Continuing with our summer Top 5 series, Derek Workman, an English freelance journalist who lives in Valencia and has written guides such as Small Hotels and Inns of Eastern Spain and Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca, lets us in on a few of his favourite Valencian getaways:
Five places I’d rather be in Valencia than sitting at my desk writing…
One of the old fishing villages that form the Pueblos Maritimos down by the port. It’s full of old modernista houses covered in decorative tiles. After an hour on the beach at Malvarrosa I’d wander in to El Polp for lunch; a real neighbourhood cafeteria with a strange décor that somehow or other brings together American diner and Edwardian elegance. In the evening I’d nip in to Bodegas Montaña, one of Valencia’s oldest, and have a couple of their excellent tapas.
2. The Riu Turia
In front of the Palau de Musica. At least I would if it was Sunday morning. Despite still being called the riu it hasn’t seen a drop of water since the 60’s and is now 9 kms of parks, fountains, etc. (It’s where the City of Arts and Sciences is set.) On Sunday morning the world and his brother while away a couple of hours listening to music and the splashing fountains in front of the Palau; strolling, chatting, playing with the niños on the grass and trying to avoid the cool dudes on their in-line skates. During August it has an open-air cinema which is the bees-knees because the films start at 11pm, when the heat of the day has mainly disapated.
3. Mercado Central
Said to be the biggest covered market in Europe, I love wandering around it even if I’m not buying anything. The ladies will shout at you saying that their fish is the best in the market and you should get in quick while the going’s good. It’s so popular now with tourists that some of the stalls even have ‘No Foto!’ signs stuck up. If you fancy your hand at making a paella there are stalls that sell only the beans that go into it and others where you can buy nothing but the snails you need to make a proper paella Valenciana. I haven’t gone as far as buying a pig’s head, though – yet!
4. Cinquante Cinq
A local French restaurant owned by an Englishman and with an English head chef. Curios combination but excellent food and gets packed out with Spanish. I once had sopa de zanahoria, pastel de buey and pastel de pan y pasas – in other words, carrot soup, shepherd’s pie and bread and butter pudding. The Spanish diners didn’t realising that they were eating a typical British meal and loved it.
5. Sat at a table on the street…
… outside the bar below my apartment, swapping lies with Toni next door about how brilliant we are. It could be any bar, it’s just being able to relax and chat with friends in a Spanish way instead of shouting at each other across a packed British pub.
Image by Derek Workman: Kids with boat, Valencia
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