Valencia 2022

Finally a trip away!

Making the most of my free time now I’ve retired with a trip to the beautiful city of Valencia.

Flights were out of Dublin, which did require an early start to catch the 5.30 am bus from Belfast. However, the bus was there at just after 5, so we didn’t have to stand around in the cold for too long. This was a nice relaxed way to reach the airport, being dropped off right at the door in just under 2 hours. Time to find some tea, and something that I usually only eat at airports for some reason, an almond croissant!

Checked in and lined up by the airplane steps, we than had to stand in the Dublin drizzle for an achingly long 10 minutes while a technician climbed in and out of the body of the plane. Before telling us that we’d have to go back inside and wait for an alternative craft. To be honest, I’d rather have an hours delay and get on a plane with no flashing warning lights!

The flight was very smooth, and I always love the view over the snowy Pyrenees. We landed in glorious sunshine just after lunch, and made our way through Covid and passport checks, before heading to the car hire depot. Having lived in Luxembourg during my career, I am (or was) familiar enough with driving on that side of the road, and so I was designated driver. It still took a bit of adjustment to remember where the rear view mirror was, and I did miss my reversing camera!

The satnav took us to the Vincci Palace Hotel on Carrer La Pau without too much swearing, followed by several trips round the block while we tried to locate the side street where the entrance to the car park was located. Via an elevator. A member of staff patiently guided me while I line up the car at exactly the right angle before squeezing it in to the small space. The hotel is very conveniently located, and even has a sun terrace!

Bags unpacked, we set off to do “aimless wandering”. This city lends itself really well to this activity, with beautiful buildings at every corner, and plenty of signs explaining any historical or architectural significances. Even with one of the main squares, Plaza de la Reina, closed for refurbishment, there was no shortage of sights to stop and stare or photograph.

I’ve been studying Spanish with a daily Duolingo lesson for over 2 years now, and so I was interested to see just how well I could communicate. The passport guy had surprised me by answering Bon Dia when I offered Buenas Dias, and I noticed that many signs, menus etc were in 3 languages: Spanish, English, and ……Valencian, a sort of version of Catalan.

We found a nice cafe for tapas and delicious Spanish white wine. Calling into a local Minimart for supplies on the way back to the hotel, I found that most of the wine on sale had corks rather than screwtops. This allowed me to try quite a complicated sentence: “Perdonne senor, busco una…en frances es un tire-bouchon” accompanied by suitable hand signals. And sure enough, un sacacorchos was duly obtained, and wine purchased. The prices were very reasonable – a bottle of Chardonnay started at 2 euros!

The hotel was very comfortable, and the staff very friendly and helpful, even providing me with a tray containing a kettle and tea bags for my essential morning cuppa.

The next was warm and sunny, and we had a great stroll round the city centre taking in the fabulous indoor market selling live snails, giant goose eggs,

colourful fruits and veg, and row upon row of fish and seafood. There was even a sign with my name on it!

From there we headed to Placa Ajuntament with the city hall, the bullring, and the gorgeous Estacion which still has detailed ceramic and wooden adornments. I found a cafe that served paella, the speciality of the region, and in the afternoon I took in the big Torres de Serranos before enjoying an ice cream in the Placa de la Viergien in front of the cathedral (under refurbishment). In the evening I dined on dorade with vegetables, and we finished with a few drinks in the lovely hotel bar.

Breakfast in the hotel was a good range of cold meats and cheese, yoghurts, bread and pastries, some hot food, and little slices of tortilla. We extracted the car from the elevator (easier on the way out), and headed out of town to visit friends who were staying nearby.

I decided not to attempt putting the car back in the hotel, opting instead for a public car park only 100m away. A late lunch was had at Saona, doing a 3 courses for 9.95 which was just exceptional – stuffed artichokes, salmon tartar, and a lemon and mango dessert.

We caught the hop-on-hop-off bus for an afternoon orientation tour of around 2 hours, to get a feel for what we wanted to see next day.

On our last full day, we went to La Ciutat de les Arts y les Ciences, and absolutely stunning complex of concert halls, exhibition spaces, science museum and aquarium. It was a little chiller today, and when we got off at the seaside stop, the seabreeze was very strong. But we found a nice seaside cafe for smoked salmon and avocado on toast before continuing our tour.

In the afternoon I tried to find the rooftop bar, as advertised on the guide map. I found where the door should be, and a notice said there was a new entrance round the far side. I walked round the block again, with no sign of an entrance. Back to the original notice to make sure I’d read it correctly, and then return to where the new entrance should be, before having to use my language skills to ask where it was. Sorry, closed for refurbishment! Oh well, off to El Corte Ingles for a bit of retail therapy instead.

For our last meal we went to Bacca, a glittering cavern like restaurant with deliciously camp waiters (think Hank Azaria in Birdcage) for a final seafood paella, and a nightcap in the hotel bar.

Final morning we went to the old established chocolate house Santa Catalina, all ceramic walls, and neatly turned out and very attentive waitresses for chocolate and churros, breakfast of champions!

This set us up nicely for a final dander, taking in the Torres de Quart, and the cathedral where there was a live display of local dancing and singing taking place.

Driving on a Sunday was a little less frenetic, and we only argued with the sat nav a wee bit before making our way back to drop off the car and head to Valencia’s architecturally stunning airport. Sadly much of the inside is currently being refurbished, but I bought some good olive oil to take home with me.

Luck was on our side on the return journey – plane landed on time, no queues to contend with, and the bus we were booked on, that we thought we were 5 minutes too late for, was still waiting at the stand. It was packed, and they were only letting on passengers who had booked tickets, so even though we didn’t get sitting together, we were on our way home through some torrential rain. And sadly I had someone behind me chatting incessantly (and loudly) the whole way.

In Belfast, a free taxi pulled up just as I reached the depot, and whisked us home in good time.

Overall, it is a delightful and attractive city that I would love to revisit , maybe when all those refurbishments have been completed!