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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gulliver park in Valencia, Spain

In Valencia, Spain, one of my favorite places in the world, the Turia River that runs through the city was rerouted in the 1950s to prevent flooding, leaving a dry riverbed with beautiful bridges built over it. The city decided to turn the riverbed into a series of parks, called the "Turia gardens", "Turia parks" or (if you're the tourism bureau) the "River of culture". You can see the river parks clearly in Google Maps's aerial views of downtown Valencia:

Here is a closer look at one part of the river, Santiago Calatrava's "City of Arts and Sciences", or, in the Valenciano (don't call it Catalan!), "Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències":

Notice that in the upper left of the picture above, there is a white circle, and you can just make out what looks like the shape of a giant man lying down. Here's a closer look:

I came across this while walking along the riverbed, and couldn't believe it was real: a playground with a giant jungle gym in the shape of Gulliver! With kids climbing all over it as if they were Lilliputians!

See the Google Maps aerial view -- it's fun to zoom in and out.

I'll never understand why Valencia isn't visited more by travelers. It's the birthplace of paella (Valencianos are known to cook it in pans so big they require special outdoor gas ranges), it's got a party city reputation in Spain second only to Mallorca (where Ibiza is), it's got beaches that are great in the summer, it has a wonderful old city center, and it has a miles-long riverbed park running through the center of the city, with the world's most iconic museum of science. Nearby Barcelona has... shopping. How does Barcelona get all the buzz?

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Blogger Ben on Sun Apr 13, 11:53:00 PM:
One more note -- confusingly, Valencianos do pronounce Gulliver's name neither like "Goo-yee-vehr", nor like "Guh-lih-vuhr", but like "Goo-lih-vehr". No one knew what I was talking about when I mentioned "par-kay Goo-yee-vehr".
Blogger Alice on Mon Apr 14, 01:15:00 PM:
One of my (less tall) 18c. friends called me a Brobdingnagian at a party once, and the book has been difficult to read since then. That last part isn't really true--though Swift jokes form a large part of how we insult one another. There's a wonderful annotated and illustrated edition of Gulliver's Travels edited by Isaac Asimov, in much the same style as Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice and Annotated Wizard of Oz.
Blogger Ben on Wed Apr 16, 08:47:00 PM:
Also, an important thing about Parque Gulliver is that its location helps it avoid the problem of kids not getting a sense of what the structure looks like from above, thanks to the nearby bridges. You can't see how high up they are in the Google Maps aerial view, but they give you a view much like the bottommost picture.