Tuesday, November 22, 2011

O, Valencia!

The Decemberists have a song called "O, Valencia" but it seems to be more of a Romeo and Juliet story rather than about the city of Valencia. What can I tell you about Valencia, Spain? Well...it is the birthplace of Paella, which all of us on the trip love. Kym and Kyle have a big paella pan and make paella before triathlons and whatnot. Valencia is also the third largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona. It is also on the coast and has a lovely beach. And it's like a three to four hour train ride from Barcelona so you might wonder why we were going there.

In the original trip plan, we had two more cities included: Valencia and Granada. We decided that we would all still go to Valencia as a day trip. This involved waking up very early to catch the subway and then the train. This was painful. And of course the train station was super hot.

We arrive in Valencia and wait for the shuttle.

The train ride was pretty nice though. We had assigned seating and Kelly got to sit next to a very attractive Spanish man. Very attractive. So much so that when they were both sleeping I considered snapping a photo under the guise of "Oh...ha ha...look, Kelly fell asleep. And OMG! Look at the hottie next to her!" But, I didn't. It felt weird. We arrived at the north train station in Valencia, so the first thing we had to do was ride the shuttle to the main train station. And of course once we got to the main train station the first thing we had to do was find some food, because there was a shortage of corn flakes that morning.

We found a little place called Cafe & Te and there was plenty of seating on the sidewalk. As with many places in Spain, you pay a little more to eat outside rather than inside.  Cafe & Te appeared to be some sort of a chain...we saw several in Valencia. We had croissants, donuts, little sandwiches. Erin got something that instead of coming with butter came with a wee little bottle of olive oil (we never got butter in Spain with our bread). I had to take a picture. It was so cute!


Valencia is really a nice city. It had the narrow, twisty streets that Sevilla had. It also had the clipboard people! You know what I mean! The people that stand on street corners in the summer and ask if you have a moment for animal rights or the environment. They are in Spain too! There they were...on the streets of Valencia. Fortunately, I could pretty much say, "No Habla Espanol" so it was a short conversation.


We had picked up maps at the train station, but they were incredibly unhelpful. So, we just sort of wandered and followed the rest of the gang. Lea, Amit, and Kelly wandered off one way and Kym, Kyle, Alan, Erin, and I wandered another way.

The first place we wandered over to the was Mercado Central. We really just wandered around and gawked at all the food. I've included some photos below, but you could also check out this blog post I found that has lovely photos and they actually bought some food there. Sounds like they also got to go to the market in Barcelona, which we missed.

The beautiful domed window in the ceiling.


 Fruit!

 A beautiful market!

 Cheese!

 Not sure what these are.


Yes, those are calves heads. Shortly before our trip, I had read "How to Eat a Small Country" by Amy Finley in which she writes time spent in France and also mentions eating tete a veu, which is calf's head. And here was a calf's head. Well, a couple of them...and some other parts as well.



We wandered out and explored some paella stalls outside, selling pans, spices, and whatnot. Then we walked past what must have been the textile part of town. See that little group of women there? They are all knitting. The stalls across from them were filled with fabric, thread, yarn, and assorted other crafty goodies.

 
 
Our next stop was Valencia's Cathedral. This link has some nice photos as as well. I can't get enough of old cathedrals. They had a nice audio tour that described each of the chapels and the architecture. There is a statue of the Virgin Mary and pregnant women will come there and pray and they walk around around the cathedral nine times and that is supposed to give them a healthy pregnancy.

They also have some relics there - the skull and some bones of a saint (you could not see these very well as they were towards the back of the chapel), as well as the preserved arm of St. Vincent the Martyr. Yes. There is an arm in that box. Not being Catholic, I think I find this all the more fascinating.



They also have what is supposedly the Holy Grail there...yes! The actual Holy Grail.


It's in that little glass case...I'm not sure why they say this is the one. Valencia, Spain seems like a strange place for it to be, but maybe it is. I thought it looked pretty fancy, and I'm going to go with Indiana Jones and think that the cup of a carpenter would be more modest.

Where to next! Well, the bull ring of course! No, we weren't going to a bull fight, but Valencia has a bull fighting museum and we thought we would check it out. Plus, it was free. As part of the exhibit, there is a video of a bullfight, explaining the three stages and some of the history. I have to say - seeing that video was enough for me. I don't have any desire to see an actual bull fight.


The museum was very well done and you really get a sense of the history and culture of bullfighting. You also get a sense of all the matadors who have died. The outfit below was worn by a matador on the day he died. Many of the descriptions of matadors ended with, "and he died two days after being gored" or something like that. 

By this point, we were all ready to head to the beach and to get some paella! It was very warm in Valencia (I'm not sure how warm but the weather channel said it was going to be 90 degrees). We hopped on the bus and headed to the beach front.



We of course stopped first for paella. We were able to sit outside, overlooking the beach, and although our waiter spoke pretty much no English, we managed to order paella for the nine of us and beer. He must have liked us because he brought us shots of something at the end of the meal.


Vegetable paella before.




Vegetable paella after.

And then we just laid on the beach. Ahhh. So nice. The water was very cold, so I just laid on my beach chair and read Sports Illustrated. I think I've mentioned that at this point in the trip I was just so tired. Laying on the beach for a couple hours was a welcome way to spend the afternoon.


Eventually, we had to head back to the train station. We had a little time to kill first. David and I headed over to Cupcake Valencia. That's me below in the train station with my cute little to-go cupcake box.


I also took this photo of the audiology center in Valancia for my sister. Always thinking of you sis!


Then we headed over to the bar in the train station where we met Kym, Kyle, and their little penguin friend.


Nothing says travel like cupcakes and beer.


There were also all sorts of other goodies there...look at those yummy olives. We had little baguette slices with brie and ham. Ham and cheese...what else?


Our train was late. Sigh. And we had another big day ahead of us tomorrow. But on the bight side, the return trip was in the first class car of the train.Unfortunately that doesn't mean much on a train. They never turn the lights on the train off, which made sleeping tough. Sigh. We arrived back in Barcelona about midnight. Time to stop at the store for more cornflakes and then straight to bed!

Oh, in Valencia we also saw this message from Anonymous. Wow. Anonymous is everywhere.

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