Trying to expand my mind - and not my belly - we entered into the city of Valencia through gates called Torres de Serranos. History and beauty are everywhere - along with some delectable morsels. The gate transports you to the Middle Ages, when the Towers were used for the defense of the city as well as a triumphant arch for returning victors. Construction began in 1392, and they were subsequently used as a prison for the nobility between 1586 and 1887. Today the towers are one of the busiest gates of the city, with a fantastic example of gothic architecture.
Passing below the gates and on to Carrer dels Serrans, we found numerous tempting coffee shops and exciting bistros. Struggling to not look at the tourist shops while grabbing a quick coffee and a couple of buñuelos or bunyol – Valencia style donut hole, we were off to our first stop of the day. After are refreshing treat, we continued our walk down the medieval Carrer, by numerous old city walls, plazas, bistros and shops. Just a few blocks away and we were at one of the great cathedrals of Europe.
Cathedral of Valencia
Catholics believe the Holy Chalice it is kept in the Cathedral of Valencia. The Cathedral holds some of the most important pieces of art from the first Spanish Renaissance. Climbing the Miguelete tower or learning about the history of Virgen del Buen Parto.
A cathedral was built on an ancient Roman temple that was later a mosque. The Cathedral of Valencia is a Gothic-style building with elements from Romanesque to Baroque eras. Work on the current building began in the 13th century. As you enter the Cathedral of Valencia, you will find to your right the Chapel of the Holy Chalice. Catholic Christians believe Jesus drank from this chalice at the Last Supper. Valencia Cathedral is the one place claiming to have the actual Holy Grail in its possession, and the story is fairly convincing.
Saint Peter brought the chalice to Rome, where Christians preserved it. With frequent persecutions, around 260 AD Pope Sixtus II transferred the chalice to north-eastern Spain for safe keeping. It remained in and around the Pyrenees mountains throughout the Muslim occupation until 1399. The chalice was moved to Zaragoza, with the Alfonso the Magnanimous, King of Aragon in the early 1400s. The King gave the chalice and other relics to the Valencia Cathedral as payment of war debts around 1437. Today, the Holy Chalice with other relics of the House of Aragon are still persevered at the cathedral.
Lunch Time - La Taberna Espanola
Working up an appetite and eating early means less wait and crowds. We found this to be true for lunch and dinner. We found a quiet outdoor café that was both pleasant and convenient, at the La Taberna Espanola on Plaça de Marià Benlliure.
Although my tongue was slightly black even after thoroughly rinsing with San Miguel, I am not ashamed to say that I had my memorable Black Paella experience. However, I did not try Black Paella again while in Spain. There were too many other tapas to experience - some of which were much easier on the pallet.
Michelle says, "It was good, not great, I thought it was a bit salty and was missing something, maybe not enough seafood."
There are many great markets around Spain. However, Mercat Central in Valencia was awesome and among the best markets I have seen in Europe. First, the exterior is beautiful, and it is many times larger than most markets in Spain. You could easily spend a whole day here, making me wish I had come there first. The market opens early at 7:30 am and unfortunately began to close at 3 PM. We could have had Paella at the market with local wine and several stalls. The pans are huge, and you are provided a healthy serving from these magnificent pans with savory flavors and aromas. Shoot as many photos as you like, just keep in mind some folks may ask you not to shoot of their stalls. This is how the locals shop for food!
The mouth begins to water immediately upon entering the market while looking at the numerous stalls and concessions. This is all real and local. Nothing here retail – or from China. Local fish, and silvery sardines and squid twitching on beds of ice. Fantastic locally grown produce and tasty jamón from around the region.
There were garlands of peppers and garlic, hanging across the tops of stalls, with wooden crates overflowing with vegetables and fruit. The vendors were very pleasant, and many were animated, with each stall run by a different family with fantastic information and knowledge of their specialties and products.
With stalls selling freshly prepared tapas and larger meals from the products sold in the market, local beers and wine - this is the original farm to market location. You will enjoy every moment. Alas, all good things come to an end – and suddenly it was time head towards our next stop. Valencia: don’t go there unless you are willing to endure fantastic history, sites, sounds, markets and food.