Back in 2010, Valencia unveiled the results of an effort to restore three of its most impressive Baroque-era churches: the San Martín, San Esteban and San Juan de la Cruz, all located a short distance from each other in the city center. If any of these had been my childhood church, I might have grown up with a different idea of "God": not some wizened, white-bearded grump sitting on a cloud, but a flamboyant show-off with a flair for the extravagant.
With hundreds of stalls selling fruits, veggies and meat, Valencia's Mercado Central is among the largest fresh food markets in Europe. And although it has become one of the city's principal tourist attractions, it's remained popular among locals as well, many of whom do their everyday shopping here.
Once upon a time, not actually all that long ago, Valencia's historic center was bordered to the north by the Turia River. Although it was normally a benevolent presence, the Turia was given to sporadic fits of rage. And after a deadly flood in 1957, Valencia decided to remove the threat once and for all.
Valencia doesn't get a lot of time to recover from Fallas before the next big holiday rears its pointy head. Easter Week is celebrated throughout the city, but the main events happen in the city's beachfront districts. The Semana Santa Marinera fills the streets of Cabanyal with processions, Jesus statues, flying flowers, marching bands, and brotherhoods in scary hoods.
By far the biggest cities in Spain are Madrid and Barcelona: they dominate the country's media, culture, tourism and (especially) sports. But what comes next? What's the Chicago, to Spain's New York and Los Angeles? That, my friends, would be Valencia.