This past weekend travelled to the east coast of Spain and visited Cuenca and Valencia. In all honesty, this was my least favorite trip around Spain. It was still fun and I still took a million pictures, but there wasn’t a whole lot to like there was in Barcelona and Andalucía.
We spent most of the first day in Cuenca. Cuenca is about the size of my high school and there are only 2 things to see there. The first thing we saw was, of course, you guessed it: a cathedral. This cathedral was much than the ones we have seen before because this cathedral was the first to be built and was the prototype for the other cathedrals to be based off of. Inside, our professor explained that the Cathedral of Cuenca was a mixture of different artistic periods, with pieces of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic art adorning the interior. It was a very pretty church nonetheless and I answered all of the Sainthood questions correctly that Paco asked us.
Then we saw the hanging houses from this awesome bridge suspended over a massive gorge. They were very cool and the signature of Cuenca. We got to go inside one of them that had been converted into an art museum. A modern art museum. Now, as we all know, I’m not a big art person but Paco makes it interesting for me and I feel engaged in the art because he is such a good professor.
I could not care less about modern art. Like at all. I have arts and crafts from kindergarten that look like some of this stuff. In my opinion, I just can’t put modern works and masterpieces from El Greco and Picasso on the same level. If you’re into that sort of stuff, go see it! You would love it — I just didn’t.
Then we got back on the bus and headed for Valencia. The first thing we saw in Valencia was my favorite part of the trip! We went to the Fallas museum. Fallas is a festival dedicated to the Patron Saint Day of St. Joseph, which was on March 19. This festival is a festival of lights and illuminations…and fire! The Valencian people spend an entire year making gigantic parade floats out of wood and paper mache. And on the night of Fallas, the floats are burned. All that hard work just to go up in flames — literally! But there is a special competition for the Ninot Indultat. [“Ninot” means “doll” in Valenciano]. This means that one doll/figurine from the best float will be saved and put on display in the Fallas museum. The museum had all of the Ninots since the beginning of the 2o century! Some of the Ninots are huge and overwhelming and others are small and preserved in glasses cases and others are entire scenes with multiple characters. But of all the Ninots are very
detail orientated and life-like, even the ones from back in the day. The 2014 one wasn’t on display yet but the 2013 one was a little girl sitting with her father in a chair reading a book, with a bookshelf behind them and a rocking horse by the little girl’s feet. It was so realistic! But my favorite is the Ballerina from 2012! Other than the Ninots, there are also paintings of the Falleras. The Falleras are girls who dress up in traditional costumes and put their hair in Princess Lea buns and have a beauty pageant. For little American girls, the goal is to be Miss USA. For Valencian girls, the goal is to be Fallera Mayor. These girls are so pretty and they take a lot of pride in their regional culture and competition. For those of you who are up on your Iberian Peninsulahistory, the area of Valencia was controlled by the Iberians and they created Dama de Elche. Look at the similarity. It’s just a theory but it could work. I know you all see it.
The next day we started off by going to the Aquarium. I love aquariums and this one reminded me of Sea World. There was a shark tunnel that we got to walk through and tons of different species of fish. There was also a beluga whale and walrus exhibit and they were awesome! Beluga whales were my favorite when I was a kid and would watch the same VHS about whales with my brother over and over again. So I was very happy to see the Belugas. But the best part of the aquarium was the dolphin show! There was an outside arena and the dolphins were wonderful! I want a pet dolphin that does backflips in my pool, don’t you?!
After the aquarium, we went to….the Cathedral. But this Cathedral was no ordinary Cathedral. This Cathedral was a religious experience that I haven’t had since I went to the Vatican in Rome. In the Cathedral of Valencia, in the most sacred chapel of all the chapels, is the Holy Grail. Not like the Jay-Z song, y’all. The Holy Grail is believed by Catholics to be the Chalice that Jesus drank
out of during the Last Supper. I didn’t experience the Miracle of Tears or anything like that but I was definitely moved that I could be so lucky to stand in front of one of the most important Catholic artifacts in the world. The Chalice was guarded by glass, a velvet rope and two security guards so no one was getting past that but it was still cool to see it.
On the last day of the trip, we went to La Albufera. La Albufera reminded me of Sunken Meadow Park on Long Island, where I used to go on nature field trips in elementary school. La Albufera is a National Park and has many species of ducks inhabiting the area. We even went to a museum about La Albufera that was in a garage. I’m not even kidding. We went on a riverboat cruise in the park and also visited the 4 ecosystems that make up La Albufera — forest, marsh, dunes and beach. It was rainy and cold so we didn’t get to spend time on the beach, which ended up being a good thing because we learned that the beach is actually a nude beach. And we definitely didn’t need that, like at all. La Albufera is famous for its rice paddies. Valencian rice is the best for making paella and the type of rice harvested in La Albufera is specially marked to be sold only throughout Spain — it does not go outside of the country. How authentic! I had to buy a bag so that my parents can make paella for me when I get back to the states 🙂 Even though the town was a ghost town with only 500 residents, there were 3o restaurants, all dedicated to paella. And we ate some for lunch and it was so good!