|Old town Valencia by night|
It was finally time for our first Spanish excursion. Our good friend Tony off Tactical Directions has wintered his boat in Barcelona so we looked for a half way rendezvous point. The deciding factor on Valencia was that it was also hosting the final round of the World Moto GP, Tony and his friend Jackie are big fans - so Valencia it was.
We left at 9.15am and caught the bus from Cartagena to Murcia, the regional capital just 45 minutes away. There was enough time for a coffee before getting onto our connection and by 3pm we had arrived in Valencia. The scenery enroute changed from the flat alluvial plains growng many various crops and the odd vineyard, to a more undulating landscape further north, all very colourful with orange trees almost as far as you could see.
|Mark, Tony and Jackie at the Moto GP|
Last time we visited Valencia was in June 2007, another sporting event, the final of the America's Cup between the Swiss Defenders - Alinghi and the New Zealand Challengers -Emirates Team New Zealand. Our days and nights were full of yacht racing - watching it, talking about it, reliving each race, celebrating the wins, drowning our sorrows in the loses. We had had a great time in Valencia, despite not winning the cup.
We had done some sightseeing then, but being based near the Cup Village on the shores of the Med, we hadn't ventured downtown at night. This time we were staying in the centre and getting out to see Valencia by night. Getting accommodation for the weekend had been difficult, not only was the Moto GP on but also a major tennis fixture, hotels were very busy and rates had at least doubled. We had booked the Hotel Turia, conveniently located adjacent to the bus terminal, opposite a huge shopping mall, metro station and about a 15 minute leisurely walk into the centre of the spectacular old town .
|Boy these bikes make alot of noise|
After catching up with Tony and Jackie we had a siesta (I had the most wonderful bubble bath, somewhat of a luxury when you live on a yacht) then explored the old town, trialling the best looking tapas bars along the way. By 9pm we decided to stop for dinner, things were pretty quiet, it was Friday night in Valencia - where was everyone?? We had a superb meal in a little place whose name unfortunately I lost, and it was tucked away in a rabbit warren of lanes. When we left around 10.45pm the place was overflowing, all tables taken, people standing eating at the counter, the few tables out in the cool night air occupied - and this was the scene at every eatery we saw on the way home. The Spaniards come out to play very late.
Saturday was Qualifying Day at the Moto GP. I had not planned to go, its not really my thing, but it was a beautiful day so after a leisurely breakfast at the tiny cafe opposite the hotel we walked to the train station and eventually got ourselves sorted as to how to get to the track. I was happy to sit in the sun watching the bikes go round in circles, while others around me appreciated the finer points of what was happening. The noise wasn't too bad, and it does come and go.
|Made it round the first corner|
Back to the hotel, more bubble baths and siestas then out for tapas a little later this time. Well, when in Spain !!! We found another good cafe for dinner, the evening was a repeat of the previous, empty on arrival - but this time 9.30pm and absolutely pumping after 11pm with people queueing for tables as we left, its a tad hard to get used to.
Sunday dawned...race day. Clear and warm, breakfast at the hotel then back out to the track. All looked much as the day before to me, I had not been converted but the others seemed to enjoy it and the stands were full of supporters from all nationalities. Tony and Jackie (clad in Aussie flags) the real petrol heads amongst us, were cheering for the Aussie Casey Stoner who finished second behind the Spanish world champion and the locals went loco. The noise and speed of the bikes was impressive even for this novice. It had started clouding over on the train ride back and by the time we went for dinner it was pouring down, we found a Chinese restaurant just a block away and enjoyed an excellent cheap meal before an early night. Tony and Jackie had an early start on Monday, ours was more leisurely, we had booked on a direct bus at 11.15am and were home to Balvenie by 4.00pm. Although I wouldn't go to another Moto GP, I can say I've been there done that but don't need the T shirt. However we had a great weekend catching up with friends, sampling the local delights and visiting Valencia again.
Excursion Info to Valencia:-
There is an almost hourly service between Cartagena and Murcia. 3.50E pp ow, 45 minutes on the express. From Murcia we went by ALSA to Valencia, and got a direct bus back to Cartagena (just two per day) The return tickets cost 72E for both of us, including the Cartagena/Murcia sector.
Hotel - Accommodation was at an absolute premium, as were the prices. We booked through www.booking.com at The Hotel Turia. It is a 4star, 95E a night, their weekend rate is normally around 53E. Buffet continental breakfast was 6.50E pp extra. The rooms were spacious and clean, but for a 4 star where were no extra touches you may expect. Booking.com was an easy site to use and you are not required to prepay, and we could cancel without charge up to 2 days ahead.
Sightseeing - Valencia is a beautiful city, the old town has some outstanding buildings - worth seeing by day and night, just walk around, get lost and enjoy all the nooks and crannies. Last time we visited we went to the Science Museums area, adjacent to the Americas Cup village, this area is worth a visit, if not to see inside the buildings, then to view the modern architecture
Eating Out - You will not go hungry. There are hundreds of tiny tapas bars, cafes and upmarket restaurants for every budget. Some don't even open for dinner till after 8pm and many close on Sundays. Most have their tapas on display, be brave, go inside, point at all the ones that look good and enjoy!! Spain is cheap for eating out, most tapas plates are 2E or less (the size of a saucer), raciones around 4E (about the size of a bread and butter plate), bread is normaly extra. Meals range from about 8E upwards, and Menu del dia (3 courses and a drink) from 8E upwards