Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Weekend Breaks: Sunny Valencia

Autumn has spread its wings in Madrid. The mornings have turned cold and dark, the sun beginning to keep his distance, leaving our days with fewer hours of light.

But Spain is a big landmass, and while the trees are now bald and lifeless in Madrid, we heard that down south the summer spirit is still alive. So this weekend, we went off chasing the sun in Valencia.

An old tower gate in Valencia

Valencia, the birthplace of paella and the land of unbelievably sweet Valencian oranges, is only a 3 hour drive from Madrid so a weekend break to this city is very doable.

The Old City

Mercat Central
Valencia's beautiful and sprawling indoor mercado is bustling with locals buying their supplies. Because Valencia is a relatively undiscovered destination for tourists, their mercados are geared for the locals, thus no touristy stuff at the Mercat Central.

Jardin del Turia
What was once a raging river, the Turia, is now an expansive park that cuts across most of the city of Valencia. It is said that one can go from one part of the city to another without using roads by just traversing the city's verdant Turia gardens.

Ciudad de las Artes y la Ciencas
A stunning complex of weird but beautiful buildings surrounded by pristine pools of water. This is my favorite area in Valencia. One can spend a day here just walking around or sitting near one of the pools, enjoying the breeze, the architecture and sighing to the genius of the architect Calatrava.

The complex from afar. It looks small and just weird looking, no? But actually, it's really, really big!

The Umbracle at night

Shopping Tip: There are great quality and relatively inexpensive souvenirs to be had at the shop at the basement of the Hemispherio. I bought a pretty, lady's fitted shirt as a souvenir for only 6€.

The Food

Mention Valencia and of course this is what comes to mind:
Delicious paella de mariscos!

Ice Cream Cake

The food in Valencia is surprisingly cheap. Our lunch of paella mariscos and roast chicken with ice cream cake for dessert, plus free unlimited bread and a glass of bottled water was only 10,50€. Even cheaper than Madrid prices!

While exploring the old city, we stumbled upon Amorino, an Italian gelato shop with branches all over Europe.

Still hung over from our gelato adventures in Italy, I ordered a cup of Speculoos, Pistachio and Banana gelato.

Good but to be honest, it pales in comparison to Cremeria Funivia's sublime gelatos.

Freshly squeezed and super sweet Valencian oranges

Frozen Yoghurt with caramel sauce, tiny oreos and a stick of Kitkat. The sourness of the yoghurt plays up nicely with the caramel and chocolate flavors. Delicious!

A late breakfast of Onion and Ham Quiche and freshly squeezed orange juice

The Beach
Valencia has a lot of beaches. We went to the beach closest to the city center, the Playa Las Arenas, a mere twenty minute bus ride away from our hotel in the city center. It's a public beach with a long shoreline and the sand,while not white, was very fine so it's perfect to walk barefoot on the shore. There are also reasonably priced restaurants along the beach so a lot of people do this:

Passing away the time, snacking at the beach while people watching.


Valencia is a beautiful city with an enviable lifestyle. The old city, its beautiful centers of the arts and sciences, their expansive parks and their numerous beaches are all less than an hour away by bus from each other. And while Madrid is home at the moment, when it comes to work life balance I think Valencia has it better with its beaches, parks, the art and science centers, cheap food, the wonderful mercados and a compact walkable city center.

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