Spain – Paella and Beaches

May 9, 2018 – May 13, 2018

When you have a 4 day weekend and you live in Europe, there’s nowhere better to be than Spain. We took advantage of the time off work to visit Valencia and Mallorca.

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Valencia, a city south of Barcelona on the east coast of Spain is rich in history and character. As with many other European cities, it seemed like everything was old and beautiful.  The hotel we stayed in was in the middle of the historic center and allowed us an easy home base while exploring.

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Probably my favorite thing about the city is the 10 km green way running along the borders which used to be a river. The river was prone to flooding, and in the 1950’s the government decided to divert the river to prevent flooding and make the riverbed into a highway. The people of Valencia protested the highway and the city agreed to turn the river into a park. Great use of space, I’d say.

Of course, we had to start our trip off with the infamous free walking tour, which was more enjoyable than the last few we have been on. Maybe because Valencia is just so beautiful.

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Our guide took us past the main sites including the cathedral, guard tower/jail, old ruins, central market, the silk exchange, and through the narrow streets in the old town. Valencia dates back to 100ish BC and there are ruins from the original street that were found totally preserved under the city. To this day, you can visit the old rocks if you’re into archaeology and stuff. We could see the ruins from above through a reflecting pool which was good enough for me.

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Stone guard towers / used to also be a prison
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Reflecting pool on top of the old original roadway
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Mercada central
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Jamon! (aka ham)
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More market favorites
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Narrowest house, but apparently there’s an even more narrow one in Amsterdam

Another cool thing we learned is that the oldest court, called the Tribunal of Waters has been meeting every Thursday in Valencia since 1200. The members are chosen from each of the 8 different aqueduct regions and meet weekly to discuss the important topic of water use. Obviously, this was more important hundreds of years ago when farming was the main activity, but now the court usually doesn’t have much to do. Just a bunch of old guys getting together every Thursday.

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Cathedral and where the water court took place

After the tour, we had some time to kill before lunch, so we walked up a million stairs to the top of the cathedral towers. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was a tiny winding staircase that people were walking down on at the same time we were walking up. Talk about traffic jams. The view was kind of worth it though.

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The street performers in Valencia were no joke. This guy blew bubbles

Valencia is probably most famously known for it’s paella. A saffron rice dish that originally came with rabbit, chicken and snails. In most places today, it includes seafood, but this would not be typical Valencia paella. After hour of research, Tyler decided that La Riua was where we would enjoy a nice paella lunch (because paella is NOT a dinner dish). The quaint hole in the wall restaurant filled up quickly upon opening at 14:00. On a side note why do Spaniards eat so late?? We sat down and ordered the traditional paella with rabbit and chicken. It came out in a HUGE pan that was almost the size of the table. The massive paella was probably one of my favorite parts of Valencia it was so delicious.

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After lunch, we really needed some exercise, so we grabbed some free bikes from our hotel and set off towards the beach, which was only about a 20 minute ride away. We took the scenic route going through the green way and saw so many other people out enjoying the great weather. I liked that the green way even has 3 separate paths, one for bikers, one for joggers, and one for walkers. Genius. We passed by the famous aquarium which is more like a Sea World, but did not go inside.

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The beach in Valencia was so deep. Like if you were at the edge of the boardwalk where the sand started you could barely even see the sea! Since we didn’t have towels and didn’t want to pay for chairs, we opted to sit at a beach club with views of the water. Which was a great idea because we could listen to house music while sipping on our first taste of Agua de Valencia, my new favorite cocktail which consists of champagne, orange juice, gin/vodka, and sugar.

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After our cocktail we biked around the beach a bit down the boardwalk and stumbled upon a sand castle masterpiece.

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The bike ride back to the hotel through the green way was very scenic and I was impressed by how well the city of Valencia handled bikers.

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For dinner, upon the recommendation of a friend, we went to Canalla Bistro a hip little joint on a side of town we hadn’t been to yet that served tapas. Because all of the food looked delicious and we were overwhelmed with options, we decided upon a tasting menu. The restaurant had a quirky presentation on the food, which was superb and so filling. Two huge meals in one day.

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We saw pretty much the whole city of Valencia in one day, so in hindsight it may have been a good idea to fly to Mallorca in the morning the next day in order to maximize beach time. But as they say hindsight is 20/20, so we slept in and got a quick brunch to start off our day. Really the only other thing we did before heading to the airport was to visit the bull fighting ring, but it was closed for a private event.

