Lady Stardust Faro-Portugal to Barcelona - 2010
Paul Collister
Sun 15 Aug 2010 14:16

Sunday 15th August


Caught up on jobs this morning. The light clothes we put in the marina’s washing machine and tumble drier came back dirtier than they went in for some reason – and some had shrunk a little.  Paul now has a new collection of rags for boat jobs but I may be able to soak and rescue some of the least stained garments.  It was humid and cloudy by noon but the sun made enough of an appearance to stop it being overcast.  The four of us set off to explore what we could of Valencia in the limited time we had and decided that the old part of town would be a good place to start.  Ditching the idea of getting there by metro after it proved to be tricky to find where you had to go to get on it, we simply hailed a taxi and asked him to take us to the central area of the older part of town.  As we approached, the buildings became more elaborate and older-looking. 

The information I’d read (albeit briefly) states that there is a lot of Gothic architecture in Valencia – and a wealth of elaborate Baroque facades.  We had wanted to check out the Mercado Central which is one of the largest in Europe, with almost a thousand stalls - described as a feast for all the senses and set in an impressive 1928-built iron and glass structure but unfortunately it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Before walking around we found a nice-looking café in a busy square to fortify ourselves with lunch tapas.  Here, you had to go into the café and help yourself to the snacks in the display cases - which had different shaped cocktail sticks to identify cost and quantity. 


Everything but bars, cafes and restaurants is closed on Sundays but it provided a good opportunity to walk around largely deserted streets and have a proper look at them without having to navigate your way through crowds of people.  The Mercado Colon was particularly lovely.  One of the more modern buildings (1901) it resembles a church with its steep roof, iron columns and monumental arches at either end.  On weekdays there would be flower stalls and classy shops but the only establishments open were some upmarket cafes – mostly empty but pleasant to sit in and have a drink – it reminded me of an empty Covent Garden. 

Every so often we caught a glimpse of the riverbed park – another feature that we were sadly too short on time to visit. It used to be the Rio Turia but after flooding it was diverted in 1956.  Ancient stone bridges still remain though and it’s been turned into cycle paths, footpaths and even football pitches which encircle the old city – it would have been great to walk round it.  Late in the afternoon, having worked out how to use the metro (which is very clean, smooth and entirely free of adverts), we went back to the marina area to go to the nearby beach which stretches for miles and is lined with cafes and bars.  It was packed with people relaxing and swimming and is well-kept and clean with a lifeguard on duty overlooking the swimmers Baywatch-style. 


Paul, Tim and Asta enjoyed a swim while I read on the beach (not hot enough for me to brave the water) until it began to get extremely windy, like a squall.  Sand was blowing everywhere and it felt chilly. -+We thought another storm was brewing so before going out for dinner we battened all the hatches and covered parts of the deck to prevent more water coming in.  Got the metro back into the old part of town and had a bit of a wander, admiring more of the stunning architecture – especially the lovely black iron balconies on so many of the buildings.  You’d need at least a week to explore Valencia properly.  I’ve since read that in the Cathedral you can see the chalice (Holy Grail, no less) supposedly used by Christ at the Last Supper, as well as a Goya painting of a gruesome exorcism and another spectacularly high church tower to climb, while in the Universidad the university library contains one of the first books ever printed.  If the boat ends up being wintered here we may still get a chance to see these things.  Dinner was lovely, in a restaurant just off the main street.  The patatas dish chosen by Paul came coated in a blue cheese sauce and was gorgeous (we’ve become connoisseurs of the various Spanish patatas dishes now I thinkJ). There were no more trains running when we got to the station so we got a taxi back (thankfully taxis here aren’t as expensive as in England).  The weather had calmed down considerably and we hoped to be able to set off for Tarragona Monday afternoon.