Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Back to the beach: Valencia

Valencia: 2/08/16-9/08/16

Following an incredible time in Castellar del Valles, where we experienced hospitality like we'd never known before, we headed to Valencia via Barcelona. Like in every other public transport station we'd been to in Spain nobody in Barcelona train station seemed to have any clue as where and when to wait and go and so by standing and staring at the departures board in total confusion we incidentally formed a long queue of other confused passengers behind us. The journey itself was magnificent, a smooth quiet high speed train journey that hugged the Mediterranean coastline almost the entire way, what a view!

Forming an orderly queue
Valencia as a city has an excellent combination new and old with (more) sprawling, narrow streets in the old town walls and a riverbed converted into a garden which runs the length of the city towards a very modern attraction park and harbour and thanks to Alberto, my friend and former housemate, who comes from Valencia and as such gave us an extensive list of things to see and places to visit.
Excited to be here

Having had my first taste of swimming in the Med in Tarragona before being pulled away from it for a few weeks I was eager to get back to it now that we were once more on the coast. We were also aware that this would be our last chance to swim before Goa in India which was well over a month away. However getting to the beach from our cosy little BnB was no easy task. Not wanting to get the metro and a tram into the city (something we did on the following occasion) we set out to walk the distance. By google maps' reckoning the journey was a chilled 2km walk down a small country road which lead right to the beach. The realty however found us being beaten into the tarmac by the midday sun while attempting to navigate and dodge speeding Spanish drivers who had just veered off a motorway and onto our narrow pavement-less country path lined on either side by irrigation ditches. After much hesitation we reached our sandy destination just about in one piece and it was without doubt worth it. The soft sandy beach ran for miles in either direction and despite us arriving near a hotel resort it was surprisingly bereft of people. What more could you want? We sat, we swam, we slept, we sizzled.
Mum and Dad who had visited Valencia a few years before us had insisted that we should explore the city by bike and they were right to be so insistent. We hired a couple of (very hard saddled) bikes for the day and set off. We started in the park to the north of the city and followed it round to the south stopping at various points to admires the sites. Coasting along the paths, weaving through trees, other cyclists and kids playing football

Science museum or Trumps hair?
with the breeze on our faces...whilst still sweating bollocks buckets! We reached a complex of very modern buildings including an aquarium, science museum and an empty opera house which I still think looks like caricature of Donald Trump's head and hair (in fact that's probably why it's empty). It was when we were exploring this area that we encountered our first hoard.

Up until this point in time we had seen a few of them roaming about the streets of Spain, Pamplona, Tarragona, Barcelona, everywhere we'd been we'd spotted them. You could tell them a mile off by how they moved but it had only ever been one of two of them at a time, not this like. Never like this. Wondering around this complex of building we came across the hoard, a huge mass of children, teenagers and young adults. At first it looked like a school trip until we got nearer to them. Standing completely still and in dead silence, failing to look forward or communicate at all with their surroundings. Pokemon Go really was popular!!

We headed for the beach and spent a few more hours swimming and sunbathing before going in search of a cafe which Mum and Dad fond memories of. All we had to go on was a photo of the place and doing so our best Sherlock Holmes impressions we cycled around the port matching clues from the photo to our surroundings. Eventually finding the location of this cafe, we were gutted to find it a shell of it's former self. The entire place had been gutted; all that remained was it's shell.

We've come across a few towns with canals and waterways running through them and attached to these towns we've invariable heard someone dub them "Venice of the North/East/South/West". Port Saplaya was no different. The little beach and port area along the coast to the north of the city had a small series of canals forming the boat park for the local residence. Calling it Little Venice is perhaps a little grandiose but it was admittedly very beautiful; terraced rows of brightly coloured houses all crammed in and sitting just metres from the water's edge.

Everything we had encountered in Valencia and Spain in general - from food to people - had been excellent that was until we encountered Horchata. We had had a quick taste of this whilst in Castellar and our memories from that sample were fond ones. We were however horrified to discover that Horchata, the drink local to Valencia (made from tiger nuts) was in it's true original form utterly nasty, the taste of which still haunts Sarah's palette to this very day. From our arrival in the city we had been meaning to sit down and have a glass from a Horchateria and it wasn't until the morning of our final day in Valencia (before we left for the bus) that we sat down and bought ourselves some. Needless to say we couldn't empty our glasses and the taste stayed, cloying in our throats all the way to Granada.

Until then,


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