Dining in Valencia, Spain

by Sue on February 25, 2015

Mercat Central, Valencia, Spain

Mercat Central in Valencia.

The Central Market of Valencia (Mercat Central) is filled with people bustling about when we visit mid-day. In the city’s hub, it is a great spot to to experience the local culture. Inside are close to 1000 stands, large and small, each run by a different vendor. Here you will find cured meats like the local jamon, fresh fish, local fruits and vegetables, nuts, and bakery goods. We stocked up on two of our favorite snacks… Valencia oranges and marcona almonds.

Inside the Mercat Central

Inside the Mercat Central

Known as one of the largest and oldest European markets, this wonderful piece of Art Nouveaux architecture was designed by Catalan architects Alejandro Soler March and Francisco Guardia Vial between 1910 and 1928, when it was opened to public.

The Central Market is open Monday through Saturday year round.

Mard'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia

Mard’avellanes Restaurante in Valencia

With its innovative concept of serving “haute cuisine at a good priceMard’avellanes revolutionizes and democratizes the dining scene in Valencia. “Innovating from the essence” they offer a sublime dining experience through a cuisine in which quality and creativity are a premium. The decor and the culinary offerings provide a unique style and experience. At Mard’avellanes we enjoyed the most deliciously sensual meal of our trip.

Mard'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia, Valencia, Spain

Mard’avellanes – Huevo a baja temperatura con cremoso de patata, migas y jamón (Eggs cooked at low temperature with potato puree , bread crumbs and ham)

Mard'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia, Valencia, Spain

Mard’avellanes – salad with guacomole and crab dollops

Mard'Avellanes

Mard’avellanes – Cochinillo con reduccion de naranja (roast suckling pig with Valencia orange).

Mard'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia

Mard’avellanes dessert – a beautifully deconstructed fruit napoleon

Looking for a restaurante to enjoy Sunday lunch with the locals, we got a great tip from a lovely lady in one of the information centers – La Cigrona - a hidden treasure located on a quiet street close to one of the old towers of Valencia. Priding themselves on using the freshest local ingredients, they are farm to table. Arriving without a reservation, the owner graciously found a table for us among the local, multi-generation families.

La Cigrona in Valencia

La Cigrona in Valencia

La Cigrona - grilled squid

La Cigrona – perfectly grilled squid with black ink sauce.

La Cigrona - grilled vegetables

La Cigrona – fresh, local grilled vegetables

Restaurante de Ana’s specialty is Valencian cuisine. They are known for their wide range of delicious paellas and rice dishes. Located in downtown Valencia just a short walk from our hotel, the meal was good, though the restaurant is larger and more formal then we prefer… kind of like the Vincci Palace Hotel where we are staying… professional but impersonal.

Restaurante de Ana in Valencia

Restaurante de Ana in Valencia

Paella at Restaurante de Ana, Valencia, Spain

Valencian Paella at Restaurante de Ana

A note on Spanish wines… Throughout Spain, we found the diversity and deliciousness of the country’s wines impressive and the price tag very reasonable. Ranging from 3 to 4 euros for a glass of wine, an excellent price for the quality.

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Strolling in Valencia, Spain

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Strolling in Valencia, Spain

by Sue on February 19, 2015

Cty of Arts & Sciences, Valencia, Spain

Cty of Arts & Sciences, Valencia, Spain

Arriving in Valencia, after touring Granada and Seville, where we were steeped in history and ancient architecture, we experience our first taste of contemporary Spain. As a city, Valencia has uniquely combined its history, dating to the year 138 BC, with innovative and avant-garde buildings and ideas.

Valencia's old riverbed park is called the Garden of the Turia.

Garden of the Turia, Valencia’s riverbed park.

After a catastrophic flood in 1957 which devastated the city, the Turia river was divided in two at the western city limits. Valencia diverted its flood-prone river to the outskirts of town and converted the former riverbed into an amazing ribbon of park winding right through the city.

Historic bridges carry traffic across the park.

Historic bridges carry traffic across the park.

The old riverbed is now a lush sunken park that allows cyclists and pedestrians to travel across much of the city without the use of roads. The park, called the Garden of the Turia, has numerous ponds, paths, fountains, and flowers.

Marking the park’s eastern extreme is Valencia’s strikingly futuristic City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neofuturistic architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter.

The complex, including an aquarium, museums, and opera house constructed over the past 15 years, is intended to help Spain’s third-largest city become a world-class tourist destination, and to
fire up the masses with enthusiasm for the arts and sciences. The breathtaking structures are enough in themselves to lure visitors in the millions. You don’t have to be an opera or science buff to enjoy a day here – in fact if you’re on a tight budget you can just wander around this incredible city without even buying an entrance ticket.

