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VALENCIA BEYOND EXPECTATIONS
October 16 and 17, 2022
Valencia was a place hard to leave because it way exceeded expectations. We stayed at spacious and wonderful apartments in the old town that opened up into the maze of narrow medieval lanes. You had a choice of simply walking, trusting that the twists and turns and many side streets would eventually get you somewhere you wanted to go or to use a map app. on your phone. It was a delightful adventure. Along the streets were restaurants and shops of various kinds. We found one very nice looking restaurant with flowers in pots on the exterior and paintings and chandeliers and cozy linen-covered tables in the interior. We went in and were told since we had no reservation, we could eat immediately but had to be out in an hour and fifteen minutes since the restaurant was totally booked later. We ate and were rewarded with a magnificent Italian meal. We so enjoyed it that we made a reservation for the following evening.
We found the famous Valencia Central Market the next morning and were floored with its size and beauty. The products were in beautiful display in tiled shops with glass display cases. Everything was pristine! The building itself is a work of art—great steel girders and large painted domes formed a beautiful canopy over the aisles of market stalls. We literally spent several hours just “oohing and awing” over what we saw. If you needed anything for food preparation, it could be found. Local and/or exotic products were on display. For instance, olive stalls with olives from raw to every kind of prepared olive tempted your senses. Spice stalls caught your senses of smell and sight. On and on with meat, vegetables, fruits. It was overwhelming. We loved every minute!
Since Valencia is the home of paella, we could not miss trying out a restaurant that specialized in its preparation and here we “lucked out.” The ones that were highly rated were all closed as it was their day off, but I saw a nice looking restaurant just down a side narrow lane and walked over to see what it was. I found a waiter and asked and he informed me that they made each order of paella fresh for the table. Since the kitchen would not open for 30 minutes, he suggested we sit down and have some freshly made sangria and small plate tapas that he would bring us as we waited for the kitchen to open and the extra 30 minutes it would take to prepare our order. We did and were we glad we did! Soon our outdoor table on a beautiful day was laden with Spanish spiced potato salad, fried peppers, olives, bread, Spanish butter (tomato puree with olive oil and spices) and, of course, pitchers of sangria. A very good saxophonist was playing in the small courtyard in which the restaurant sat. When our order arrived, we were rewarded with two large shallow pans of the rice dish—one with fish (mussels, langoustine shrimp, octopus, cuttlefish) and the other with Italian green beans, chicken and rabbit. Both were excellent with just the right amount of bottom rice crust. Our waiter asked us to pry the crust loose and mix with the other ingredients in the pan because that gave paella its excellent taste. He was right!
We decided that Valencia was a culinary hit and its maze of streets a delight. There is so much more to see there and could it be we will return some day?