El riu és nostre i el volem verde. (The river is ours and we want green.)
-Citizens of Valencia in 1986 demanding the Turia riverbed be used as a park and not highway
To experience Spain's past, present, and future, look no further than Valencia: the city's UNESCO-listed La Lonja de la Seda, or Silk Exchange, represents the 15th-century Valencian Golden Age under Christian rule; sidewalk cafes and beaches teem with tourists and locals enjoying lazy summer days; the city's newest attraction, the City of Arts and Sciences, dives into technological advances with stunning modern architecture and exhibits that explore the future. Mango and I took the high speed train from Madrid to Valencia and arrived in an hour and a half (the train was a bit pricey at $140 round trip for me and $45 for Mango, but worth it). While Mango enjoyed the tile floor and air conditioning of our cute hostel, I rented a bike and enjoyed a leisurely ride around the city. And naturally, the first place to go by bike is Turia Gardens, a 9 kilometer park that replaced the Turia river after a devastating 1957 flood prompted its diversion. Not only is this sliver of a park full of people, activity, and lush vegetation, but it's an interesting lesson in urban planning: after the flood, the city started planning for a massive highway to replace the river (under the misguided notion that it would ease traffic), but Valencians rightly demanded (and got) a park for the people that would connect the city to the beach. Thirty years later, the park is as popular as ever with safe, welcoming spaces for pedestrians, runners, cyclists, children, and pets; I highly doubt the highway would be looked upon so beatifically today if it had been built. (Great pictures of the park planning here.)
Apart from meandering through Turia Gardens, Mango and I walked around the old town, getting lost in the pedestrian-only maze of alleyways and dark corners. It's hard to believe that so much can be packed into one city, but it can. Twenty-four hours is not enough time to enjoy this city of oranges, lace, and paella, but it's enough to whet my appetite for a return trip.
La Lonja de la Seda
City of Arts and Sciences
Ciutat Vella (old town)