Our first trip ‘after Covid’ was in November 2021. We were nervous about leaving the country as we had not really left our little village in the province of Almería for months apart from trips to the supermarket, so we had been looking at spending a few days in and around Valencia as it’s a city that we’ve always liked plus we could drive there from home in about four hours.
And then my wife noticed that there were flights from Valencia to Venice and asked me if I fancied going to one of our most favourite places in the world for the first time in a few years. Funnily enough, I was open to the idea!
So the plan was to visit Valencia for a few days and then fly from there to Venice.
I love Valencia! We’ve been a few times and it has pretty much everything you could ask for in a city. History, modernity, culture, easy access to the beach, music, good weather, quirky coffee shops, interesting nightlife, cool bars and wonderful food (paella was famously ‘invented’ here) and of course that secret ingredient of spiritual ambience that makes you love some places so much.
We had already visited the old town before which though wonderful, we felt like exploring another area this time. We got to Valencia on Saturday evening and after checking into our hotel, we popped into Bar Desvan for a quick vermút and then on to Swagat Zona Cánovas, which makes the best Indian food we have ever had in Spain. We had been once before so made a reservation this time to be sure of getting a table and it didn’t disappoint.
As an early riser, I like wandering around the neighbourhoods around our hotel and beyond to get a feel for where we are staying and inevitably I find myself in a coffee shop or two, always ensuring of course that they have decent baked goods of some description.
7am is a good time for urban wandering as the city is just waking up and very few places are open yet, so it’s very quiet and you feel like you have the place to yourself.
The downside of course is that places don’t always open early so I sometimes have to wait for a coffee. One of our favourite haunts in the Ruzafa area is Dulce de Leche which has an incredible array of pastries, sandwiches and all kinds of wonderful breakfast-ey stuff, but it does get really busy, so getting there early is a good idea.
One place I love going to as well is Comic Cafe. It’s a small local place in the Ruzafa district which has a quirky interior focusing on comics, funnily enough given the name, and it feels cosy and not as manufactured and chain-like as some of the more well-known coffee places. And they open early!
The weather wasn’t looking good for the following day so we thought we would go on a red bus tour. Yes it’s an ultra touristy thing to do but we love doing them in different cities as they give you a really good sense of the city as a whole and more practically where things are. And that came in really useful as the bus took us past the cinema where we would go later that night.
You realise that Valencia is quite a big city – the biggest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona I was surprised to find out later – but doesn’t really feel like it.
Valencia somehow maintains a special kind of intimacy that makes you want to get to know it more and maybe even develop a long term relationship.
After a nice though expensive brunchy lunch at Federal, we then mooched around and in the evening, went to the cinema. Though not really an action film fan, I do love James Bond films so when I saw that the new film ‘No Time To Die’ was showing in its original English version at a local cinema, I got tickets.
Living in the middle of nowhere in the Spanish countryside has many upsides, however one of the few downsides is that dubbed films are popular in our part of Spain and so we have very limited access to original language films at the cinema.
By the time we saw it, the film had already been out for a while and so there were only a handful of other people in the cinema watching it with us which was good as this was our first time in a cinema since Covid. We loved the film and then walked back the 20 minutes or so back to the hotel as Valencia is a very walkable city.
It was a very wet morning in Valencia though I found shelter in Mora Caffè, a lovely Italian coffee shop round the corner from our hotel and where I had coffee, a sfogliatella and a view of the local bullring. We had arranged to meet some friends during the day which is always a nice thing to do, especially if you haven’t seen each other for a while.
To get to the beautiful Ciutat Vella (Old Town) and one of my favourite places in Valencia, the Central Market for a coffee, we had to walk past the incredible Estació del Nord train station which opened in 1917 and is a beautiful example of Valencian Art Nouveau. Even if you’re not travelling by train, it’s worth popping in just to see the lobby if you get a chance.
One of the things I like doing when travelling is to listen to a new or classic album and this time it was Soléa Morente’s beautiful new album ‘Aurora y Enrique’. Given that she is flamenco royalty from Granada, perhaps I should have saved the album for a Granada trip, but it worked well in Valencia too.
As with all kinds of music, I’m not a purist and it’s the same with flamenco. On this album, Soléa blends a multitude of styles including perhaps unexpectedly some Cocteau Twins guitar dream pop which still works beautifully while wandering the streets of Valencia.
During the day, I went to a number of coffee shops of course including vegan coffee shop Madrigal, Bluebell Coffee Roasters and also La Más Bonita, all of which I would highly recommend. They don’t all have wifi which is strangely liberating these days as you see people reading actual books. You know, the ones with actual paper. And if by chance avocado tostadas are your thing, you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Valencia too!
We also went to the rather wonderful La Despensa de la Reina (the Queen’s Pantry) to get some vermouth. We’ve been before and it’s now a regular visit each time we’re in Valencia, especially as the lady who runs it is lovely.
Vermouth is another personal fave thing. In fact, this blog was almost called Departures and Vermouth, but like many things in life, it’s better with coffee.
We needed to be at the airport soon after lunch, so we drove out of town and headed out towards the ever-changing Cabanyal neighbourhood for a walk on the promenade by the lovely Malvarossa beach, ending up at O’ahu Beach Sushi which was close to the beach for an unusual but enjoyable type of Hawaiian/Japanese sushi before heading off to the airport.
As always, we had a wonderful time in Valencia and look forward to going again. And very excitingly, now we were off to Venice…