After a hiatus, this Monday visits Day 115 of our EU Austerity Drinking Tour. A dull bus ride from Madrid deposits us near the coast in Valencia.
Along a narrow medieval street we find a garage door. Inside is Bodegas Baviera: a sliver of a wine shop wall-papered in bottles.
The thinning but hardly thin, grumpy Vicente, speaks no English but understands we want something native and cheap.
We grab a bottle of Valencia DO red, head back, and make our typical pasta. The bottle disappears immediately. It is such a grippy yet ripe, black-fruited, peppery blend that I run out again.
Vicente suggests a second fantastic value. Both wines blend varieties such as Monastrell (Mourvedre), Garnacha, Cabernet, Syrah, and popular native Bobal. Neither wine plays with Spain’s more famed red, Tempranillo: interesting. They flaunt chunky tannins, higher alcohol, and plush Mediterranean friendliness.
Too friendly. A rough morning wakes us. Undeterred, we tour the covered market:
We slide along rain-slicked cobbles to a fortified tower.
Although intimidating and plain outside, inside quilted vaults, tendril stairs and iron-work show a flair for detail.
Really, the whole city is packed with hand-cut details:
But after hours of walking, thirst takes over. We. Must. Have. Horchata:
Founded in 1836, the interior gleams with multicolored tile. The sharp, black-vested staff take kind care of us and a local old couple. The city’s creamy, textured, rice drink frosts its clear glass. Refreshed, we find an even more magnificent market, techincolored in Art Nouveau tile and red brick.
More wandering discovers the very neo-classical bull-fighting arena:
The rain turns torrential. So we get more groceries and head home. Our goal: our first Paella. Back at Baviera, Vicente wiggles behind his wood wine shelves and pulls out a modern cabernet/pinot blend from nearby foothills. He sets another aside for tomorrow.
Paella takes a lifetime to make. So we drink time away with the horde of Australians (is the whole country on vacation?). Famished and pleasantly tipsy, we gorge on our burning but hardy paella.
We find a new roommate from Japan. His English is stellar. We get travel-envy: his world tour far eclipses our minor jaunt to Europe. But soon his fog-horn snore turns to torture.
The next day, we walk down the block to the Silk Market:
Valencia’s place at the end of the silk route clearly paid well. I wonder if the spirals mimic the thread they sold.
The adjoining throne room (of course) features the most fabulous gilded ceiling:
Clearly not saturated with enough culture, we visit Valencia’s Cathedral. Aside from its general mess of magnificence from centuries of god-fearing patrons, we stop beneath its altar:
This Renaissance masterwork of Italian fresco was forgotten but saved beneath whitewash.
Oh, and sorry Indiana Jones (and Monty Pythons), Valencia has the Holy Grail:
Afterwards, we take a break to enjoy some drinking chocolates (fabulous). However, murmurs rumble about economic protests and rioting nearby.
We ignore these and go underground. Valencia’s Roman city feels completely different. It is all order and symmetry.
After an hour in this alien city, we return above ground. A walk to the river-front, discovers that it no longer has a river…odd.
Beneath Valencia’s bridges is a city-wrapping green space. Parks, playgrounds, and palm tree forests dot this strange valley. Adding to oddness, we find in it a mammoth Gulliver:
At the “river’s” end we find a Stormtrooper’s helmet for a stadium and decide we’ve had enough crazy for one day…
Back in the old city, we find anarchists and protesters strolling a shut city.
They may be chanting, or shopping, it was hard to tell. Either way they were angry. The economy was a mess. Everything was shut down to avoid their fury, even the McDonald’s. Worst of all our favorite curmudgeonly wine shop, Bodegas Baviera was also closed.
We finish off another batch of paella, crash asleep, ready again for France. Valencia was a brilliant, intricate city left unswarmed by tourists. We truly fell in love and could not see enough of it. Everywhere you can feel Spain hurting under the recession.
However, our trip must keep moving. Next Monday we cruise up the coast.