Valencia, Spain

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The Brave Roman City

Valencia was originally named for the valor of its Roman settlers in the second century BC. Like many strategic ports in the Mediterranean, it was captured and re-captured throughout its history, bringing a rich cultural heritage. The port, already quite large, was renovated dramatically to accommodate the America's Cup races in 2007.

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Plaza de la Virgen
The Cathedral in Valencia has converted back and forth between Christianity and Islam each time it was re-conquered. The present cathedral holds the only Holy Grail to have been recognized by the Vatican. This fountain in the Plaza de la Virgen behind the cathedral represents the Turia river (the large man) and its tributaries (his daughters around him), bringing irrigation to Valencia.
Ceramics Museum
Even a thousand years ago, Valencia was known for its ceramics, and the city has memorialized its past with a ceramics museum. The best part of the visit is to be in the glorious rococo confection that is its building, restored to its grandeur and housing the exhibits. Dating from the fifteenth century, it was the palace for the Marques de Dos Aguas. The over-the-top entrance was added in the eighteenth century.
City of Arts and Sciences
A 1957 flood in Valencia caused the city to divert the Turia river, creating a large riverbed in the middle of the city. It's now home to parks and recreational areas, and much of it houses the City of Arts and Sciences, a cluster of museums and performance venues. It's a little like having a World's Fair in your town all year round. The buildings are futuristic (still, twenty years later), and the city is still expected to expand.
Aviary
One of our favorite venues in the City of Arts and Sciences was the Oceanographic, a marine complex with the largest aquarium in Europe and many habitats for land animals and birds as well. Here in the aviary, an egret and a red ibis are making friends.