Valencia is a city I always wanted to visit. Even the sound of the name sounded romantic. As the 3rd largest city in Spain, it sits on the Turia banks on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula and fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.
My drive from Barcelona to Valencia took about 3.5 hours through beautiful countryside. Towns dotted the highway along the route, and sometimes I could catch a glimpse of the ocean on my left as I headed south. Best of all, the vast storm Spain had just experienced a few days ago had seemingly passed, and it was clear sailing (so to speak) and sunny skies all the way. My mood had lightened after my experience at the airport, and I was more than willing to put it all behind me.
As I neared the city, I set my GPS to the street address of the Airbnb I had booked for the next two days. Other than a sailing trip, I had no other plans, and after my somewhat busy schedule in Barcelona, I was prepared to do less sightseeing and more just relaxing and taking in the culture. In other words, no plans other than to let what happened, happen!
Driving through Valencia was easier than I expected until I neared the street I was to be on, and then all systems seemed to fail me. I found myself driving around the same blocks over and over again. Finally, I called my host, Andres, for help. Andres told me he knew where I was and waited for him to rescue me.
After the problems I saw I would face driving in cities in Spain, I had decided that from now on I would park my car and take bus, transit or Uber to places I needed to go. My host took me to the parking garage a block or so away from the apartment he shared with his wife, Romina.
The Airbnb was an extremely affordable $31 a night which is why I chose it, frankly. However, as I walked towards the apartment lined with graffiti and rows of what looked like tenement housing, I was honestly a little concerned.
The ad on Airbnb sounded interesting though, and because Andres and Romina were considered super hosts with great reviews, I took a chance after I read the following:
This accommodation is super Comfortable with WiFi bright with all the amenities to make your stay as pleasant as possible. In the heart of Valencia, easy to arrive from the airport, yellow bus N150 stop a few meters from the apartment.
We are a couple that we like to share our house with everyone who wants to know the beautiful city of Valencia. We are very pleased with the exchange of cultures and languages.
We enjoy meeting new people from all over the world as we are passionate about travelling.
I needn’t have been concerned. Although small the apartment was super clean and tidy and the room more than adequate for my two-night stay. Besides, Andre and Romina could not have been more excellent and more helpful. Andres even walked me to the parking garage the day I left so that I wouldn’t get lost in the maze of streets. I am somewhat bidirectionally challenged after all. Coincidentally Romina worked at Valencia’s first Tim Hortons but confided that her Canadian guests told her the coffee is not the same.
After a nap and a shower and change, I ventured out into the neighbourhood with my camera to capture the local scenery. I was intrigued by the graffiti and snapped many photos of the neighbourhood buildings before stumbling onto a street of small cafes, restaurants and bars a few blocks from the apartment. I decided to eat at one of the restaurants because the owner himself came out to talk to me and tell me (in Spanish) all about the restaurant, how old it was and that the speciality was the authentic Paella, made with rabbit and chicken. Since it was unlike the Seafood Paella I had just learned to cook in Barcelona, and that Angeles had talked about in the class, I knew I had to try it. The owner, who was delighted that I was from Canada, even gave me a tour of the restaurant, proudly showing off ancient bottles of wine in the cellar at the back. Besides from my vantage point at a small table outside the restaurant, I was able to people watch and take photos of a procession that was unfolding before me.
The costumes, the owner explained, were often sewn with real gold thread and cost thousands of dollars. They were beautiful, and at one point, I left my perch while the owner saved my seat, to take photos of the participants. Unfortunately, my Spanish was not good enough to precisely understand the special occasion, but I gathered it was something religious since it was outside a small church. And I didn’t think to ask the waiter who spoke perfect English to translate what the owner said. Lesson learned- one of many on the trip.
Day 2- I had initially booked a 3-5 hour sailing trip which sounded fabulous but received an email a couple of nights earlier which told me they were cancelling due to high seas. It was probably because of the recent storms that had swept through the area days earlier, which tragically resulted in fatalities from the floods.
I searched Airbnb for an alternative and settled on this one at the cost of around $119:
Adventure! Hot Springs + 60m Waterfall
I used to have a description of myself here, but this review is way better 😉 “Two weeks in Valencia and this trip with Mike was the best day here and also one of the best days of my life. Mike is like an old friend that you haven’t meet for a while. You could see how this trip is a passion for him. The day trip to all these beautiful places was unforgettable. Mike is also very passionate about taking amazing photos to have memorable pictures from the trip. Thank you, Mike, so much, hope to see you again! With love Zack & Valtteri.”
Soft drinks · Water · Wine. During the day I will stop to places where you can refill your water bottle. At the tapas place, I will offer complimentary wine and local liquor tasting. Transportation will be by minivan or bus. We will pick you up at a central location. The tours go to five unique off-the-beaten-path places in the middle of the beautiful mountains surrounding Valencia.
The best way I can describe this trip is WOW. Mike picked me up at a private school around the corner from the apartment, so it was very convenient for me that he dropped me off there, too.
The group was a small one of several students from the USA, young and energetic, which was so much fun. The 8-hour tour turned into more like ten as we even took a side tour into a small village to watch their version of the running-of-the-bulls. It was exciting, although probably the lone bull calf was less than thrilled by the commotion. Still, at least it wasn’t a bullfight, and he was not tortured or hurt in any way that I could see, the object of the game is to drop a ring onto one of the horns without getting gored. We were the only foreigners and a source of curiosity, but everyone seemed super friendly and answered our questions when we asked. As for the tour itself- The scenery, the falls and swimming in a beautiful pristine river were the highlights, but so was lunchtime at a local restaurant high up in the hills. Drinking wine from a skein is not my forte, but I gamely tried it anyway.
Our host, Mike is originally from Montreal, and so it was nice to talk to a fellow Canadian about what it was like to live in a foreign country, as it is something I do as well in Mexico. I asked him why he chose Valencia, and he told me that it was “for the love of a woman.” Seriously, who could fault that? After my trip, I am considering for Europe on a one to two-month basis.
I would give this excursion a 5 out of 5 and absolutely zero complaints about any part of it. From the food, the tour itself and the host, everything was perfect.
Having said that and after doing further research, I realized I could have done with one, or even two more days in Valencia at the very least. With so much to do and see, I think that Valencia is definitely in my future for another visit. And maybe like Mike, I too could move there, for love.
Next stop- Madrid