getting our culture on in Valencia

getting our culture on in Valencia

The Colegio del Arte Mayor de la Seda (College of High Silk Art) Museo de la Seda (Silk Museum)—not to be confused with the Lonja de la Seda—was included in our combination ticket from Saints Johns. The building itself dates from the 15th century and is a work of art in its own right.

The museum tells the history of silk production in Valencia and celebrates the Silk Guild and its patron saint, Jerome.

The exhibits change, as they rotate the costumes in their holdings, but what was on exhibit during our visit was a thorough representation of silk dresses through the past 200-300 years.

The detail on many of the pieces was amazing:

Then the Ceramics Museum, housed in a fabulous rococo palace dating from the 15th century and refurbished in 1740. The downstairs rooms feature current exhibitions, in this case, modern ceramics, which is not our style, but once you get to the staircase and the second floor, the building itself is worth the 3-euro price of admission.


a couple of churches in Valencia

a couple of churches in Valencia

At the church of Saints Johns we encountered one of our best tourist deals ever: a combo ticket for Saints Johns, the Silk Museum, and San Nicolas for 7 euros! The ticket to San Nicolas alone was 8! We were given a brochure in English, and we passed on the audioguides. Inside, we met up with a young woman who explained the church to us in excellent English. I assumed she was a student, but she had two master’s degrees in art and art history. She hoped to one day be part of the restoration team, which has been repairing damage from a fire during the Spanish Civil War.

The church dates from the 13th century, and is named for Saint John the Baptist (celebrated on Gospel – left – side) and Saint John the Evangelist (celebrated on the Epistle – right – side).

The chapels:

I was especially intrigued by the statues of Jacob and his sons, the founders of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Benjamin, Jose (Joseph), Neftali (Naphtali), Aser (Asher), Gad, Zabulon (Zebulun), Isacar (Issachar), Dan, Juda (Judah), Simeon, Levi, and Ruben (Reuben).

As a fan of Daniel Dasilva’s Gabriel Allon novels, we couldn’t help but think of the Israeli spy as we watched the restorers at work.

We found it interesting that some of the paintings that had been restored were still not fully visible.

Then to the church of San Nicolas de Bari, a gothic structure covered in baroque fresco paintings. And I mean COVERED. Every. Square. Inch.

The chapels:

The cherubs:

The stained glass:

And tributes to the original structure in some of the chapels:

A visit to Valencia

A visit to Valencia

We went to Valencia to see Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA. We rented a car and decided to stay for a couple of days to see some of the city that we hadn’t seen before.

We opted for a hotel in the “suburbs” – only a 10-minute walk to the performance. But that meant a 30+ minute bus ride into the city center to see the sights. It was neat to stay in a “real” neighborhood: all ages out and about, extended families gathering in the evenings.

From Cirque du Soleil’s website:

KOOZA combines acrobatic performance and the art of clowning, while exploring fear, identity, recognition and power. The innocent’s journey brings him into contact with comic characters from an electrifying world full of surprises, thrills, audacity and total involvement.

Like Cirque du Soleil’s other shows, the plot was weak, but the performances were breathtaking: acrobats, contortionists, a double high-wire act, a strap act, hoops, unicycle acrobatics, wheel of death, and a teeterboard. If you’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil production, you know photos don’t do it justice, but…

We ended up sitting on the aisle behind one of the technical towers. It was fascinating watching the technician set up each act, then reassemble all of the wires, chains, and ropes, ready for the next performance:

Our first stop was the Mercat Central, which we had not yet visited during our previous stays in Valencia. I didn’t take any pictures of the food, because we have all of that (and more of it, I think) at home, but the building is a stunning work of Art Nouveau:

And there seemed to be as much for sale outside the mercado as inside. You could easily furnish your entire kitchen, if not your entire house:

The street murals in the El Carmen neighborhood were supposed to be fantastic, but we weren’t that impressed with the ones we saw. Cool art, yes, but not any better than in other cities, notably Berlin.

Malta: not enough time for Gozo

Malta: not enough time for Gozo

We thought a day on Gozo would be a good way to introduce Anne and Cary to the hop-on/hop-off (hoppy) bus experience. We planned 3 stops: the Ggantija temples, Victoria’s citadel, and the Ta’Dbiegi crafts village. We set the trip up at the hotel to include transfer to and from the ferry.