L'Umbracle, part of the City of Arts and Sciences, is a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia.

L’Umbracle, part of the City of Arts and Sciences, is a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia.

History and all its glory is never far from view, and heading back into the city center we find ourselves in a glorious sun-filled square filled with palm trees and old majestic buildings.

Historic Valencia architecture is a feast for the eyes.

Historic Valencia architecture is a feast for the eyes.

Architecture in Valencia, Spain.

Truly majestic.

Sunday morning we set off on foot to slowly make our way across town to IVAM, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern. Purposefully passing the Cathedral on the way, we find the area filled with locals, observing and performing traditional dances.

Dancing in front of the Cathedral in Valencia, Spain.

Dancing in front of the Cathedral in Valencia, Spain.

Dancers in Valencia, Spain

Young dancers in their colorful finery.

Street scene in Valencia, Spain

pink scooter, valencia, Spain

Sunday ride on the pink scooter?

Valencia is a large city with over 800,000 inhabitants. In the historical center are a labyrinth of cobble stone streets, very walkable and visually engaging. Next to intact or restored buildings are ruins and vacant spots often walled off for future development or restoration. These blank walls are a canvas for a the city’s street artists.

Graffiti in Valencia, Spain

Valencia graffiti 1_new

Jay snaps this photo for me just before we learn that no photos are to be taken inside the En Transito exhibit at IVAM

Sculpture from the En Transito exhibit at IVAM.

Sculpture from the En Transito exhibit at IVAM.

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Dining in Granada, Spain

by Sue on February 16, 2015

Puerto del Carmen in Granada, Spain

Puerto del Carmen in Granada, Spain

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

Luciano Pavarotti

Jay fell in love with Puerto del Carmen in Granada, Spain… imagining a whole evening spent puffing on a good cigar, indulging in their mediterranean inspired dishes, sipping wine, people watching… As it is, we enjoy two meals there during our day and a half in Granada. A common gesture in Spain is to bring a free tapa after you order drinks, and here our gift was a small plate of shrimp with delicate tempura vegetables on top. First class. Then came the entrees…

Salad of smoked salmon, hearts of palm and tomatoes at Puerta del Carmen.

Salad of smoked salmon, hearts of palm and tomatoes at Puerta del Carmen.

Puerta del Carmen Pork Shoulder

Puerta del Carmen Pork Shoulder

For simpler fare the young woman at Hotel Casa 1800 Granada  suggested a lovely little cafe – Carmela. Open all day, a blessing for weary travelers, we find our way there late afternoon and enjoy the potato prawn salad and a sublime vegetable moussaka.

Carmela Restaurante, Granada, Spain

Carmela Restaurante, Granada, Spain

Deliciously delicate vegetable moussaka at Carmela's.

Deliciously delicate vegetable moussaka at Carmela’s.

Taken with the local wine and olive oil served at Carmela, the waitress gives us a tip on where to find them, which leads us to Jamoneria Casa Diego. An old world charcuterie not far from the restaurante with hams, meats, cheeses… and the Muñana Rojo from Sierra Neveda we sipped with lunch, as well as the olive oil! We leave with two bottles of wine and olive oil to bring home… and stock up on our favorite snacks – dark chocolate, marcona almonds and fresh walnuts.

Granada has an edge, maybe due to its large student population (70,000), and is delightfully cosmopolitan for a city of its size. Ethnic restaurants are more plentiful than in other Andalusian cities, and its Islamic past is still present with Muslim North Africans making up about 10% of the population. Much to explore in addition to the Alhambra.

Read about our visit to the Alhambra, and see the photos and video:
Granada, Spain – The Alhambra

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Granada, Spain – The Alhambra

by Sue on February 7, 2015

Alhambra

The Royal City of Alhambra sits proudly on a hill above Granada. It is known as one of the most important architectural structures of the Middle Ages in Spain and the finest example of Islamic architecture left in the western world. Visiting on a cool, rainy day at the end of January it held our attention for the entire afternoon.

Water, rare and precious in most of the Islamic world, was the purest symbol of life to the Moors. Coming from the deserts of the south, the Moors celebrated water and its abundance in their new home.

Alhambra walls

The Alhambra was once a city of a thousand people and covers an area of over 32 acres. Its enclosed by more than a mile of walls reinforced by thirty towers, many of which are in ruins.

Gardens in the Alhambra.

Alhambra fruit tree

The Generalife was a retreat where the monarchs of Granada could relax, away from the bustle of the court. Yet close enough to the palace to attend to any urgent matters that might arise.

View of Generalife in the distance.

