Valencia in January, during the low season. Valencia just for us, without endless tourist queues, without traffic. Valencia as two common people, in a quaint little AirBnB apartment just behind the lively Mercado Central, waking up with the city.
Two months have passed since one of the most authentic holidays I have ever had. We’ve been in Valencia just for forty-eight hours, from when we took the flight in Pisa, bursting with curiosity and expectations, till when we landed again in our Tuscan airport, with our eyes full of orange trees, intoxicated by the scent of the sea, relaxed as having spent ten days at sea. Yet they were only forty-eight hours.
Forty-eight hours in Valencia may not be enough to visit it all, to discover the hidden corners, to taste all the local specialties, to mingle with the Valencian people and get to know every stall at the market. Yet forty-eight hours are enough to fall in love with a city built on a human scale, to bless the chance to travel in low season, to know deeply inside that it is worth going back and stay in Valencia for a longer period of time, to learn to live here as a local.
So, Valencia, we will come back, wait for us as we made a promise to see you again soon. We arrived in mid-January in an empty airport, it was almost eerie to see it so empty. The tourist office greeted us and there began our trip with the Valencia Tourist Card, the most efficient way to go around the town.
In this March weekend, when the Spring is already at the horizon, let me bring you with me in Valencia. We had our foretaste of Spring there, I hope you’ll get the same fresh and welcoming feel from this few photos. For more detailed information and more photos head to Tommaso’s blog post, you’ll have another perspective on our little Valencian tour.
We had breakfast in one of the oldest café, the Horchateria de Santa Catalina. Here, bravely regardless of seasonality, food matching and customs, we ordered horchata, a local drink that looks like almond milk, very refreshing in the summer, churros and fartons, which are again a typical soft bread usually dunked into the horcata.
The place was empty, thanks to the favor of the low season, so we enjoyed the beginning of the day along a few local customers, which instead broke their fast with churros and chocolate, as more suited to a mid-January morning.
To respect yet another tradition, in the evening we stopped at Sagardi for some pintxos, the equivalent of tapas: our idea was to have just a few tastings and then find a place for dinner, but we lost the count of all the croutons we had, one with cod, one with tortilla and chorizo, more with anchovies and vegetables. Two glasses of agua de Valencia sealed what we called a satisfying dinner.
We enjoyed Sagardi and we spend more than an hour, lulled by a friendly and warm atmosphere. Valencia, you know how to make people fall in love with a smile and a drink.
We had just one lunch in Valencia, so we chose it carefully. We headed to the sea port and stepped into La Pepica where we were seated at a side table overlooking the beach, in a large and airy room filled with sunshine. La Pepica is a traditional restaurant, an unmissable visit for the former King Juan Carlos when he is in the area. Despite this regal honour, la Pepica has really affordable prices and large portions which made us happy after a long exciting morning walking up and down the city.
When in Valencia, eat as a local. So we skipped the menu and we ordered an appetizer of tiny clams generously washed with tangy lemon juice and the real paella valenciana. Apparently this dish was born in the nearby Albufera Park, and despite what is usually believed, there is no fish in it but chicken, rabbit, white beans and saffron to colour the rice. It is served in large metal skillet from which it takes its name. We were the only tourists left in the silent room and all you could hear was me scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spoon to gather the last browned grains of rice, as they are unanimously recognized as the best part of the paella.
If you are a food enthusiast, do not miss the grand Mercado Central, an architectural masterpiece and the vibrant beating heart of the city. It’s easy to lose the sense of time wandering among the stalls of fresh fish, meat, cereals and legumes, fruits and vegetables, tasting a memorable ham and slivers of a piquant cheese.
As you can see from the photo above, this was the real reason of our visit, La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava for the city redevelopment. This dreamlike architectural complex is situated at the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia, which was drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood.
It is breathtaking at any time of day or night, so it is worth spending here more than a few hours. Do come back also after the sunset, to enjoy once again the calm, the silence, a show of lights and shapes which is almost all for you .
We decided to focus the holiday on the Calatrava’s buildings as Tommaso is an architecture enthusiast and this was his Christmas gift, while I was pushing to go to the market and eat pintxos. Though, I have to admit it was worth every minute we spent there, even if they were hours, not minutes.
We spent also a few hours at the Aquarium, chasing sharks, dolphins, penguins and jellyfish.
So, are you booking your tickets to visit Valencia? As I was writing this post and working on the images my desire to come back grew exponentially, as Valencia knows how to win your heart with its human size, its warmth and its smile.
Thank you Visit Valencia for your support, you made us fall in love!