60th Birthday fun with friends in Valencia

Hey, you know – it’s not bad being 60. Lots of friends came to celebrate with me, the “party” therefore lasted about three weeks and I didn’t even notice I had passed one of those dreaded landmarks in life.

Caroline and John were our first visitors [19-22 October] and we started celebrating in style….

Aperol Spritz cocktails, always a good way to begin

Next came the “Sundowners”…..

Waiting for the restaurant to open…maybe!

….. a fabulous bunch of people I used to work with who decided that a long weekend [26-30 October] in Valencia was just what they needed.

Then Jack and Christine….










….who we met whilst cruising in the Caribbean and who loaned us their house in Cadaques when we were looking for a new boat late last year. We couldn’t believe it was three years since we saw each other and it was fabulous to catch up.

Finally, Chris and John [9-13 November] and the celebrations carried on in a manner to which we had become accustomed!

Agua de Valencia… interesting …. no “water” at all!

Caroline and John had been to Valencia once before so, although they love the city, we all decided that a trip out to see somewhere else might be a good idea. It might have been a better idea had we decided to do it on a day other than when the Valencia half marathon was taking place because the public transport was disrupted and we ended up with taxis instead. Regardless, El Palmar was our chosen destination and the day was excellent.

El Palmar sits on the edge of La Albufera – a freshwater lagoon surrounded by flatlands which have long been used for rice cultivation. Traditional boats still ply the waterways and lie alongside the canals which run through the village.

It is probably the most emblematic of the Albufura settlements and the iconic farming village is proud to uphold its status as the birthplace of the Valencian rice dishes, two of which – Arroz de Valencia [Typically chicken, rabbit and beans] and Arroz de Mariscos [seafood] – we shared in one of the many popular weekend restaurants. The village is also renowned for its framed cottages of which very few now remain.

Made of mud, reeds and wood they were the original homes of the farmers and fishermen in the region.

Another trip out of Valencia was undertaken with Chris and John. As yet we haven’t hired a car, but they did so it was great to be able to see some of the surrounding countryside as John drove us 65km west to Requena. To be honest the new town hasn’t got much to rave about from a tourist perspective, but we did find a gem of a restaurant ….










Mesón Torrescal” where we had an excellent “Menu de Mediodia”.

However, “La Villa”, the medieval nucleus which rises above the new town, is a maze of twisting streets and alleys…

… particularly those in the one-time Jewish quarter.

There was hardly anyone else there and almost nothing open….

The main plaza ‘ Requena

….but we wandered around looking at the lovely buildings…

…. and managed to surprise one “local” taking a drink…..

We had read about the wine museum and expected that it too would be closed but we were pleasantly surprised to find it welcoming the few visitors who had made the effort. Housed in the C15 “Palacio del Cid”…

…. the museum contained various exhibits ….

Grape press

Amphora on a donkey saddle


……. and detailed the history of wine production in Requena. We were particularly interested in this old photograph….

……. which shows the quayside in Valencia which is now part of Marina Real Juan Carlos I where “Owl and Pussycat” is berthed.

Walking out of the old quarter I spotted an azulejo plaque commemorating San Nicolás de Bari.

That venerable saint also has a church dedicated to him in Valencia and, at the recommendation of some of the Sundowners, we visited it with Jack and Christine. A parish church since 1242 its full name is Iglesia de San Nicolás de Bari y San Pedro Mártir and has more recently been referred to as the “Valencian Sistine Chapel”…..

Not hard to see why.

The wall and ceiling paintings were designed by Antonio Palomino and painted by Dionis Vidal at the end of C17.

The cost of entry into the church is nominal and includes an audio guide. I can’t now remember what was said about the symbolism of some of the background in this painting but I do remember being fascinated.

If anyone is thinking of visiting Valencia I would strongly recommend they put this church in their itinerary.

Obviously the most visited place of worship is the La Catedral-Básilica de la Asuncíon de Nuestra Señora de Valencia










Some friends attended a mass there, but the others just visited – as did Mike and I with Chris and John.

