Tuesday: Exploring Valencia

Apparently, the folks from the US bring rain to Valencia.  For an area that gets very little rain, it sure is wet here today.  Instead of getting up early to take my usual exploration walk, I slept in until about 7:30am. The hotel we are staying at is nice, but the rooms are very close together and one can hear everything that’s going on in the hallways.  I find it unusual that in a country whose culture embraces staying out until the wee hours of the morning, the housekeeping staff of the hotel is in the hall chatting and making noise before 6am. Something isn’t right here!  In any case, I enjoyed a nice hotel breakfast including pastries, lots of fruits and cheese and something I had never seen before, cuajada. I picked up what I thought was a plain yogurt to pour over my fruit and what I discovered was a delicious cheese custard (made by Dannon no less) that resembles flan in texture, but tastes like a mild vanilla custard.  I guess it’s not available in the states. I am always excited to find a new food!

After breakfast, we met our group. There are teachers from Delaware, New York City, Texas and California with us. We go from 28 to 75 in age.  There are men and women. Our tour hosts are Alba from the Department of Tourism and Alicia from the Comunidad Valenciana.  Both are very kind and helpful. I look forward to spending the week with them.  As per usual on a trip like this, what started out as a day among strangers quickly became a group of friends by the stroke of midnight.

Our tour guide Vito talks about the marina and Valencia’s participation in the America’s Cup.

We took a bus tour of Valencia followed by a walking tour of the city center. We visited the Cathedral, the Silk Exchange and the train station. It was very informative. The history and culture is so deep here with Roman, Visigoth and Moorish experiences. As someone who has traveled most recently through Latin America, I often forget how far back the cultural influences are in Europe.

We ate a quaint lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant.  The pictures do not do justice to the amazing culinary dishes.  Two days in a row now, I’ve had squid ink in my meals.  I’m starting to sense a trend here!

After lunch, we went to the Lladro factory and museum. This is the only production facility for this exquisite porcelain. It started as a family business in valencia in 1953 and has remained here ever since. Lladro has a worldwide presence and it considered to be one of the finest brands of porcelain in the world.  It was really interesting to see the process of how the porcelain is created and decorated.  Artists train for 3 years before they are permitted to paint pieces. No photos were permitted inside the factory or the store.

After the Lladro tour, we returned to the hotel for some free time.  I chose a nap!  After about 90 minutes of sleep, I awoke ready for our late night dinner at Entrevins.  This place was amazing!  Not only were the food and wine delicious, but we learned after dinner that there is an underground refuge below the restaurant that was used during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). We got a tour of this area and it was really amazing!  I am posting pictures of the food. I can’t do it justice by trying to describe it all.  Mostly fish-based with lots of olive oil, spices and sauces. Portions are small, but the plates just kept coming.  Dessert was slivers of lime with gelato and ginger crumbs.  Weird combinations, but oh so good!

Mandy and our new friend Carlos from the Dalton Academy in Manhattan.

My new friends talked me into one last drink after our 2 hour dinner.  We walked to the Cafe de las Aguas to try Valencia’s signature cocktail, the Agua de Valencia.  It’s basically a fancy mimosa made more authentic by the incorporation of Valencia oranges!  

At 1am, we walked through the plaza of the cathedral back to our hotel for the night.  What a great day!

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