Pack the bags, turn off the lights, shut the door, hail a taxi, shed a tear… and say goodbye! After five years of constant travel, we’ve become quite adept at the Departure Dance. But this time, there was a twist. Valencia has long been our adopted home, and this year we finally made it official by buying an apartment. We know we’ll be back soon, and that makes this departure a lot less melancholy.
If the low-lying fields which surround Valencia are known for rice and horchata-producing chufas, then the mountainous areas farther inland are known for wine, particularly the endemic Valencian variety called Bobal. We made a trip to the province’s most important wine-producing region, Utiel-Requena, to visit the popular Hoya de Cadenas vineyards.
Although it sounds crazy, there are a lot of visitors to Valencia who never bother to see the city center even once. These are the people who come primarily for the Mediterranean. The beach is a few kilometers from downtown, and when the sun is shining and the waves are sparkling, it’s hard to resist spending yet another day on the sand. “Tomorrow we’ll make it into town, get some culture.” And then tomorrow comes, and the sun is shining again…
If passing through the Plaza de la Virgen at noon on a Thursday, you’ll have to fight your way past a huge conglomeration of people gathered at the cathedral’s back door. You might want to pause and join the group yourself, in order to see Valencia’s Tribunal de las Aguas: the oldest continuing court in Europe.
The Mercado de Colón opened its doors in 1916 as a marketplace for the well-to-do residents of the Ensanche (or “Expansion”), which was at the time Valencia’s newest neighborhood. Today, the fruit and veggie sellers have been replaced by cafes, and the Mercado de Colón has evolved into a popular location in which to hang out with friends and relax.
Valencia continues to surprise us. Although we had known about the existence of Cabanyal’s Museo del Arroz for years, we had never bothered visiting. It’s a rice museum, you know? It never captured our curiosity. But we shouldn’t have delayed so long, because this museum is fantastic.
Back in 2010, Valencia unveiled the results of an effort to restore three of its most impressive Baroque-era churches: the San Martín, San Esteban and San Juan de la Cruz, all located a short distance from each other in the city center. If any of these had been my childhood church, I might have grown up with a different idea of “God”: not some wizened, white-bearded grump sitting on a cloud, but a flamboyant show-off with a flair for the extravagant.
When the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern opened its doors in 1989, it was Spain’s first museum dedicated to modern art. Found on the western corner of the old town, bordering the Turia riverbed, the IVAM is probably Valencia’s most important and popular museum.
With hundreds of stalls selling fruits, veggies and meat, Valencia’s Mercado Central is among the largest fresh food markets in Europe. And although it has become one of the city’s principal tourist attractions, it’s remained popular among locals as well, many of whom do their everyday shopping here.