Friday, November 19, 2010

Alicante & Valencia

Oct 15.

First thing in the morning, we took a cab to the airport for our trip to Alicante. We had a layover in Madrid and our connecting flight was delayed some, so we did not arrive until about 3 pm. Roly was there to pick us up when we landed and drove us down to their condo in Guardamar, where Sarah was waiting for us. We had a drink, relaxed and chatted on their deck. Then they drove us down to the Marina and we had a walk on the beach. Roly and I talked about this and that and Laura and Sarah probably talked about more weighty issues as they followed behind. On our way back to the car, we ran into a couple of their neighbors who were also out for a stroll. We drove back to their place to freshen up.

Afterwards, we walked into town for Dinner at one of their favorite places, a little restaurant called La Vuelta, owned by some Dutch people. We had some of the best bread that we’d had the entire time, slathered with Alioli. We followed this with Escargot and I had a nice cod. Laura had pork medallions which she said were overcooked. They had a singer, who was doing mostly old standards. He did a lot of Frank Sinatra. We all danced. It was a very nice and lively little restaurant. After dinner, we all strolled back through town to their condo.

Oct 16

As had become our pattern, we got up late. We drove to a nearby town to have an English breakfast, see some of the new development, past the golf course. It was another beautiful sunny day. After breakfast, we drove back in a large loop, through the south side of town. Roly and Sarah pointed out the prostitutes who would sit at the side of the road, mostly near roundabouts, wearing their hot pants and high heels, sitting on a folding chair reading. We stopped in town to walk down to the beach and see the town portion of the beach. Then we stopped back at the condo to pick up our bags and Roly and Sarah drove us to the train station in Alicante, which was about a half hour away.

We got on the 3:20 train to Valencia. Very nice ride on the high speed train (not exactly a bullet train, but pretty good speed). Arrived about 5:20 and got a cab to the Hotel Ayre Astoria Palace on the Plaza Rodrigo Botet. We walked over to the Cathedral and had a drink sitting on the Plaza. There were several weddings going on, so there was lots of traffic and people walking to and fro in suits and fancy dresses. After a bit we went looking for a restaurant that I had an Internet recommendation for, but it turned out that they were only open after 9 pm, so we decided to just roll the dice and wandered off towards the Market. We wound up eating at a fairly non-descript little restaurant. I had paella, which was OK, but not great.

Oct 17

We had breakfast on the plaza by the Cathedral. It was a very chilly morning, unless you were in the sun, which happened to be on the opposite side of the plaza. We visited the Cathedral and climbed the Tower (about 280 feet high). Laura did not make it to the top, since it was getting pretty claustrophobic about ¾ of the way up. There were excellent views from the top, since the tower was the tallest structure in the older part of town. The cathedral, started in 1248, houses some interesting relics and is an interesting conglomeration of styles, including gothic, Romanesque, baroque and neo-classical. One relic of interest (although we did not pay to see it) is described in Wikipedia:

One of the supposed Holy Chalices, present around the world, is revered in one of this cathedral's chapels; this chalice has been defended as the true Holy Grail; indeed, most Christian historians all over the world declare that all their evidence points to this Valencian chalice as the most likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper.

We walked over to the Serrano Gates, which were part of the old medieval wall of the City, and walked through the park created after Valencia diverted the river after severe floods in 1957. We looped back through the center of town and decided to take the Metro down to the beach.

Unlike Barcelona, the Valencia Metro is very difficult to figure out. Not the lines, but the price of a ticket. Eventually, we just went to the ticket agent and got two tickets to the beachfront (should have got return tickets). We took the train to the end of the line and hopped on the light rail and got off a few blocks from the beach. The beach is wide and flat and has a wonderful promenade running along it for several miles. At the near end, there are dozens of restaurants and bars along the promenade, so we decided to have lunch. Most of the places were pretty pricey, but we found a nice looking place. Laura had a salad and I had a turkey burger watching the people stroll by on the Promenade. A few young guys were setting up a volley ball net on the beach in front of us.

After lunch, we decided to take a walk on the beach. There were a fair number of people on the beach as it was a bright sunny day, but the wind was beginning to pick up so it was cooling down. As we got down to the water, it turned out to be not such a nice beach. The water was pretty dirty looking with sea weed and some trash. We walked for a while and then decided to head back towards town. Because we couldn’t figure out what the fare might be, we walked all the way back to the end of the Metro line and bought tickets and rode back to the hotel.
We had a couple of drinks at a bar on the Plaza. Then we had dinner at a great little restaurant down the street from where we ate the previous night. We split the best paella we had in Spain and some swordfish.

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