21 Sep

The wonderful thing about living in mainland Spain (as opposed to Mallorca, which I love, for example), is the ability to drive to other cities (or even other countries come to that!) – no panicking about getting to the airport on time, or wondering whether your bathroom scales are correct and actually you are half a kilo over weight in your luggage.  You can just get ready in your own time, pack up the car with whatever and however much you like, lock the front door and get on the road.  One place which is easy to get to and one of our favourite cities is Valencia.  Ok, it is a four hour drive, but definitely weekendable from here and straight up the E15.  There are loads of good places to stay and I would always recommend staying in the old town, near the cathedral.  It is perfect for young and old alike – if the walking gets too much you just plonk yourself down in an outside cafe and have another drink!

Valencia has much to offer, great architecture old and new, shopping, fantastic world class restaurants, music, arts, and the dry river bed going through the centre is now an enormous and beautiful park – quite an unusual sight as you criss cross the bridges when driving around the city.

Valencian architecture

The last time we went to Valencia was last November.  We took our parents, all in their mid seventies.  The weather was incredible and the city was not crowded as it was not half term or any major holiday.  I like to do my research when I travel and so spent hours on the internet looking for restaurants in particular (hotels I find are much easier as you decide on your budget and pick the one which looks the nicest); restaurants are much trickier but I figured I would pick an uber expensive one (as it was my mother’s birthday) and one more casual, fun one.  It worked a treat as the first one, Chust Godoy; (strange name) was fab.  It was rather formal but at the upper end of Spanish cuisine (and price!) and everyone enjoyed it.

When we awoke the next morning, it was the most beautiful day so after breakfast we headed off to the central market.  Even if you are not a foodie, it is the most amazing. It is a kind of old Covent Garden and Harrods food hall rolled into one.  We spent a good couple of hours there mooching about – I spent 57 euros on cheese!  I won’t go on about it but suffice it to say that you cannot go to Valencia and not go to the market.  We will be going next week as Mick is meeting a client there so we will stay overnight and cram in the market in the morning.

The Central Market

Then we hopped on an open top bus – the most perfect thing to do in a group of mixed ages as everyone will enjoy it and gives everyone a chance to relax and enjoy the city and the weather.  The destination of these buses is usually Valencia beach – the home of paella. So we got off the bus and we did a bit of a recce for lunch.  All the beach restaurants looked pleasant and busy so we just took pot luck with one.  It was brilliant, great food, fresh fish and a bottle of rosado wine.  We had to leg it a bit in order not to miss the 4 o’clock bus, otherwise we would have had to wait for another hour (no real hardship!).

Then it was back on board to the city and the main square for yet another drink – well we were on holiday.  After a small late siesta, it was up and off again for dinner.  This time a short cab ride away to Conde Altea an area Mick and I had visited before.  It is similar to Soho in London (without the sleaze!)  in that there are streets lined with restaurant upon restaurant most of which look good judging by the volume of people in them.  We chose a huge pizza place (Don Salvatore Italiano) which I had researched, frequently apparently by the football crowd (players, not fans I hasten to add!).  They boasted 100 different pizzas and was quite simply brilliant.  My father went a bit crazy and ordered a bottle of champagne, a bottle of red wine and one of white so by the time we were full of pizza we were also smashed.  Anyhow, we had another great night and wandered around after dinner for a coffee and a brandy before heading back to bed.

We were only there for two nights on this occasion which is fine but if you want to do more of the cultural things than we did on this particular trip (the museum of modern art, the aquarium and opera house which architecturally are quite incredible, the cathedral and maybe some serious shopping) then I would say you need at least another day and night in order not to be shattered.

The dolphins at Valencia aquarium

What I would say, however, is that however long you decide to go for, do go – it is well worth the visit and a complete contrast to where we live.

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