Sunday, April 08, 2012


There was one last artifact that had escaped our diligent investigations and so the first order of the day was to finally check it off our list. This was El Santo Cáliz de La Cena, or the Sacred Chalice of the Supper, or the Holy Grail. No one is sure about the provenance of this particular piece of religiosity, but Catholic historians do point to its authenticity. It is said that it was hidden away in some Spanish monastery for all of the Dark and Middle Ages before making its way here to the Valencia Cathedral. This story, borrowed from a Valencia tourism web site says this, “The Holy Grail is believed to have been left in the house where the Last Supper took place - a house belonging to the family of St Mark the Evangelist, who later took it to Rome when he went to serve as an interpreter for St Peter. Passed on within the church and used as Papal Chalice, the relic was shipped out of Rome in 3rd century by St Lawrence, in anticipation of a persecution. It was taken out of Rome in the hands of a Spanish soldier to Huesca, Spain. During the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the Grail went into hiding and later re-emerged in various Spanish monasteries and cathedrals. The Kings of Spain looked after it, on occasions taking it into their treasuries or palaces, until it was finally presented to the Valencia Cathedral in 1436, where it remained ever since. It briefly left the Cathedral only twice, both times during the 1930s Civil War, for fears of plunder.” You can decide for yourselves, I got a nice look at it in its private chapel and behind a big sheet of yellow glass. I suppose my view is clouded by Indiana Jones’ view of what the chalice should look like and I was surprised by how fancy it was.

Our success called for a celebration so we went across the square to partake of that old Spanish tradition of Chocolate and Churros. Big cups of molten chocolate syrup served with a plate of deep fried dough tubes, the perfect fortification for a trip downtown.

The next phase of the Semana Santa festivities – The Parade of the Resurrection - was being held down the beach barrio so we caught the Metro again after securing our view of the Chalice. I was a pro with the ticket machine this time, being the 3rd, and we were ready to go in an instant. Across the platform, an Australian couple was fighting with machine I had my previous problems with, so I offered to help. She was grateful; he was dodgy, clearly not liking the fact that I had to take charge. I got them going and when the train showed up, they made sure to pick a different car.

Having planned our time well, we had left plenty for a wander down the beach. The weather was beautiful and there were a lot of people stretched out on the sand and roaming up and down the promenade. Like any other beachfront in the world, this one was lined with little restaurants and hotels serving the strollers and people spending a weekend on the shore. We walked down to the end where we could see one of the warehouses used for the America’s Cup (Team New Zealand) when Valencia hosted the event in 2010. A true mega-yacht was parked in front. Heading back, we were stopped a correspondent for a Spanish television network who interviewed us about our vacation. His associate videotaped us as we were questioned about what we thought and what we’d done and if the weather had been a disappointment. He was pretty excited that we were from the US and that we spoke passable Spanish, but as he went on his questions became more and more subtle and our answers probably made less and less sense. We imagined that we would end up on the cutting room floor.

The music was starting in the distance so we headed up a side street and staked out a spot in the shade along the parade route. It was a pretty festive atmosphere with families and couples and the young and old wandering here and there and visiting with neighbors, friends and relatives. The first sign of the procession was a contingent of mounted police, dressed in black and wearing shiny silver helmets bedecked with white plumes. Unlike the Good Friday event, this one was not solemn at all, rather just an opportunity for the bands to play and the church groups to march. The Hermandades were not wearing their pointy hats due to the temperature, but everyone was in costume. Most groups had a Mary with a big gold halo, and several had a Jesus who varied from austere to Elvis impersonator. Many people were carrying babies in tiny renditions of their group’s uniform, which made you think that their little brains were getting baked. It went on and on, one group with their colors and standard bearer after another. The crowd got rowdier and rowdier and it became almost impossible to take photos as someone’s head always seemed to appear in the shot just at the last minute. The children were yelling something unintelligible at the young women in the parade to get them to throw flowers, collecting them seemed to be part of the event. Mostly they were ignored and no one got anything until someone who knew them came by. All of this made the whole scene very chaotic and so we left our spot and headed back towards the Metro station, managing to catch the very end of the parade. It had lasted about 1.5 hours. The train appeared just as we did and we took the quick ride back home.

After a bit of rest we went out for a nice long walk through the one remaining district in our general neighborhood. Crossing back towards the Mercado Central, we picked a place and decided to have tapas for dinner, having pretty much run the deck of local paellas. Patatas Bravas (potatoes in cayenne and mayonnaise), deep fried squid and little chunks of spicy pork were our choices, served with a cold San Miguel beer for me. This being our last night, we decided that desert at Molto (our favorite little neighborhood coffee and pastry shop) was in order so we stopped for chocolate mousse, some kind of combination of flan, pudding and cake and a couple of stiff cups of espresso. The streets were still packed with Easter revelers when we called it a night at 11.

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