València boasts 150 kilometers of cycle paths and finding your way around by bike is very easy because you just have to follow the former course of the Turia river which is today the green lung of the city. But once it was not so. The river that had made the area fertile and rich, after countless and destructive floods, the last in 1957 which caused great damage to the city and a hundred deaths, became a danger for the city and its inhabitants.
Cycling along the Turia Gardens
So it was decided to deviate the course. At first, according to the plans of the dictator Francisco Franco, a highway was to be built instead of the river, but the whole city opposed this idea. And in 1986, what is today the largest urban park in Spain was inaugurated: the Jardin del Turia which have become the backbone of València, ideal for traveling by bike from the east, where the Bioparc is located, to the west, to the City of the Arts and Sciences.
In addition, València is a completely flat city and therefore easy to get around by bike, even for those like me who are a bit rusty.
We started from the Serranos Towers, one of the two still standing gates of the ancient walls that surrounded the city, near which is the Passion Bike headquarters where we found the bikes made available to us by VisitValència.
Following the cycle path along the dried-up river bed, we cycled to the Oceanogràfic, stopping occasionally for a shot at the most beautiful views. The first one that caught our attention is the huge Gulliver lying in the green on which children, like the Lilliputians created by Jonathan Swift’s fantasy, play between stairs and slides.
Then we stopped in front of the Palau de la Musica, one of the most emblematic buildings in the city. Pedaling pedaling we arrived at the City of Arts and Sciences, built by the famous Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava.
The complex is a set of buildings with various shapes in steel, glass and ceramic, which have become the symbol of València and which parade on a sort of stage reflecting in large bodies of water: the Hemisfèric, the Museo de les Ciénces Principe Felipe, the Umbracle, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, the Oceanogràfic and the Agora which hosts major events such as concerts, conferences and sporting competitions.
Between the Agora and the Science Museum stands the Puente de l’Assut de l’Or, the large bridge designed by Calatrava. The time available does not allow us to visit everything and our choice fell on the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe with seven different areas that reproduce the main marine ecosystems on the planet and as many as 45,000 specimens of 500 different species.
Parked the bikes outside, we began our visit: what is striking, compared to the Aquarium of Genoa, is that thanks to long submarines here it really seems to be walking on the bottom of the sea surrounded by water and fish.
Entering and exiting, going up and down to visit the various environments takes away a bit of magic from this feeling but the almost childish wonder of coming across animals so far never seen live, such as beluga, sea lions and walruses, remains.
It is mandatory to attend the show of the cute dolphins, included in the entrance ticket that we purchased with the 15% reserved for us by the València Tourist Card. With its 26 million cubic meters of water and its five swimming pools it is one of the largest dolphinariums in the world where dolphins perform in shows that excite young and old.
The Hemisferic, which houses a planetarium for the projection of films and documentaries in the Imax Dome format and which represents a huge eye that opens and closes the eyelid aimed at València, we were able to appreciate it in its bright evening livery by participating in two of the parades organized as part of the CLEC Fashion Festival, an event dedicated to fashion, music, photography, gastronomy and free time to celebrate local talents.
Sitting in the front row with Leticia Colomer, in the space transformed into a circular walkway around the central sphere that houses the large planetarium, we admired the proposals of the well-known designer Isabel Sanchís and the innovative collection of the emerging 404 Studio group that is so much appreciated by the new generations.
Before returning to the hotel by taxi, we took a walk among the tropical plants and the contemporary art sculptures of the Umbracle, which during the summer nights, becomes an outdoor disco and which takes up, in a modern and technological way, the European tradition of the Winter Garden.
Few words about taxis: in València they represent a practical and economic way of moving quickly from one part of the city to the other that never registers congested traffic. In addition, there is the advantage that they can be catched by stopping them with a gesture of the hand but remember that you have to pay in cash as very few taxis accept credit cards.
By bike you can easily reach, from the opposite side of the Turia Gardens, the Bioparc, the València zoo which extends over 10 hectares in a large area created by the deviation of the river course. At the entrance, Rosa Castello awaits us and with her we immerse ourselves in this environment designed in such a way that visitors immediately feel as if they have been transported to Africa: the animals turn in the park almost without barriers, which are there but invisible, wandering in the their natural landscapes.
Thus, when we run into the hyena, seems to us that she can almost jump and leap at our feet, while further away, imposing rhinos enjoy the sun of the hot day. In the savannah area, giraffes, antelopes and rhinos coexist peacefully, separated by barriers that the eye barely catches, from their historical rivals: the lions.
Gorillas live in a dense forest of equatorial Africa, while hippos and crocodiles cool off in the water separated from visitors only by glass walls. And it was exciting to raise our head to look at the lemurs who in turn watched us curiously in the Madagascar area.
An attraction not to be missed is the reproduction of the Kitum cave, one of the caves of Mount Elgon in Kenya, while one of the highlights is that of the animal meal. We were lucky and we witnessed excitedly that of the lionesses and the lively mongooses.
But the guests we found nicest for the really funny poses are the meerkat and the warthog: do you know Timon and Pumbaa accompanying the Lion King? Here it is they who do not share the same spaces here!
As our guide explained to us, Bioparc is not a zoo like any other because the goal is not only the reconstruction of the original environment of the animal species to immerse visitors in a natural context through the walking safari, but respect for the biodiversity and the conservation of various endangered species through various breeding programs. It is also an ecological structure, as it derives a large part of the energy necessary for its operation thanks to the use of renewable energy sources.
In collaboration with VisitValència