Hola de Valencia
I hope to find some wifi before we leave Valencia and am typing this offline while Beryl sleeps after a big day out with Inma and Sebas with whom I did a home exchange. Very nice people who feel that because they stayed 13 nights in my home and we only 4 nights here they brought us many presents - all heavy - 3 bottles of sparkling Spanish wine, 2 still white, 1 half bottle of Rioja - my favourite , a bottle of olive oil to take to Julie together with one of the sparkling wines - sorry Julie I don't think there is room in my suitcase! Oh and a big heavy cookbook in Spanish! I can't see much of it leaving Valencia! Also today they took us for coffee and cake about 11, then to Albufera close to Valencia where rice is grown and is said to be the origin of paella. First a one hour boat ride on the lake and through bamboo reeds - it's only about a metre deep and has locks to allow the water which is fresh into canals to water the rice. Only one variety is grown here. Harvesting nowadays in mechanical.
They then took us for a very nice lunch. Aperitif and Valencian red wine. Entrees of local duck pâté with caramelised apple, local eel in a stew with potato , and tuna with tomato. Two different paella for mains. One a dry paella with langoustine and prawns, the other what is called wet paella with duck and mushrooms in a broth with a fair amount of olive oil. All very delicious . No room for sweets! They would not let us pay which was very embarrassing. After that to the port area where the Americas Cup was held in 2007 and where now they hold formula 1 car races. Then to the old city where at last they let us shout Hortocha drinks - made from milk of tiger nuts a tuber apparently only grown locally into which one dips a "farton" - yes thats right - a bit like a long sponge finger. A little sweet for our taste but nice.
If anyone is coming to Valencia the apartment is available for rent or home exchange and is very comfortable, nicely furnished and centrally located between the old city, the beach and the stunning Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias ( city of arts and sciences). It contains a stunning opera house which Sydney would die for, an aquarium, a hands on science museum, a planetarium , IMAX .All in a very modern architectural setting in a dry river bed which has been turned into a 9 km long bioparc. You can Google it at www.cac.es. Last night we went to the Valencia international piano competition - pianists playing with the Valencia orchestra and all for free once we joined a very long queue for the tickets.
What else here - Inma and Sebas live and work midway between here and Barcelona in a town of about 30000 people called Vinaros. This is their investment apartment which they stay in when in Valencia . They arranged for Armstrong , an English speaking friend to meet us at the station, bring us to the apartment and show us around. Went to the beach - had lunch and a swim, the old city, very interesting food market , a strange gathering of the water tribunal judges in a local square with speeches,
music and "human towers". We missed seeing these towers" in Barcelona because of the crowds. All in all we have enjoyed it here very much and don't leave until 17.15 tomorrow .
And so a belated report on our 5 nights in Barcelona. It had a lot to live up to after wonderful Bilbao. We stayed in an AirB&B apartment in the beach area called Barcelonetta. Well located area but the apartment more suited to backpackers than old ladies. Cleanliness left a bit to be desired, shower small and prone to flooding the floor, very noisy street - well it is Spain so as well as people coming home in the early hours and chatting away in the street, the garbage truck came around 1am, followed by street sweeper and later the street washer. 8 motor bikes parked opposite and some left about 6am. Thank goodness for earplugs!
Still we had a good time. It was the Merce Festival the entire time we were there, celebrating their patron saint. The upside was lots to see, fantastic street parades and happenings in plazas. The downside was it was very very crowded. Seemed like 10 times as many people as last time I was there . One parade was called "Giants and Big Heads" when at least 50 very large up to say 6 m high mostly human figures made from paper maiche or maybe some type of plastic. People took turns to get under their clothes to parade them around, sometimes twirling and dancing. All accompanied by music _ drums, flutes, tambourines , throwing confetti, some singing. Lots of photos and videos to show anyone interested. Another was called Corrofoc. Dragons and devils spewing lots of fireworks ( remember Catherine Wheels on cracker night) but more like out of a hose- again lots of noise and drumming but good. Street theatre.
Spent lots of time looking at Gaudi architecture. Our favourite was Casa Battlo - so environmentally ahead of his time. La Pedera also am amazing building. Parc Guell was teeming with people and the queues for la Sagreda Familia were so long we didn't go inside.
Spanish modern architecture is amongst the best in the world I think.
We went 2 days on hop on hop off bus, walked heaps, ate great food and drank beer and wine. Beryl has experienced many new taste sensations in France and Spain - snails, frogs legs, fresh sardines and anchovies, eel, and found she now likes some foods she didn't in the past like olives, figs, whitebait,
You are no doubt sick of reading this and I am getting RSI typing this on my i phone. I just hope I can copy and paste it when I get on line!
Next episode will be shorter I promise