To Valencia, Spain for Paella!
We desperately needed an escape from cold, gloomy, gray Germany in March and set our sights for somewhere in Spain.
We stumbled across a very useful blog, The Spain Scoop, and read about Valencia, the birthplace of paella. Having such a strong passion for food, we were sold!
Valencia is actually the third largest city in Spain in population after Madrid and Barcelona and is well worth a visit. It sits on the coast but the old historic city center is located a short distance inland.
The city is of course known for paella. The famous rice dish originated here and locals will tell you that the only place to eat it is in Valencia. Valencia is also famous for the massive architectural project by Santiago Calatrava called The City of Arts and Sciences. The architectural masterpiece contains an aquarium, IMAX theater, planetarium, science museum, and art museum.
We used some Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights from Frankfurt to Valencia via Paris and cashed in Marriott Rewards points for 5 free nights at the AC Hotel by Marriott and took off for sunny Spain!
We really enjoyed strolling around the old historic center with its traditional historic architecture. There were nice little squares and narrow streets lined with bars, cafes and restaurants.
Being the foodies that we are, one of the highlights for us was the Mercat Central, a massive indoor market. The market had a fantastic selection of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, and olives.
We then discovered the seafood section, and that was extraordinary! The seafood was so fresh that some of it was still moving on the ice!
We naturally had to stop for some fresh raw oysters on the half shell and sparkling wine.
In the evenings, we enjoyed drinking fantastic Spanish Gin and Tonics. If you have never had a Gin and Tonic in Spain, it is a must! Most bars in the old town carried many different varieties of gins and various types of tonic water. The drink is then garnished with different types of herbs, spices, and flowers and is often prepared tableside in large goblets. Delicious!
One of the main reasons for visiting Valencia was to sample the world famous paella and we were not disappointed. While you can find the dish all over the city, the best place to eat this dish is along a strip of restaurants on the city beach. The Malvarossa Beach area can easily be reached by subway. All the restaurants here serve it in a traditional style called Paella Valenciana which contains meat (chicken and/or rabbit) or Paella de Marisco, which contains seafood. Locals never eat it mixed! The most famous restaurant on the strip is La Pepica where Earnest Hemmingway once dined. Our favorite was L’Estimat where we actually ate 3 times! The interior was old and traditional and packed with locals enjoying their lunch. The authentic paella is cooked in a large, shallow iron pan over an open wood fire.
On our last day, we visited The City of Arts and Sciences. We walked there from the city center along the old Turia River bed. The river was diverted away from the city a while back and has been turned into a really nice park with many beautiful trees and flowers. There are nice walking and biking trails making this a great way to move around the city.
We admired the fantastic architecture and also enjoyed visiting the aquarium.
We were both surprised that Valencia is not more popular with tourists. It is a great city to visit for a few days. And if you come with a big appetite…even better!
What is your favorite place to visit in Spain?