Travels

Valencia

Spain’s third largest city was the favorite of our Spring Break trip. And not because it’s got Europe’s oldest market filled with produce, nuts, meats, cheeses, wines, beers, dried fruits and chocolates. Not because it’s the birthplace of paella, which you can get all over town (and the Valenciana is definitely the best of all paella offerings.). Not because of the fantastic orange named for this city. Not because the cathedral claims to have the holy grail. Not because it has a beautiful old city just a mile away from the slick, futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, a five-area complex including an opera house, an IMAX theatre, a garden area, a science museum, and an open-air oceanographic park.

Nope. None of that. The most spectacular thing in Valencia is its Jardin del Turia, a nine kilometer park where the Turia River used to be. After a huge flood in the 1950s, city planners re-routed the Turia and turned the old riverbed into this glorious park. We spent an entire day on bikes, exploring from one end to the other. The kids particularly loved Gulliver Park, a huge (huge!) model of Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians. Kids can climb up the ropes that trap him and slide down his shoe, one of his knees and climb his arms. Check out the park on google earth – that’s where it’s seriously impressive.

We were afraid two nights in Valencia wouldn’t be enough and it was indeed true. The boys really miss their bikes and they wanted another day of riding around. Alas, we spent our last few hours exploring the old city again – with its beautiful cathedral and minaret-turned-belltower, the windy, cobbled streets and its pretty fountains.

Travels

Paris park tour

Easter is the most important holiday in Greece. People fast all week, especially Thursday to Sunday at midnight. Friday and Monday are national holidays. The Greek Easter tables are filed with roasted lamb, kokoretsi (seasoned & roasted lamb intestines), salads with springtime greens (scallion, lettuce, dill) tsoureki (a braided, sweet break like challah or Hoska) and bright red eggs. The red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ and the Shell the sealed tomb — cracking them Easter morning symbolizes the resurrection. But … we’re not likely to crack eggs or enjoy that marvelous salad because we decided to spend our two week Spring Break seeing more of Europe.

Saturday we landed in Paris and spent Sunday (which was Easter for western Christians) at Disneyland Paris. It was cold and rainy and I was wishing we hadn’t sent the winter stuff back to Denver with my sister. But we were mostly dry by 1 pm and the sun even peaked through a couple of times. We rode Thunder Mountain three times and loved this 3D Star Wars “ride” (we sat in a large metal box that simulated a supercool space chase through a galaxy far, far away). That night we headed into Paris proper for a few days in the city. Demetri and I came to Paris 10 years ago and we loved being back — though nary a Museum was visited. This time we were all about parks: Luxembourg Gardens with its castle and Medici fountain built in 1620; Jardin des Plantes, a huge 18th century botanic garden with a small zoo; the new Jardin Nelson Mandela with its huge no-parents-allowed ‘adventure playground’ and Champs du Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower with not one but two playgrounds.

Signs of spring were everywhere: blooming cherries, magnolias and bright forsythias which made for a gorgeous contrast against the gray Paris sky. We rode the city buses here (usually to get out of the rain) and there, ate crepes and croissants, walked the bridges, and bought a couple of books at the famed Shakespeare and Company, across from Notre Dame. Each morning, Michael and I would fill our mugs (one coffee, one hot chocolate) and walk to a different boulangerie to get breakfast for everyone. We really lucked out with the weather – the forecast was much rainier than what we actually had.

As we walked past the Pantheon and the Sorbonne in search of Ernest Hemingway’s house, we found the home of Renee Descartes with this quote. We think it fits our life perfectly right now.

Staying as I am, one foot in one country and the other in another, I find my condition very happy, in that it is free.