“Let’s drive to the beach, now!”
This is what I told my boyfriend when he was visiting me in Madrid one Saturday morning while I was working on a project for my company. It was hot…105 degrees F° to be exact, and with no rain in weeks, I had to escape the Spanish heat- FAST!
Traveling around Spain is pretty easy and inexpensive. Unfortunately, waking up the same day of your trip does not equal discounted train tickets. This meant that we could not fly to Barcelona or take a train ride to Granada. By a random thought, we decided we were going to drive to the nearest popular beach town, Valencia.
Valencia, the city of 100 bell towers, is one of the top largest cities in Spain. Located on the Mediterranean coast at the mouth of the Turia (Guadalaviar) River, Valencia is surrounded by orchards in the Huerta de Valencia. Surprisingly, Valencia is also one of the of the oldest cities in Spain. The earliest mention of this city is by the Roman historian Livy, who claimed that the consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus visited and settled there in 138 B.C.E. It later became a prosperous Roman colony for hundred of years and a flourishing fisherman’s town.
Like other Spanish cities, Valencia was later conquered by the Visigoths and Moors for an extended period of time. You can see their influence by the gothic and Moorish buildings around the city. Once the city was finally captured back by Spanish soldiers and monarchs, the city became a prosperous and artistic city, which can be seen by the unique buildings and sculptures.
Now, Valencia thrives as one of Spain’s largest cities that seems to perfectly balance old world traditions with new world demands. On one side of the city, you can visit bull fighting events in an old arena, while on the other side you can see popular concerts in a futuristic building on the river. Both are definitely worth viewing and offer a different experience.
The drive from Madrid to Valencia was breathtaking. With smooth roads and beautiful landscaping, I wouldn’t recommend any other way to travel, other than by speed train. In our little Smart car, we made it to Valencia in about 3 1/2 hours, with no set schedule or place to stay. Yikes!
(Recommendation: book your flight or train ticket weeks in advance. It will not only save you money, but LOADS of time to explore different cities.)
Upon arriving in the city, all that I could think about was “how the hell do we get to the beach?”. Unfortunately, neither of us prepared or knew about the town and what beaches were popular. This led to us turning to our most trusted friend, Google. Not too surprisingly, there were not a lot of good blogs, pictures, or reviews on beaches in the Valencia city area, as it is “not as popular” as Barcelona or Madrid. Sure, I get it, but that didn’t help us. We decided to narrow down on two of the top five beaches, Cullera and La Malvarrosa Beach. This was definitely a great choice.
We head straight to Cullera, which appeared to be a very quiet town as we drove through the city. This was differently the case as we made our way to the beach. People kept to themselves and could be seen sleeping on the shores. Exactly what we were looking for from leaving the bustling city of Madrid. After eating and taking a quick nap on the beach, we woke up around 8:30 P.M. and came to the shocking realization that we still hadn’t booked a place to stay. Did I say, Yikes!? Again, by random chance, we were able to locate a 5 star hotel that was under booked and desperate to sell rooms in the heart of Valencia. Lucky for us, we were able to stay at one of the nicest hotel’s I’ve been in for about 150 Euros. Thanks Expedia.com!
After settling into our boojee-ass hotel and walking around in robes and slippers, we got dolled up and headed out to dinner to continue with our “fake honeymoon”.
Can you hear my stomach grumbling? I can. It’s dinner time here in Atlanta, and just thinking about Valencia makes me HUNGRY. Although I was only in Valencia less than 48 hours, I’m sure that I ate more than my weight in gold.
Some of the best food that I’ve ever had in my life was in Valencia. The Spanish really know how to enjoy and make food. After getting ready at the hotel, we went to the lobby and asked the front desk for recommendations. The staff was very helpful and recommended a neighborhood of restaurants within walking distance and offered fine dining. We walked to the highest recommended place, but the kitchen was closing. Then we went to the next eatery, same story. Who knew it would be difficult to find a place to eat at midnight in Spain!?
When we were ready to give up, an old Spanish man overheard our conversation, noticed my boyfriend’s Brazilian accent, and offered to walk us to “a good place that he knows”. Yeah, sure! Let’s follow a random man around the city and down alleyways…our minds said no but our stomachs said yes. Thankfully, he more than happily escorted us to one of his friends restaurants, who was in the process of closing. After speaking with the owner for a couple of minutes, the owner decided he would keep the place open just for the two of us. He happened to be married to a Brazilian, who was the head chef of their restaurant and a super sweet lady.
During our dinner, the employees came out and talked to us and was truly interested in getting to know us and introduced themselves. It was such a cute and sweet scene that I literally cried- don’t tell my boyfriend. The workers at this restaurant truly are amazing and make you feel at home, while offering the best service possible.
The combination of Brazilian cooking and Spanish dishes was astounding, and left our tummies very happy. If I could recommend anywhere in Valencia, I would definitely scream Oliveira, I literally DREAM of this place.
Downtown Valencia- Oliveira
La Malvarrosa Beach- Pescados
Cullera- La Piccola Trattoria)
After eating the best meal of my life, the restaurant owner recommended that we visit a bar/club a couple blocks away. This happened to be one of his friends bars, so he called ahead to tell them that we were coming. Upon arriving at the bar, we noticed the line, but was told to walk up to the front. We dropped our new friends name and was immediately escorted inside and to the VIP lounge. Did they think I was Beyoncé?
This bar was definitely what I expected European partying to be. It was loud, rowdy, entertaining, and of course, sexy. After dancing until I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, we caught an Uber back to our hotel around 4 AM and slept like a pair of newborn babies.
We started our Sunday Fun-day in Valencia, waking up late and swimming in the hotel’s rooftop pool. After leaving the hotel around 1 P.M., we decided to spend a few hours at La Malvarrosa Beach. This is the most popular beach in Valencia, and offers visitors a unique culture combination of Spanish Miami and Rio de Janeiro. The beach is “poppin” on Sunday with a lot of young beach go-ers, busy restaurants, and loud bars with DJs and other entertainment, and did I mention topless women? I can’t imagine what it is like on Saturdays. After lounging at a cabana for 2 hours, we “unwillingly” got back into our Smart car and drove back to Madrid.
If you are unable to make it to Barcelona, don’t sweat it. Valencia is a beautiful and charming city by the beach that offers visitors a unique experience with great Spanish charm.
To really travel, you must be willing to truly let go and be open to experiencing everything. My trip to Valencia was completely random and unplanned, and it will definitely go down as one of my favorite. I felt like I was Beyoncé in Valencia. Seriously. I don’t know what is was, but I was shown the most respect and best service while in the beach town.
Save a plate for me, Valencia, I hope to be back ASAP.
Travel Girl- Ilea
(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2017. All Rights Reserved.)