Horchata, Paella and Giant Burning Figures Make Valencia Kind of Exciting

You might hear a lot about the cities of Barcelona and Madrid. They are exciting, cosmopolitan Spanish cities where you have a great time, make some new friends and enjoy some terrific food as well.

However, what I discovered when I spent time living in Spain was that the country has a lot of other places worth visiting. I was living and working on the island of Mallorca, so Valencia was one of the easiest places to get across to on the mainland.

I wasn’t expecting much of the place but it turned out to be a fantastic place to spend some time. The following are some of the highlights of Valencia which made it such a special spot for me.

The Food and Drink

horchaTAI had always thought of paella as being a typical dish from any part of Spain but it turns out that Valencia is its spiritual home. Later on, in South America, I would even hear this dish called arroz a la Valenciana, showing where it originally came from. I am not the world’s biggest seafood fan but I plucked up the courage to order a paella which contained some of the sea’s ugliest creatures, as this is one of the most traditional types. It had a great taste but I had to leave a sad little mound of dead creatures at the side of the plate. To wash it down I tried a glass of horchata de chufa and was instantly hooked. This is a milky looking drink which is apparently made from tiger nuts (whatever they are). It was a beautiful warm spring day and this felt like the most refreshing drink in the world. I later found that my local supermarket in Palma sold bottles of the stuff. The bottled variety was good but I never managed to recapture the magnificently refreshing sensation of that first glass in Valencia.

The Burning Statues

paellaIf you go to Valencia during the month of March you are in for a treat. This is when the spectacular festival Las Fallas takes place. I have to confess that I only saw this on the TV. I was flicking through the channels kind of listlessly when I came across a programme showing a giant crowd of people burning huge effigies. It was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever seen and it looked like amazing fun.  I made up my mind there and then to try and get to Valencia for Las Fallas one year, and while I haven’t yet made it at the right time I haven’t given up hope of maybe doing it next year. The event also includes a lot of fireworks and noise, so it isn’t really ideal for someone of a nervous disposition.

The City Beaches

I love a good city beach, I really do. Some people get a bit snobbish about these things and say that city beaches are rubbish but in my opinion they are great places to get to see the locals and relax. I preferred the beaches around this city to the ones in Barcelona and Palma. You will probably need to take the bus or train to get to them, as they aren’t really all that centrally located. These are nice wide stretches of sand where you will come across locals having picnics and enjoying their beaches. Summer is too hot for me in this part of the world so I would recommend checking it out in either spring or autumn. The area around the beach called Malvarrosa beach is also a great place for trying some paella and a glass or three of horchata.   Just sit back, sip some of that tiger nut goodness and think about how good life can be at times.

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