Horchata, Paella, Wine, and Architecture in Valencia, Spain

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.

EUmap New York Valencia Day115Our first hostel in weeks sits in Valencia’s ancient heart.  Better still, it has a kitchen, which sends us shopping for groceries.

Along a narrow medieval street we find a garage door.  Inside is Bodegas Baviera: a sliver of a wine shop wall-papered in bottles.

Valencia Bodegas Baviera

This hardly conveys the cosy claustrophobia.

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:

Rubbing shoulders with produce.

Rubbing shoulders with produce.

We slide along rain-slicked cobbles to a fortified tower.

Valencia Tower

Pock-marked from centuries of war.

Although intimidating and plain outside, inside quilted vaults, tendril stairs and iron-work show a flair for detail.

They could've just made one arch.

They could’ve just made one arch.

Really, the whole city is packed with hand-cut details:

Just a door.

Just a door.

But after hours of walking, thirst takes over. We. Must. Have. Horchata:

Horchateria el Siglo

Horchateria el Siglo

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:

Valencia Bull 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:

lonja de la seda

Lonja de la Seda

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:

Hard to get bored in here.

Hard to get bored in here.

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:

Renaissance brilliance.

Renaissance brilliance.

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:

It's that shiny gold thing in the center.

It’s that shiny gold thing in the center.

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.

Orderly Roman Baths

Orderly Roman Baths

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.

Where's the frickin water?!?

Where’s the frickin water?!?

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:

Feeling lilliputian in Spain

Feeling lilliputian in Spain

At the “river’s” end we find a Stormtrooper’s helmet for a stadium and decide we’ve had enough crazy for one day…

Seriously, what planet is this?

Seriously, what planet is this?

Back in the old city, we find anarchists and protesters strolling a shut city.

Shopping or protesting?

Shopping or protesting?

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.








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4 Responses to Horchata, Paella, Wine, and Architecture in Valencia, Spain

  1. sand110 says:

    Valencia, what a beauty you are! Praying for Spain’s economic re-emurgance .

  2. I’m curious about the kitchen facilities in a hostel… You were able to cook?

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