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Where Ancient Meets Modern: Excursion to Valencia

For our first CEA excursion we spent a weekend in Valencia, which quickly became one of my favorite cities in Spain. Valencia is the third largest city in the country after Madrid and Barcelona, and is the capital of Comunidad Valenciana. It's a city of both ancient and modern beauty, and we got to experience both!
 La Lonja, the old silk market

On Saturday afternoon we took a walking tour through the historic city center, where we saw the centuries-old buildings that give Valencia its rich cultural heritage.

 Looking out into the garden in the center of La Lonja

One of these sites is La Lonja de la Seda, the silk market. This gorgeous Gothic building was the site of a prosperous silk trade during the 15th and 16th centuries.
 Our group on the steps of La Lonja
photo by Abbey Buchanan
 The dome in the Mercado Central

Next we saw the Mercado Central, the huge central market where everything from produce to fish is sold, all fresh and local! A far cry from Kroger back in the States, even the marketplace was a beautifully designed modernist building. Modernist architecture normally has domes to represent the curves of the female figure, according to our tour guide. 
Plaza de la Catedral: ancient cathedral on the right, modern cathedral on the left
Beautifully carved entrance to la catedral
 Our CEA group approaching the Torres de Serranos, where the Royal Family
used to enter the city
In addition to seeing gorgeous ancient sites in the city center, we also saw a modern marvel - Oceanografic, the biggest aquarium in Europe! We spent all of Sunday afternoon there. First up: a dolphin show, where one of our CEA group members, Abbey Buchanan, was chosen from the crowd to go down to the water, learn some tricks from the trainer, and play with the dolphins. From there, we were free to tour the aquarium on our own and see the marvelous aquatic life in each of the different habitat-themed rooms.
 Me with my friends in front of Oceanografic

For me personally, the highlight of our excursion to Valencia was something spontaneous that I did all on my own. When returning to our hotel on Saturday evening I noticed a poster on the wall of the building across the street. It advertised a theater event going on that night... starting in five minutes. So I went inside to check it out, and next thing I knew I had bought tickets to the "mini theatre." This turned out to be four plays of fifteen minutes each, performed by one or two actors for audiences of ten. These plays were performed in random spots around the building: one in a stairwell where we spectators sat on the staircase to watch, another in which we sat in a circle and became part of the drama. I had unwittingly stumbled upon a really cool sample of local Saturday-night culture! The plays addressed some of the current political and social tensions in Spain right now, like the high unemployment and disillusionment of the youth. Although I loved seeing monuments and famous sites, I really enjoyed the mini theatre, a hidden gem.

Hillary Harder is the Spring 2014 MOJO in Alicante, Spain. She is currently a junior at Goshen College.


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