Valencia: the path best travelled…

Forget that relaxed holiday feeling. Come home with that smug, self-righteous glow of knowing that your vacation was better than everybody else’s.

Where to stay

Old Town. Only Old Town. There’s no two ways about it. Full of beautiful architecture with a funky Camden vibe, Old Town boasts a whole host of hidden gems for the would-be holiday smugster. From the culinary to the cultured, to the downright cool as fuck, this place will keep you busy with intrigue for the rest of your days – or at least a good long-weekend.

 

Get your bearings 

Book a tour. There’s plenty of good ones, but we chose the free 2.5 hour ramble with Free Tour Valencia. It’s the perfect introduction to the city, taking you through some of the top features and landmarks of Old Town. You’ll see all the best architecture, the famous central Mercado and off-beat urban delights such as the giant poster of Valencian cabaret star Rosita Amores.

Rosita became a bit of a national treasure when she refused to stop performing cabaret during the repressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Complete with her infamous giant boobies and nipple tassles, Rosita is depicted standing on a giant paella dish (obvs).

Rosita Amores
Rosita Amores. Possibly not to scale.

While the tour is technically free, you will be asked at the beginning to pay what you think it’s worth at the end. It’s well worth paying for, but, if you don’t like it, you won’t have to pay a thang.

DON’T… get the bus tour – if you want to see Old Town at least. Many of the streets and squares can’t accommodate traffic, let alone a giant double decker.

DO… ask your guide about where to spot the best local graffiti. Valencia is famous for its satirical wall art, and you’ll see why. From dark and twisted to crazy and colourful, you’ll get a great feel for the city’s independent spirit.

 

Places to Visit

Catedral de Valencia

Fill your cultural cups to the brim by visiting the Catedral de Valencia. Supposedly home to the Holy Grail, this stunning hunk of stone features a whole host of architectural styles, from Gothic and classical to Renaissance and Baroque. With a 7 Euro entrance fee, grab an audio guide and get a basic tour of all the arty, shiny, carvy stuff. Then, take a trip below the cathedral where you can see evidence of the Roman temple and Arabic mosque that came before it.

catedral-de-valencia-e1498214519497.png

DON’T… miss the old, grisly skeletons in the ancient underground graveyard. (They’re way more exciting than the Holy Grail, which is essentially just a big fancy cup.)

DO… take the time to climb Micalet Tower. It’s the highest point in the city so you’ll get the best views, and, if you’re into bells, it has 12 of them. At the top of the 13th century tower you’ll find El Micalet, a 24,000 pound behemoth of a bell, whose name actually means ‘Little Michael’. Good one, people-from-the-olden days, you sure got me. 

Find out more about El Micalet, (or El Miguelete), from this lady.

 

Russafa

While holiday makers have cottoned on to the super trendy Camden vibe of the Old Town, the barrio of Russafa knows how to keep a secret. Full of off-beat bars and cafes with innovative food for half the price of what you’ll find in Old Town, it has a cosmopolitan feel with a quirky urban edge. It’s about twenty minutes’ walk from historical El Carmen, a route well worth taking as you’ll pass the beautiful antiquated train station and the town’s infamous bull ring.

Russafa is also spelt Ruzafa, and can be pronounced (though not officially), ‘Mufasaaa’!

This guy blogs about Russafa in more detail. Check it out here.

 

The beach

Old Town is a whopping 80 minute walk away from Valencia beach. But! – stay with me –  rent a bike for 8 euros a day and it’s an easy 30 minute cycle-ride. The route to the beach takes you through the city’s famous Turia Gardens – one of Spain’s largest urban park lands. Cycling through here is a day trip in itself, so, if you CBA with the sand, take a picnic and hang here for the arvo.

DO… get to the beach early and catch breakie on the beach front. There’s plenty of bike stands to lock your bike on – but get there early on weekends or you’ll find them filled up.

And, DO… hire your bike/s with Valencia Mania. Situated right by the Gardens, the staff are super warm and friendly, and will point out all the best interest sites specific to your route.

 

Surf

While you’re at the beach, if surfing’s your bag, book in with Las Arenas Escuela de Surf. Perfect for noobs, this laid-back surf school will whisk you off to a private beach to hit the waves in style. The friendly organisers will take photos of you and send you all your best pics – much better souvenirs than 50 photos of you pouting under a parasol!

