The massive white curved shapes play peek-a-boo through the lush July leaves as we approach. We cross a tiny white bridge and find ourselves in the shadow of one of the structures. Although it seems like it, we are not in a space colony. We are in Valencia, Spain. We have arrived at the City of Arts and Sciences, La Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias (or in Valencian language Ciutat de les Arts i Les Ciènces).
Space colonies wish they could be this beautiful, blue sky included.
We have driven here from a nearby suburb of Valencia where I spent a year as an exchange student in the nineties. My host sister and her son are our tour guides today.
At the moment of our arrival, we come to the City of Arts and Sciences from a hamburger place named The Good Burger located just across the street. My daughter declared she was feeling light-headed right after we parked, so some food and a Gatorade later, we approach feeling confident that we will have time to take in the City of Arts and Sciences, if only from the outside.
(There is no need to comment on the fact that Spain’s cuisine is world-renowned and we have just exited a hamburger joint.)
Where the Turia River once flowed through the city of Valencia, today parks and structures wind through the city on its riverbed instead. Trees, sculptures, workout equipment and other elements of green space rise higher than the bridges which span what used to be the river. Up close there is no way to grasp the difference of a river winding through city and parks winding through the city. But from Google Earth’s perspective, it’s cool to see the green space.
The best comparison I could make for the City of Arts and Sciences is to the Sydney opera house in Australia.
From City of Arts and Sciences’ website:
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is a unique complex devoted to scientific and cultural dissemination which is made up of five main elements: the Hemisfèric, IMAX cinema and digital projections; the Umbracle, a landscaped vantage point and car park; the Science Museum, an innovative centre of interactive science: the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe; the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, which takes care of the operatic programme, and the Ágora, which gives the complex a multifunctional space.
I had heard that one of the structures resembles the skeleton of a whale. As I examine the structures curl into the blue sky of Spain’s third largest city, I can’t figure out which one is the whale. One resembles a strip of shooting fountains (this one probably isn’t the whale skeleton). All the buildings sit inside shallow pools of light blue water.
We stroll, we take photos, my son is intrigued by the paddle board-type objects in one of the bodies of water.
“Can we get on the boards?” my son asks, about seventeen times in the span of the few minutes we spend walking from one end to the other.
We take photos from lots of angles. After a challenging but ultimately successful quest to find a toilet, we are feeling hot and weary. We fan ourselves in the shade.
The price for the kids to ride the paddle boards for ten minutes is only five Euros. We give in and our fourteen-year-old son, thirteen-year-old daughter, and my host sister’s thirteen-year-old son all get on the paddle boards.
The kids “accidentally” fall into the water (it’s about two feet deep) numerous times over the ten minutes. They are content to mess around and cool off.
The adults find a spot to splash our feet in the shallow pool.
My host sister wants everyone to try horchata so she treats us to a cup for my family to taste. I end up finishing it.
After the kids’ time ends on the paddle boards we head back to my host sister’s house, where we look forward to one of our favorite Spanish activities: the siesta.
Post Script: Speaking of Space Colonies, if you have seen the movie Tomorrowland, you have caught a science-fiction version of the City of Arts and Sciences. It’s the futuristic place our hero Casey sees when she picks up the pin.