It’s bad enough missing the odd proper sausage sandwich and roast dinners from England, but being brought up in the Philippines until the age of 10 I still had the desire for a wide variety of Oriental foods. Large cities in the UK such as London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds have established China Towns and I’ve never had to go without all my favourite ’home comforts’, but I was not too sure whether there would be a China Town in Valencia Spain. Even though I found a few online Asian stores in Spain and UK, I wasn’t prepared to pay up to £60.00 for delivery of my favourite Asian ingredients. There MUST be somewhere in Valencia that sell these things?!! So this week I made it my mission to look for Oriental Food Stores in and around Valencia. About 2 minutes walk from Estación del Norte, you will find that you are already in the district of Valencia’s China Town. It is not as large as London’s China Town but here you will find all kind of restaurants many with English translated menu, shops and services. Once I stepped in one mini market, I was back ‘home’ again. The smell of authentic oriental ingredients such as lemon grass, galangal and ginger. I also grabbed a few ramen noodles for the boys, always a good comfort food. Having caught the train to the city, I was pretty limited of what I could bring home. Ideally I would have loved to have brought home a sack of jasmine rice, halo-halo ingredients, and other traditional spices and sauces. I’m still not used to driving in the centre, and I don’t have the courage yet to tackle it. I’m sure in time I will get to know my way around, but for now, catching a train from my town to Valencia is stress free for me!
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 7.30 to 14.30, Valencia Central Market is a perfect example of what a good market should be, it is almost hard not to find anything that you need, from fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, herbs, fresh bread and many more! I was told that the fishermen usually go out to sea on Monday, so Tuesday is the best day to go to the market to find the freshest catch in Valencia, and he was not wrong. As a lover of seafood I truly enjoyed looking and admiring how fresh all the products are, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed or get too carried away, an exciting place to be specially if you’re a foodie like me! The traders are friendly and always willing to help, though quite hard to communicate as many of them only speak Castellano or Valenciano. But, I have never found this a problem, even when we first moved here, it is not hard to point at what you want, a little Spanglish and hand signals usually breaks the ice. Foodie or not, Valencia Central Market is the perfect place to view local produce and soak up the atmosphere while having a cortado or two. Or in my case, three glasses of my new favourite albariño wine, a morning well spent.
We stopped by at Central Bar by Ricard Camarena, a little bar in the middle of the market that serve tapas and a wide range of drinks. Last time my brother in law visited Valencia he tried a traditional Horchata though it was different for him, he seem to take taken to the taste and have even brought some to take back to England. Certainly an acquired taste, a little like Marmite, you will either love it or hate it. Personally, I choose the latter, maybe not as strong as the word ‘hate’ but it is not something that I get too excited about. After a couple of glasses of Albariño and a plate of bravas I was ready to explore the array of well presented stalls. The traders certainly take a lot of pride on their goods, the sight and atmosphere was overwhelming, but then again, I get really excited when it comes to markets, it is one of my favourite places to spend a few hours just to browse and try the latest products.
We heard that Punjabi Curry is a small traditional Indian food restaurant situated close to the promenade, just along Calle la Niña. The interior of the restaurant is rather small, simple but tidy, and they make up for the large outdoor seating area at the front where you can enjoy watching people go by and listen to the sound of the sea while waiting for your food. Suki the owner told us upon arriving that he can also speak English and offered us the option for either a Spanish or English version of the menu. The service was prompt and friendly, all of our needs were catered for. My husband and I were more excited than the children as this has been the first time in over a year since we have sat down in a traditional Indian restaurant. Some things we took for granted when we was back home, however, this time is a more special and ´new´experience for us… I mean… how many times have we sat in a curry restaurant on a Saturday lunch time that over looked the beach? I found the menu very typical of an Indian restaurant, with the usual options of pakoras, samosas and bhajis for starters. For the main meals, the husband and I opted for lamb jalfrezi, saag aloo, nan breads and mushroom rice, while our eldest son chose the lamb bhuna along with plain rice. The portions were generous and the I would give their rice the best ever rate for fluffiness if ever there is one. I can simply describe that the food that we had here is what I would expect from a good traditional curry restaurant, authentic, flavoursome and yet reasonably priced. Finding the place is not hard and there is available parking along the main road. They also offer take away service if you live within a 5 mile radius, sadly for us! They also offer a Menu del Dia for the price of €8.95 and a Menu de Noche for €12.50 from 21:00 pm onwards. The hour and a half drive was worth the trip, along with great food we also get to spend a few hours in Calpe admiring the beach and town.
The stress of work have been taking over our lives lately, for the past few months it seems like that the husband and I hardly have time to do anything together. I guess one of the best thing about living in Spain is that we do have a social life and during weekends our kids get to play with other children while we catch up with what our friends have been doing over the week. But, the last time we have spent time as a couple was about three years ago. With work and kids being an excuse it’s easy to over look that we STILL need to spend some time alone, even if it’s just for the weekend. Finally, after our good friend willingly volunteered as a babysitter on Friday, my husband and I decided to spend a unplanned weekend getaway in Valencia. Our friend recommended the Ayre Hotel Astoria Palace because of it’s location, and even though we have lived in Valencia for a couple of years, we are still quite unfamiliar with places in the city. This hotel seems like a good choice when it came to location and positive reviews. After reassuring us a number of times that the kids WILL BE OK, we booked our room at the hotel on Saturday, hoping to only stay a night. The hotel is situated very close to the old town of Valencia, only a walking distance from the main attractions. I’m a great lover of old architecture so this is the perfect location, easily accessible with large choice of bars and restaurants around the area to try. No matter what your taste is, you will certainly find something to do! I particularly loved the surroundings including cafe Nederland 1814 which is situated on a square across the road from the hotel. A great place to chill, eat and watch the world go by. The hotel staff were friendly and willing to help.. Our room was stylish and spacious, I specially loved the sliding mirrored wardrobes, writing desk and the enormous bed! The walk in bathroom was also large and came with the usual complimentary towels, robes and soap. The complimentary chocolates on the bed was a nice touch too, but I made sure I brought those back for the kids. The view from our room was also impressive, we checked in at about 8pm (I told you this was a last minute plan). We had room 314 and was just in time to watch the sunset, which was breathtaking. It almost felt like a scene from Assassins Creed! At that time we realised, we should do this more often! The only fault I can think of is the shortage of drinks from the mini-bar and coffee/tea making facilities. We would have liked to have had a drink once we checked in, but was disappointed to find that the mini-bar was only filled with bottled water. But, that didn’t ruin our weekend and to be fair there are a lot more better bars and restaurants nearby to have a drink and tapas. After spending a few hours bar hopping and enjoying the atmosphere, I realised how important it is to have this little time together and finally spending the time to get to know Valencia at night. Feeling lucky that we have this right outside our doorstep and we should take advantage of it more. A great weekend, nice hotel beautiful city , but one night is definitely not enough!