We all awoke not exactly refreshed but in need of some liquids and exercise and so Maeve and I decided to take the opportunity to have a Sunday morning run in the sun around the city. Valencia is not crazy big like Madrid or Barcelona and so we managed to see quite a lot in a short route. We headed off out of the old town and into modern Valencia. The city has turned some of the old city rivers into a gorgeous green space surrounding the edge of the city which we took the opportunity to run through in the sun. As we made our way along Maeve pointed out hotspots and the park was littered with water drinking fountains which were the perfect antidote to the hot morning sun. The nearer we got to the coast the crazier and more modern the architecture became having everything from an Imax cinema and state of the art Science Centre to a huge aquarium. There was definitely a lot to see in the area and I am sure if you wanted you could spend at least 2 days exploring everything there is to see down here. We however, headed back up to the city centre to change after our gorgeous run and head out for the day.
After a good few kms and with it being lunchtime we were all starving and so settled on Dede – a Turkish restaurant close to Maeve and Ruairidh’s flat for a lunchtime tapa. Sometimes with tapa you get a fairly good sized portion but unfortunately the tiny filo and piece of salami didn’t quite hit the spot here. The wine definitely helped though. We wandered back to the flat and then headed off to nearby Albufera – home to paella – in a taxi. Rice fields are not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when visiting Spain but they have them aplenty just next to Valencia and this is said to be where paella originated from. Traditionally a meat based dish with chicken and rabbit the prawns and squid are a modern adaption of the dish. We arrived into El Palmar the small town next to the famous rice paddies and were immediately presented with a good 20+ paella restaurants. But which one to pick. After a bit of google research and of course following the crowds we settled on El Sequer de Tonica toward the end of the town strip and close to the water. They were really busy and so we wandered around the edge of the water and stopped into a nice sort of local restaurant/hotel called Casa Angel for some cava in the sun while we waited. The lady explained about taking a boat out over the rice paddies into the centre of the lake to watch the sunset which sounded incredible.
In no time at all it was time to head back for our reservation, but we were in Spain, and so of course they hadn’t actually gotten a table ready for us. The thing with Spain is they focus on the here and now, reservations are not really a thing especially in the more rural areas and you just wait for a table. By this point I was about to faint with hunger. They sat us at a bar stool outside and we devoured bread like a flock of hungry geese and then, as if by magic a table outside magically appeared and we launched ourselves at it. Again, service is a thing that just cannot be rushed (you can expect to spend a good 3 hours in a restaurant at lunchtime) which is just not the best for people who have eaten almost nothing all day. We finally received menus and barked our order of; all-i-pebre (a garlic soup of eel and potato), of course the traditional paella and arroz a banda which means literally rice on the side which we chose with prawns to counteract the lack of seafood in the paella. The eel arrived first and was quite extraordinary. It was very firm and fishy and not at all slimy and eel like (at least from my limited experience with sushi). The garlicky sauce was also fantastic with bread. We then moved onto the main event – the rice dishes. I started with the arroz de banda which was extremely fishy and salty (but I was starving and would have eaten absolutely anything). We then switched and got to try probably one of the best paellas I have ever eaten. The chicken and rabbit were cooked to perfection and the spicing was sublime. I would seriously consider getting on another flight to Valencia just to eat this paella. Sadly the Spanishisms continued in taking them the longest time to clear our plates – and then even longer yet to get the bill. While it might seem rude the only way around this is to chase the waitresses and potentially not in the most polite of fashions. The delay meant we missed the chance to hire a boat to head out onto the lake for sunset which was pretty disappointing but we did manage to run and still see some epic sunset views over the rice fields and lake as the sun changed to deepest red and sank low over the horizon.
We headed back to Valencia city centre in a taxi as night fell, the taxi prices were extremely reasonable and it was the easiest way to get out to Albufera. Given the stress of timings we could now enjoy the evening time limit free and took the opportunity to check out some of the really cool bars around the city. Our first stop was La Catrina Café & Rock for some fantastic cocktails. The bar is full of weird stuff and is generally a very cool place to be. We ended up back here at the end of the night but only photographic evidence the next day made us realise this so probably best to skip over that part. We might have just eaten a few hours ago but it was all we had had all day and so we headed to La Mezcaleria for some Mexican food and a LOT of margaritas. In reality more margaritas than any human realistically needs to consume. We started with some guac and chips, then had a creamy seafood stew which was excellent and some chorizo with cheese. It was more of a bar with Mexican snacks which was exactly what we needed after our heavy lunch. They had a lot of cool street art on the wall which added to the hipster vibe generally seen around the Russafa neighbourhood. The rest of the night from here is pretty fuzzy but as you can probably imagine by now – Monday morning was not fun for anyone involved.