Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Valencia’ Category

The change in landscape driving along the coast from Xabía (Javía) was dramatic.

Monastery in an orange grove

Monastery in an orange grove

Via Verde to Puçon

Via Verde to Puçon


Leaving the high mountains behind, shrubs and wild herbs suddenly gave way to the deep green of orange groves as far as the eye could see. This part of the coast is suitably called “Costa del Azahar” (orange blossom coast). The orange farms are neatly laid out, sometimes being terraced with stone walls up the hills. Oranges actually hail from China originally: while the Seville orange, being bitter, is mainly used to make marmalade; the sweet Valencian orange is used for juicing. The deep, orange juice (not the usual yellow colour I’m used to) is so sweet, it tastes almost syrupy.

Farms along the Via Verde

Farms along the Via Verde

We stayed in a hotel for 4 nights, right on the beach. From there we had easy access to cycle ways in all directions. We did a particularly pretty 40 km cycle ride from Valencia to Puçon – a new, modern village built in the traditional style. The smoothly paved cycle path was painted red and was again a dis-used old railway line, passing small patches of farmland. Most farms were the size of an average suburban property, so (small) tractors are a rare sight. Work is done manually, or horses are used. We saw a number of horse carts pulling various hand-made farm implements. Very eco-friendly!

The tiger nut farms deserve a special mention. Called “chufa”, these grasslike plants are grown field upon field, the farms separated from each other by low walls and narrow water channels. In the summer, the fields are flooded using a sluicing system, then the grass is allowed to dry out. The fields are then burned down and the subterranean nobbly little bulbs of the plants are collected and made into the popular Spanish drink of “horchata de chufa”, made in exactly the same way as almond milk, just with a lot of sugar added. Country-wide, every bar, café, ice-cream shop and even bakery sports a large transparent container on their counters slowly turning the white tiger nut milk. Although it’s vegan, this is too sweet for me!

Chufa "Tiger nut" farms along the Via Verde

Chufa “Tiger nut” farms along the Via Verde

We had some delicious dinners in Valencia. At one restaurant on the beach I had two courses, consisting of a starter (white asparagus and olives) and a main of variously grilled vegetables (to which I added my own vegan soy sausage, chorizo-flavoured, of course!

Grilled vegetables at the beach restaurant

Grilled vegetables at the beach restaurant

Vegan restaurant Kimpiri

Vegan restaurant Kimpiri

A very special lunch that was specifically on my list “to do”, was at Kimpira, a gourment organic vegan restaurant (on Juristas 12). I had their tasting platter of:

Vegan chocolate cheesecake

Vegan chocolate cheesecake

millet triangle-cakes with tofu sour cream, tofu-leek quiche and salad dressed with apple-cucumber juice. I ended with their vegan chocolate cheesecake (the dessert was not the best, but it was great to be able to order anything off the menu).

For all your ingredients to make a typical Valencian paella (many restaurants do offer a vegetarian “Paella”), head to Mercat Central. This architectural masterpiece is one of the oldest markets in Europe, with over 8 centuries of history. Although an enormous covered market, I still preferred the one in Barcelona. The ‘La Morhada Organic stall’ has organic produce.

Victorian market

Victorian market

Valencia is a wonderful cycling-friendly city. Pavements had been reconstructed to include cycle ways, or cycle paths were painted on the pavements in special dual lanes. Just like Seville, Córdoba and Barcelona, Valencia operates a cycling rental scheme. One has access to these bikes 24 hours a day by simply registering with your credit card at one of the bike stations. The 3-gear, heavy but easy-peddle bicycles can be taken and deposited back at nearly a hundred stations around the city, at a distance of no more than 2 blocks from each other. We used them constantly – the first half hour being free – with no worries that our own bikes might be stolen.

Broad promenade in front of our hotel - rental bikes

Broad promenade in front of our hotel – rental bikes


One evening while a thunderstorm was lumbering in the distance we cycled to the Oceanography park. It’s an aquatic centre on a massive scale. There were huge and very deep pools with large glass frontages. We watched white beluga whales play and in another were walruses. I bought myself a large plastic container of popcorn – this was not made with the usual butter addition. At 10:45pm the show started we came to see: synchronised swimming with dolphins. Eight women swam in pattern formations with 10 dolphins in an elegant performance accompanied by music and lights. Well after midnight we grabbed a pair of city bicycles from the nearest bike station and cycled back to our hotel, about 6 km away, along well-lit cycle paths.

Beautiful buildings in Valencia

Beautiful buildings in Valencia


Valencia wrought iron workThe following evening was just as special: we went swimming in the luke-warm sea in front of our hotel early evening, and decided we’d stay in the water until sunset. There were still lots of people in the sea. It was so beautiful to watch the colour of the water turn a silky orange. It was also good timing: as the sun was setting, the full moon rose like a blazing yellow beach ball. We finally dragged ourselves from the water, feeling rather peckish – no wonder, because it was 9:15 already!

