April 21st, Valencia - Old Town

On April 21st Sueann and I rode the train from Barcelona to Valencia, a town of 810,000 people situated  about 200 miles down the coast from Barcelona.  The town was founded in 137 BC by Roman soldiers who settled there after fighting Iberian rebels.

Plaza del AyuntamientoWe were so happy to feel the warm air and sunshine as we emerged from the train station.  We took a cab to our hotel, the Reina Victoria which we highly recommend, quickly checked in and went out into the street.  A few steps down the block we entered the majestic Plaza del Ayuntamiento. "Ayuntamiento" means "Town Hall". Buildings surrounding the plaza include the town hall, the main post office, the Bank of Valencia and other lovely 1900s buildings.  Also around the square were several cafes each of which had tables on the broad sidewalk.  This is my kind of town.








The photo to the left below shows the town hall  and the one to the right shows the Correos (post office) building.

Valencia Ayuntiamineto (Town Hall)             Valencia Correos (Post Office) building

We walked through the plaza and out the narrow end onto a busy street off of which came several small streets, some of them pedestrian, where we saw people relaxing at outdoor cafe tables.  In a nutshell, this is old town Valencia: elegant buildings, beautiful plazas lined with outdoor cafes and lovely small streets.  Of course there are some Roman ruins and remnants of the Moorish occupation (709AD) and various Christian retakings of the town.  Old town Valencia is a wonderful town to walk around.  It is more or less circular in shape and you can easily walk from one side to the other in 15 or 20 minutes.  But who would want to do that?  Those cafes are tempting, the people are happy so you will want to somehow meet them and the streets and buildings just make you feel good.

Here are some photos of small streets we liked and a photo of the Plaza del la Reina, a  lovely place to sit in a cafe and enjoy life.

       

           Paza del la Reina 


One of the things that struck me about Valencia (this is Sueann now) is the way the streets and sidewalks are used for more than just getting from one place to another. People congregate outside of  a work place or cafe (and not just to smoke) and hold extended conversations. They meet on the sidewalks, talk, laugh and then go about their business. It's not all rush, rush, rush.

As we walked from one plaza to the next we came upon one with a crowd of people in the middle.  We crossed over to join the crowd and saw that a film was being made.  We eventually came across a tarp covered area where the extras were waiting to be called.  Everyone was in good humor and we stopped and talked with a dark skinned man who told us he was from Nigeria and the film was to be a wireless telephone commercial.  As you can see from the photo, everyone was having a good time and we were too.





Whenever we visit a town we always seek out the town marketplace.  We love the color and life of the markets and we like to find a bar or restaurant in the market where we can enjoy a modest meal.  The market in old town Valencia is particularly lovely in and out.  Here are some photos of the market where we spent an hour or two.  Like Barcelona markets, the seafood here looks incredibly fresh and varied.  All of the seafood we ate in Spain was excellent and I don't think I have ever had as good seafood meals in the States as in Caldes, Barcelona, Valencia and Blanes (a small town near Caldes that we visited one day).

Valencia market facade           Valencia Market Dome

       
Valencia Market Aisle          

      
   Sueann with plate of caracoles
Ok, so after the market we have seafood on our minds.  As we ride the bus out of the old town toward Calatrava's incredible Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (next story) we notice a restaurant called the "3 Mares" that for some reason looks particularly good to us.  On the bus trip back we pass the restaurant, jump off the bus and walk back to the restaurant.  It's early,  about 7PM, so the restaurant has few customers (Valencia dinner time begins at 9PM).  We sit down at a table open the menu and believe or not all four of our eyes jump to caracoles.  We had very much enjoyed caracoles several times on a vacation to Cozumel.  We remember our Cozumel caracoles as delicous pieces of conch sauted in oil and garlic. Yumm!  So without skipping a beat we call the waiter over and order two dinners of salad followed by caracoles.

We feel very smart and imagine that us gringos have probably impressed our good humored waiter.  Our salads come and they are very good.  Then the waiter places in front of us plates of spiny seashells accompanied by 3 inch long chrome finshed nails which we are supposed to use to extract the conch from their shells.  Well the shells are small and neither of us is able to coax a conch out so we have to call our waiter over to show us how to do it. Now we are not quite so smug.  The waiter brings a pair of long slim forks that we successfully use to get at our caracoles. While these caracoles are tasty they were nothing like what we expected.



Valencia is a wonderful town and I don't want you to miss anything so here are a few random photos.

                 
            Bank of Valencia                                                Watch tower                                              Cathedral Entrance

   
                     Back of Cathedral                                                                                           Town Portal

                                    
                      Sueann goes Spanish (again)                                                        Very elaboate entrance of Ceramic Museum


                 
                                             Tapas Bar                                                                         Lovely metal balconies




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