Happy Birthday in Valencia

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We traveled to Valencia from Toledo on a train that reached a top speed of 300 KPH, that's 186 MPH. The Spanish really have train travel down, great trains, on time and clean. Although the stay at the Parador of Toledo was my birthday present, I spent my birthday in Valencia, enjoying a delicious paella a la Valenciana (short grain rice cooked with meat like chicken or rabbit and/or seafood)at La Paz with a sandcastle/ocean view. Paul made it a special day for me.

On our first day in Valencia, when we checked in, our hostess had a recommendation for dinner for us because we are American--Burger Beer, ha ha, that's the name of the restaurant. Actually, we followed her suggestion and the burgers and wine were great!

Valencia promised and delivered on some beautiful sights. The Cathedral with the tower of the Miguelete is virtually the symbol of Valencia, being the most recognized landmark. Built on the sight of a former mosque, the minaret tower called el Miguelete is all that remains of the Muslim temple. Mainly Gothic in style, the Holy Grail is said to be housed there. (It is also said to be on display in Genoa, Italy.) When building the Cathedral museum and book store, Roman ruins were uncovered and we visited them on our tour of the museum. Also, on the main square, we ate delicious sushi at Sushi Shop, Founded by Anne Sophie Pic, the only French female chef with 3 stars. Locations abound in Europe--the sushi was delicious!

The Lonja, or the Silk Exchange recalls the days of the silk trade. It is a beautiful building that illustrates the power and wealth generated by the silk trade in Valencia. After the Lonja, we visited the silk museum. The production of silk and velvet at one time employed half the people of Valencia. They made the finest velvet in the world. Having worked in the textile mills in Alabama and the NE, Paul was engrossed. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, as in I actually liked it. 

The Paroquia de San Nicolas de Bari is an amazing and beautiful sight. Called the Sistine Chapel of Valencia (yes, I said this about El Escorial), it is truly a sight to see. The church is a bit hard to find, but we realized we had passed it several times when we finally recognized the entrance. It is worth searching it out. The frescoes on the ceiling are truly gorgeous works of art.

The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) makes a statement. The striking modern architecture stuns the senses. We were not able to attend a performance in the performing art space due to the season. We did however visit the museum of sciences. Hate to say it, but BORING. Maybe not if you are 10 years old, or if you haven't visited the Perot Museum in Dallas, but for us it was a dud. 

Other sights we visited included the Colon Market, where we had a great Asian fusion lunch at Ma Khin Cafe. The market includes a wonderful meat and cheese store, Carnes Varea, with at least 10 kinds of gourmet burger patties--think beef, pork, chicken, bull, oxtail, veal, etc combined with various herbs, cheeses, dried fruits, sausages and more. If I had been cooking, we would have tried a couple!

We also took our hostess' suggestion to go to the Marina for lunch, but I would definitely skip this. In our pictures, you can see Paul inside one of the restaurants discussing whether or not they were serving food at 4:00 p.m. I'm sure it is more lively at night, but we did not go back. 

Food highlight was Mercat Bar, yes, we went there twice. For the atmosphere, the staff and the duck tacos and the fois gras pate. We tried to get the recipe for the duck tacos with no success. That doesn't matter. Just go, not expensive, very delightful! Oh, the first picture is of Paul and a tavern owner that we visited prior to going to Mercat the first time. Paul wanted a martini. I'm not sure what he drank, but the gentleman only knew Martini and Rossi, vermouth! He and Paul bonded over trying to communicate about the martini.

All in all, Valencia was beautiful: some gorgeous buildings and sights, but as usual, what I loved was walking around in history that extends 2,000+ years before me. Valencia is famous for oranges and the trees heavy with fruit lined streets and squares. Old gates to the city, Roman ruins, beautiful fountains, my eyes were darting everywhere to take photographs. 

Now we are off by car for Andalucia--Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla. It's a separate world from our recent travels. See you there!

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Karen DeGraffenreid