24 Hours in Valencia: A Tale of Enchantment

24 hours in Valencia is all it took for me to fall in love with the city. Click to read my travel story about an enchanting day in this beautiful Spanish city. | http://passportandplates.com

It has been awhile since I wrote an actual travel story: one that has characters, flowery descriptions, and heartfelt emotion. My last six posts have been guides in some form or another, but this post is different. I’ve written several posts about Valencia – everything from why I went, what I did, and what I ate. Yet, my summer was more than just those guides. My time in Valencia was enchanting. Days were long and busy, yet lived at an easy pace. Nothing I did was extraordinary, but every day I thought “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”

This is a story of an ordinary summer day in Valencia. Yet, it was a series of ordinary days which, when strung together, resulted in one amazing summer. This is a travel story about 24 hours in Valencia, Spain.

“Nothing I did was extraordinary, but every day I thought ‘I can’t believe I get to live this life.’”


The sun peeks through my window, reflecting light off the gothic cathedral. I blearily rub my eyes and grab my phone, sure that it’s no later than 6 am. It’s eerily quiet.

I’m wrong. It’s 8 am, and I need to get a head start on my work day. I groan, roll out of bed, and stumble my way to the shower. 15 minutes later I’m in the kitchen, watching the espresso machine like a hawk. An espresso shot is never enough, but the largest mug in the kitchen will do. While waiting for the telltale steam, I glance out the window. Calle Jorge Juan is quiet, despite the fact that it’s a weekday. I quickly learn this is the norm in Valencia, at least during the summer.

At the dining room table, I turn the fan on, open the lid to my laptop, and begin to type.

Time passes, but I don’t notice, as I’m absorbed in my work. My grumbling stomach interrupts my flow and I realize that it’s suddenly 11 am. I amble into the kitchen and peer into the fridge, pondering what the most important meal of the day has in store for me. Cheese, bread, some cold cuts and maybe an avocado if I’m feeling fancy. As I’m waiting for my bread to toast, I hear a scratching sound. I turn around, and Kimani emerges from Tiffany’s room, his paws making a loud tapping sound against the hardwood floor. I bid both Tiffany and Kimani good morning before resettling at the dining room table, breakfast plate in tow.

Ten minutes later, Tiffany joins me at the table. It’s time for Kimani’s morning walk, but first, we discuss our plan for the day. Like most days, we determine our itinerary by checking our Google document aptly titled “Valencia to-do’s.” It’s inspired by many resources, including this one. We agree to leave at 1pm to check out the Russafa market. Since it’s a Monday, there’s also a flea market outside.

A little before 1 o’ clock, I turn off my “Verano Forever” playlist. Although Kimani usually accompanies us on our adventures, he’s staying home today. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the market. So we turn off the AC, bid him farewell, and make our way to our favorite hipster neighborhood, Russafa.

We pass the large zig-zagged intersection that never ceases to confuse us.
We pass the Mexican café near the market, vowing to try it at some point during the summer.
We pass several well-dressed Spanish women, hoping to be so effortlessly chic as when we’re older.

Outside the entrance of the market are clusters of tents, all selling a variety of objects. We rummage through the options but quickly decide to head inside instead.

Inside, we meander through the aisles, admiring the brightly colored fruit and rows of gourmet olive oils. Tiffany stops to buy some dried fruit and I make a beeline for what appears to be the only coffee stand – and one that sells cold brew at that. Tiffany joins me shortly after, and the owner hides his smile as I set up the perfect composition for my photo. I sip my drink and declare that I’ve found the best coffee shop in Valencia. Ironically, I only return once for the rest of the summer.

24 hours in Valencia is all it took for me to fall in love with the city. Click to read my travel story about an enchanting day in this beautiful Spanish city. | http://passportandplates.com

Being the Yelp lover that I am, I use my phone to find a restaurant we’ve bookmarked but haven’t tried yet: Ubik Café. We are drawn inside upon arrival. The interior is bright and the walls are covered with books. Several comfy couches and desk-like tables dot the room. It’s a hot day, but we decide to sit outdoors like the true Spaniards we are trying to be. The waitress insists on moving the table into the shade, despite the fact that the sun follows us as time passes. We both order the menú del día and get comfortable. We would be there awhile.

As we get up to leave several hours later, my phone buzzes. My Valencian friend, Eduardo, wants to hang out that evening. Eduardo agrees to meet us at 9 pm for dinner and to attend the evening’s Fería event: a city-hosted fireworks show a few blocks from our apartment.

