Winter in Europe Part VIII-Valencia & Madrid

Last post in this Winter in Europe series. It’s been an amazing winter and I am so grateful to have had the last few months to travel, explore and grow. Our last days in Europe were spent in Spain and based in Valencia with a quick day trip to Madrid.

Valencia is blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year, a mild Mediterranean climate, a rich history and terrific cuisine. Valencia is a 4ish hour train ride from Barcelona along the coast. The train ride itself was very beautiful weaving in and out of the coastline. Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and is a lovely city with beautiful beaches. Not to mention the birthplace of Paella, which was a large part of our visit. Valencia is well known for its Las Fallas festival which takes place in March (so we missed it). However, we were able to go to the Las Fallas museum which gave us great insight into the festival. We spent our week in Valencia riding bikes along the beach, taking long lunches to fest on Paella and exploring the city. I took a quick day trip to Madrid and we soaked up as much sun as possible.

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We stayed in  El Cabanyal the historic fishermen’s quarter by the sea. This historic area is loaded with 150 years under appreciated architectural gems.The architecture is a mix of traditional small single story houses built in the 1840’s, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and  Modernista styles. A little rough around the edges El Cabanyal has some amazing restaurants, local culture and is right by the sea!

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We spent a lot of time biking around town and by the beach using the Valencia city bike program.  We got a week trial period rental and enjoyed the convenience of the many drop off points around town. We’d rent a bike in one part of town ride to the next and drop off our bikes without worrying about locking them up. That being said, there were a few times we went to drop off the bikes and the stations would all be full. Once we figured out the website and looked up the stations ahead of time to see if they had open spaces it was no problem.

As one of the largest natural ports in the Mediterranean and an important rice-producing area in Spain, Valencia is well known as the birthplace of the famous Paella. Eating Seafood Paella was at the top of Tommy’s list of must do for our travels in Spain. Unfortunately, for him he married a vegetarian and typically Paella has to be ordered for a minimum of two people. This meant his Paella wishes got pushed to our last days in Spain which fortunately worked out for the best since he got to enjoy a large pan of Seafood Paella by the sea in its birthplace. We spent two long afternoons enjoying a slow lunch of Paella by the seaside. The first Paella afternoon we rode our bikes to El Saler beach just outside of town and found a table outside at the packed seaside restaurant. We ordered a bottle of wine and enjoyed the view as we waited the long wait for our shared veggie Paella. The next afternoon in a quest to fulfill Tommy’s Seafood dreams we went to a small place by the beach in our neighborhood.  I ate tapas and when the main dish appeared I put some on my plate pushed around the seafood a bit returned it to the pan and Tommy got lots of takeaway to enjoy later.

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Some other highlights of our time in Valencia included riding bikes through the converted riverbed park which runs through the city, exploring the City of Arts and Sciences, wondering around the botanical gardens and Carnival celebrations. We also got a glimpse of the Las Fallas festival by going to the Las Fallas museum. Las Fallas is celebration held in March in commemoration of Saint Joseph. Each neighborhood of the city has an organized group of people who work all year producing a construction known as a falla which is burnt at the celebration. Every year one ninot (a figurine of a falla) is saved from fire and placed into this museum. The museum houses ninots from 1934 onward. Since we couldn’t be here for the celebration people come from around the world to see we got a great peak into the festival at the museum.

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One of the last days of our trip I went on a day trip to Madrid via the high speed rail. The train ride was one of the highlights of the trip. The high speed train crossed Valencia to Madrid in two hours covering hundreds of miles. At top speed we reached 301 kilometers an hour (187 mph). I left on an early afternoon train and spent the day visiting the top city sights and seeing as much as possible before returning on a late evening train to Valencia. In my short time I visited the Prado national museum, Retiro park, Museo Nactional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Mercado San Miguel and Plaza de Oriente. I got to see famous works of art by Picasso, Dali and Velazquez all in one short afternoon.

Madrid was a beautiful city, alive with culture, history and art. My whirlwind tour walking as fast as I could throughout its art museums and city streets weren’t enough to do it justice but I am glad to have spent at least one day there.

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Back in Valencia we prepared for our journey back to Barcelona to fly back to the states. After a couple of months in Europe returning home will be a whole new adventure. We spent a few weeks visiting friends and family in NYC and Seattle before returning to NC. Back in NC we are preparing for the beginning of spring, getting ready to start the flower season once again back at Pisgah Flowers.

If you’ve been following along on adventures on this eight part series of Our Winter in Europe thank you! I’ve enjoyed sharing our journey through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Spain this winter. We will continue to travel and find adventures wherever life leads us next. The blog continues and onto the next chapter!!

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