The waves in Valencia are pretty consistent and suitable for all abilities…

Surfing styles
Surfing styles can vary…

 

City of Arts and Sciences

Again, within easy cycling distance of Old Town, and via the Turia Gardens, the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is a must see. And almost every travel guide will say so. 

I, on the other hand, was pretty underwhelmed by it. Though it’s undeniably impressive to look at, and I hear the Oceanographic is pretty good, the Science museum was disappointing. While it had some interesting exhibitions – I’m a sucker for an old dinosaur fossil – it‘s almost too large to house the installations inside, and has a clinical, post-apocalyptic vibe. All in all, it just wasn’t up to the hype.

My advice: check to see if there’s a particular exhibit, show or festival during the time you go and incorporate it into your trip – they drain the water from the surrounding water gardens to host gigs and special occasions.

 

Albufera

Fuck Edison and his light bulbs. Paella was invented here! Home to the national Valencian rice dish, Albufera is a stunning national park filled with an expanse of rice paddies, wildlife and a beautifully luminous freshwater lake – coloured a fluorescent green thanks to the flourishing algae.

Albufera 2

There’s plenty of buses and tours to Albufera, but for anyone feeling a little more adventurous, rent a bike and follow the cycle path along the beach front.

Cycle past the commercial boat tours and continue the route into El Palma. Here, you can treat yourself to some of the best paella in the district. On the way into El Palma, you’ll see signs from local farmers offering boat trips for the same price as the commercial rides. Or, pay 20 euros and they’ll take 2-3 of you on your own private journey.

My advice: take a boat ride first and get some guidance on where’s best to sample the local paella. We learned too late that one of the better restaurants can only be reached by boat.

 

Nail your nosh

You really are spoiled for choice in Valencia so we spent a lot of time wandering around to find the best places to eat. As a result, we made some piss poor decisions under the heat of dreaded hunger-anger (see below). Don’t let you hanger decide.

Avoid gimmicky restaurants

We should have known better than visiting medieval-themed restaurant Jaume I, with its teabag-stained, match-torched menus, but we didn’t. We landed a 40 Euro bill for 2 starters and 2 drinks. (We cancelled our mains). It wasn’t the worst place in the world, however, if you’re after authentic, fresh and innovative food that you’ll remember, it’s not the place for you.

Try one of these instead:

BonGust

This place had us so dizzy with culinary kudos that we high-fived each other more erratically than Jeremy Corbyn at a clapping rally. Serving up traditional Valencian tapas, the flavours will dazzle and the ambiance is stunning. This special little pocket of lushness sits under the approving gaze of Rosita Amores and her paella dish.

San Tommaso

OK, so it’s Italian, not Valencian, but it’s proper Italian – and it’s proper yummy. The perfect place to indulge, for me, San Tommaso is all about one thing: the Fiocchi Pear. Made with freshly prepared pasta stuffed with sweet pear and rich cheese finished in a cream-pistachio sauce, I urge you to eat this, and only this. For the rest of your life. Accompany this with any of the Valencian wines on the menu… we went with the Venta del Puerto Nº 18 and it was seriously heaven. Don’t eat here too much though – the food is so rich and naughty, you’ll feel like Teresa May after a lap round the wheat field – but fatter. Much fatter.

Jamon Jamon

True Valencian cuisine with a fancy kick. If you’re going to try foie, try it here. It comes with a cracking caramalized top and a sweet marmalade base. Ask the staff to recommend the wine for your meal. We had Les Alcusses, another great Valencian wine that left us moist in the loin paddies.

Les Alcusses is named after La Bastida de les Alcusses, an Iberian settlement from the 4th Century BC. Why not visit? I didn’t go, but hey, the Iberians liked it so who’s to say you won’t?

 

Booze

F good wine
Valencians will tell you straight.

Local, local, ask for everything local. Valencia is famed for its wines, with beautifully light aromatic whites and rich, tantalising reds. Local beers are equally lovely, with brews served extra chilled – the perfect refreshment under the heat of high sunshine.

Don’t forget to try the city’s famous cocktail, Agua de Valencia. It’s about 95% alcohol and you won’t even notice. Lethal. Delicious. Drink loads of it. And by the way, if you order it, make sure it’s made fresh. Mixed with the juice of those famous Valencian oranges, it’s not Agua de Valencia if they don’t squeeze the juice there and then.