Tiffany and I walk back to our apartment, marveling at the peaceful Valencian streets. Upon arrival, Kimani greets us excitedly. It’s time for his second walk, and this time, I decide to accompany them. We stroll leisurely towards Turia Gardens, where Kimani runs around in the grass, occasionally barking at other dogs.

It’s nearing 7 o’clock at this point, and we agree we want some time to relax before Eduardo comes. Relaxing for us often includes stopping for an orxata, and today is no different. Luckily, the Mercado de Colón is about 100 feet from our apartment. As we enter the market, several people stop us to play with Kimani. Tiffany explains to several of them that he is a Corgi, a breed that apparently doesn’t exist in Spain. He becomes known around the neighborhood as the “Queen of England dog.”

We greet our favorite waiter, ordering our usual large orxatas. We’ve been frequent visitors to Casa de l’Orxata since day 1. After completing our orxatas and flagging down the waiter for la cuenta, por favor, we’re left with just enough time to get ready for dinner.

24 hours in Valencia is all it took for me to fall in love with the city. Click to read my travel story about an enchanting day in this beautiful Spanish city. | http://passportandplates.com

At 9 o’clock sharp, Eduardo pulls up in front of the cathedral around the corner, greeting us with two kisses on the cheek. We leave him in charge of choosing where to go for dinner, something he’s comically bad at. We find ourselves at a random restaurant near the City of Arts and Sciences, one whose name I can’t remember, but happens to have easy access to parking.

In typical Spanish fashion, we order a variety of tapas to share: padron peppers, patatas bravas, Valencian mussels, and a salad. For some reason, the peppers are incredibly salty, but when Eduardo asks the waiter about them, the response is “they’re supposed to be like that.” We look at each other, laugh at the absurdity of the response, and continue with our meal. Because we’re in Spain, our dinner lasts two hours – quick by Spanish standards.

24 hours in Valencia is all it took for me to fall in love with the city. Click to read my travel story about an enchanting day in this beautiful Spanish city. | http://passportandplates.com

We pile back into the car and drive in the direction of Calle Colón. As we are looking for parking, Eduardo casually mentions that he has never attended any July fería events, despite having lived in Valencia his whole life. I recover from the shock long enough to point out an empty parking spot, then warn him he’s was in for a summer of touristing with me and Tiffany. As we approach Calle Colón, we hear some noises in the distance. I spot a couple nearby and start asking them about the parade route, but they turn out to be American. We really are in the tourist zone.

Despite the fact that Eduardo had never attended this event in Valencia, he explains that the celebration is popular throughout Spain. He’d participated in this exact celebration when he used to spend summers at a village outside the city. He is an excellent cultural tour guide, despite his lack of knowledge about the going-ons in Valencia.

While I understood this event to be fireworks a la Fourth of July, it actually involves a parade of drummers and devils dancing around with giant sparklers. Fireworks occasionally go off, but for the most part, it’s sparkler galore. We I alternate between running towards the sparklers to take photos, then running away to avoid sparkler burns. Tiffany and Eduardo calmly watch from the sidelines, probably highly entertained by my shenanigans.

Suddenly, it’s 12:30 am. The event comes to an end and Eduardo walks us back to our building. We make plans to meet again the following week, and he takes off.

We hear Kimani’s loud barks as we ride the elevator up. He is clearly ready for his final walk. Tiffany clips him to his leash, and down we go again, squeezing into the small, boxy elevator.

We quickly walk Kimani around the neighborhood, eager to get home and into our pajamas. The streets are silent, but we encounter the occasional group of teenagers milling about. As we head back upstairs, I have work on my mind. It’s now morning in Los Angeles, and my work emails and blog notifications are coming in. After bidding Tiffany and Kimani sweet dreams, I squeeze in another hour of work before collapsing into bed. I’ve managed to work, relax, and explore the city all on the same day – without feeling rushed. It’s the enchanting vibe of Valencia, I conclude, that keeps me enraptured. As I set my phone’s alarm for the next day, I think, “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”

 

Have you ever fallen in love with a city while traveling through it? Which city and why? Share in the comments below!

 

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  • Christina Pfeiffer

    I’m glad to see you’ve discovered the joy of discovering a city. I can certainly see why you’ve fallen in love with Valencia. What a beautiful city. I’m sure your memories of your time there will stay with you forever.

