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Valencia Escapade: Sun, Food & Romance

A long weekend in Valencia was a welcome escapade from burnout, a place to savour some sun, culinary delights, and embark on our first trip together to an unexplored destination for both of us.

Futuristic City of Arts and Sciences
We arrived Friday early morning in Valencia. After we dropped our backpacks at the reception of our hotel we went to have the second breakfast.

First breakfast while waiting for the train to Schiphol at 5am

Second breakfast at MAYAN COFFEES Organic Specialty Coffee - Roasters - Direct Trade
More energised after the copious breakfast we headed to El Miguelete. This is the Valencian Gothic-style bell tower of Valncia Cathedral. It is 50.85 metres high and was built between 1381 and 1424 by Andrés Juliá and others. Access to the tower is from inside the Cathedral by means of a spiral staircase with 207 steps. An 18th century steeple crowns the Miguelete belfry. The entrance to the bell tower costs 2.5 EUR p.p and it's cash only.
I was a bit terrified of climbing the tower due to my claustrophobia. The fear of missing out the fantastic views of the city and the encouragements of my boyfriend gave me strength to climb the 207 stairs. We had to wait a bit until the people upstairs descended. There's only one way to ascend/descend, and there are lights to signal which direction to take.
Selfie break from climbing the stairs

Dome of Valencia Cathedral in foreground

Plaza de la Reina, a lively square boarded with cafes, bars, shops and historic buildings
After ascending 207 stairs, it was time for lunch. I had marked a restaurant on my Google Maps list where they specialize in serving paella. A friend informed me that paella is typically served exclusively during lunch hours.
Another observation I made at the restaurants we visited during our stay is the availability of three-course menus (appetizer, main course, dessert), priced between 14-25 EUR per person, depending on the restaurant and the time of day (lunch or dinner).
Lunch at Yuso
The food was delicious. We opted for different starters (zucchini carpaccio, patatas bravas), shared the rice dish, and savoured a cheesecake for dessert.
Meanwhile, our hotel room was ready, allowing us to check in after lunch and rest for a while. We woke up at 4:30 am to catch an early flight. 
On Valencia's streets, lemon trees grace the sidewalks. Their vibrant green leaves and bright yellow fruits add a refreshing zest to the urban landscape.

Plaza Redonda, with the beautiful view of the Late Baroque bell tower of Santa Catalina
On our way to the hotel we stumbled across this round square which is surrounded by traditional craft shops and tapas bars. 
After our rest, we ventured out to explore the city illuminated by the night lights.





Placa de la Verge, home of the Turia fountain

Mercat de Colon

For dinner, Mark (my boyfriend) found a lovely Italian restaurant (La Papardella). Also, the café bar we visited in the morning was his discovery.
And to end our first day in Valencia, we went to a speakeasy bar.
Apotheke
To gain entry, one must acquire a password upon making a reservation. The cocktails were superb, complemented by the captivating ambiance.
The following morning, we signed up for a free walking tour to explore the main monuments of the historic city center. However, we only lasted 45 minutes out of the scheduled 2.5 hours. It was the guide's first time leading the tour, and her English wasn't very strong. Struggling to stay focused, we eventually made a Houdini escape from the group. Then we made our way to Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, tracing the former riverbed of Turia, now transformed in an urban park.
Crossed by 18 bridges full of history, the former riverbed passes by the city's main museums and monuments on either bank. The vast gardens are built on the former riverbed of the Turia, whose course was altered to prevent constant flooding in the city. After a devastating flood on 14 October 1957, the Turia's course was diverted south of the city, leaving a huge tract of land that crosses the city from West to East, bordering the historical centre. Several urban planners and landscapists designed different sections of the park, recreating the former river scenery.
They created a unique itinerary of palm trees and orange trees, fountains and pine woods, aromatic plants and ponds, sports facilities and rose beds. 
Caught in the moment: attempting to pluck a ripe orange from the bountiful orange trees.

Acquired a ripe orange to enhance the refreshing tinto de verano experience.
Strolling around L'Umbracle, a huge open-access garden with Mediteranean plants and contemporary sculptures
For lunch we managed to find an Italian restaurant close by the City of Arts & Sciences where no reservation was needed. All the other nice restaurants in the area where we tried our luck required a reservation in advance. The food was good, the service slow which gave us the opportunity to enjoy a slow paced lunch in the sunshine.
Lunch at Sorsi e Morsi Alameda
When we finished the lunch was already 4pm and we made our way to the Aquarium Oceanografic.
This is the largest aquarium in Europe, with the capacity to house 45,000 living creatures from 500 different species. The planet's main marine ecosystems are represented here.
Its avant-garde architecture, the layout of the different aquaria and its scientific, recreational, and educational objectives bring the marine world to the public, raising awareness about protection of its flora and fauna. It serves, moreover, as a platform for scientific research.
The highlight of our visit was arriving just in time for the dolphin show. Serendipitously, we found ourselves passing by the dolphins' area at the perfect moment to witness this spectacular performance.
When we left the aquarium it was already dark outside. We were in luck that on Saturdays the aquarium is open until later and we had plenty of time to explore the different buildings, housing examples of the most important ecosystems from each of the planet's seas and oceans.
Following our visit to the aquarium, we embarked on a quest to find a delightful restaurant for dinner. Although it was already around 8pm, most of the restaurants were not open yet for dinner, or we did the reservation for a restaurant and arrived at the wrong address. We were so happy when we found an available table at a Mexican restaurant in the hip district Russafa.
Tacos at Tecolotes
The food was fine, nothing special. The cocktails were extraordinary cheap (4.5EUR).
Following dinner, we headed directly to the hotel. Exhausted from spending the entire day outdoors exploring the city, we were ready to rest.
The third day in Valencia was laid-back and leisurely. We slept in, savoured a delightful brunch, and explored Turia Garden – I by bicycle and Mark by running.
Brunch at Lulat

City buildings stand tall in the background as vibrant bougainvillea cascades in Valencia's Turia Garden, creating a picturesque contrast of urban and natural beauty.

Happy after completing a 8.56 km run/cycle

During spring time the view must be more luxuriant
Before wrapping up this post, I'd like to share one of my travel habits. I love sending postcards to friends and family from the places I visit. In Valencia, if you purchase a postcard from souvenir shops, you'll receive stamps specially designed for the tiny green postboxes found around the souvenir shops. It dawned on me why some of the postcards I sent from Spain never reached their destination – I was using the regular postboxes (the blue or yellow ones) that required a different stamp.
The next morning we flew back to cloudy and wintry Amsterdam. Until next time!

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