Pick up a couple of local craft beers from the central Mercado. We tried Galana 13° IPA and Barack American Barley wine. The IPA left us a little underwhelmed compared to its fruitier English and American cousins, but the Barack – which is matured specially in old red wine barrels – will intrigue darker ale lovers, and has a rich, biting flavour.

 

Music and Nightlife

Again, there are so many awesome bars and clubs in Valencia, you’ll have no problem finding a place to bust a groove. But, if you want my advice (and I know you do), here’s 3 top picks from my time there:

Radio City

This place has ruined other clubs for me. With a variety of live performances followed by super eclectic DJ sets, there’s something here for everyone. And I mean everyone. We wandered into the set of local mix artist, DJ Razz – a daft name I know – but shiiittt, he was funky. Mixing a medley of musical genres and international style, I challenge you not to get up and dance there. Left-feeters will be hot-steppers in no time.

The drinks are expensive, but the measures are immense. I asked for gin and mixer and walked away with a pint of the stuff.

Jimmy Glass

Jimmy Glass Sign
Find your way around with helpful Valencian graffiti

Now here’s something a little special. Slightly off the beaten track but hitting that beat dead on is one of Valencia’s biggest treasures; Jimmy Glass Jazz Barr. Renowned in the jazz world, Jimmy Glass represents the best new talent in contemporary music, hosting live performances 4 nights a week.  The vibe is cosy, welcoming and oozes bluesy, funky, jazzy goodness.

Entrance is typically free unless there’s a super jazzy big-wig playing. Check the website for info.

Club Unic

Cheese. Just pure cheese. Dance the night away here to Motown, funk and alllll the pop classics. I didn’t get long here as I was literally dragged away by the eyeball rolls of my tired, tired boyfriend. But, though the time we spent together was little, I knew this club was for real.

 

Oh, you’re still reading?

Jeez you’re clingy. But I suppose I can go on… Here’s a few more pearls I discovered during my stay in Valencia…

 

Do ask about the Flamenco…

…if you want to get your ass kicked. I didn’t know that Flamenco is actually a tradition native to northern Spain, so I got royally shamed when I asked about it.  Sure, there’s plenty of shows to see – but, they’ll be uber touristy and the locals will judge you. For proper flamenco, visit Andalucía instead.

 

El Doctor Sax

Named after the novel and character of the same name, this ‘beat & books’ store/publishers will steal your heart. Here, you will discover the lesser known titles of now venerated artists, many of whom were foolishly unappreciated during their time. Find the good doctor in the bendy, windy lanes of Old Town, among a whole myriad of book, art and vintage outlets.

Just a little FYI… Written by pioneering beat artist Jack Kerouac, Doctor Sax was penned as a follow up to his most famous novel On the Road, and was described by the author as “the greatest book I ever wrote, or that I will write”.

El Doctor Sax

 

Progress your language skills

There’s a weekly Wednesday language exchange and pub quiz at La Catrina Café & Rock. Based in Russafa, La Catrina is an indie joint with a chilled vibe and a friendly international backdrop. On my visit, I met a lovely Valencian girl about half my age with twice my language skills. Thanks to her patience I now know three varieties of the Spanish word for fuck.

Find out more about the language exchange  here.

Find out how to say fuck in Spanish here.

 

Try fresh (and only fresh) Horchata 

Horchata, (or at least proper horchata, as they’ll tell you in Valencia), is made from soaking the chufa or tiger nut – a wrinkly brown round peanut-looking thing, grown mainly in Valencia. Horchata is supposed to be super refreshing and great for perking you up after a hangover. It’s also meant to be a little bit like Marmite; you’ll either love it or hate it. I tried horchata and found that it didn’t fix my hangover and I wasn’t too bothered either way. Try it and see what you think!

Somebody else said some good stuff about horchata here.

 

And finally

DON’T… forget this is all just my opinion… there might be better things to do in Valencia, and you might not like all the same stuff as I do.

DO… take my word for it anyway… my holiday was pretty fucking awesome.

