Here’s part two:
- Ciudad des Las Artes y Las Ciencias – Scene: 90 acres in the middle of a semi-major metropolitan (a.k.a Valencia). Grab one, world-famous architect whose designs and cost overruns are equally epic and give him an open contract, unfettered to anything or anyone except hubris and physics. Add the design ideals of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, some modern architectural equations and throw in enough money to bankrupt a city for years. This is that scene. Want a huge glass eye with a retractable lid? Ok.
Please, don’t forget the random, open greenhouse, the concert hall (being individually re-tiled at great expense) that resembles a shark cresting the ocean and the other buildings – shapes, really – that seem to be both wildly unfinished and without a purpose, the bridge, of course, excluded. People actually drive across that.
It’s utterly unique, totally wild and a major ode to the idea of designing for the sake of design. There’s simply nothing like it.
- Beach – I mean…
- Airbnb – While originally we had planned to stay in Barcelona at Le Meridien, I was uneasy about the safety of the area. The internet chatter about petty crime in Barcelona is astounding, especially the super-brazen, run-up-on-you-and-take-your-bag thefts. Worryingly, the buzz seemed to be centered on the area around La Rambla and the hotel was on La Rambla itself – not ideal! The W, the only other SPG property, was both too expensive on points and in a less-than-supreme location for exploration, so we decided to look on Airbnb for a place to stay. Luckily, we were able to snag a great apartment in the hip Gracia neighborhood for around $80 a night.
Since the cash portion of a Category 5 SPG Cash and Points stay at Le Meridien was nightly about $30 more, staying at the Airbnb apartment ended up saving me both cash and SPG points. The apartment was super-airy and sun-drenched, with separate bedrooms and two Juliet balconies and the owner was kind and happy to have us – I loved it.
- Gulliver Playground – Running through the center of Valencia like a serpent is the Jardin del Turia, an eleven mile-long park formed when the city of Valencia diverted the Rio Turia to prevent future flooding. Situated in the Jardin, and, on the way to the Ciudad, is the awesome Park Gulliver. It’s a giant playground with slides, climbing ropes and walkways built out of a gigantic, fiberglass replication of the scene from Gulliver’s Travels when Gulliver is tied down by the frightened Lilliputians. It’s fun and bizarre and the kind of thing that has been litigated out of existence in America. The structure’s enormity is evident from above: This is his head.This is me struggling down a slide on his left side.
- Restaurante RiFF – I had wanted to go with my Dad to one, certifiably nice restaurant. It turned out that almost every restaurant we ate in was certifiably nice, but RiFF was the only one where we almost had a private meal. With only one other couple eating – and they showed up 45 minutes after we did – we had the full attention of the German-Spanish, one-star Michelin kitchen for a good while. The food and wine pairings were terrific and the service was exceptional. If you are in Valencia, make a reservation. Below are pictures of most of the courses – I have forgotten what most of them were, but there’s a picture of the menu, so my Spanish-speakers, enjoy!