i made the trip to Valencia from Barcelona with plans to spend just one night so i could see the City of Arts and Sciences and then leave the city in my rear view mirror (ok, well, not that harsh, but my expectations were low), but after walking (relatively aimlessly) around town for a couple hours, i definitely want to come back.
i made a wrong turn at the Palace of the Arts yesterday and ended up at the employee entrance (a sign that says “Main Entrance” is misleading if it’s just for employees!). i struck up a conversation with the receptionist and we got to talking (well, no, she struck one up with me; i was happy to just find out more details about the tour of the building’s interior). about Los Angeles and how she has always wanted to go there, about Ibiza vs Minorca (a number of people, including her, have said that Minorca is the place to go for a true island getaway!), and about Valencia vs. Barcelona (and, by extension, Catalonia). [i should note, it wasn’t that my Spanish was that good (it’s not!), it was that her English was excellent. i should also say she was perhaps the most pleasant receptionist i’ve ever met.]
of course, most people would be proud of their hometown, but i got the sense that she truly believed that Valencia deserved just as much attention, if not more, than its more famous sibling up the coast, Barcelona. despite being in two different autonomous communities (which, if you have a chance, read about; i didn’t know until i did some research last night just how decentralized Spain’s government is) with their concomitant separate histories. the Valencians, she said, are much more laid back and less pro-separatist (i.e., Catalonia in the case of Barcelona) as some of the people you’d find to the north, and they don’t have such a big chip on their shoulder, either. the city is also rich with history and art, much stemming from the time when it was part of its own kingdom.
i took her words to heart as i began my meandering through the old town and i truly was surprised. it was like i was walking through Barcelona’s lesser-known little sister (or brother?), the one with the quiet, reserved beauty. the narrow alleyways have the same charm but with a fraction of the crowds and with, it seemed, a lot more down-home heart. well, maybe the latter is a byproduct of the fact that it wasn’t obscured by throngs of people.
as you can tell from my pictures, though, i also fell in love with the loads of street art. tons and tons of large-scale pieces covering entire sides of buildings.
there certainly aren’t as many famous sites in Valencia like there are in Barcelona, but perhaps an analogy the receptionist made is apt. she said Valencia is to Barcelona what Minorca is to Ibiza. quieter, less crowded, less popular, but more authentic and with value and charm of its own and perhaps more worth visiting if you are seeking that sort of experience. well, from what i’ve seen over the past 24 hours, that’s completely true and i want to see more. of course, i could be completely off and she was just being a proud local spewing propaganda, but i hope not 😉