This is it, the final port of our cruise before returning to Marseille and then back home. Beautiful Valencia turned out to be our favorite port and a true surprise for both of us. Spain was never on our “must travel to” list so we were not really excited about it, but since it was our last port we gave it a shot and were blown away. Goes to show you should always try things you normally wouldn’t.
The port was a good drive from the center/old part of town so MSC arranged for buses to run all day back and forth for us. We hopped a bus and drove through a very residential part of the city. Notably, the streets were lined with orange trees… Valencia oranges I can only assume. The bus turned over a bridge and stopped to let us off right in front of a quilt shop! Could the day be any more perfect? There was also zero chance that we would forget the location of the bus stop. 🙂 I shopped for a minute but they didn’t have any small kits or patterns that I cared for. I still had a smile on my face.
Before heading into the old part of town for sightseeing, we made a stop at the playground I noticed when the bus was turning onto the bridge. Brock was thrilled. The park was actually in the riverbed below the bridge… and there is a really interesting story about it. We also appreciated that a random local offered us directions and explained the story (with limited details) without trying to sell us something. He was just a genuine person looking to talk about his home.
In 1957 Valencia experienced a terrible flood, the flood that broke the camel’s back. The very next year the council voted to divert the Turia river into a canal outside of the city. Once the river was diverted, the bed was left while the city worked through some plans. Initially the plan was to create a super highway, but citizens pushed back with the motto, “The bed of Turia is ours and we want green!” The citizens won and today the 5 mile river bed is filled with playgrounds, soccer fields, bike paths, and fountains for everyone to enjoy. Today, people still call it “the river” which can be quite confusing to anyone looking for water. Really remarkable. I found a really interesting article about it if you are interested.
After a good walk and play we decided to head into town. The very first thing we saw was the Towers of Serrans which was one of the gates that guarded the city, built towards the end of the 1300’s. This particular gate was, and still is, used as the official entrance to the city for kings and dignitaries.
Immediately we were taken by the beauty of the city, and I noticed the importance of thread work. I cannot think of another way to put it. But on every block there was a shop selling lace work and thread. Chain link construction fences were woven with yarns to create a beauty to hide the mess, and we even saw a building with cross stitch on the outside walls. In all our travels I have never seen so many sewing shops, and certainly not anywhere near as many thread art. I really savored every moment.
The lace was unlike anything I have ever seen, and mostly colored black and shaped into veils and shawls. Often, these lace shops also sold beautiful hand fans. No two fans were the same. Some had lace, others were wood or paper, and most had floral patterns painted on them. Thinking back, we really should have taken some pictures. We may have missed that opportunity, but we did catch some artists creating a Marilyn Monroe spray painting on a burger bar.
We were even lucky enough to stumble on Antique Alley! We popped in a few shops but didn’t find anything that we had to take home with us. By this point we were feeling so lucky. We had a wonderful time in the park, the city was stunning, clean, not crowded AND we found the antique shop quarter which is one of our favorite things to do. But it was about to get better. I looked through a few ceramic shops looking for the elusive piece that I wanted, and I found it! I bought a large serving bowl and a thimble for my mom with the last of the cash we had on hand. If only I had found an ATM I would have gone back to that shop and bought a whole set of ice cream bowls in the same design.
Our day was complete. It was the perfect ending to our wonderful vacation.
That night, after dinner the moon was really stunning and Fil was able to capture our last evening at sea.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip! Maybe you have added some places to your bucket list. We have only been home for a week and I already feel like this trip was a life time ago. The beauty we saw is really hard to put into words. We saw so many beautiful things, but also had an absolutely grand time on board. This was the perfect first cruise for us both.
Even with this trip so fresh we are on to more! In a few weeks I will be doing a fast weekend in London with one of my best girlfriends when she comes to visit. And just this morning I discovered a “shop hop” through quilt shops in the Netherlands so I am thinking of planning a road trip. I just can’t sit still! By the way, a shop hop is a program where participating shops offer a pattern for a specific sized row of a quilt. You hop from shop to shop collecting patterns then create a memory quilt of your travels. How fun! Plus the Netherlands has been our favorite country to visit.
Unless something changes, we will be leaving Europe by the end of this year so now is our chance. Wish us luck for a fun summer!