At the end of our summer in Prague we headed back to Valencia, this time to say Goodbye. We loved our time in Spain and can’t imagine we could have chosen a more beautiful city than Valencia. Our time there was never meant to be longterm, but a starting point in our early retirement.
It was quite an adventure. During our two years in Spain, we threw tomatoes in the world’s biggest food fight at La Tomatina; got covered in soot and ash watching fallas burn at the Fallas festival; burned holes in our clothes running with devils during a Correfoc; picked and stomped grapes in Utiel-Requena wine country; and drank wine in an underground wine cave in Castilla y León.
So, what will we miss the most?
At the top of the list are the friendships that we developed in Valencia. New experiences are so much more fun and meaningful when you have friends to share them with. We were grateful to have friends that had already been living in Valencia for many years and showed us the ropes of making it our home. We also made quick friends with other like-minded expat couples from America and other countries. Some, like us, were just passing through Valencia for a slice of time and we were lucky enough to overlap. I have no doubt that many of these friendships will last a lifetime, so although we will miss them, they are not gone from our lives.
I don’t know how we are going to survive without the local markets of Spain. Between Valencia’s Mercado Central and Mercado Ruzafa, we always had access to affordable fresh produce and seafood. The abundance inspired us to try new things. We learned how to cook razor clams, cuttlefish, sea urchin, and even a whole suckling pig. All in a small galley kitchen. We even learned how to make authentic paella at The Escuela de Arroces y Paella Valenciana using ingredients that we bought at the Mercado Central.
The single most important feature of the city for us was the Jardin del Turia. The Turia Garden is a nine-kilometer linear park built on the former Turia river bed. We ran its trails nearly every morning and spent many evenings taking leisurely strolls under the fragrant blue jacaranda trees. It gave us a path around the city without traffic, a venue for outdoor concerts, and a constant stream of festivals.
And then there’s the weather. Hot humid August aside, you couldn’t ask for better weather than Valencia. The sun was always shining. We very rarely saw foul weather beyond an occasional thunderstorm. We actually began to wish for rainy days to justify spending time inside without the guilt of missing a beautiful day.
We owe many thanks to our rental agent, Anthony of Perfect Spain. It is largely because of him that we ended up in Valencia. Without his assistance during our move, we might have gone somewhere else. We had visited several cities in Spain before making our decision on where to live. Ultimately, knowing that we had Anthony’s support bumped Valencia to the top of the list.
Okay, now I’m feeling a bit misty-eyed thinking about the great things we are going to miss by leaving Valencia, so it’s time to look to the future. We are heading across to the other side of Spain to spend some time in Galicia, and then down to Portugal for a few weeks in Porto. We’re looking forward to lots of fresh Atlantic seafood and great wines including crisp white Albarinos and complex Portuguese wines.
Finally, if you’ve been following this blog, you know that we spent a lot of our free time eating out and looking for new places to eat and drink. Although we may complain about the business hours, Valencia had plenty of bars and restaurants to keep us busy. We can’t leave without giving some shout-outs to our favorites:
Anyora Bodega was our favorite restaurant for traditional Spanish cooking. Their menu of select meats, aka offal, was a revelation. We never realized that morrow (pig snout) could be so good. The staff was exceptional, always friendly. Sommelier Nico taught us about natural wines and always had something special for us to taste. (Read more about Anyora Bodega here.)
Don Salvatore was just around the corner from our flat and always there for us when we needed something good to eat. The owner, Johnny, was always cheerful and welcoming. The kitchen is open all day, important because even after two years of living in Spain we never got used to eating dinner at 10 pm. The menu of Italian food is long and deep, which gets you thinking “how can they make this many dishes and do them well?” but somehow they pull it off. There are 30 different pasta variations. We didn’t try them all, but every one that we had was good. There are also 40 different pizzas on the menu. We always ordered the Pizza Rustica: mushrooms and artichokes on a crispy crust, always para llevar (takeout). We loved it and stuck with it. It would be hard to count the number of Rustica pizzas that passed through our apartment.
Ma Khin Cafe was our go to restaurant when we had a craving for something spicy and bold. Their Burmese cuisine is full of fresh ingredients seasoned with coconut, curries, and chilis. When we really wanted some heat, the Singaporean chili soft shell crab was just the thing. The organic quinoa salad with salmon, chia, and avocado was perfect after a few days of overindulgence, say, for example a weekend in Leon eating nothing but blood pudding and cured beef. (Read more about Ma Khin here.)
Marina Beach Club was the place to go when we wanted to wow our guests (or just ourselves) with an amazing lunch at the beach. They have a prime location between the beach and the marina with views over the Mediterranean. You can have formal dining in the Marina Restaurante, or eat right on the beach in the more casual El Portet Restaurante. Their duck and seta paella was our favorite in Valencia and we spent many days relaxing at one of these tables eating plates of grilled gambas, sepia, and tellinas with a bottle of cold albarino. On hot summer days, the pool was a great way to escape from the heat by renting a sun bed for the day and hanging out in the water with an Aperol Spritz.
Vinostrum Bodega wine bar was a gathering place to meet up with our friends in El Carmen for a few glasses of wine. Owners Luis and Bonnie always gave us a warm welcome and recommendations for wines to choose from the dozen or so bottles they were pouring by the glass. The selection constantly changes so we rarely had the same wine twice. (Read more about Vinostrum here.)
Vuelve Carolina was a favorite for both the great food and the fact that we could eat the full menu at the bar. The food was creative and intensely flavored, with Asian and Latin American influences. In late 2017, Chef Quique Dacosta worked together with Peruvian Chef Omar Malpartida to transform the bars of both Vuelve Carolina and Mercat Bar into colorful Peruvian bars with street food and ceviche. After that, you couldn’t keep us out of there…corvina ceviche with leche de tigre and rocoto peppers, washed down with pisco sours. Yum! (Read more about Vuelve Carolina here.)