A gorgeous, sunny morning as we start our drive down the east coast of Spain with the Mediterranean on one side and rugged hills, anchored by the agricultural basin that this area is known for, on the other – olive groves, artichokes, fruit orchards and tons of oranges.
After about 3.5 hours on the road, including some difficulty finding the motorway on our way out of Barcelona, we arrive in Valencia, one of my favorite cities in Spain. It’s not a big splashy city with top name attractions, but rather a pretty, mid-sized city with a mix of historical buildings and contemporary architecture and an eye popping central market.
The city’s old town is wonderfully walkable with most of the principal attractions in the center or a short distance outside.
Driving through the heart of one of Spain’s largest food production area we enter the city from the north as fields of onions, artichokes, cabbage, and lettuce give way to high-rises. It is no surprise that the Mercado Central, the city’s principal indoor market, benefits from the bounty of fresh produce with a colorful display of regional and exotic products.
We start our weekend with a late lunch of pinchos at Taberna de la Reina on the sun filled square of the same name in front of the cathedral. Pinchos, tapas from the Basque region, include a wide range of fish, sausage and cheese combinations served open-faced on sliced bread. They make a great light lunch or snack at most any hour of the day. Important to know in a country where the typical almuerzo, or midday meal, is served strictly between 2-4. Eat as many or as few as you like, just remember to save the toothpicks as the server bills you by the number of toothpicks left on your place.
The rest of the day we spend taking in the streets of the old town and mapping out our strategy of where to eat during our short visit.
Diner at Alma del Temple in the old town, ranked 6 on Trip Advisor and rates an 8.9/10 on El Tenedor. A contemporary dining room that combines an old stone structure with a stark clean ambiance. White table cloths cover the well-spaced tables. The menu offers a variety of Mediterranean starters including a tender grilled calamari served in a puddle of summery pesto garnished with crunchy tapioca chips.
And an octopus carpaccio – thin slices of meat arranged concentrically on the plate like a two dimensional mum, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of sea salt. Fish mains include Lubina (sea bass) perfectly panned fried and served on a bed of spinach in a flavorful fish stock reduction; and the fish of the day, corvina (another European sea bass), also beautifully cooked and simply served on a bed of wheat risotto. The menu also includes a small number of meat and poultry options. Diners come here for the quality of the food, elegantly plated and reasonably priced. Starter 5-16€, mains 12-21€ and desserts 6€.