After a lazy morning in Barcelona, followed by of course another coffee stop at the delicious Dalston. We were en route to Valencia, when we stopped at the Freixenet winery for a taste of Cava and a tour of the facilities. For those unaware, Cava is a type of Sparkling wine grown in a particular region in Spain (just like Champagne is to the region in France). This particular distillery (previously endorsed by none other than the Queen; Beyoncé), is one of the biggest producers of Cava. During the harvest season, between the end of August and mid-October, the winery harvests 1.2 million kilograms of grapes PER DAY. (Yes, that’s a LOT of wine). At peak, the winery can bottle up to 1 million bottles of wine per day. We were lucky enough to get a guided tour, through the wineries many “cavas”, meaning “cellars” in Spanish. We were also treated to a ride on the wine train (nicknamed by Em and myself as the electric centipede, which we seemed to think hilarious at the time, obviously delirious), around the bottling plant. At the end of the tour, a refreshing glass of Cava awaited (I know- confusing given that the word also means the cellar- cava in a cava…).
The LONG drive to Valencia awaited, and after a few naps on board the coach, I was keen to get off! We arrived late but ate at a traditional Spanish time of 10pm (I will need to get used to this timing…). It wasn’t until the following day that I truly got to explore Valencia! The city is beautiful, with the beach so close, the old town and the new arts and science complex making a true statement. The town is littered with interesting quirks, such as the Jewish craftsmen hiding statues of a man doing a number two, pointing out the direction of brothels, or even of devils doing the nasty, in the local Catholic Church. The city is also home to Horchata- a traditional drink of tiger nuts, almonds and rice, and with fartons (a pastry delicacy) to dip inside, it was delicious, but a little sweet for me!
Following this, we rented bikes and made our way through the city streets to Valencia. Although MUCH flatter than Barcelona, the streets were a little more confusing, but there were plenty of designated bike lanes, so again, I live to tell the tale! The River Turia once ran through Valencia, however, was prone to flooding. As such, the townsfolk once upon a time, diverted one arm of the river away from the city. Now, a beautiful park extends through the city where el Río Turia once ran. The arts and science district, at the end of the Río Turia, has some whacky buildings going up, again, like the works of Gaudí, meaning to reflect nature. The beach was beautiful, and after a quick dip in the Meditteranean, it was time for lunch! A recommendation from an awesome Spanish teacher, native to Valencia, took us to a restaurant called La Pepica, where we learned that it is UNACCEPTABLE to order only a main meal at a restaurant. Apparently a starter and/or drink is a must if you want to order paella in this place!
Venturing back into town and choosing to explore the old Valencia on foot, we found our way to the Church of Saint Nicholas, AKA Valencia’s Sistine Chapel. Every inch of the chapel was painted and had an interesting story to tell.
Another recommendation from la professora, was El Barrio de Carmen, the artisan quarter of the city. The street art was funky, and the houses were beautifully painted in an array of colours! After a taste of Agua de Valencia (a cocktail of cava, gin/vodka, and Valencian orange juice), we made a trek up the Tower of Miguelito, to see the views of Valencia as the sun was moving lower in the sky.
A quick and cheap dinner of an empanada fuelled me for a night on the town with a pub crawl. Again, I can’t get over the body clocks of the Spaniards! Everyone was out on the streets in the wee hours of the morning, with most bars and clubs not even getting started until after 1am- no wonder the Spanish struggle with Sydney’s lock-out laws!
An interesting lesson on history. One thing I found extremely interesting, and something, of course, to keep in mind when touring cities and learning about the rich and interesting histories that are on offer. History normally favours the victorious. There are two sides to every story, but the victorious have ways of making the defeated insignificant and wrong, by destroying their treasures and relics. But this wall was excavated, previously being covered in plaster and painted, to show the use of the head of a statue (among other things such as columns) for a filler amongst the stonework. Someone, once upon a long-lost time ago, thought this man important enough to immortalise him in a statue. This man was a Visigoth King. Now, he lives as a filler in a building. Ahh history…