Sensational Valencia

The sweet aroma of orange blossoms welcomed us as we stepped off the train in Valencia, Spain. After our first week here, the country’s third largest city has proven to be a veritable feast for the senses.

Orange Vendor

Orange Vendor, Central Market

The city’s Central Market is an overflowing cornucopia of flavors. At nearly 90,000 square feet (8,160 square meters), this early 20th century iron and glass structure houses over 900 vendors selling a vast array of irresistible tidbits to tantalize the taste buds.

Turia park

Turia River Park

From the Central Market, we picked up some picnic supplies and headed down to Valencia’s Turia River Park, the largest inner-city park in Europe. Completed in the re-routed Turia riverbed, this 6-mile (10 km) long sunken greenbelt provides pedestrians and cyclists with a tranquil way to traverse the city below street level.

City Arts Sciences.jpg

City of Arts and Sciences

Arguably, vision is the most important of the five senses, and Valencia has no shortage of worthy sights. Walking to the eastern end of Turia River Park, we spotted the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic ensemble of six museums and performing arts venues designed by the famed Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava.

City Skyline

Old Town Skyline

Contrasting with the space-age constructions of Calatrava’s creations are the ancient winding streets and historical sights of Valencia’s old town. Over 2,000 years old and 420 acres in area, it is one of the oldest and largest historical centers in Spain.

Manises ceramic

Tile Pictorial of Ceramics Trade, Manises

Within the historic quarter and throughout the city of Valencia, we have seen many building facades, doorways, and window frames decorated with glazed and colorful ceramic tiles. First introduced by the Moors in the 13th century, the production of these lustrous ceramics continues to be an important local trade.

Valencia Beach

Malvarrosa Beach

The fine local clay first attracted ceramicists, but the area’s sand lured us to Valencia’s outstanding beaches. Touched by the sun’s caress and a gentle Mediterranean breeze, we walked along marvelous Malvarrosa Beach, and passed a line of beachside restaurants serving Valencia’s signature dish.

Paella 2

Paella

Paella, Spain’s famous rice dish, was first conceived in Valencia. Originally prepared with the meat of marsh rat and freshwater eel, Paella Valenciana is now mercifully made with chicken, rabbit, and sometimes snails. The best savory paellas are simmered over an open fire, until the flavors are fully suffused with the sweet smoke of smoldering orange branches.

Fallas Mascleta

La Mascletà (every day at 2:00 pm, March 1-19)

At lunchtime on the first 19 days of March, another kind of smoke can be seen rising in Valencia. Each day at 2:00 pm, in anticipation of the city’s great Las Fallas festival, a five-minute explosion of large and deafening firecrackers called mascletàs erupts from the main plaza. 

Ninot Prince

Combustable Ninots (to be set ablaze during Las Fallas on March 19th)

Except that our hearing may be in peril, our first week in Valencia has been a smorgasbord for the senses. From the fragrance of its orange blossoms and flavors of its local delicacies, to the touch of its bright and breezy Mediterranean climate and sights of its ancient town center, the month of March in Valencia is going to be sensational.

Apt Joe

Blogger hard at work (or hardly working?)

 

Feature Image: Feasting on Paella, La Cerámica Valenciana, Manises

 

22 thoughts on “Sensational Valencia

  1. What a treat for all your senses! Those oranges look so sweet and flavorful and I imagine that the contrasts of modern and old architecture kept your eyes constantly moving from one beautiful scene to the next. I think I could do without the noise and smoke from the firecrackers, but fill up my plate with paella, please (hold the snails). Are you in Valencia for a whole month?

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    • Thanks for your rollicking comment, Janis! As a fellow Californian, I thought I knew oranges. There are so many sweet and juicy varieties to gorge yourself on here. I don’t think I will ever tire of wandering around and appreciating interesting architecture. There is enough here to last me for awhile, or at least until our month in Valencia expires. The daily firecracker displays actually shake your entire body, and are kind of addicting. Despite the smoke, noise, and crowds, we have already gone four times.

