Wanderings in Valencia
We staggered into Valencia, scored some food and some Internet, and then settled into a pleasant hostal. The next day, we dropped off some laundry, and then I headed out to the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias. It's this strip of amazing buildings, all curves and wildly soaring arches and glass. Amazing!
Inside, there's one of the best science museums I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot, and even volunteered in a one). Probably only half of the exhibits are finished, but what is there is top-notch. They've built their own exhibits, rather than, as so many others do, buy commercial exhibits from the Exploratorium and other providers.
Now, there was a smallish room devoted to Exploratorium exhibits (I think that they have some sort of affiliate relationship with them), but there is so much more. They have a great 60' pendulum demonstrating procession (just like the Smithsonian), some cool electricity projects, and a gigantic satellite photo of the area that visitors can walk over (sans shoes) and check out.
On the top floor, they had the most extensive DNA/gene exhibit I've ever seen, with great graphics and design, and plenty of English-language labels. The whole museum just rocked. And, as I said, they've probably only filled up about half of the space available.
Then I left to meet M. for lunch and head over to the associated aquarium. Unfortunately, we got confused about where to meet, and we were both a little upset when we finally got together, M. more than me, as she'd been wandering around more in the heat.
Then we showed up at the aquarium, only to find that we couldn't eat in the really fine restaurant there, as they were all full up, and reservations were suggested. Not, unfortunately, in my Lonely Planet guidebook. :-( To add insult to injury, the receptionist kindly suggested to M. that there were some vending machines around the corner where she could eat. Yow, how's that for fine Spanish manners?
Anyway, we wound up having a mediocre and overpriced seafood meal at one of the other restaurants in the complex, and proceeded to tour through the overhyped and fairly lame aquarium.
Maybe I'm just spoiled by the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few hours from my home in California, but this just seemed weak. I mean, it was big, there was plenty of marine life, but the tanks seemed ill-maintained and not as cleverly laid out as the MBA.
There wasn't any petting tank, the Beluga Whale looked positively miserable, and there was too much clear-tunnel gimmickry and not enough cool fish. Oh, well. I guess it could've been worse, but for 20 Euros, I really expected to get my socks knocked off. And our lunchtime dining experience kinda bummed us out.
We had a fabulous meal that night that made up for all of it, though. I had a wonderful plate of still-firm cooked slices of mushroom, followed up by tasty marinated salmon, and finally hake (whatever fish that is) in a cool local sauce. Dessert was a bizarre cheese-derived ice cream that seemed totally unique (not really like cheesecake icecream, but far richer). We've been eating mostly tapas; I think it is now time to pay a bit more to get some better, more sophisticated meals.
The cathedral the next day was fun. For once, there was no admission charged, anybody and everybody was welcomed to enter the cathedral (past the anti-abortion posters) and worship or just gawk. I approve. There was a fee to climb the tower up the a fabulous view of the city, but that's okay -- it isn't exactly worship-related, and 2 Euros won't break the bank.
Overall, Valencia was great fun. I hope that the science museum continues to evolve and improve, and I don't know what I hope for the aquarium. Bah.