"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, May 01, 2006



The first morning after the night before is always an, er interesting one for Dos Hermanos. Invariably, we have been over excited at being back in our favourite country and have over indulged to match.

This time was no exception and, fortunately, we had not arranged to begin our day until 10am. All the more fortunate given that our sleep had been punctuated by the “bish, bash, bosh” of the Town Hall bells and by the fact that our rooms were on the same floor as the hotel’s small breakfast room.

Still, at the arranged time, we met up and headed out to see what we could cram into the first full day. Quite a lot as it happens.

First, the short walk to the Mercado Central. Now, Spanish markets are such wonderous things that it actually takes quite a lot to impress me these days. However, Valencia’s offering is breathtaking. Housed in a stunning building, it offers the most bewildering variety of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables imaginable. Everything from the most embryonic of seafood to the barely recogniseable insides of animals. I can only dream of one day having such a place to shop on a regular basis.

By this time we were in need of some sugar in our system and had the urge for some chocolate and churros. Normally more of a winter thing in Valencia the places HP had researched were closed, so we headed to Valor in the Plaza La Reina. A chain place, but none the worse for that. The chocolate was rich and thick and the churros were fresh and crunchy. With some Zumo Naranja, it certainly revived our spirits enough to set us up for a morning’s sightseeing.

Valencia is the real deal. It is historic, elegant and, not yet overrun with tourists. One guide said it offered a counterpoint to the “Disney Catalan” of Barcelona. The people have real charm and are laid back despite the fact that it is obviously well to do. I adored it from start to finish.

First to the Cathedral. Valencia’s main church is a slightly austere building quite different from those we saw on our visit to the North last year. But, it has much to interest the visitor and the audio tour gave a fascinating insight into history of the building and the city. HP, of course, decided to climb the 211 steps to the top of the imposing tower. I did not, citing my recent cold whereas, in fact, any sort of height turns me to a quivering jelly. So, I sat and waited for him in the square while he did his thing.

By this time, it was midday and time for a few beers. So we tried a number of bars near the square and the market

BAR CRISMA – Just the little heart starting cana we needed.

BAR LA LONJA – a beer and some rather fine croquetta de bacallau and chiperones fritos.

BAR RICHARD – more beer. What can I tell you

By this time, we had also spent a few moments walking around Valencia’s most famous building, La Lonja. Listed as a World Heritage site, this was built to house the market for silk traders in the 15th Century. Splendid it is too. But, not splendid enough to keep us from our tapaering.

We headed up to Los Cavalleros which is the main drag of the city for bars and restaurants and, consequently, the main draw for tourists. The bars suffer accordingly and have little to offer. However, there are one or two places on the street which repay a visit. The best of them was

LA TABERNA DE MARISA – a Nuevo bar and restaurant which offered modern interpretations of classic tapas along with a wide range of wines by the glass. We had a couple of copas of wine with some Jamon Iberico which, while being excellent quality shoed the heavy hand of an inexperienced cutter. That being said, we definitely thought it was worth a revisit.

From here to Calle Moro Zeit and

BAR PILAR – very famous for its mussels we were disappointed to find that they were not available at the end of April and throughout May as it is their reproductive season and the quality is impaired. Ho hum. Still, we were more than happy with the plate of pescaditos fritos that we had instead

BAR DJANGO – another more modern bar where we ordered, with our beer, All I Pebre, a dish of the local eels cooked with garlic and potatoes. This was not a good example. They warmed it in the microwave, or rather they didn’t, even at the second time of asking.

TASCA EL ANGEL – this was the highlight of the whole trip for me ( and possible for HP too ) a tiny hole in the wall joint which served the most extra ordinary sardines a la plancha I have ever tried. Meaty and fresh, the small fillets were grilled and then doused in olive oil, garlic and parsley. Put it this way, we do have a rule to try and not revisit places when we are on a weekend. We went to Tasca Angel three times. That says it all. Less good were the pimientos de pardon which were too charred.

After this, we sauntered back to Ayuntiemento stopping off for a glass of OrXarta at one of the stalls that can be found on the corners of many streets.

A couple of cana later at CAFETERIA LOPY and BAR PASCASIA saw the clock hit 4pm and us ready for a siesta in preparation for a serious evening of tapas fun
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