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  2. Orange blossoms are intoxicating, aren’t they? I’ve never found an adequate perfume or candle that matches it. I’ve only met one person who didn’t like the smell, and in truth he wasn’t very likable himself.
    The paella looks fantastic, I’d even be willing to try the snails! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here in the city, except when the wind blows just right, the orange blossom scent is usually masked by exhaust fumes, firecracker smoke, and other malodorous bouquets. The Central Market sells everything orange, even perfumes and candles. They also sell everything to make paella. I saw a lot of snails and freshwater eels, but no marsh rat. Very disappointing!

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  3. Hi Joe, you’re right, Valencia is a great city. Sunday morning in the “park in the river bed”, you see so many different sports in progress it’s amazing. What with the space age waterfront, the old city, the cathedral, that huge beach, let alone the many plazas with great restaurants, it really is a city with everything. I think I’m right in saying it still has bullfighting too, if you can stomach it! Enjoy your time there guys…

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    • Thanks Michaela & Phil, Your comment perfectly encapsulates the various features of the great city of Valencia. Our rental apartment for the month is on the Metro and about 15 minutes walk north of the Turia River. It is close enough to access the many activities, but just far enough away from the noise and crowds of the city center. I attended a bullfight in Sevilla in 1984 and another in Madrid in 2014. Despite the brutality of the event, I am glad that I had the chance to witness it. Valencia does hold bullfights during the Las Fallas festival, but we no longer have the stomach for it, nor can we support the animal cruelty.

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      • By the way Joe, we can’t wait any longer for our dream to come true. Like it was for you, retirement for us is more complicated than simply delivering a letter and saying “I’m off”, but the ball is rolling. We’ve served all the necessary notices and done all the deals and we retire at Christmas this year, last day 20th December. And then the full time travel dream becomes reality! 285 days and counting….

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  4. Joe, Brian and I left Valencia two days ago. Such a shame I did not realise it. Would have been great to meet you and Esther for a drink. Sounds like your first impressions of Valencia are similar to ours…fabulous city. Streets lined with orange trees, a bridge of flowers, a futuristic city of arts and science…what is not to like? We did not visit the beach, but that looks gorgeous also. Your apartment balcony looks like a great place to catch the sun with a drink. What a great choice of city to spend a month…I am a little envious. Enjoy!

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    • …and I am a little envious of you and Brian touring Spain in your new motorhome. It would have been really fun to get together with you guys, have a drink, and maybe get a tour of your house-on-wheels. Anyway, we are really having fun in Valencia. I was in town tonight for a parade and to see the Fallas being constructed. Did you have a chance to experience a mascleta? If so, what did you think?

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  5. Wow! It looks as if Valencia has a little bit of everything! (All I knew about was the oranges….) All the photos were gorgeous, but I have to admit that the last one made me just a little bit jealous. Blogging at my desk in my family room doesn’t look nearly as nice….

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    • Thank you, Ann. Blogging while traveling can have its challenges (e.g., cramped quarters, weak wifi, severe procrastination). This month, I have no excuses. In Valencia, there are a lot of worthy topics, and my workspace is the envy of the blogging world. Now, if only I could overcome my writer’s block!

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  6. Your posts almost always make me hungry, Joe. I can’t imagine the daily firecracker display, but then again you can remind yourself that this is temporary for you both. Valencia oranges will always make me think of Spain whenever I see them now. – Marty

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    • The orange trees in Florida should be ready for harvest this time of year, Marty. Most of the OJ we drink in the U.S. is from Valencia oranges grown in Florida. Here in Valencia, Spain the naval oranges are also very sweet and juicy. They are often served at restaurants for dessert. I have also seen blood oranges for sale but haven’t tried one yet. My next post will be on ceramics, so you shouldn’t need a snack before reading that one. – Joe

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  7. You write of orange blossoms, and it makes sense there’d be some in the spring, but it seems like you also have pics of fruited trees and fresh looking fruit in the market. Are there multiple growing seasons there? In any case, now I’m the mood for a fresh glass of OJ and a plate of paella!

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    • Thanks for the interesting questions, Dave. I think that there are a couple of reasons why you simultaneously see orange blossoms, fruited trees, and freshly picked fruit. Firstly, there are several different species of orange trees here, and they bloom at different times. The Valencia orange is more of a late spring and summer fruit, whereas navels and mandarins ripen in the winter months. The other factor is that the fruit takes a long time to ripen on the tree. As such, an orange tree may begin to flower, while last year’s fruit is still hanging on the tree.

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