Our bus was scheduled to leave at 9:15. It didn’t arrive at the stop until 9:30. The alleged 30-minute ride to the ferry took an hour. We watched the 10:30 ferry leave, and our schedule went to hell.

But on the 20-minute ferry ride, the bluest water I’ve ever seen:

And Gozo was much more to our liking! We could have easily spent two days there.

We only had time for one stop, so we chose the megalithic temples, cuz it’s old stuff. We lunched in the nearby square, then toured the Ggantija Temples, which date from before 2500 BCE, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Archaeologists still don’t know who these people were or what happened to them.

Malta and Gozo are home to six other megalithic temples, and it would have been interesting to see them all.

Looking at the bus schedule, the next bus wouldn’t get us to Mgarr in time to catch the 5:15 ferry that would get us back for the last bus pickup. So…ecab didn’t seem to be working. We were sitting on the curb by the bus stop – in the shade – and visiting with an Australian woman when her sons and a girlfriend pulled up to join her. We jokingly asked if one of the boys would be willing to drive us to the ferry. James agreed, and away we went! James, if you’re out there: thank you again! And do let us know if ever you’re in Alicante!

What we missed on Gozo: Victoria and The Cittadella; the trackless train; Ta’Dbiegi Crafts Village

Malta: the fishing village of Marsaxlokk

Malta: the fishing village of Marsaxlokk

On Sunday, we set up an ecab and headed to the small fishing village of Marsaxlokk. On Sundays, the daily fish market becomes a little-bit-of-everything market. And so we wandered. Lots to look at…


Fruits and veggies:

Other food:

Lace & linens:

Housewares and household items:

Personal care items:

And all on the waterfront, where the local brightly-colored fishing boats were moored:

The shape of the boats goes back to the Phoenician settlers, and the colors indicate the fisherman’s home village.

When we stopped for a break, we discovered Kinnie, a local drink.

Then lunch. A note: even in June, we needed reservations! Finally, we found a restaurant with an available table.

A return to St. Julian’s, a bit of a rest, then dinner with a full moon over Malta:

Malta: Mdina and Rabat

Malta: Mdina and Rabat

From Ta’Qali, we headed to Mdina.

Mdina was once the capital of Malta. It was founded in the 8th century BCE by Phoenician settlers. The Romans came later. With a current population of just under 300, cars are restricted, and it truly lives up to its nickname: The Silent City.

Prepare to explore on foot, as, not only are non-resident cars not allowed, but the streets and alleys are narrow:

Turns out, we could have seen glassworks there:

The architecture was stunning:

The views of the surrounding area from the city walls were breathtaking:

We had planned to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, but 10 euros for a visit to the church? Granted, the price included the Cathedral Museum, but, no, thank you!

We headed outside the city walls to the “suburb” of Rabat and St. Paul’s Church:

We eagerly bought our tickets to see St. Paul’s grotto, where Paul and his missionary group supposedly took refuge when they were shipwrecked on Malta:

We didn’t make it all the way to the catacombs of St. Paul; we dropped off one by one as the narrow passageways closed in on us.

What we didn’t see: the Domus Romana Museum

Malta: Ta’Qali “Craft Village”

Malta: Ta’Qali “Craft Village”

We took an ecab (Malta’s version of Uber or Lyft) to Ta’Qali (the Q is silent) to see the crafts village.

Don’t bother.

The village was a World War II British RAF outpost. The Quanset huts were converted to craft shops. But we didn’t know that major reworking of the hut-shops was underway, so the apparent old center was deserted.

The cab dropped us off at the Mdina Glassworks. I love watching glassblowers work, so that was fine. We saw small scale and large scale production.

And they had anything you could imagine in glass.

Lots of Chihuly-looking glass that may have been mistakes recast as art:



Wall art:

Christmas décor:

Random stuff:

And my favorite, a factory selfie:

But that was all we could see of the crafts village. We wandered for a bit, then a gentleman pointed us down the road and to the left. Aha! Other shops.


Stones and gems:

And ceramics: