As Europe’s Capital of sport for 2011, Valencia has hosted a number of events anchored by the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the 31st edition of its marathon, the Divina Pastora Marathon, happening this weekend. While I am not participating in this event, in my quest to run the world, I did have the pleasure of running along parts of the course during a visit to the city earlier this year. And let me tell you, the runners participating in the marathon and 10k are in for a treat. The race begins and ends at the architectural wonder, La Ciudad de la Artes y las Ciencias and winds through Valencia’s beautiful old neighborhoods, past its futuristic structures and along the beautiful Mediterranean coast. Here’s a “rundown” of some of the highlights along the course.
Bioparc – this zoo without borders sits in the center of the city surrounds visitors in the animals’ recreated habitats. Many of the animals are part of European conservation breeding programs that uses a “zoo-immersion” concept to educate and increase awareness about the animals and their environment.
Cathedral of Valencia – Built in the 13th century on the site of a former mosque, the cathedral mixes Gothic, Baroque and Neo-Classical architectural styles, which are all reflected in the three portals.
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences) – the race begins and ends at the work of architectural art by Santiago Calatrava. Europe’s largest leisure-cultural complex, the “city” is comprised of six different cultural and entertainment destinations; L’Hemisferic is based on the human eye and houses the IMAX Dome; Science Museum Principe Felipe; L’Oceanografic, and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia.
Jardin del Turia – The Turia was once a river that ran through the city. After a series of devastating floods, Valencia diverted the river and it is now a 12 km long park with fountains, beautiful gardens, soccer and rugby pitches and several children’s playgrounds.
Lonja – Lonja de la Seda is the old silk exchange and quite possibly, the world’s most magnificent merchant building. Built in the 15th century, the building, which resembles a church from the outside and a palace on the inside, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. La Lonja is made up of the main hall where merchants would meet, negotiate and trade, the merchant tribunal where disputes were settled, and a prison for merchants who couldn’t pay their debts.
Mercado del Colon – Built in 1916 and clearly inspired by the work of Gaudi, the building was renovated after falling into disrepair, and reopened in 2003 as a luxury-shopping arcade.
Royal Marina – The Royal Marina is home to the 32nd America’s cup, and it is also the setting of Europe’s F1 Grand Prix circuit.
Torres de Quart and Torres de Serranos – the two city gates that remain of the medieval walls of Valencia date from the 14th century and have been used by many to enter the city, including El Cid who galloped through the Torres de Quart.
Good luck to all the runners. Maybe I’ll see you at the starting line next year.