This was my third visit to Valenica, Spain’s third largest city. It’s a beautiful city and I like it a lot, from the beautiful old buildings in the historic centre, with their honey-coloured stone, to the magnificent futuristic architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences designed by the renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava.
Arriving in Valenica by train is a treat. The station is beautiful with wonderful architecture decorated with traditional tiles and ceramics, much of the decoration featuring the fruit for which the city is renowned – oranges. We stopped to admire this for a time then set off in search of coffee. We’d got up early so we could arrive soon after 10 a.m. and be able to enjoy most of the day there, but coffee was now a priority. However, we didn’t want to waste too much time over coffee and took pot-luck and just went into one of the first cafes we saw, L’Espresso Caffe on c/ La Sangre, 11, quite close to the station and on the way to the food market, in the hope it would be OK. It was more than OK; it was excellent. Apart from good coffee we enjoyed excellent tostadas – toasted baguettes over which the Spanish either dribble a good quantity of olive oil or grated fresh tomatoes. We had the tomato version and the bread was so good, Linda (my trusty Spanish interpreter for the day!) asked about it, saying it was unusual to find such good artisan type bread in that part of Spain. Although we’d only planned to stop for a quick coffee, after the excellent tostadas we couldn’t resist sharing a slice of their home-made orange cake that was every bit as good as it looked, tasting truly home-made and not just labelled as such. Then, it was on to the fabulous food market.
Mercado Centro is one of the oldest running markets in Europe. Although the current building dates from only the 20th century, it’s built and decorated in traditional Valencian style with wonderful mosaics, ceramics and stained glass. It’s bright and airy with a huge central dome and it’s a delight to wander around whether you want to buy food or not. As we had a day ahead of us and it would be hours before we got home, we didn’t want to buy much, but I did buy some Serrano ham from Linda’s favourite stall, Charcuteria Amparo at stalls 100, 101 and 102, where we were warmly welcomed by the friendly stallholder.
From there we walked round the old town, past the lovely cathedral, through the silk exchange market which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but currently being renovated. We stopped for lunch in a small restaurant in the narrow streets which Linda knew did a good value lunch deal: 9€ for 3 courses and wine. Here I tried fideua for the first time: a traditional Valencian dish cooked in the same way as paella but using thin, small pieces of pasta instead of rice. Mine was cooked with prawns and squid in a tomato-y sauce as was delicious.
It was a lovely day; the weather perfect – warm but not too hot or humid. We walked quite some distance and saw a lot in our few hours there. But there is a huge amount to see and Valencia is such a beautiful city, it would make an excellent destination for a long weekend – especially for the gourmet who wants to enjoy the best of Spanish food. Valencia is the home of paella, and although we didn’t have some today, this is without doubt the best place to come if you love that wonderful rice dish. Linda took me to the little hotel, right in the heart of the old centre, where they stay if they want to stay overnight for any reason: Hostal Antigua Morellana where we had a friendly conversation with the receptionist. Rooms start from €55 a night and I’d definitely try it if I wanted to spend a few days in Valencia.
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