Day 18: Valencia
While our stay in Valencia was short, I was determined to make the most of it. We started with breakfast at the Westin, complements of the Platinum status. Now comparing European breakfasts to Dubai or Macau is just not fair – after all thats where the term ’Continental Breakfast’ originates from. However, the spread here was actually pretty good, including all the western classics, and some uniquely Spanish dishes like Tortilla (which is an egg omelette/pie, not a wrap) and horchata. The Spanish cured meats (Iberian ham, Chorizo) were especially good.
After breakfast, we walked along the Turia River Park. The weather was beautiful and sunny with temperatures in the high teens. In the park, we saw many groves of orange trees, one of Valencia’s chief exports.
The park itself is huge, spanning a significant portion of the former river. Its grounds have been well sculpted, with a mix of greenery, architecture, and bike trails. We saw many people exercising and even a group of school children on a field trip.
Eventually, we reached the City of Arts and Sciences, an ultra modern complex with stunning architecture. An artificial lake links the complex, making it even more beautiful. You could even take paddleboards or boats out onto the lake. The complex consisted of a performing arts centre, science museum, planetarium, event centre, and aquarium.
In addition, there was a conservatory featuring native plants called the Umracle.
This place was also one of the reasons I wanted to visit Valencia. I am all for historic architecture and icons like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, but this complex is more my aesthetic. I really enjoyed walking through this place and even people who aren’t into architecture can appreciate it.
By now, it was close to lunch time so we took an Uber to a local farmhouse for some authentic Paella Valenciana. This place was located on a lemon farm - I guess this climate is ideal for growing citrus. We arrived at Alqueria del Brosquil at 1pm per our reservation, but it actually opened at 1:30pm.
We started with a simple plate of the most tender and delicious calamari I’ve ever had.
If Valencia was famous for just one thing, it would be Paella. Often regarded as the national dish of Spain, it originated in the rice fields of Valencia as a hearty farmer dish. The traditional Paella Valenciana consists of bomba rice, green beans, chicken, rabbit, snails, and saffron. We ended up ordering a mixed Paella, which is half Paella Valenciana and half Seafood Paella – basically the two most popular versions.
This pan was huge and the Paella was delicious. Surprisingly, my favourite part were the green beans, which are very different from the ones I’ve had before. The texture was perfect and flavours were rich. There was a lot of nice seafood in there and the soccraat (caramelized crust) was awesome. The rice itself was a bit saltier than I expected, but it was fine when eaten with the toppings. We were also given a complimentary dessert with a shot of sweet wine.
After a delicious and filling lunch, we Ubered back to our hotel to pack up and rest.
Since we had a late flight, we left our luggage at the hotel, then went back out. It was still Siesta at the time, so the streets of the historic centre were mostly empty and all the shops were closed. Shortly after, the rush hour started. It was interesting to see that unlike conventional 5pm rush hour with people commuting home, people here were going back to work. We passed through some cool sites along the way, including a bull ring and the Valencia train station.
We weren’t hungry yet due to the late and very large lunch, so instead of dinner we got some snacks at a local cafe – Horchateria de Santa Catalina. This place specializes in Horchata, which is a sweet milk drink made out tiger nut. It went very well with the churros, which are much thinner and twisted into a pretzel shape here.
Finally, we walked back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and took the metro to the airport. Valencia Airport is pretty small, but they still had Priority Pass lounges. This lounge had a separate quiet area with day beds that were very comfortable to relax on.
We took the 11pm flight for a 40min hop to Palma de Mallorca, an island just off the Spanish coast. Even though we were only in Valencia for a day and half, it was fantastic. The food, the people, the value, the architecture – both old and new, were all great. I am very happy with my decision to come here out of all the cities in Europe I could have chosen.