Last month, my boyfriend and I spent a long weekend in Valencia, Spain, and I think we picked the right time to go: at the beginning of November, the weather was still mild, it was warm enough to walk around in a jumper, and the city was less crowded than it would have been just a few weeks earlier (though my friends from Valencia tell me it is generally a much more relaxed city than Barcelona and Madrid).
We were staying in a cute airbnb close to the old part of town. The first thing we did once we’d dropped our stuff off at the airbnb was to check out the vegan burger restaurant The Vurger, which was only a 6-minute walk from where we were staying. It was 10pm – normal dinner time in Spain, which is why the place was packed, but we were able to get some take-out and we ate our burgers, sweet potato fries, and soft serve on a nearby bench, in a charming square enclosed with bars and restaurants. The staff were really friendly and the food was good, especially the sweet potato fries and the soft serve. I tried their hot dog the next day and also enjoyed that a lot. On our third night in town, we got take-out at Aloha – Vegan Delights, another vegan fast-food place on the same street, and their kebab was amazing.
On our second night, we met up with my friend Jesus who was one of three awesome housemates during my last months in Cork, Ireland in 2013. He showed us Ubik Café, a lovely book cafe in Russafa, a very lively and pretty neighbourhood filled with bars and restaurants. Afterwards, we had drinks and hummus at Café Berlin, another cosy place.
One thing that’s really great about Spain is all the fresh fruit and veggies. On our first morning in Valencia, we went to the huge fresh food market Mercado Central and bought freshly squeezed juice and fruit salads, as well as empanadas (with tomato and aubergine filling). The downside to the food market was having to pass lots of butcheries too, which meant seeing (and smelling) various body parts of dead animals, such as the heads and feet of pigs. My not-very-subtle response certainly caused some amusement among the market sellers. Just outside the market building, I had some churros and tried the Valencian Horchata (a drink that is traditionally made with tiger nuts or ground almonds in Spain and tends to be vegan, though it’s better to ask to make sure it does not contain any milk ingredients; it has a special, earthy, very sweet taste that is not for everyone, but I liked it a lot).
On our second day, we went on a Segway tour. I was a little nervous about it because I’m pretty clumsy and physical activities are not my strong suit, but it turned out to be quite easy and a lot of fun. Also, the tour guide was really nice, and she told us some interesting stories and historical facts about the city. She also took several photos of us in front of the sights she showed us. After getting to know Valencia a little more during the next couple of days, I’d say that even though the sights the Segway tour guide showed us were pretty, we saw the most interesting parts of the city centre later on, when we took long walks around by ourselves, but I appreciate that there is only so much of a place and its history that you can present in one hour, and I’d still recommend the tour wholeheartedly for the experience.
After the Segway tour, Elena, another good friend I made during my time in Cork, took us around Albufera natural park, home to the largest lake in Spain, and we went on a boat tour for just €4 per person (the prices depend on how many people join a given tour). It was gorgeous.
Afterwards, we had a picnic on the beach. Elena had brought the most delicious freshly squeezed orange juice. She told us about the orange juicers they have in some of the larger supermarkets, where you can fill a bottle of your chosen size. I have to say, a trip to Valencia is worth it even for the oranges alone. I’ve never had juice as nice as the fresh orange juice I had there. We stayed in Albufera until late afternoon. Watching the sun set over the lake was incredible.
The next day, we walked through the old town to El Miguelete and climbed the 207 steps up to the bell tower, where we took in a lovely view of the city.
Even though we had been told to take the bus because the distances were too big, we walked all the way to La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences), and didn’t regret it. We passed a lot of beautiful buildings on the way, walked through a park with giant Australian trees (Ficus macrophylla), and even stumbled upon a supermarket that had one of those awesome orange juicers.
Even though we decided not to enter any of the museums and event buildings, the City of Arts and Sciences was still worth a visit. The whole complex was fascinating and would make a great filming location for a science-fiction movie.
It was a 25-minute walk from there to the vegan restaurant Nehuen. By the time we got there, we were so hungry that we ordered almost everything on the menu. And I’m glad we did because this is where we had the most amazing meal of the trip: crepes with pumpkin filling, papas arrugadas con mojo picon (salty potatoes with a spicy pepper dip – check out my recipe here), lentil croquettes, and chocolate banana tart. I enjoyed all of it, a lot.
From the restaurant, it was only another ten minutes to the beach, where we relaxed just long enough to see another beautiful sunset. Once the sun had gone down, the air got a little chilly and so we hopped on the bus back to town.
Three days were enough for me to fall in love with Valencia and to try some of its best vegan offerings. I can’t wait to go back to have the same, and to try other popular veggie places such as La Mandrágora and Restaurante Copenhagen.