Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Valencia, part four: Mercat Diplomat - Nombassador On the Loose

Valencia, Spain (Valencia, España)
December 2015
In contrast to New Zealand, Sunday is not market day in Spain, at least not at the Mercat Central de Valencia.
So we picked a random weekday for our market ventures. Kitted out in all manner of tinsel and sparkly Christmas decorations, the Mercat Central sold a wide range of produce, such as frutas y vegetales, fish, bakery items and long racks of jamón. An open-air market had been present at the same location since 1839 (right across the street from the old silk market), and construction of the current covered market building was completed in 1928 in a largely art nouveau style.

To top off the Christmas get-up, a nativity scene stood at the very centre of the market, complete with tiny oxen and baby Jesus.

While the market attracts both tourists and locals alike, the nearby plaça Redona is tucked away and sees far fewer visitors from outside Valencia. The setting is very unique, being in a circle of residences with shops and stalls at ground level. Apparently the bars and businesses here are family run and not oriented towards tourist spending. The small shop spaces don't appeal to franchises, and many shops have the same signs and decorations from decades past, adding to the plaça's charm.

For lunch we walked over to another market - the Mercado Colon. This modernist market was opened on Christmas Eve in 1916 and has slowly shifted from a produce market to now mainly housing cafés and restaurants.

With a large underground carpark underneath, the spacious interior plays host to various cultural events, and of course boasts a nativity scene in December. It was difficult to pick a spot to eat, as there were so many, but eventually we settled on a corner restaurant that offered arroz al horno (oven-baked rice). While Yannick chowed down on that, I opted for a chickpea dish that was also very tasty.

On the route that we took every day from the centre of Valencia to our accommodation, there was a tiny facade of a model house constructed along a random wall. I knew I had to get a photo of it to remember our daily 'commute'!

That evening we went on a stroll around the area and saw the Torres de Serranos with a beautiful cloudy sky behind. This gate was one of twelve that were part of the ancient city wall that the Christians built in the 14th-century. These walls were torn down in 1865 by the government, and only a few remnants remain including these towers. They are a pretty special sight for an evening meander, and we also found out what time the street lamps are switched on - 5:50pm.

Yet another lazy day in Valencia was spent on one sightseeing excursion: the Admiral's Baths. 
Our accommodation was on a relatively quiet residential street like the one above. We didn't photograph our own as this was prettier, with trees!

The baths, Los Baños del Almirante, are surprisingly not of Arab construction but Christian. They liked the design and continued to build in the older style regardless of religious conflict. Around fifteen similar bath complexes were present in Valencia in the 14th-century, but the Admiral's Baths are the only ones to survive the passage of time. One reason for this might be that the baths were still in use right up until 1959, and had been renovated from their original condition.

Like Roman baths, Arab baths had an entranceway, and one bath of each temperature: cold, warm and hot.

The warm room was the most relaxing, and was where visitors would spend the majority of their time. It wasn't incredibly relaxing for me, however, as I thwacked my ankle on a column and had to recover on a bench for a little while.

What I enjoyed the most in the baths were the eight-pointed stars that acted as skylights in the rooms. People should make skylights like that nowadays! I'd have that in my house.

Today's post was almost called: Market Forces - Jamón and Jesús Under One Roof