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The 30 minute plane ride to Mallorca on a tiny plane previously would have given me nightmares, but because those smaller planes don’t go as high, the views we had coming into Mallorca were incredible. We somehow flew in from the north and got to see the whole island as we were flying by.

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The island of Mallorca is actually bigger than I expected. We rented a car because we were staying on the north side of the island, and Palma, where the airport is is on the south side. I’ve learned that the car rental process in Europe is never a quick or easy process, but the one in the Palma airport had a bar in the parking garage, so I guess they have figured this out too.

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Google Maps took us on the scenic route to our hotel. We missed the turn onto this dirt road because Tyler said he couldn’t even tell there was a road there. That should have been our sign to stay on the path more traveled, but we like an adventure. It ended up being a fun detour though because we got to see the countryside. As we drove, I noticed two things: artichokes and tiny houses. The area inland was mostly cute little farms.

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We arrived at our hotel around 5 and headed immediately to the beach. As our only beach vacation of the year, I was trying to maximize the time with my toes in the sand. The beaches were beautiful and the view from our hotel was also incredible.

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It was a little windy and I didn’t bring any warm clothes, so we left the beach to walk along to boardwalk and explore the town. Stopping in at a little beach side bar, we ordered a spritz and shrimp cocktail, which came out with pineapple and strawberries. Basically it was a fruit cocktail with shrimp and mayo… interesting for sure.

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We unknowingly stayed at an all inclusive resort, so dinner was included. It was pretty sub par, but you can’t complain too much about free! After dinner we headed to a tiki bar down the street and sat by some Dutch people. I immediately knew when I heard her trying to ask the waiter for pindas (aka peanuts), so I started a conversation. She was very jolly and I enjoyed talking to her. It seemed like the whole time on our trip in Valencia and Mallorca we were running into Dutch, probably because it was a holiday weekend in NL. We finished the night by having a taste of the local liquor in our hotel lobby while some girl sang on a karaoke machine.

The original reason we chose to go to Mallorca this particular weekend was because our friend Matt was partaking in an Iron Man race – a day full of swimming, biking, and casually running a half marathon. We woke up bright and early to cheer him on, but ended up missing the swimming portion while trying to find parking. We did catch up with him to see him off on his bike. We also saw a girl completely fall over on her bike and a guy eat a banana in one bite while biking handsless. Entertaining for sure.

The biking portion took a few hours so we headed to get some breakfast with Matt’s wife Maddie along the beach. Tyler and I basically spent the rest of the day alternating between beach and finding Matt along his race. Although the iron man provided obstacles of getting to the beach within the allotted areas and having to cross over the running and biking lanes without getting mauled by a sweaty participant, it was cool to see how motivated and dedicated everyone was.

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I felt a little guilty that I was just relaxing on the beach while all of these people were doing this crazy hard race, I justified it by going for a leisurely walk on the beach. Along my way I saw a group of wind surfers taking off on their parachute things. It seemed so much more intense when you see it up close, probably because the seas were really windy that particular day.

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Once the race was over and traffic had died down, we went back to our hotel to get changed before dinner. Upon the recommendation of a friend (yes, we seem to only go to restaurants that have been recommended to us, but hey that’s the cool thing about living in this expat community!), the four of us headed to the east side of the island near Porto Cristo. The drive there through the rural mountains was beautiful and I felt like we really got a taste for the area. We even drove by a safari park… in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if the lions got free. Once we got to the port, we took in the beauty of the water before heading to our dinner reservations.

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The Quince Restaurante y Cantina was probably my favorite meal in a while. We had a great view of the harbor while we were eating as well as amazing food. Tyler got a whole fish that he had to filet himself, I got a pot of delicious mussels. We also ordered every dessert on the menu and it came out on a platter: brownies, ice cream, white chocolate cake, olive oil cake, all delicious. After the food was gone, we decided to play a game of Euchre while enjoying some more wine. The girls barely squeaked out with a win over the boys which made everything even better. A dinner to remember!

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We ate the dessert so quickly that we couldn’t even stop for a picture

Sadly, our beach vacation was not that long and the next day we were flying back to Amsterdam. I enjoyed one last walk along the beach and took many mental pictures to remember the fabulous vacation. I would really recommend the island of Mallorca to anyone wanting a great beach vacation!

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It’s not over til the fat lady sings

Valencia
Petit Palace Plaza de la Reina hotel
La manera coffee & cocktails
La Riua
Free walking tour
Marina Beach Club

Mallorca
Alcudia beach area
Sea Hotel by Grupotel
Quince Restaurante y Cantina
Porto Cristo area

 

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