It was a transition day. By the time I made it to Hospes Palau de la Mer, I was dehydrated from the heat and the last thing I wanted to do was eat…but I still needed food for when I feel better tonight, so out I went into the fray.
Valencia is nothing like I expected. In my two hour walk I saw most every luxury store along Calle Colon and very few restaurants. I saw way too many “kept” women with their older man and, for the first time, younger men with their sugar mamas. Perhaps it was just the time of day or the streets I wandered onto, but the whole city feels weird to me.
Like the market area in the first photo, the place is beautiful but vacant. Restaurants are mostly selling beer and shops are all about clothing. I think it has to be the area I am in.
Hmm, I will be the first to admit that buying the largest size of Horcheta (a milk drink made with local tiger nuts). I had no idea that the sizing photo was not to size – I knew I was in trouble when I was given nine straws. Overall, it was a nice drink that would certainly cool you down in this heat, which I badly needed. Did I need a half-liter? No. Regrets? None.
In the end, I found the grocery section of the department store, El Corte Ingles, and decided to spend my evening’s food budget there in lieu of at a restaurant. Why? One of the beautiful things about European trips in the summer has always been about the hotel room picnics. If you want to taste the real flavours of a country, then you can spend all of your time trying to eat local dishes at restaurants of varying quality or you can try to find the best restaurant one night and a good grocery store the next. Grocery store shopping can lower your costs so that you can afford to by the best local goods in season.
My focus was to buy fruit, cheese, deli meats, wine, bread and one weird thing. Fruit had to be the tray of ripe yellow plums. I just can never get plums like these in Canada. They are soft, juicy and sweet. Ever since my first visit to Paris 19 years ago, this type of small plum and cherries are always a treat. 3 euros.
For the deli meats, I had to splurge on Iberian Gran Reserva Acorn-fed Ham. At about 13.50 Euros this was high end stuff, but then again you pay about 17.50 in restaurants for lesser quality. I threw in local chorizo and manchego cheese to round out the platter. With the crusty bread, I opted for a half bottle of quality Rioja wine, and I took a chance by buying a can of octopus in olive oil. Blame it on Anthony Bourdain who I saw mounching canned fish from such environs, and at 5 euros it must be somewhat decent.
From my first bites and sips, I would say this was definitely the right choice for my first night in Valencia. The saltiness of the cheese, the heavy red wine and the rich deli flavours are all coming together in a way I could not have lucked upon while randomly walking. Tomorrow I will track down the paella place where Hemingway ate…another fun thing to do: keep up with Papa!