Valencia, Spain (Week 29-32 Recap, April 15, 2019 - May 12, 2019)
OK, this hiatus is a bit embarrassing. I don’t think I’d quite realized how long it had been since I’d blogged. I’ve wanted to, but I’ve been busy. Work has been busy, but even more than that, travel planning was in high gear for about a month. One of the nice things about staying someplace for a month is there aren’t many reservations to be made. One apartment, a flight or a train booking on either side, and you’re pretty much done. That is what we were planning before we arrived in Valencia. But post-Valencia is another story.
We decided to take about eight weeks off from guests, which also coincided with Valencia. Meaning we were free to plan as much or as little as we liked, and we didn’t have to balance many preferences (well, WP’s obviously: playgrounds).
But looking ahead to June and July, we’re traveling with a bunch of different people at a bunch of different times. Lots and lots of coordination, preferences, and -- because other people are on vacation and trying to pack in lots of experiences -- much more moving around.
Which is all to say that every nap time, every post-bedtime stretch has been devoted to booking, booking, booking things or working for the past six weeks. It hasn’t been the most fun, but it has already begun paying off. More on that later.
In the meantime, I do want to give Valencia its due. First, the bad. We chose Valencia in part because it’s on the beach. It rained for 10 days starting the day after we arrived. It was Semana Santa which is supposed to be amazing in Spain, lots of local festivals, and the Valencia version involved those processions in what are definitely NOT KKK hoods. Well, the week of parades all got rained out, one after the other. Apparently it hadn’t happened for sixty years.
So we started out in Valencia by going a little stir crazy and wondering if we’d made a mistake. Luckily as the weather turned around we realized we hadn’t. We rented bikes. Valencia is top 3 most bike-friendly places I’ve been (Amsterdam and Hamburg are the other two). The bike lanes are on the sidewalks or separated from traffic by barriers, and there are special street lights just for bikes. Usually you go when pedestrians go, not cars. And there are bikes lanes almost everywhere in the city we went.
The best was biking through Turia Gardens. It’s a long, skinny, beautifully landscaped park built on an old riverbed that winds its way through town. We also biked to the beach, which WP was obsessed with. For a city beach, it’s really nice. The backdrop might not be quaint but it’s still the Costa Dorada (Golden Coast).
For the most part WP loved being on the bike, though after about 20min on any given ride she did start some hijinx, once throwing her helmet off (we figured out how to secure it better), once kicking off her shoe (Mike had to double back to find it with a nice Spanish lady yelling “It’s still there!” at me excitedly; those sneakers were no longer welcome on bike rides), and once leaning so far out to the side as she tried to escape her straps that I almost ran her into a pole (don’t worry, this was after the helmet issue was solved). We figured eventually that the best thing to do was sing. The Wheels on the Bus became the Wheels on the Bike and we were able to go slightly longer distances.
Valencia had lots else to recommend it. We saw two incredible flamenco shows, both very different, which were exhilarating. We hung out at hipster coffee shops. We shopped at Ruzafa Market with the locals.
The one overnight trip we took from Valencia was to Alicante. It’s not where most folks with Valencia as their jumping off point would pick for a few days at the beach, but it’s where I studied abroad in college, and I was eager to see it again as the details of my many fond memories had faded with time.
We had a great few days at the beach, but I did not recognize that city. Part of it was the change 15 years brings. But part of it is obviously where my attention was at the time. I didn’t remember the castle on the hill overlooking the city, but I remembered the pier where the carnival was set up that summer.
We left Valencia feeling like it had been an awesome place to spend a month. Easily navigable, endless cool restaurants and bars, enough culture to keep us engaged, and of course the beach. Since I’m writing this well after the fact, I’ll just list our highlights in case anyone decides to go!
Ruzafa Market - groceries, Coffee Time for coffee
Blackbird - coffee, breakfast, lunch...so good
Flamenco - at Duende and/or Buleria
Central Bar - at Central Market, go for lunch (fcfs, hover behind someone until they get up)
The Fabrica del Hielo - cool space, excellent snacks, go to whatever event they have while you’re there
Parque Central - beautifully landscaped with a playground and fountains to play in
Bioparc - everyone talks about the aquarium, which is great, but we really loved the bioparc and it was way less crowded