Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Valencia: L'Oceanogràfic

Aquariums are not normally my scene. I did however enjoy the one I went to in 1998 with Leo, when we were in Sydney. And Valencia's was certainly good for a once-in-a-decade visit. You can't fail to be staggered by the variety of underwater species here, this sea horse being one of my favourites, second only to the amazing sea dragon (but that was even harder to photograph).

We didn't have too long to look round, having arrived rather late in the day after taking too long over our lunchtime paella: for this, we took up Nick Rawlinson's suggestion and booked into a place on the Malvarrosa beach - Restaurante la Carmela: memorable. But just as well we hadn't visited L'Oceanogràfic before lunch: it might have put us off what we were eating.

L'Oceanogràfic is in buildings designed by Felix Candela, which lie alongside the extraordinary City of Arts and Sciences, developed by Santiago Calatrava. This is still work in progress, but what is already there - planetarium, science museum, bridges etc. - makes a huge impact on the city of Valencia (which is footing the bill). Personally, I prefer the Frank Gehry architecture of the Bilbao Guggenheim to the new work in Valencia, but perhaps I should return when it's all completed.

There are plenty of temptations to go back: we didn't allow ourselves time for more than a quick look at the graceful Lonja (or Silk Exchange), said to be the jewel of European Gothic civil architecture, or the splendid Cathedral with its translucent (alabaster) lantern windows. But (as I've already mentioned) we did manage to get to hear Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Göteborgs Symfoniker in Nielsen's 4th Symphony, preceded by a performance of the Sibelius concerto by violinist Sergey Khachatryan: a wonderful concert (only spoilt by various people in front of us apparently wanting to record it on their cameras and phones).

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