Last weekend we went to Valencia, Spain. This is how we got on...
Valencia attracts 80,000 British holidaymakers a year. Other than the obvious- oversized cameras, halting words of Spanish, an upside map - it was easy to tell the tourists from the locals. Us visitors, memories of a long wet winter fresh in minds, were in proper, true holiday wear- shorts, vests and the like- our pale, wan Northern European skins soaking up the vitamin D. Valencians by contrast continued their daily business in thick scarves, big boots and fur coats despite the 25C heat.
It isn't just the year round warm sunny temperatures that attract so many visitors to Spain's third largest city. Eating options are delicious, fresh, plentiful and very reasonable on the purse strings.
Our first evening was spent bar hopping in the La Tassa area and around the restored Marcado Colon, enjoying a glass or two of very quaffable Spanish red, fuelled by plates of tapas. The highlight of our tapas-ing (probably a Spanish phrase) was at Casa Montana, a Valencian institution, rightly to be found in any self-respecting guidebook. In a dark room lined with enormous wine barrels we tucked into baby broad beans with Iberian ham, Padrón peppers, carpaccio of tuna with seven spice, ox steaks with pequillo and green garlic and finally, happily, finishing with an orange and mascarpone pud.
Meanwhile, fine dining options include half a dozen Michelin starred establishments; we enjoyed a stunning, bargainous and leisurely set lunch menu for just €30 at El Poblet. Highlights included a smoked corn bread served with a pork carpaccio drizzled in a BBQ sauce and arros negre, squid ink rice with octopus and mussels.
Also, considered the home of paella, this famous Spanish dish cannot be missed. Be sure to sample the traditional Valencian version with rabbit, snail and chicken.
And if that's not enough food choices for one weekend, a morning strolling through the ornamental Mercado Central, one of Spain's largest food markets, should certainly be on the itinerary. With a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in hand, we watched customers haggle for jamon, barter for chorizo and choose between mountains of fresh fruits and vegetables from the huerto. Once outside, I made a rather convincing argument (in my not so humble opinion) for the purchasing of an authentic paella pan from the numerous stalls dotted around the Marcado. Despite promising to use it 'most nights of the week, really' my husband cleverly and successfully distracted me from the ridiculously oversized pans with a bowl of churros con chocolate, moreish fingers of sugared doughnut dipped in lightly spiced warm chocolate:
With so much enjoyment of the local food (we truly were happier than pigs in the proverbial) we were rather in need of some exercise. There are many places to hire bikes for the day from around €10 and with winding cycling paths through the historical old city plus an easy to navigate route to the beach, this really is an ideal way to burn off a few of the calories and see the sights. We leisurely cycled our way through Jardín del Túria, passing by the City of Science and Art, a sequence of futuristic modern buildings and architecture surrounded by cooling fountains and waterways. Our reward was the old Port, a long sandy beach and sparkling in the distance, the twinkling blue sea. Perfect location for a dip of the toes and a little siesta.
Our cycle back was interrupted, rather welcomingly as it had been at least a few hours since our last copa vino tinto, when we stumbled upon a Spanish wine festival. It certainly beat our British version hands down. It may have been the vino but we both agreed the open air, the warm, late afternoon sun, the family friendly cheery atmosphere and the jamon a queso nibbles was an improvement on an overcrowded, stale exhibition hall serving water biscuits as snacks. Living la vida loca in action. And for those visitors for whom culture extends beyond sitting in a pavement cafe watching the world go by in an atmospheric plaza, Valencia apparently has numerous world class galleries, museums and historic buildings to whil away a long weekend in.
- We stayed at Hotel Dimar, a fifteen minute walk to the historic old town and right next to Jardín del Túria
- EasyJet and Ryanair both fly daily to Valencia from various UK airports