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Is there any other other city on earth with a 5-1/2-mile-long park running through it? Valencia, three hours south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast, may be unique in that regard. It's a bustling modern city of close to a million, surrounding a historic center dense with architectural monuments from the medieval to the modern.
Here, the Jardines del Turia (Turia Gardens), snakes through the city as a long line of plants and paths. The Turia was a river until it flooded once too often, taking 100 lives. In the late 1950s, city officials resisted the lure of a super-highway, deciding instead to divert the river's course and repurpose the dry riverbed as an unbroken string of parks, gardens, and playgrounds.
The Turia's varied landscaping conveys just a hint of classical Spanish gardens, with their fountains, arches, and symmetrical design. Created piecemeal over several decades, the Turia is generally more casual and less manicured than other Spanish parks, with lawns, palm trees, orange groves, and a rose garden, all linked by paths for cycling and strolling.