We enjoyed a long, relaxing breakfast on that fabulous terrace, with Rosana popping in and out to check on us. We were also fortunate enough to meet her mother, who was visiting from Argentina and then I heard the unmistakeable melody of a full-blooded Argentinian accent!
Julia met Rosana’s two enormous dogs again – huge fluffy Alsations – so she was happy, but eventually we ran out of excuses and had to get back on the road because tonight’s destination is Valencia and Miss Google thinks it will take about 6 hours. We stopped briefly in Andorra la Vella for petrol (97 cents a litre!!!), I bought some classy new sunglasses, then we were off.
As we crossed into Spain a few minutes later I was surprised that there was considerable police presence at the ‘border’, and it was looking more like a border in terms of a queue, and being slowed down, and having to drive past booths saying “control de pasaportes”, than I can remember since the days in the 1970s when I was a child travelling this way with my parents. Mmmm, Schengen is not what it was…..
Miss Google guided us wisely and reliably as always – we are now used to the “Exit…… (pregnant pause) …… the roundabout” just as we have passed the particular exit we needed – towards Valencia while managing to avoid Lleida, which is a fine and worthy town in its interior but is surrounded by boring roads full of lorries, AND to avoid the outskirts of Barcelona which are invariably very busy. Instead she took us round Seu d’Urgell, a truly lovely town which I would love to go back to one day having stayed there a couple of years ago, then down to Reus before dropping us on to the fast road for the rest of the journey. We stopped briefly for a picnic at a motorway services area, then finally came in to Valencia about 4.30.
We found a car park very near our hotel, the Hostal Venecia which is on the Plaça del Ayuntament right in the centre of the city, and had soon put our bags in our room and headed out into the heat to discover the city.
It was around 36ᵒ as we walked up a tree-lined street to the cathedral, then round the back of it to observe the octagonal tower “El Miguelete” which had been built in the 13th century; its measures a little more than 50m round the perimeter, and its height is the same. Considering the heat, we opted not to climb the 207 steps up the spiral staircase to admire the view….
As you walk round you come to the archeological museum Almoina which has been built over the ancient Roman forum and we looked down through thick glass plates with water running between them to Roman ruins below street level. We walked right round the back of the cathedral, under the bridge built between the cathedral and the church dedicated to the Virgen de los Desamparados, and into the old quarter, back down through the Plaça Redonda and its surrounding tiny streets.
The buildings are beautiful, and very well kept, but there was far too much to see and do on one hot afternoon after a long drive; I feel we didn’t do Valencia justice, and perhaps we should return for a proper two-day visit one day.
We were melting and wilting in the heat at that point, as well as hungry, so we went in search of a paella. Paella is the Valencian national dish, so it was an absolute requirement…… We found a tiny restaurant in the old quarter, in a little pedestrianised street called Carrer dels Juristes.
The Bodegó Sarieta gave us a good paella, though we have had better, but most interesting was the starter of little tarts made of morcilla (black pudding) mixed with caramelised onion. They were truly delicious and are definitely going to be attempted at home, children.
We returned to the hotel via the shop Ale-hop, which is rather like “Tiger” in the UK, full of things you nearly want to buy but can’t quite justify but most of which make you smile. The reason for the lifesize model Friesan cow outside each of their shops remains shrouded in mystery (for me, anyway). Whatever, it’s a fantastic shop!
We bought a couple of ribbed beach mats just because it was a shame not to buy something (conspicuous consumers, that’s us) then poured ourselves back into the beautifully air-conditioned Hostal Venecia for the night. Aaaaaaah – the house in Anadalucia tomorrow!