Discovering another side of Valencia, Spain

January, 2016

In February 2015, I just got a glimpse of Valencia, during a one day trip from Pedreguer. This time, on my way back to the Netherlands, I get the opportunity to stay for two whole nights in this very interesting town. Also, I get to witness the celebration of Los Reyes Magos on the 5th of January. This is the arrival of the three Kings, one of the most important festivities in Spain, especially for the children. The 6th is mainly celebrated at home, where the children will open their presents, received from the Kings. On the 5th, it is celebrated with a Cabalgata or a float parade through the town, where sweets are thrown to the children. Later, the children will fill their shoes at home, with straw for the camels to eat.

I arrive on the 4th by train from Xeraco, a small station, with good connection to Valencia. The final station is Valencia North and very convenient right in the centre and close to Ayre Hotel Astoria Palace, a very reasonable priced hotel and situated on a quiet Plaza, right in the centre of town. From here, I can follow the procession on the main street on the 5th.

In the evening I discover an ice skating rink in front of the municipality building and many people are enjoying this possibility to have some holiday fun, with or without their children. The decorations are beautiful, so many lights on the impressive buildings and with so many people out on the streets and the stores and restaurants all open until late, it is a pleasure to walk around. With lots of tapas restaurants in the vicinity, it is fun to go from one place to another and try out where they serve the best chorizo and cheeses. Oh, and wine of course!

The first thing I visit, on the morning of the 5th, is the covered Market Place, where so many different products are for sale and the smell of all the herbs and sausages are such a treat. Surprisingly, there is also a gorgeous display of Bethlehem village, demonstrated at the entrance of the Market and it is full of tiny beautiful figures and animals and endless sceneries. After taking pictures from all different corners, it is time to buy spices for meat and fish and azafran for the paella. If I would live in downtown Valencia, I would be a regular client of this market! DSC04209Like this lady out on the terrace, in front of the market building……

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This time, I also discover a total different Valencia and so worth it!!! The “Jardines del Turia”, which are situated in an old riverbed, which runs 9 km’s through the city! It is one of the largest Urban Parks of Spain. Here, you’ll find footpaths and sport area’s, cycle and runner’s paths, 18 bridges from the 15th, 16th and 17th century, full of history.

The former riverbed passes the main monuments and museums, among them the Opera Auditorium, the Oceanografic, the Palau de les Arts, Palau de la Musica, Museo de las Ciencias and more. While walking through the Park, you’ll see all kind of Palm trees, Orange trees, Pines and aromatic plants, ponds and fountains and even a Gulliver Park for the children!

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I am so pleased to be able to walk here for hours, on this gorgeous sunny day!  Valencia is worth a visit…….

I thought about going to the harbour, which is nearby the end of the Jardines, but my legs are giving in. Supposingly, the three Kings are arriving in the harbour, but Valencians told me it is not worth to go there. I better have a break and try to recover from hours of walking, as tonight I would like to watch the Parade.

The Float Parade turns out to be endless, first of waiting and then even the procession is never ending. Also, although the whole parade is passing the spot where I am standing, the final embarking of the Kings is right in front of the Municipality building, which is on the other end. The Kings are lifted in an “carretilla elevadora” or a fork-lift truck and after pushing myself through the crowd, I just can get a glimpse with my 50 times zoom camera!

It seems the whole of Valencia town is crowded together on this evening and the faces of the children are hopeful, excited and tired at the same time.

After a short speech from the Mayor and each of the Kings, the show is over and there is an invasion of restaurants and tapas bars and I end up in a small Cuban restaurant of all places……it is called Babalu and it is cozy and warm. The food is so so and the Cuban owner is drinking heavily with some guests, but at least there is wine and ambiente!

On the 6th, Valencia is empty and quiet. Most stores are closed and a good time to wander around a bit more and visit some churches. My plane is leaving in the evening and with the luggage stored in the hotel, I still have time to discover more of the city.

