If you’ve read the About Us page of our blog, you know that we love food and that one of the main goals of our trip is to sample local flavors. As the home of paella, we knew that we had to make Valencia one of our stops in Spain.
As expected, there was paella coming out of the woodwork in Valencia. Every restaurant, take-out window and market sells paella. It has become such a tourist spectacle, however, that it seemed somewhat forced. We learned that “Paella Valenciana” is not the typical seafood paella that you commonly find in the States, but rather has chicken, rabbit, peas and beans intermingled with the saffron rice, as well as a strong rosemary flavor. Here is a link to a traditional Valencian paella recipe.
While the paella wasn’t all that we had hoped for, the city had many pleasant surprises. The old part of town has an abundance of quaint marbled plazas that seem to appear out of nowhere in the maze of small winding streets.
Another part of Valencia that we loved was El Parque Natural del Turia, which stretches 9km across much of the city and is located in the bed of the river Turia which was diverted in following a massive flood in 1957. The park is host to a wide diversity of trees, gardens, sports courts, paths and playgrounds and culminates at La Ciudad de Las Artes y Ciencias. If you read our last post, Setting Sail, this architecture may look familiar. It is the work of Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, who was also the brains behind El Auditorio de Tenerife which we visited on our cruise. His work is modern, yet reminiscent of Gaudi at times, and also marked by the use of chipped, white tiles.
While our visit to Valencia began as a quest for paella, we found that this city has so many other culinary delights to offer. We first encountered cured morcilla (blood sausage) in a restaurant in Valencia and have since been addicted, eating it every chance we get. While blood sausage was not a new concept to us, we had never seen it in this form, dried and sliced, similar to salami.
Valencia’s main market, Mercado Central, is the largest and most impressive we’ve seen in Spain thus far. Pictures do not do it justice, as the smells, sounds and flavors make up so much of the experience. We were impressed by how specialized some vendors are, for example, one stall sold only lemons and garlic. Somehow the 20+ produce stands, all of which sell more or less the same product, manage to not only stay in business, but thrive! It appears that locals have their favorite vendors and ignore the rest. Everyone gets their share.
We are beginning to appreciate that one of the best parts of traveling is encountering the unexpected. While our visit to Valencia did not lead us to the world’s greatest paella, it did provide us with some other great adventures and delicious food.