As the last bus to Madrid begins its four-hour journey from the Mediterranean city of Valencia, the taste of white wine lingers on my tongue and sun-filled memories are already forming in my mind. A beach weekend away from the chilly autumn air and reminders of daily life in Madrid was just what the doctor ordered.
Arriving in Valencia on Friday afternoon, I had no expectations except to be basking in the 80 degree (Fahrenheit) Mediterranean sun on a picturesque beach. This was mostly due to the fact that this little weekend getaway was booked just two days in advance as the travel bug was viciously biting while the All Saints Day “puente” (long weekend after Halloween) approached.
On Friday evening after a short siesta and shower at my Airbnb pad which was hosted by a lovely and most hospitable Valencia native, I was ready to hit the streets with two colleagues who rented out another room in the same flat – I lucked out! We started at a café to enjoy a pitcher of the famous Agua de Valencia, a delicious cocktail of cava (champagne), orange juice, vodka, and gin. Then we had a bite at a Greek restaurant that served a delicious homemade hummus (I’m always on the lookout for my favorite snack). Since we all had had a long week, it was time to call it a night and rest up for our beach day.
To catch some rays and get your feet in the sand, Playa Malvarrosa is the place to be as it’s about one kilometer of soft, golden sand dotted with cafes and restaurants. One cafe in particular, La Mas Bonita, caught our attention with its quaint and charming atmosphere and delectable cake menu – yes, that’s right, an entire menu of American favorites like red velvet, carrot, and triple chocolate!
Later that evening we ventured out for our first taste of the traditional Spanish dish, Paella Valenciana (a rice based mixture with chicken, rabbit, and veggies). We made reservations at La Bodega de la Sarieta and after an assortment of starters and several glasses of vino tinto (red wine), it was certainly a good choice for our Saturday evening meal.
Waking up a little groggy the next morning after exploring the Valencian nightlife, a midmorning run was a great way to start the already warm day. Rehydrated and caffeinated, I set out for the beach once again. Even though there is so much to do and see in Valencia including the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences), I couldn’t bear the thought of spending all day indoors. I mean it was sunny summer weather in November (this just doesn’t happen in Chicago).
Having soaked up the last few rays, I caught the bus back into town and took a detour to the museum complex, boasting the largest oceanarium in Europe, for an impromptu photo shoot. Although actually entering the exhibits was left for another day, its exterior is a futuristic architectural marvel only to be proven by the professional photographers and a bride with her groom posing against the space odyssey-like backdrop.
Thoughts of Monday morning and the week ahead surfaced as I sought out a final glass of wine, my bags in hand and ready to head back to reality. For dinner I found a pintxos bar on one of my favorite streets in Valencia, Calle San Vicente. It’s tree-lined, quaint, lively, and full of great foodie finds.
For those of you who eat with your eyes first, a pintxos bar is a sensory overload as each miniature masterpiece is displayed and constantly replenished while hot ones are whisked out of the kitchen by the wait staff. This is a wonderful way to try several small, yet filling Spanish creations and a glass of wine without breaking the bank.
Although my time was up in Spain’s third largest city, I look forward to returning to what is jokingly referred to as ‘Madrid’s beach’ since Valencia is only a 90 minute Ave train ride away.
Have you been to Valencia, Spain? What were your favorite spots? Maybe you’ve been pleasantly surprised with last minute travel plans – why?