Read Full Post »

Palm trees & steam baths

Although Granada is quite a green city, thanks to its position at the foothills of the northern Sierra Nevada where streams flowing to the town are fed by melting snow, the surrounding countryside is bone dry. As we travelled down towards the sea to the “Costa Blanca” (white coast) the landscape changed dramatically to tropical. We were amazed to see vast expanses of groves of various palm trees.

Javia development
On the coastline, farms and white villages make way for dense but very pretty development in the form of hundreds of complexes – each in a distinct Spanish style, painted in warm colours. This is Alicante, the holiday and permanent residence mecca of sun-deprived Brits and over-worked Germans. Benidorm however is rather different: skyscrapers rising ever upwards from a small valley resemble pencils in holders.

The SHA hotel in Abir near Javia

The SHA hotel in Abir near Javia

As a special treat, my partner arranged our next three nights at a spa hotel in Albir, the SHA Wellness Hotel, over the hill away from Benidorm. The stunning white modern 3 storey building, with lots of glass and hanging gardens spilling over the balconies to the storey below just took my breath away. The hotel was situated in the suburb of Albir, with the beaches of Pí just a short walk away.

Mushroom & carrot soup with seaweed

Mushroom & carrot soup with seaweed


The meals served in this über-healthy haven are non-dairy vegetarian, but also follow macrobiotic principles (where foods had been processed minimally and cooking styles are only grilling with no oil, steaming or being served raw); there is a heavy emphasis on grains (especially wheat products); apart from vegan dishes, fish also featured on the menu. It’s described as a Japanese diet with some Mediterranean influences.

Fried 'milk' of silken tofu and almond ice-cream

Fried ‘milk’ of silken tofu and almond ice-cream

How fabulous that I could order my 3 (but small) vegan courses, 3 times a day straight off the 2 sets of menus, including delicious healthy desserts! One time I had Mushroom and carrot soup with seaweed and for dessert I had Spanish “fried milk” but made from silken tofu dusted with cacao powder and served with almond ice-cream. So delicious.

Brown rice & vegetable pilaff with pea hummus

Brown rice & vegetable pilaff with pea hummus

A lunch one time was a brown rice and vegetable pilaff

Tofu steaks with parsnip purée

Tofu steaks with parsnip purée

served with pea hummus, salad and soy mayonnaise.

Another dinner was tofu steaks, grilled vegetables and parsnip purée and for dessert I had raspberry strudel with a sauce made from chocolate powder and water.

Vegetable sushi, wheat tabuleh with pistachios

Vegetable sushi, wheat tabuleh with pistachios

Yet another lunch was light and colourful vegetable sushi served with wheat tabuleh and pistachios.
Enoki mushroom soup with beetroom foam

Enoki mushroom soup with beetroom foam

The last night there I had a raw salad with chickpea mayonnaise, followed by enoki mushroom soup with beetroot foam and to round it all off I had apple pie (grilled apple placed on a thin pastry disk) and served with Chinese-tea flavoured ice-cream.
Apple pie with Chinese tea ice-cream

Apple pie with Chinese tea ice-cream

Apart from some spa treatments, I went for every activity on offer (all free), such as Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga and stretching classes. There was a good sized outdoor pool which was perfect for us swimming lengths and an indoor hydro-circuit with all sorts of steam rooms, whirl pools etc.

Our villa at the Le Rodat Hotel

Our villa at the Le Rodat Hotel

Our next stop of 3 nights was just an hour’s drive away, staying this time in a garden complex as part of a hotel. Having our own unit, we positively felt like local residents. This area is hardly Spanish though: the only languages one hears are German, Dutch and English. From the advertising on shop fronts, it is clear that this town and area of Javia (or spelt Xabia in Valencian) is home to huge expat communities. The beaches are beautiful here: most have no sand, only round white pebbles about the size of a golf ball. This makes the water very clear: we snorkelled at several little bays in the early mornings before the crowds pitched. There is no coral, only small seaweeds, flat rocks in the deep water and Javia beachschools of tiny colourful fish. In the evenings after dinner we’d walk around the suburb, feasting our eyes on the massive gardens and beautiful houses. One street was planted with carob trees: I collected a few pods and munched on them for the next few days. They taste just like milk-chocolate! We went three times to my partner’s favourite coffee place – a large German bakery. While he had ‘Apfel strudel’ or Chocolate mousse cake, I had the lovely bread from the bakery: olive oil and caraway seed rounds or sourdough mini baguettes filled with hazelnuts and currants.
Old quarter of Javia

Old quarter of Javia

Read Full Post »