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Valencia is a city of great spirit. Located on the coast south-east of Spain I found myself travelling over the Alps last February aboard a budget airline, crossing my fingers for some photographic luck whilst my girlfriend chose a different Alpine route skiing in Austria. My trip to this city had come about by total chance; a friends cancelled holiday got us talking over a pint of Euro city breaks, but following a little Google investigation I sat transfixed at some of the most breathtaking architecture I have ever seen, the conception of Santiago Calatrava.
He is responsible for some staggering modern architecture, three superb examples being located at the City of Arts and Sciences and this became the sole purpose for my visit. Based in a diverted river bed, Valencia has utilised this space for recreation too; there are football pitches and landscaped gardens for walkers, joggers, cyclists and even skate parks. It is relaxed, well lit, safe and inspirational.
The C of A & S is located near the East of the city. Firstly there is the Science Museum, a simply magnificent exploration into shape and form both inside and out, offset perfectly by shallow pools and ‘designer’ trees.
This is neighboured by the Hemisphere, a beautiful oval dome containing an exhilarating 180degree Imax cinema. Smooth and textured surfaces and soft lighting make this an otherworldly experience.
Over the road is L’Oceanographic; an underwater sea world containing many different mammals and exciting creatures. The glass tunnels and spaces are again softly lit allowing focus with a real intimate experience, especially for larger marine life like beluga or walrus.
As with all good architecture the setting and surrounding landscaping is also important. Many of the necessary features like lifts or stairways have also been crafted into unusual features and shapes. Staircases are subtle inclines with stainless steel fixings and rails, you are very aware you are surrounded by the conception of ingenious design.
Every evening the taxi journey back from the city was always uneasy, blank and self absorbed, often thinking I had missed some obvious composition. You are bombarded with choice and even eight visits in total were not enough to cover the photographic possibilities here. Despite these buildings being the focus of my visit, the possibilities unfolded further with historical subjects and incredible graffiti just as I ran out of time.
For a well priced photo break I cannot recommend Valencia enough. Photography is welcomed here, no tripod bans or permits needed which was very refreshing. People politely respect your intentions by side stepping from the shot or waiting, how unusual these days! Dynamic and vibrant, filled with colour and life even in winter, I know that without a doubt I will certainly be back to get a thousands more shots that harbour in the city of Valencia.