Again, I visit the Botanical Garden and I am surprised it is open today. There is a very interesting tree with grapefruits, as well as oranges……

Later on, some stores for the tourists and more and more restaurants open their doors again. There are always tourists in Valencia and also the locals like to go out for lunch or dinner on their leisure days.DSC01740

On the Plaza de Reina, where the Cathedral is situated, it is a must to have a coffee or a wine and watch all the movement.

Coincidentally, I encounter this lovely authentic restaurant, called Tasca Embrujo del Carmen or the Tavern of the Spell of Carmen on calle Juristas 5. The food is good and the house wine great and often, there seems to be life music in the evening.  I would go there again a next time for sure, also thanks to the great couple, who are running the restaurant and kitchen.

I leave Valencia and Spain with the promise to come back…….

 

 

 

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From Nerja to Denia, Spain

The 16th of February, 2015

Again, I packed the car and drove to the other side of Spain, to a small village close to Denia, in between Alicante and Valencia. I took the coastal road towards Almeria, to avoid Granada. The first part of the highway is not completely finished, so it took some more time, but soon I entered the new highway and could drive via Almeria, Lorca and Murcia to Alicante and after to Denia. The highway was very quiet and the landscape is like the Wild West, so now I understand why they filmed so many cowboy movies in this part of Spain. It was not a boring drive, although it is also not the most beautiful part of Spain. I passed Benidorm and it didn’t look very appealing with all the huge apartment buildings (skyscrapers more or less), one after the other and all crumbled into a small valley. Right in between Alicante and Valencia, I found the small village of Pedreguer. Here I will be staying for two weeks, but with the home owner present this time. She has three dogs and one is paralyzed from the back, so a lot of work for her and not much time to walk with the other two. Also, she will need a small surgery and could use some help around the house.     DSC01660

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The house where I am staying is spacious with an enormous garden and view from all sides of the hills around. We are amidst the orange groves and they are full with oranges at this time of the year. I can imagine her garden must be colourful and lushy in springtime and summer. The blossom of the Almond trees is nearly starting and soon it will be an oasis of pink colours in the neighbourhoods.DSC07427     DSC07407

My host is originally from the Netherlands and we get along fine. If the sun is out, we can sit on one of the patio’s and have a glass (or two) of lovely wine together. I walk the dogs during the day and help the other one to go outside by lifting her up and putting her down and I finally can watch some Dutch t.v. in the evening, which hasn’t happened for a long time!                DSC01672                     DSC01669

During the first week, we visited Denia and some small villages in the surroundings, but the weather hasn’t been too good for a lot of sightseeing. In the second week, my host got her surgery and I was more needed in the house. Later in the week, I was able to visit Valencia, a beautiful town with lots of history in the old city. I have been to Barcelona many times and also Madrid, in the time my parents lived on the Costa Brava, but I had never been to Valencia.

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To go to Valencia, it is better to take the train to avoid parking problems and it is so much more relaxed. I first drove from Pedreguer to Xeraco. Once there, it is easy to find the station and although the parking place was full of cars, there was plenty space in the small streets close by. The station is very small and you buy your ticket out of the machine, but there was a lady to help out. A return ticket will cost around 12 euro’s and the train will take you to Valencia North, from where you just walk into the old city. On your way you will find one or two tourist information kiosks, with a very helpful staff and they will supply you with a good map and give some explanation, regarding the most interesting sites to visit.

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Valencia has lots of atmosphere. Full with tapas bars and cozy restaurants, lots of Plazas with terraces filled with locals as well as tourists, a cathedral, many churches, an old city wall and many other interesting buildings. Although it is a huge city, the inner old town has an intimate character. One day is just enough to get only an impression of all the city has to offer. I walked and walked, even visited the University Botanical Gardens and once there, you don’t realize that you are in such a DSC01719big city. definitely, worth a visit!DSC01727

After these two weeks, I have to return to Portugal, to hand in my car to the agency at Faro airport. I will stay for my last two days with my former house sit hosts in Gorgoes, the Algarve.  However, before heading back to Portugal, I will meet up with a friend of mine in Malaga and get some more time to explore the city, during the Andalusian festivities.