 

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Facts About Ants

Ant Heads1

  • There are 12,000 known species of ant.
  • Ants lived alongside the dinosaurs. Don’t ask them about it, they are unbearably boastful.
  • Some ants have no eyes. You can spot them because they’re the ones wearing dark sunglasses.
  • Anteaters don’t actually like the taste of ants, but distrust modern food packaging labels.
  • Some ants can swim. No ants can yodel.
  • The total weight of all the ants in the world is the same, if not larger than all humans. This has made some ant colonies self-conscious and dieting is now common. Some outspoken liberal ants have blamed ‘the unattainable standards perpetuated by modern media’, and airbrushing on the national geographic.
  • Most gym instructors have an ant as their screensaver.
  • Mick Jagger claims to have had a threesome which included an ant.
  • Ants have a natural fear of global conglomerates and commercialism. This is why they don’t drink Pepsi or celebrate Valentine’s Day.
  • On the set of Ant-Man, feature lead Paul Rudd fell out with sixty million of his cast members.
  • The last ant uprising was in 308 AD.
  • When ants are babies, they’re called inf-ants.
  • Jesus was well known for turning water into wine, but he also turned water into ants. This was less popular at parties.
  • Beyoncé originally pitched the song, ‘If I Were An Ant’.
  • Ants don’t like having boiling water poured down their nests. It’s quite distressing.
  • If you kiss an ant, nothing will happen.
  • Incidentally, nothing will happen if you kiss a frog either.†
  • Angelina Jolie tried to adopt an ant once.
  • Most ants have never met a scorpion but hate them anyway after watching Honey I Blew Up the Kids.
  • Most ants have never met Donald Trump but hate him anyway. Ants trust that they don’t need to explain why.
  • When examined closely, the rare Anthony Ant (pictured) looks like local Northampton ladies man, Anthony Burgess.

 

Facts About Frogs

What Kind of Stalker are You?

Answers:

Mostly A’s – You are Annie Wilkes, AKA Kathy Bates, Misery

A modern stalker, you’d much prefer to sweep your man off his feet than let him sweep you off yours. Whether you decide to viciously hobble him or chop off his feet entirely, just make sure to check WikiHow for instructions.

If your man’s not as progressive as you and he isn’t as keen on losing his tootsies, simply set him a lengthy written task and try to reassure him. Walking has been out of fashion since Jamaica popularized the bobsled anyway.

Mostly B’s – You are Hedra Carlson, AKA Jennifer Jason Leigh, Single White Female

Great result! Preferable to Glenn Close though not quite as cool as Predator, you’re the type of stalker who prefers to wear your heels to work. After all, it’s hard to create a mortal stab wound with a penny-loafer now isn’t it.

Given your penchant for stealing outfits and identities, of all the stalkers, you’d probably make the best sister. Especially since, well, what good sister hasn’t thought about murdering her sibling’s philandering ex-fiancée with an impractical shoe?

Mostly C’s – You are Barbara Covett, AKA Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal

With a pocket full of Murray Mints and a bus pass that’ll take you anywhere (or at least anywhere along the twelve stops of your district route), you’re the best bloomin’ stalker of the bunch! Besides the fact no-one ever suspects the old bird in the anorak, you’re an expert diary keeper – and there’s a lot of admin involved in stalking nowadays.

You can’t just follow folk around anymore! There’s the Facebook check-ins, ‘Map my Stalk’, not to mention the Stalk-Advisor reviews… I once stalked a guy for three whole weeks before I realised he only had a two star rating!

Mostly D’s – You are Ron Weasley, AKA The Ginger One, Harry Potter

Probably the most sinister of the stalkers, Harry and Hermione wanted you to fuck off six books ago, but you are one clingy little nut job! Cunningly disguised as the underdog, you will worm your way into the hearts and minds of a global following, who frankly, were only ever really in it for the cool scar. Just like Neville – who randomly decided to get fit in real life – we’ll never know quite how you did it!

None of these stalkers feel like you?

Why not create your own stalker and reinvent yourself!? Madonna does it all the time – most recently rebranding as a giant tendon. Once you’ve got your style sorted, you can pick your prey. Maybe you want to stalk someone actually worth killing, like Justin Bieber, or that ugly cat everyone’s so crazy about? It’s up to you!

And remember ladies, you can stalk as many people as you want to – stalking is completely organic and calorie free! So what are you waiting for? Become a stalker today!