At the end of January, I headed to Barcelona for four days of meetings. Since they ended on Friday, I knew I wanted to stay in Spain for the weekend. I thought about several options and decided on something new to me – a weekend in Valencia! One of my St. Louis friends now lives in Barcelona, and she wanted to come with me. (Yay!) We were trying to figure out the train times, but they weren’t working with our schedule. In the end, she offered to drive us. Road trip!!
We left Barcelona at the end of my meetings on Friday. The drive is only 3-3.5 hours, which is easy when there’s such beautiful scenery. We arrived at our hotel, Hospes Palau Del Mar, and enjoyed a spot of tea (one of the benefits of traveling with an Irish friend!).
On Friday night, we had dinner reservations at Ricard Camarena Restaurant. Ricard Camarena is a famous Spanish chef, and this restaurant has earned two Michelin stars. We chose to have the eight course tasting menu, which proved to be even more courses when you count the little nibbles and starters that come before the main event. Every one of them was delicious!
I tried to take pictures of all of the courses (and nearly did it – only forgot one). At the end of the meal, they gave us a menu, so we could remember what we had:
- Free range chicken “velouté” – Lemon Leaf – Sherry wine
- Turnip – Radish – Herring roe
- Cured tuna – Bread – Tuna jur
- Onion – Anchovy Butter – Black garlic
- Courgette (zucchini) peel – Steak tartare – Capers
- Potato – All-i-pebre – Almond
- Celery – Chicken – Mustard
- Marinated sea bass, creamy caviar and caviar
- Steamed hake “Cocochas,” tartare sauce and stewed peas
- Organic farming artichockes, smoked eel and eel hollandaise (not pictured)
- Grilled monkfish with marine juice, courgette peel and coriander seeds
- Snails rice, dill and broad beans
- Duck “consommé”
- Crepe with herbs and orange peel
- Creamy duck ravioli, truffle and radish “Chantilly”
- Roasted pumpkin and tangerine
- Almond “Royale” with roasted pumpkin
- Roasted pumpkin puff
- Cold pistachio rock
- Chocolate and hazelnuts cold bonbon
- White chocolate with peanut mousse
The service was fantastic, too. This was definitely a special treat!
On Saturday morning, I headed out to see the Valencia Cathedral, which was impressive (like most European cathedrals)…even if their entrance fee was a bit steep (8€). There were some beautiful buildings along the way as well as plenty of orange trees.
[They has a room full of these enormous books. They seemed to have music inside and reminded me of huge hymnals.]
After spending some time in the cathedral, I met up with my friend at the Central Market. The market was HUGE, and I was surprised by how beautiful the building was!
There was so much to take in and so much good food to try! We had coffee, pastries, fruit juice, and ham and cheese – yum!
Valencia has several beautiful buildings in old town. A long time ago, they were a major trading city, and they built some opulent buildings to show off. (My summary of what we read while we were there.)
We went to see a couple of the most beautiful buildings. First, La Lonja de la Seda (or, Silk Exchange). This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built in 1483.
[You can still see those orange trees from inside!]
[Look at the fancy ceiling!]
Next, we meandered through the old town looking in shops and enjoying the windy, cobblestoned alleys. We eventually made our way to the National Ceramic Museum. I read that the inside was only so-so, but that the outside was amazing! We opted to skip the inside, so I can’t confirm how good it is, but the facade was really incredible!
The sky was so blue!!! I couldn’t get over it!
We went to lunch at La Pepica, which is located on the beach and is famous for paella (which originated in Valencia!). I requested an outside table assuming it would be warm enough. However, there were some crazy winds the weekend we were there, which made it really cold! No one was sitting outside, but the man seated us by one of the windows – as close as he could get us to outside.
The restaurant is more than 100 years old, and Ernest Hemingway used to frequent it when he was in Spain. We had many different kinds of paella to choose from, but we chose Paella Valenciana, which has chicken, rabbit, and artichokes.
I couldn’t resist ordering the frozen pineapple filled with ice cream to see what it was. And it was exactly that…a frozen pineapple filled with ice cream! The pineapple was as hard as a rock!
I should have taken a picture of the kitchen when we arrived. It was bustling during lunch time, but by the time we left, lunch was over and everything was quiet.
We walked through the Museum of Fine Arts after lunch, but it was a lot of old Renaissance paintings that were too depressing for us.
The old town was so beautiful that we decided to wonder around in it a bit more.
Our final stop was Horchatería Santa Catalina to try horchata, which also originated in Valencia. I was expecting it to be the same as the Mexican horchata I’ve tried, but they are quite different. In Valencia, it’s made with tiger nuts, sugar, and crushed ice. (The Mexican version is rice-based, and it is much sweeter.)
On Sunday morning, we had a lovely breakfast at La Petite Brioche…smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, and pastries. After breakfast, we visited L’Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe. This aquarium is part of a collection of ultra modern architecture called the City of Arts and Sciences. It’s feels like a completely different city than the old town of Valencia!
There were so many beautiful things to see inside the aquarium…belugas, jellyfish, walrus, dolphins, tropical fish, sharks (okay, maybe sharks are more creepy than beautiful), etc.
We road tripped back to Barcelona in time for me to catch my flight back to Switzerland. What a fun weekend away exploring a new-to-me city with a friend I haven’t seen in 1.5 years!