Updated 9 years ago

From Grail to Whale - Words by Rob Innis

Could the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the last supper, really be on display in Valencia cathedrals museum? It takes less than two hours to arrive in Valencia from Alicante via one of the many RENFE train services. There is a friendly Tourist Office on the station concourse, ideal for essential maps and brochures.

Valencia does not come across as brash or ‘in your face.’ Los Valencianos do not try to make a dramatic designer clad impact. However, that does not mean that the city is bland or characterless. It has a lot going for it including a compactness, which gives the visitor the rare opportunity to see and do lots without wasting valuable time trying to navigate underground or bus routes rushing to the next must see attraction. Just walk around the central area and you will find something to take your interest at every turn. It is safe and the roads give pedestrians a fighting chance of survival. Surely only Rome and Venice can boast such a concentration of architectural heritage in so few square kilometres.

The cathedral stands in the corner of the delightful Plaza de la Reina, with colourful flowers and even some grass. Externally it is not imposing but inside it is very grand and spacious with a variety of architectural styles added over the centuries. An entrance charge of 4 euros includes an informative electronic audible guide device and admission to the museum. The electronic guide explains the cathedral highlights then finally directs you through a narrow little door to enter the museum and view the Holy Grail.  You pass through two other rooms displaying various religious antiquities before you see it – enclosed in a glass cabinet high up behind an alter lit by an orange light. Being the only person in the room and I stood and wondered if this really was the actual cup used by Christ. I took some photos, observing the no flash rule; until my solitude was broken by a horde of people all flashing away with their cameras. The moment was lost and I departed searching for some warming sun. Later I met a retired Valencian journalist and I asked him about the Grail. “It is supposed to have been taken from Rome by the Spanish. It was hidden during the Muslim occupation and finally passed by the king in the 15th century to the Valencia cathedral.” It does not seem to receive much publicity, but it is there so you can visit and make up your own mind as to its true authenticity.

For a contrast to such dramatic religious history, I opted for the Modern art museum (IVAM) which for me was rather disappointing. I decided, having had an excellent lunch, to be generous and accept that I had caught the IVAM on a bad day, a bit between exhibitions.

However, the Museum of Enlightenment and Modernity (MUVIM) saved the day with their free ‘Thought Adventure of Thinking’ guided tour. I will not spoil the surprises but it is unlike any other museum tour you have been on, enjoy the free chocolate.

I had booked a short stay apartment near the city centre, which turned out to be an excellent decision with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, and spacious lounge it was ideal and for less than the price of a hotel. OK so no one makes your bed every day or folds the toilet paper to a point but the apartment was immaculate and I could have happily lived in it!

Valencia is fortunate to have the world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava amongst in citizens. He has created the most amazing City of Science and Art located a short bus ride out of the city centre, which after the Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture is a stunning 21st century contrast. Designed and built for the new millennium these five contrasting buildings provide art, culture, museum and wildlife experiences.

The joint entry ticket for the Principe Felipe Museum and Oceangrafico (Marine Life) is twenty-six euros, not cheap but could make a whole days entertainment. The museum is mainly interactive ‘touchy feely’ exhibits and the morning I was there was overrun by hordes of excited noisy running schoolchildren. After lunch in the museum, which was not as good as you will find in the city centre but acceptable, I walked across to the Oceangrafico.

This has the ‘wow factor’ big time. It is cleverly designed to present all of the worlds climates: arctic, wetlands, temperate and tropical etc. in an exact climatical reproduction and so takes you inside and outdoors. The variety of exotic wildlife appeared relaxed with camera clicking visitors so you can take some stunning close ups that would normally be impossible. A magic moment was the interaction between a beluga whale, which uniquely in the whale world is able to move its head, and a mother with her small daughter. The whale seemed to understand the kisses and smiles from the couple and adopted a shy pose coyly moving its head before gliding away. This alone was worth the entrance fee. It is a must visit place in Valencia.

Fact File:

RENFE Trains: www.renfe.es/horarios/english/index.html


Short stay apartments: www.only-apartments.com

More photos: www.picasaweb.google.com/Robi1305

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