A recent trip to Valencia

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A recent trip to Valencia

For those of you that read last months article 'A recent trip to Valencia' this is the second, nicer part of the journey. For those of you that missed reading about my train-related nightmare, you can find it at www.thegrapevine.es.

I have had a lot of feedback on the previous article; mostly from people saying how funny it was. It wasn't meant to be funny you cruel bunch of………!
Anyway, we where we? We (me, my wife, sister and brother-in-law) departed the train station tired and hungry. So planned to find our hostel, get some food and then have a nap before going out again in the evening. We found our hostel very easily as it was (and probably still is) located just off the imposing Plaza Ayuntamiento. This plaza is really a sight to behold. One reviewer from Australia on Tripadvisor.com said it was the most beautiful plaza anywhere, and he should know as his wife travels all over the world on business. Eh? Maybe when she is away on business she finds the time to take pictures of all the plazas and then when she returns home they compile a top-ten list or something?

For those of you unfamiliar with Tripadvisor, it is a very useful web site when planning a trip as it lists the best things to see when you are there, the best restaurants etc. all based on peoples reviews. However, I have realised that I look at the site after I have been somewhere to compare what people thought of the places I liked. Not really what it was designed for but there you go.

So after checking into the hostel, grabbing a bite to eat, and getting some much needed sleep, we began to explore Spain's third biggest city. Valencia is the ideal city for those they enjoy walking around and exploring a city. There is much to see and our four (reduced to three and a half by Renfe (I know I should move on from the train journey, sorry)) days were definitely not enough to see all of the delights Valencia has to offer. We took the obligatory sightseeing bus tour, which was very busy due to being full of the contents of a cruise ship that was in the docks. One benefit of doing the bus tour is that it takes you to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (city of arts and science) which is situated a fair distance out of the old part of the city. I had seen pictures of these buildings before but was not prepared for their scale. Their modernity is a stark contrast to the historic old part of the city. The project was started in 1996 and looks very near to completion. The buildings house an Imax theatre, a science building showing cultural and science-based exhibits and an aquarium - said to be the one of the best in the world – surrounded by a huge, impressive garden. In the science museum there was a Marvel Comics exhibition featuring my long- time hero, Spider-man that I would have loved to have seen (being a big kid and all) We held a vote and I lost 3–1. I did not sulk for long though.
The following day was Sunday and the day of the Moto GP so my sister and brother-in-law left early to watch the race, leaving another day for me and my wife to explore the city. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that on Sundays entrance to most museums and exhibitions are free. So we made the most of it and filled the day with culture!

Firstly we visited the Museo Nacional de Ceramica which is a lovely looking building housing not only as the name suggests ceramics old and new from all over the world, but also the private house of the Marques de Dos Aguas. There are many themed rooms such as a Chinese tea-room. One guide book on Valencia describes the museum as not to be missed, even if you just walk by. But I would strongly recommend going in as well if only to see the interior of this fabulous building. To get to our next free museum, we crossed what was the river Turia. This former river bed is now 9 kilometres of gardens and is another feature of this great city. This time we visited Museo de la Bellas Artes, Valencia's fine art museum. This art museum is one of Spain's finest and displays works by the likes of Goya, El Greco and Velázquez. The museum is huge and we spent ages wandering around looking at the art and an exhibition of pictures of Mexico City by a local photographer. In fact the museum is so big that it took us even longer to find the way out. The third and final exhibition we viewed that day was based on King James I of Aragon, known in Spain as Jaime el Conquistador. This fascinating exhibition showed swords, bows, armour and helmets of the period.
Walking around Valencia it does not feel like a big city. Personally I found it more interesting and accessible than Barcelona and as an added bonus there are also no Stag parties. It is very cosmopolitan and I thought friendly city. The large volumes of tourists there mean prices can be very high. I wonder why we never check the prices of drinks before we order them in a bar as we would with prices of food in a restaurant? This was a question I asked myself after 4 drinks in a trendy but shabby bar set me back 26 €!

That night after the four of us met up, we found another restaurant and had another excellent meal. The food is on the whole good in Valencia based on my experience but like anywhere you need to look around to find the best combination of value versus quality. The best place to find decent bars and restaurants is Calle Caballeros in Barrio del Carmen. This trendy part of Valencia is always busy and lively. In fact each night we ate out cost us less, and our final meal of the trip was our cheapest and best at a restaurant called Babalù which serves Caribbean food and excellent cocktails.

On our final day we finally found our Holy Grail. No, we literally found the Holy Grail in the Saint Mary of Valencia Cathedral. This is one of several cups in various churches that claim to be the cup used at the Last Supper. It is in truth an unremarkable item. At least it looked that way from the distance you are allowed to stand away from it. The cathedral is very nice, but not as nice as the cathedral in Malaga we had visited the week before. I think the mistake we made was using the hand-held audio guides provided which just churn out easily forgotten (for me) facts.

How much we liked Valencia was summed-up by the fact that we looked at property prices in the windows of some estate agents. We found the perfect place, a penthouse apartment overlooking Plaza del Virgen. A bargain at just 2,600,000 €.
So our plan is to win the lottery, learn to speak Catalan and move to Valencia. Well, I think it is always good to have a plan.

Andy Wilkes

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