December 12, 2012

The Tower Tour: 'Quedarse a la luna de Valencia'

Sunset view of Valencia's town center, seen from the Miguelete.
Lit up on just to the right of center is La Lonja.
Not long ago a friend from Paris visited me in Valencia. Visits from friends are always wonderful opportunities to see those sights I've somehow missed, as each friend usually has something different they want to see of my beloved hometown (apart from the obligatory river park bike ride, walk through El Carmen, visit to the magnificent Mercat Central covered marketplace, and other standard "must see" sights). This time, over the course of her 3-day visit, without planning, we managed to do a tower tour of the city, visiting its three most iconic tower attractions: the Torres de Quart, Torres de Serranos, and the Miguelete. I confess that I had not yet ascended the first two, and climbing the third this time also proved to be a treat, since we went just after sunset.

(Addendum: Upon reading this, my French friend noted that the title in French would be: "Le tour des tours". Excellent!)

In fact, as I write this, I realize we visited each tower view top at a different time of day. For these reason, the light cast on the rooftops of the city from each sight creates a different visual effect, a lesson to all that it really is worth revisiting these towers at different times of the day (or night)! The result was that I took a flood of photos during my friend's visit, of which I will only share a trickle here.


• Las Torres de Quart (late afternoon):

Of course, I walk by these towers all the time when I'm around the center. The Torres de Quart mark the western edge of El Carmen, and were the west gates into the old walled city. Those pockmarks on its exterior are, indeed, marks left by cannon balls, and now I wonder if I remembered to tell my French friend that they were a gift from Napoleon's armies during Spain's War of Independence (1808-1814).


It being my first time in one of Valencia's two remaining gate towers, I was fascinated by the not-so-fascinating interior design of the towers...






I was also curious to see the view from above of El Carmen's important street artery, Carrer de Quart, which links with Carrer de Cavallers to form one of the few long, straight roads that pass through, and therefore an important passageway for foot traffic in this vibrant neighborhood's nightlife.


It was late afternoon on an autumn day, so the light hit the rooftops at an interesting angle, as if to say one last goodbye to the city before the night creeped in... (Go ahead! Click on the photos to see the large, full-resolution panoramic of it.)



On the way out I smiled when I saw this ubiquitous Valencian icon, the "rat penat" of Jaume I, on the gates to the Towers...


In addition to the bat and Jaume I's dragon crown, a running joke during her visit was the fact that oranges are important to Valencia. They were everywhere, since the ornamental orange trees are at this very moment bearing fruit. Yep, soon it will be orange season in Valencia!


• Las Torres de Serranos (early morning):

Frankly, it's the Torres de Serranos that have most etched themselves into the visual collage that forms my subconsciousness imagining of the city. Sitting on the north side of the city center, right on the old Turia Riverbed, these are the larger of the two remaining gates, and more commonly appear in photos or visual portraits of the city.


This spring, in what must be one of the few good city-planning decisions made by the local government, or least the only one that everyone can agree turned out well, the Puente de Serranos, a 16th century brick bridge that crosses the river and leads up to the Towers, was converted into a pedestrian bridge, and traffic was rerouted to another newer bridge. (As part of the change, the government also reinaugurated the nearby "Pont de Fusta" as an actual wooden bridge, with what I'd say is a very tasteful new look.) I had been meaning to snap some pictures of the Towers as seen from the new traffic-free bridge...




During Fallas these Towers are a common passage point for falleros coming and going to La Ofrenda to the Virgin in the Plaza de la Virgen...


The perk of visiting these Towers is that you can snap pictures of your friends on the other tower!



While my personal opinion is that the view from the top is not as spectacular as Torres de Quart, which has a better view of notable landmarks like La Lonja, the view from Torres de Serranos is fun, particularly for watching soccer matches in the River park, gaze at tiny people as they pass by underneath you.



• El Miguelete (at sunset):

Our last tower stop on my friend's visit was El Miguelete, the bell tower of Valencia's Cathedral. I had already been a few times. Here you see the Torres de Serranos from the Miguelete...


And some other daytime shots I had taken on other visits to the Miguelete...



Since my friend had already seen Valencia from above, from several angles this visit, we decided to wait for sunset before making the arduous climb to the top of this tower to see the city at night, something I hadn't yet done. It was totally worth it...


As soon as I got outside I whipped out my camera, thrilled to see the warm glow of street lights etching streets and plazas through the darkness of the city buildings. I snapped a picture of Plaza de la Virgen (above) and Plaza de la Reina (below)...


... before settling into a more thoughtful consideration of my city at night. The Turia fountain in the Plaza de la Virgen looked as charismatic as ever, one of the city's important meeting points that adds some local charm...


No better view of the Cathedral than from its bell tower. At night from above it looked kind of like a medieval space ship, if that makes sense...


Shadows were bouncing every which way, which was pretty exciting (though I should probably mention that I get vertigo easily, which certainly added to the thrill of this nighttime ascent).


And La Lonja (seen here on the far right) was lit up like a beacon at night, which somehow added to its cultural heritage status as an important landmark...


I've mentioned before that there is an expression sometimes used in Spain, "Quedarse [o Estar] a la luna de Valencia", which means that one is "despistado" or absentminded or "out of it". (Although the RAE dictionary, contrary to my experience with how the phrase has been used, seems to think "a la luna de Valencia" means: left frustrated by unfulfilled hopes or plans.) Legend has it that the expression comes from medieval times when Valencia's old city walls were still up, and the gates would close at night. Only someone who was really, truly out of it and forgetful would neglect to return to within the city walls before the sunset. In other words, quedarse a la luna de Valencia is to be left outside the gate when the moon was up, and thus locked out all night.

In trying to do my best animated tour guide for my French friend, I naturally added this romantic embellishment. But was surprised to learn that "être dans la lune" meant the same thing in French! (In Spanish people also say "estar en la luna" to mean absentminded.) So apparently the expression comes from some more general old saying in Europe, and at some point took on this local version.

Today, there is nothing wrong with finding yourself outside the gate at night. Quite the contrary!

I hope that, you the reader, can understand if I've been a bit "a la luna de Valencia" about blog posting,
what with all the marvelous distractions I keep discovering in this city.

6 comments:

ohma said...

I got a lot of information about English language in your blog, so I want to thanks to you.
Best regards.

trimbolera said...

Que hermoso y detallado reportaje. Me lo he pasado muy bien en este viaje. Muchas gracias y un abrazo desde la nevada Lanuza.

An Expat in Spain said...

Ohma, I'm glad you find the blog helpful. I'll probably post another entry on Teaching English in January, so stay tuned!

Trimbolera, me alegre saber de ti. Nos encantan las fotos y videos de Lanuza nevada (¡con el gatito!) que salen en tu blog y la página de La Casueña. Ya sabes que tenemos expectativas de volver allí pronto. ¡Un fuerte abrazo!

Sorokin said...

Happy new year, expat, even without the in-laws' paella

An Expat in Spain said...

Thanks Sorokin! Happy new year to you, too! Glad to see you're eating well in Madrid these holidays!

Mike said...

The place is looking extremely beautiful. I am planning my tour to Europe and will make sure that this place is also included in my tour. Thanks!
how to plan a europe trip

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