We made it to Valencia, Spain and plan on being here for a month. (Notice this post is 3 weeks into our Valencia trip. Apparently blogging is harder than it seems..) As part of our trip we we wanted to pick a place in Spain where we could stay for a longer period of time and really immerse ourselves in the Spanish culture and way of life. We chose Valencia for a couple reasons: it is way cheaper than Barcelona, it has beaches, it is still a big city with lots to do, and most importantly it has an awesome food culture. Valencia is the birthplace of Paella, the awesome rice dish, and horchata, cinnamon rice milk that is very popular in Mexico. Valencia is situated on the Mediterranean in the middle of the country. It sits at the crossroads of the agricultural southwest and the industrial north. We have done so much while staying in Valencia so for the sake of time we will just highlight our favorite activities!
Valencia is home to the largest market in Spain, the Central Market. This market is Amazing! It was built 100 years ago and has about 400 vendors. It sells everything you could want cheese, meats, bread, sweets, fish, veggies, fruit, spices, booze, olive oils.. I could go on and on. Also I want to take this market with us back to Denver. Oh and it has a bomb tapas restaurant, Central Bar, nestled within the vendor stalls. It is the brainchild of a Michelin star chef that only serves food purchased at the market. We have been back to this place 3 times already…it is so good. Kristin ate anchovies and actually really enjoyed them and they make the most fantastic meatballs. This is a Valencia must see!
We were lucky enough to stumble across Valencia’s Restaurant Week the first week we were here! It is the same as Denver’s restaurant week where multiple restaurants across the city participate and have set menus and the price is set (20 Euros Lunch and 30 Euros Dinner). Valencia’s Restaurant Week also has a set lunch menu since lunch is such a huge meal in Spain. We went to two restaurants during the week. Ma Khin Cafe which we randomly came across while walking the city. It is located in an amazing building called Mercado Colon which reminded us of the Source in Denver with restaurants, bars, a market, and events. We were able to catch a free orchestra concert on a Sunday morning. Its adorable!! Okay enough about the building back to the food (see I told you this would be a recurring theme). Ma Khin Cafe is an asian moroccan fusion restaurant and we got a ton of food like 8 courses. Our favorites were a moroccan inspired rice dish with fish and raisins and an awesome samosa. We really experienced the late night dinner when we tried to go to this restaurant at 8:30pm and the restaurant was really surprised to see us and didn’t really know what to do with us so early. So we decided to get a drink and come back in an hour. Even when we came back at 9:30pm we were only the 2nd group in the restaurant. The restaurant didn’t get busy until like 10:30pm. Note to anyone going to dinner in Spain, don’t go until like 10pm. The second restaurant we went to was Entrevins which is located in a younger hipper neighborhood called Rusafa. Entrevins is exactly how it translates, between wines, because the restaurant has a huge wine list and you are surrounded by all of the bottles while you eat. This restaurant was described as modern catalan and was really good and we got the wine tasting too!! Yummy.
Since Spain has so much coast there are a ton of beaches everywhere. Valencia has a beach that is really close to town and a short train ride from where we are staying. There are also beaches about an hour via bus south of Valencia that are considered blue flag beaches. To be a blue flag beach you have to meet certain standards for water quality, safety, and environmental management. We took the bus one day down to one of these beaches. Since we went during the week it wasn’t very busy and seemed like a sleepy retirement community (everyone fled the beach at lunch/siesta time) and would be such a great place to have a vacation home if you are spanish. This beach is where we finally found some awesome seafood paella!! We have tried paella multiple times while in Valencia as part of menus of the day but they just weren’t very good so we were super excited to eat the real deal.
Since lunch is such a big deal in Spain we made sure we found some great restaurants to go for lunch. One of those restaurants is Delicat which has a set 5 course menu every day (13.5 Euros) and is an asian fusion restaurant. This place is fantastic (we have been twice already) and we were lucky enough to get a table the first time we tried to go because most tables are reserved in advance. It is run by a couple and they only have one lunch and dinner seating a day. You can tell they love their jobs by the amazing service and delicious food. It was so good that after we finished our meal we reserved a table for lunch the next week!
Valencia is home to a unique zoo called the Bioparc and is one of Valencia’s main attractions. The Bioparc is unique because there are sections of the zoo without any fences and they want to make it seem like you are totally immersed in the animal’s natural habitat. They specialize mostly in African animals so you can get up close and personal with giraffes, rhinos, hippos, monkeys, etc. It was super cool and totally worth it. I also want to comment on how awesome the spanish are because you cannot up charge for food and booze even at attractions. We were able to get a sandwich and a beer for 4 euros. Yea it is that cheap and amazing. Probably for the best beers aren’t that cheap at zoos in the US who knows what would happen with a bunch of drunk American’s at the zoo..weird stuff could happen.
Okay..that’s all for now for Valencia. Next posts on Mallorca and the 2nd half of our time in Valencia!