Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Well, in spite of a number of Christmas activities in town, Javea has been feeling quite...small. And freaking cold. After a week of temperatures that barely broke 10 degrees Celcius and the never-ending bureacratic hassles to get our in-floor heating to work, it seemed like a great idea to get the heck out of here - perhaps recapturing a bit of the magic of Santiago? After going back and forth about where to go (Cuenca? Granada?) we finally settled on Valencia. Though only 1 1/4 hours away, it is the 3rd largest city in Spain and we haven't spent any time there yet. Besides, the thought of traveling far did not seem appealing. So we booked an apartment, packed the bags and headed for the Ciudad de las Artes y Sciencias to kick off the trip. This "city" is a vast complex of super modern buildings spread out over a huge area near the port. Our first stop was the science exposition center, where it was prohibited NOT to touch the exhibits. The highlight was the room of mutant animals where we saw a three legged chicken and twin goats and pigs that each shared one head, oh - and the three horned ram head! We told Casey that this is what happens when you marry your brothers. They also had a Marvel Comics exhibit, which interestingly was the same one we did with the kids in LA about 3 years ago but interestingly, they didn't seem to remember it. Yikes - I wonder what they will ultimately take away from their experience in Spain... There was a cute little kids construction area, where children could put on hard hats and pretend to build things, which kept them quite occupied. What we didn't count on, however, was that everyone was getting colds, and they pooped out pretty quickly. So off we headed to our apartment in the Barrio del Carmen, an area described as "funky and hip". What they forgot to mention was "run-down and grafitti-laden"! We parked the car in a very sketchy area, with drunks strolling the street and broken bottles everywhere. I went off to meet the rental people and we finally found our place - adjacent to a very colorful gremlin picture on a carport door below. Turned out the apartment was much more comfortable and nicer than the surroundings might have indicated, but we will likely choose another area next time around. Day 2 was a busy one - first off to the Oceanografic center - the largest marine park in Europe. As it was the middle of a holiday weekend, the place was packed and we seemed to be fighting our way through the crowds. Given all the aquariums we have seen, the kids did not seem terribly impressed and we ended up leaving early to get some food (as all the restaurants inside were packed to the gills). We headed to our next stop, the port where "Cavalia" was playing - basically a Cirque de Soleil show on horseback. Although the show has been getting rave reviews, both Suzanne and I enjoyed previous Cirques much more. Unless you absolutely love horses, this show is a bit slow. Let's face it, horses can't do backflips, and we became tired of watching them prance around backwards. Sure it was cool when they raced across the stage with the riders barely hanging on, but otherwise this show left us wanting more. Christian fell asleep halfway through and we were all weary by the time we got home. A good lesson for future trips - don't try to take on more than one big event per day, especially with sick kids. When we got back to the apartment and put the kids to bed, I walked out through the barrio del Carmen and it seemed much more lively and inviting than the previous night. There were all kinds of cool bars, lounges and restaurants. At 9:30, the places were just opening up, but the barrio was already full of people grabbing copas (glasses of wine) and tapas. Suzanne and I will have to get plenty of rest and come back another time without kids, as this looked like a great place to explore - reminded me a bit of the Mission district in San Francisco. Day 3 was to be another challenge - first the Circo Mundial and then an IMAX movie show. We had a relaxing, lazy breakfast at the apartment and then headed to the circus. This was one of three circuses in town, but offered an interesting mix of acts from well-known circuses around the world. There is something decidedly "un-PC about the circus - angry lions, hungry crocodiles in boxes, violent clowns and hoola-hooping bears among other amazing sights. I'm not sure a circus could be this "old-school" in the states anymore. Needless to say, it was quite enjoyable and the kids loved it. For me, at 1/4 the price of Cavalia, it was worth every penny! The IMAX show (Les Alpes) was very well done, but not particularly unique, save for getting completely soaked in a torrential downpour trying unsuccessfully to get there in time. In spite of staying in the heart of the older part of town, we didn't see too many historical sites this time around, given nobody had much energy for exploring (due to the kids colds and continuous heavy rain). Something to plan for on our next trip back. This trip was more about shows and exhibits - in fact it felt quite like being a tourist in LA, save for the fact that we only heard one family speaking english the whole weekend and the driving is perhaps even more stressful than LA as nobody pays any attention to staying within lanes. To say it is a free-for-all on the roads is an understatement! We were lucky to get out with only one parking ticket and one near collision.