  • Nicki McLaren

    I love reading travel stories – it reminds me why I love to travel. I think we get stuck behind guides and lists because people tend to love to read them. I loved this. And I don’t think those peppers were supposed to be that salty haha – when I was in Barcelona I ate a lot of food, peppers included – and nothing ever seemed off on taste just delicious.

    • Thank you! And I agree. I was getting a little bored of writing guides to places so I decided to take a chance and spice it up a bit :).
      Yeah, I ate them all summer long and they were never that salty. It’s pretty much the Spanish “no big deal” attitude which I found hilarious!

  • Haven’t got the chance to get to Valencia, well Spain at all! Haven’t heard about the city as much as I have heard of Barcelona, would be looking forward to visit!

    • Barcelona is a great city, definitely, but I think Valencia often gets overlooked! I hope you get a chance to visit both sometime and see for yourself! 🙂

  • Megan Claire

    I would love to wake up each morning to the view of a gothic cathedral outside my window! Glad to hear you’re having a wonderful time in Valencia – I haven’t yet been, though I have heard a lot about Correfoc de la Mercè which I think is maybe the festival you guys went to with the sparklers and devils?? 🙂

    • I never got over that view! it was beautiful :).
      YES that’s exactly the festival! I didn’t know it was well-known as I’d never heard of it before this trip. You should definitely visit and experience it for yourself!

  • What a day. Definitely sounds enchanting. I like the travel story way of relating a place. Makes it that much more touching really. Keep doing them!

    • Thank you :). I was a little nervous about writing this because it’s so different than my usual writing style but I’ve gotten positive feedback so far! Thanks for your support!

  • I love how this is written in the form of a story. Feels like I’m right there. Thank god for cold brew!!! What are the chances that the only stand has cold brew!

  • Hi Sally,

    Beautiful! I recall seeing similar streets on a recent trip through Nicosia, Cyprus, from an architectural perspective. So much history and I’d have guzzled down those 3 warm drinks at the cafe LOL. Valencia is most definitely on my list. I think my wife visited right when we met, nearly a decade ago. Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

    • I love the similarities of the architecture across various European cities :). It makes the history that much more fascinating. I hope you get a chance to visit for yourself someday – it’s truly spectacular!

  • Ivy

    This was such a refreshing read! Really felt like I was there with you and Kimani 🙂 I haven’t been to Spain and haven’t even heard much about Valencia so I’m very excited to visit (and pig out on tapas of course).

    • Thank you, Ivy! I hope you get a chance to visit sometime soon. The food is DELICIOUS and the cities are super fun and chill as well. Thanks for reading!

  • I love the corgi! They’re seriously the cutest! I’m hoping to take a day trip out to Spain next month while in Europe so I’m definitely saving this to see how I can spend my day 🙂

    • Haha the corgi is my roommate’s dog but we had so many great adventures together! Definitely make your way to Spain when you can. It’s such a diverse and beautiful country – all the cities are great. I’ve written extensively about Spain if you need some suggestions :). Enjoy!

  • Kevin Wagar

    What a fantastic experience. You really brought the city to life with your descriptions. The experience with the devuks with sparklers must have been amazing!

    • Thanks so much Kevin! And yes, the festival at the end of the day was really the best way to end the day. So much fun!

  • I love when people go into their travel with such acute detail. Piggybacking Kevin, the city really came to life for me! The parade sounds so much fun! I love sparklers! Those orxatas are what my dreams are made of 😛

    • Thanks Izzy! The parade was super fun but I’m with you – I’m all about supporting an orxata addiction 😉

  • Kiara Gallop

    I absolutely adore this! Although I’ve never been to Valencia, I really felt as if I was there with you. I love Spain and the Spanish way of life and you capture it perfectly 🙂

    • Thanks Kiara! i’m also a tadddd obsessed with Spain so I’m glad to know I’m not the only one haha. That being said, if you get a chance to visit Valencia sometime – do it!

  • Oh my goodness: how beautiful does Valencia look. Totally want to visit one day- the weather sounds like it’s great for a lot more of the year than where I live now as well (always a bonus)!

    • It’s truly a gorgeous city! It’s on the hotter side in the summer but I hear the rest of the year it’s lovely – even during winter. I hope you get a chance to visit sometime! You’d love it.

  • Valencia has the nice place. At first, I thought I will never love this City but seeing it twice makes me really think again crazy right? but absolutely gorgeous.

    Annika | 457 australia

  • You’ve captured Valencia beautifully! It’s such a great city – and I loved Ubik Cafe when I visited!

  • There really aren’t enough travel stories on the internet! I loved this snapshot of a day in Valencia – the food looks devine