Star Trek, Sunfish & Stegosaurus
It's now October, where the northern half of Europe is beginning to prepare for the colder months … the icy mantle of winter is nigh. Cooler mornings and dipping temperatures at night… the sun is lower in the sky but is still very hot at midday (at least here in our corner of Spain). What shall we do, in the last few months before Christmas?
Perhaps it’s time for visiting Valencia, the third largest city in Spain. We always had other things to do, photos and write-ups of festivals, general living etc. Now, in-between times, is the perfect time for a day-trip from Perleta Magic, to Valencia.
Valencia. Besides its many attributes it also has the City of the Arts and Sciences, in five separate spaces. A leading-edge, futuristic museum complex, it is designed by the Valencian Santiago Calatrava, not only an architect, but also a structural engineer, and a sculptor. He is known the world over, not only in Spain.
But funnily enough, he was born in Valencia; most of his early work was in Switzerland and Spain. He has exhibited his amazing architecture, modern, bold, striking but simple lines, and won awards and acclaim for his avant-garde designs, in Spain as well as in the world. The City of Art and Sciences in Valencia is stunning.
The complex is built in the former Túria riverbed - it is frequently described as sensational, innovative and radical. What is on there, now it is slightly past high season? The official website described a prehistoric dinosaur exhibition set up in the outdoor area on one of the structures called L’Umbracle, plus a StarTrek exhibition in the main El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe.
And, a whole host of other exhibitions in this vast complex… including the headline act, the most amazing aquarium in the whole of Europe: the L’Oceanografic. They also have the Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts building and The 'Hemispheric'. A good time to visit then...
I couldn’t wait to get going on the trip. Up early, juice-up the car, check the tyres, clean the windscreens. A nippy chill in the air, the sun was just peeping its way out of clouds on the horizon. We got on the motorway at 08:00am… past bodegas and grapevines, thick slabs of marble and stone at the quarries, oranges and peaches ready for harvest. Also past hilltop fortresses, some still functional whilst others were ruined castles of a bygone era. One remembers Moorish conquests… cliff-top fortresses were shrouded in the mist of early morning.
It only took us an hour and a half to reach the outskirts of Valencia. The sun was up and very hot as we made our way to the old town. We were delighted to find the roads immaculate and free-flowing. Light and airy, there many parks around the area, meandering down to the river. The road design reminded us of Paris: apartment blocks with commanding views straddling wide avenues.
Valencia is divided into two by the old river, which has been reserved as green space, and has many low-lying bridges crossing it. Our target was the spectacular site of the iconic arts and sciences complex - The City of Arts and Sciences. In the middle of the dry river bed now sits the Turia Gardens; amazing facades and futuristic spaces, trees and flower gardens, landscaped ponds and lakes. From a personal point of view, the architecture is absolutely stunning, and is accentuated by the turquoise water and deep blue sky. This location should be the only place on the planet to greet aliens in a space ship, as it looks like it came out of the 35th century; rather appropriate that it was hosting a Star Trek exhibition.
It has been transformed into an oasis… tranquil blue and green, lush and calming. It boasts cafés, climbing frames, a skateboard park and many other sporting facilities. Smart hotels lie on either side of the Turia Gardens. Shopping centres, gyms, cinema-complexes, and more... Three Sedgeways (a bike or a scooter?) tootled past. There are tours around the Turia Gardens lasting about an hour and a half at your own pace on the cycle or pathways using the Sedgeway or bicycles to rent as your mode of transport - great. To have created this … is surely a testament to the Valencian vision and progressive outlook.
We started the day by way of the fascinating world of Dinosaurs. … I had always wanted to go to this mystical era (... mind you, only as a fly on the wall!), before time and history began.
The robotic, dinosaur exhibit ‘Among Dinosaurs’, is located on the top of the underground car park. Called the L’Umbracle, it is of a futuristic design, resembling in some ways a spine of the enormous fish.
Stegosaurus, 2.5-metres tall; 27-meter long Diplodocus, or the extraordinary 14-metre tall Tyrannosaurus Rex, all done in robotic replicas… 26 dinosaurs that would be amazing to watch and learn the excavation methods used in palaeontology of these awesome creatures. mimus, with long back legs and a horny beak – it was able to run 60 km per hour…eek, run… Jurassic Park, eat your heart out.
Next, the Prince Felipe Museum of Science …. stopping to take photos of the stunning architecture. Dazzling, whiter-than-white buildings surrounded by pools of aquamarine shading to turquoise, in cloudless, electric-blue skies. Prince Felipe museum exhibits a NO to touch-nothing practices. Instead, it encourages one to touch, feel, learn… through curiosity and entertainment. We needed no second bidding. We saw many couples, young and old, groups and school children trying things out.
Though the star, as far as I was concerned, was the StarTrek exhibit. This marks the first time a StarTrek exhibition had left the United States. We just missed seeing Marina Sirtis, (Counsellor Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation), as our arrival was a few days after her visit to Valencia.
She was there on 20th October to check out the StarTrek exhibit, as well as to host the SciFi conference at Espatrek 2010, Valencia. Nonetheless, we marvelled at the costumes, photographs, models and gizmos … even original objects d’art like Klingon weaponry.
StarTrek, the TV series and film, attract a huge following of people across all nations. This exhibition in Valencia runs through until Feb. 2011, when the next stop will be other European cities.
Next, we ventured into the L’Oceanografic complex. It is amazingly huge; it is the biggest outdoor/indoor marine park in Europe. In fact, it is a whole marine complex within the larger complex of the Art and Sciences, set to one side of Turia Gardens. Oh boy! I’m going to have to do a lot of walking that day.
The complex supports a huge variety of ocean inhabitants from different environments: Arctic, Antarctic, Mediterranean and temperate regions...among other themed zones. Sunfish, penguins, beluga whales, walruses, jellyfish. The shark tunnel was awesome… spider-crabs, yellow puffer fish, sea stars and seahorses, … besides some very big, evil-looking sharks with sharp, pointed teeth.
You can view pinkish-tinged Roseate spoonbills and scarlet ibis from up close in the Wetlands Zone - it was mesmerising to watch.
The sunfish, which were already huge in my eyes, were tiny compared to the gargantuan size they can grow to be. It is the heaviest known bony fish in the world, has average adult weight, of 1,000 kg. Ocean sunfish are native to the temperate and tropical waters of every ocean in the world. Its common English name, sunfish, refers to the creature’s habit of sunbathing at the surface of the water – obviously impervious to the sun’s harmful rays! It is also know as ‘moon fish’ and ‘swimming head’ in other languages. I was fascinated, and could have watched the sunfish, sharks, and so many of the exhibits for hours on end. For next-time…
Fabulous day out! We didn’t have time to complete the Valencia To-Do list…. but, did we have a good time visiting Valencia for a day? Sure did.