which is enormous and is decorated by gorgeous twisted columns.
This was the center of life in La Lonja, the place where the merchants would meet, deal and sign.
The second floor was one of the main function rooms, with the upper one hosting a richly decorated ceiling that was so magnificent the King rode out of the capital just to see it.
Marion pointed out the very M. Escher style floors. To me it looked like Mom was in a game with Q*Bert.
After exiting La Lonja, we went across the street to another one of Valencia’s oldest chruch’s, The Santos Juanes Church. It is a National Heritage site and when you view it coming from La Lonja it is an impressive looking church but when you walk behind it, it becomes something entirely different – an almost deserted, simple, huge and monumental Gothic structure.
The church was originally built in 1240 on the site of another old mosque. The church was modified in the 14th and 16th centuries, with the baroque element appearing in the 17th century.
The interior is richly decorated and has statues depicting the 12 tribes of Israel by Bertesi and large ceiling frescoes depicting numerous themes of the church triumphant by Antonio Palomino. The interior did sadly suffer some arson damage during the Spanish Civil War.
Next we made our way over to the heart of the Mercat neighborhood, Mercado Central Market.
Dating back to the Moorish Valencia, Mercado Central is one of the oldest still running markets in Europe. In 1839, an open-air market was built at the site of the traditional street market and in 1928 the market place was roofed over. This wonderful piece of Art Nouveau architecture was designed by Catalan architects Alexandre Soler i March and Francesc Guàrdia i Vial.