View of Generalife in the distance.

Generalife and its gardens.

Generalife and its gardens.

Courtyard in the Generalife .

Courtyard in the Generalife .

The Alhambra’s Palacios Nazaries, the Moorish royal palace, was built mostly in the 14th century.

Alhambra - palace

I read that space in the Alhambra is open, like in the desert. The Courtyard of the Lions isn’t a house with a garden, but a garden containing a house. Refreshing water flows from the mouths of the twelve white marble lions.

Alhambra - palace courtyard

Courtyard of the Lions.

Ceiling detail in the Palace.

Ceiling detail in the Palace.

Palace door surrounded by intricate plaster design.

Palace door surrounded by intricate plaster design.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life crowns the line of inscriptions written around the wall. This type of plasterwork motif spreading downward from an apex is an allusion to the inverted tree that sustains the celestial bodies in the heavens and buries its roots in paradise.

Alhambra - The Hall of the Kings

The Hall of the Kings.

Window with a view.

Window with a view.

After an amazing afternoon at the Alhambra, our brains totally saturated with history, our bodies damp and chilled, we return to our slice of history – Hotel Casa 1800 Granada. Located at the foot of the Alhambra, in a charming Old Granadian house from the XVII Century, we are ready for a siesta.

Hotel Casa 1800 Granada

Hotel Casa 1800 Granada

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Seville, Spain – The Royal Alcazar

February 6, 2015

Originally a 10th century palace built for the Muslim governor, The Royal Alcazar (Real Alcazar), is still used today as the Spanish royal family’s residence in Seville. Retaining the same purpose for which it was originally intended, as a residence of monarchs and heads of state, it is the oldest palace in Europe still in […]

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How to Stream Video When Traveling Overseas

February 6, 2015

Have you every been traveling overseas and had trouble connecting to Netflix, Amazon, Skype, Facebook or other video streaming and social media sites?  That’s because the websites you are trying to get to are often restricted by (or to) the country you are traveling in.  But there is an easy way to get around the restriction. […]

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Seville, Spain – historic bullring

February 2, 2015

The Real Maestranza bullring is a landmark in Seville and in Spanish bullfighting. With its impressive Baroque facade, one of the bullring’s most unique features is the slightly oval shape of the ring. This 18th century arena can hold 14,000. Above the matador’s entrance to the ring is seating for the Royal family. Heading down […]

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Seville, Spain – Cathedral, Geralda Bell Tower, dining

January 30, 2015

Heading to Hotel Casa 1800 we catch our first glimpse of the magnificent Seville Cathedral. Legend has it that when they tore down a mosque of brick in 1401, the Christians re-conquering Spain said, “We will build a cathedral so huge that anyone who sees it will take us for madmen.” Taking about a hundred years to […]

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Lisbon, Portugal – Walkabout

January 27, 2015

Lisbon is described as a safe harbor – one of the remaining havens in Europe for sophisticated culture and relaxation in a time of tourist destinations. This time of year anyway, there are no parking lots full of tour buses, and reservations are easy to get or not needed. Walking miles each day around the […]

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Lisbon, Portugal – Mercado da Ribeira

January 24, 2015

Mercado da Ribeira (market near the river) is a Lisbon treasure, and the city’s largest open food market. Housed in a beautiful building topped with a Moorish-style dome, the food market sells everything from inky octopus and fresh seafood to fresh fruit, and funeral flowers. But, beginning in May 2014 the gastronomical area opened, representing the best […]

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Lisbon, Portugal – Arrival/Chegada

January 24, 2015
Thumbnail image for Lisbon, Portugal – Arrival/Chegada

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The Longest Road – Florida to Alaska

July 14, 2013

Feeling nostalgic this morning as I read rave reviews about a new road book in the NY Times… Two years ago we converted our Honda CRV into a camper van and drove round-trip from Washington State to Maryland. Taking a northern route out and southern path home. Read about our adventures here:  US Cross Country […]

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The Quiet Traveler

December 5, 2012

I am an introvert. Recently completing the Myers-Briggs personality test confirmed my thoughts, and reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking deepened my understanding. The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” were first made popular by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s and then later by the Myers-Briggs […]

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Victoria, British Columbia: Restaurants, cafes and bakeries

November 19, 2012

In autumn Vancouver Island abounds with heirloom tomatoes, pears, apples, plums, exotic squash, pumpkins, wild mushrooms… Restaurants Bengal Lounge ~ Fairmont Empress Hotel (721 Government Street). Drawing inspiration from Queen Victoria’s role as the Empress of India, this colonial style lounge is known throughout Victoria for its authentic curry buffet and signature cocktail menu. Frequented […]

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