Stranded In The Southland

Monday, June 06, 2005

Wanderings in Valencia

Valencia turned out to be a fun city with great architecture. We surely had the best meal of the trip there, and I saw one of the best science museums, anywhere. I kinda wish we hadn't left after just two days.

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.

Oh, My Aching Feet!

My feet are killin' me. They've been giving my trouble since I permanently flattened my arches while visiting Japan a few years ago. They ached like crazy for a few weeks after just too much walking.

When I finally went to the doctor, I discovered that the best solution for the pain was taping up the arches. At the same time, I discovered that my feet had gone up a size or so. Ahhh, the pains of middle-age -- I used to be able to walk for miles with no problems!

So, anyway, after a particularly nasty day of walking down from the Alhambra to our hotel, my feet started to hurt again. I taped 'em up, but they continue to hurt. I'm taking a day off my poor ol' dogs today to try to get 'em better, but I'm almost certainly going to have to tape 'em up for the remaining two weeks of our trip. Doh.

The pain isn't actually bad, but my worry is that I'll screw up my feet just when I have a chance to spending the summer backpacking in the Sierra Nevada. I'll have the time this summer, and I really want to take advantage of that. It'd suck to have to give up hiking, one of the real pleasures of my life.

For that reason, I guess I'll be taking it easy on the walking for the rest of the trip. Argh.