Saturday, July 31, 2010

Largest Aquarium in Europe...Oceanografic in Valencia

You are currently reading a post by "paso annual" holder (that's annual pass holder) to the Oceanografic in Valencia. It was not our original intention to purchase annual passes for the entire family, but when you read the brochure wrong and show up to the aquarium with only an hour until it closes...you do what you gotta do to keep the peace. Earlier in the day, we had walked all around the city, including to the Silk Exchange, where we met Jimmy Carter, (see previous post), and since the aquarium was open until midnight, we decided to take a little siesta back at the hotel before walking down there. The only problem with this plan was that the aquarium didn't start staying open past 8pm until July 17th...and it was July 4th. We left the hotel at 6pm for our 20min (translation: 40min) walk to the aquarium, and when we arrived, that's when we found out we were wrong about the closing timeJustify Full. Hmmmm, so what to do? Well, you already know...annual passes. They would pay for themselves in just 3 visits. So we forked over the euros, got our pictures taken and headed to the dolphin show, which began in just 10 minutes. We would see what we could after the show, and come back the next day on the way out of town. We really loved Valencia, so we have no problem coming back for another visit and getting our money's worth out of our passes. Here are some of the sights from our two-day visit to the Oceanografic... We were able to walk to the aquarium, which is part of Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences. These ultra modern buildings have been constructed in the old riverbed. In the 1950's, Valencia experienced a flood that was so severe officials decided to divert the river completely around the city. Then, in what can only be called a stroke of genius, they turned the dry riverbed into a continuous ribbon of parks with ball fields, bike paths, playgrounds, skate parks, dog parks, cafes, and the buildings that comprise the City of Arts and Science. It really was something to see...

Passes in pocket, we headed to the dolphin show...
After the show, we walked around outside. Not only did the aquarium feature creatures who lived underwater, but those that lived on or near it as well. Check out these adorable little ducklings...
When we returned for Day 2, we returned our attention to the creatures of the deep. The Oceanografic has divided its exhibits into different sections by oceans and seas...Don't ask me which creatures belong to which oceans, because I don't remember. I do, however, know what I like, and that's what you will find below, starting with the jellyfish...
I just loved this tranquil little seahorse...
I loved this sweet "little" seal too...Look at that face...
The sea lions like to sunbathe...
But they seem to want their privacy...I get that...hahahaha...
Stretchy streeeeetch...
Again, with the "What are YOU lookin' at?"
This beluga whale was waiting at the door for dinner...
The penguins were so cute, but they were so fast, I had a hard time getting very many good shots of them...
Loved these next tanks the best...A sting ray takes a rest...
This was my best shot of a shark. With the lighting and the movement, it was difficult to get clear hots, but I love this one...
Wouldn't want to meet up with this guy...
This strange looking fellow is a sun fish. I assume it's because of its round shape and shiny appearance...
These bright little guys are so bright and cheerful. I love how starfish look when they are in the water...
Some sea anenomes...And sea urchins...
This little fellow is a cuddlefish. On Spanish menus it's known as Sepia, and word to the wise...It is terrible. We were told it was a "white fish" and then had to down the rubbery stuff in order to be polite. Yuck!
Here's Joseph getting a view from inside the tunnel...
Well, we had a great time and can't wait to come back again. Hasta luego, Oceanografic...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hello, Mr President! We Met Jimmy Carter at the Silk Exchange in Valencia!

As part of our walking tour around Valencia, Husband and I wanted to tour the Silk Exchange. According to wikipedia, La Liotja de la Seda, or the Silk Excchange, is a late Valencian Gothic style civil building, built between 1482 and 1548. As such, it is one of the major tourist attractions in the city. In 1996, UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site because they deemed it a "site of outstanding universal value as it is a wholly exceptional example of a secular building in the late Gothic style, which dramatically illustates the power and wealth of one of the greatest Mediterranean mercantile cities."

According to Valencia-cityguide.com, the Silk Exchange consists of four main parts: the tower, the Sea Consulate Room, the Orange Tree Patio, and the Contracts Room with the famous spiral columns. In the Contracts Room, there is a blue band that runs along all four walls and in gold letters you'll find an inscription. Here's what it means in english: I am an illustrious house built in fifteen years. Try and see, fellow citizens, how negociation is such a good thing when there is no lie in the speech, when it swears to the neighbor and does not deceive him, when it does not lend money with an interest charge for its use. The merchant who acts this way will prosper galore and at the end he will enjoy eternal life. A merchant's golden rule, perhaps?

When we arrived at the Silk Exchange, I saw two clean cut men speaking English. This caught my attention immediately, since you don't often hear English spoken when you are out and about. Then I saw they had one of those clear curly wires stuck in their ears. A security detail of some sort? Secret service, maybe? Husband said that maybe someone was in Exchange right then. So we decided to keep a lookout as we toured the sight...

The Silk Exchange had beautiful mosaic marble floors, intricately carved and guilded ceilings, heavy wooden doors, lush draperies, and those amazing columns...Here is a sample of some of the floors...
The Contracts Room, also referred to as the Hall of Columns was really amazing...The spiral pattern and the height really made for a lot of drama. Imagine all the business that has gone on inside those walls...
A stairway that leads down to somewhere...
Iron gates open onto the Orange Tree Patio...
Another dramatic look out on the patio...
Stained glass window...Notice the Valencian flag up towards the top...
Don't know what this room was used for, but I loved the doors and draperies...
Here they are up close...
The Orange Tree Patio, but no oranges...bet it's pretty when they are in season...
Don't forget to look up...
We decided to see what was upstairs...We had all but forgotten about who might be here too...
Can you ever really get enough of these amazing ceilings??? Not me...they do give me a crick in the neck sometimes though...
Another fab floor...
All this culture is wasted on the youth...but one day they'll appreciate that we dragged them all around Spain...I hope!
As were descended the stairs, back down to the Patio, we were struck by how Valencia must have been a city focused on the future...Buildings located and even sometimes attached to ancient structures...can't stop progress...
Back on the patio, we noticed even more security had gathered, at least eight men and women, if not more. Was their charge here on the patio right now? We scanned the crowd and that's when I spotted him, former President Jimmy Carter, sitting on a concrete bench, taking a load off, and looking like somebody's grandpa. Then we saw Rosalyn who doesn't seem to have aged much in the last 30 years. We were trying to decide whether or not to interrupt their afternoon. We didn't want to bother them, but how often do you get to introduce your children to a living piece of American history, and on the 4th of July, no less. So Husband introduced himself to a member of the Secret Service and asked if it would be all right to approach the former President and perhaps take a picture with the kids. He said to bring the kids over when we asked and that he was sure it wouldn't be a problem.

So we walked over and Husband introduced himself, telling the President we were stationed in Madrid and were visiting Valencia for the first time. Would he mind taking a picture with the boys? He joked that he'd be happy to, but he didn't even know their names. So the boys had to speak up and introduce themselves. They were a little in awe, but did a good job. Then we posed for a couple of pictures, taken by his son. The President, then told us, they had just come from Barcelona, his favorite Spanish city, and were continuing on to Madrid, where he would visit the Prado again. We admitted sheepishly that we still hadn't made it to Prado, and he told us we simply had to go. He also revealed that Spain was his second favorite country after the "birthday" country...a little 4th of July reference. He thanked Husband for his service, and we went our separate ways. A little while later, as we were visited the closed, but supposed to be open, Serrano Towers, we heard sirens and saw their motorcade pass by. We waved and they honked...a coincidence??? Surely not...glad you aren't here to see Husband's eyes roll...hahaha...Hasta luego...

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