The site has been a religious one for centuries as the current cathedral was built over the city mosque which was itself built on top of a Visigothic church.

Cathedral nave

Chancel roof

In the museum part of the church it I possible to descend to the foundations and see different levels – as well as some remnants of skeletons.

As with most churches, stained glass features highly in both the museum….

Fragment of a C13 window

…and the interior of the cathedral.

The equilateral triangle in this rose window is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. The inverted triangle represents the three ways to access God – reason, philosophy and theology and, finally, intuition and love.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t the same detailed description next to this mural.

The most popular chapel is Capilla del Santo Cáliz which houses, within a magnificent gothic screen, an agate cup….

…. apparently “The Holy Grail”.

A rear view of the cathedral can be seen from the Plaza de la Virgen….

….where many a “Happy Hour” was spent with the Sundowners in the bars to the right as their apartment was situated here. On the left the pink building, entry free, is the Real Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Santos Inocentes Mátires y Desamparados. Again, it’s worth a look if you are passing.

The reclining figure in the central fountain represents the Rio Turia, and the eight gushing pots held by maidens symbolise the main irrigation canals flowing from it. Illuminated at night it makes a very attractive backdrop.










Two other “must see” sites for our visitors were the Mercado Central…

Tapas just outside the market… has to be done

….and La Lonja.

This building is a UNESCO site and was originally Valencia’s silk and commodities exchange built in late C15 when Valencia was booming. The fabulous “Sala de Contratación”, with its 17m tall columns, is where the goods were traded and banking done…..

…and above one of the doors to the trading room you find the symbol of Valencia….

…..the “Ratpenat” [bat].

The courtyard in the centre of the exchange was [and obviously still is!] a place to meet, plan and discuss important issues of the day ….

Important planning meeting….

….and attached to it is another building – the “Consulado de Mar” where maritime issues were discussed.

The top floor is known as the Golden Hall because of its decorated wooden ceiling….

….though I have to say that we found the floor equally – or even more – captivating….

Much can be learnt about the history of Valencia at the Museo de Historia de Valencia which we visited with Jack and Christine. Although it is rather dark inside the brick pillared crypt like space…..

…. there is plenty to see. As well as display cases, there are small cinematic areas where screenings of acted scenes representing the different periods of history are shown at the press of a button.

One of the exhibits described the various stages of the building of the city defences – the walls and many massive gates. Unfortunately little of the walls remain, though two city gates – Torres de Quart and Torres de Serranos – are still intact and can be visited. I, and a few of the Liverpool contingent, climbed the latter for views over the Barrio del Carmen and the former bed of the Rio Turia.

Loved the “layers”

Valencia has more than 45 museums, so we still have several to see! The Ceramics museum is certainly on my list and was visited by most of the sundowners and two of them, Anne and John, chanced upon another – the Museo del Corpus. I was lucky to be with them because try as I might I haven’t found it since and would love to show it to Mike. The museum houses “Las Rocas”….

….giant carts that are wheeled out annually for the Corpus Christi Procession. The earliest dates back to C15. Unfortunately some of them were damaged beyond repair in the 1950 flood [more about this below], but many remain. There are also giant figures….

….and “costumes” which are worn during the parade.

I have twice mentioned the “Rio Turia”. The original river flowed through the centre of the city. Unfortunately it often overflowed its banks and in 1950 the flood was so extensive and destructive that it was decided to change the course of the river. A large channel was built west and south of the city and the river diverted. Thank heaven for the sensible town planning which followed. Rather than build car parks or office blocks it was decided to turn the old river bed into a park and “Los Jardines de Turia” are the result.

Pont de la Mar, Jardines de Turia

Scooters… the new skateboard

Everyone who comes to Valencia should, like all of our visitors, either walk or hire bikes and join joggers, skateboarders, strolling families or romantic couples as they make their way around the city from the “Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias” at the southern end to the “Parque de Cabecera to the north west [or the other way of course!].

Water and walkways

As well as enjoying it with our visitors. Mike and I also went there on my actual birthday, starting at the Arts and Sciences end….

….and finishing about half way along where we found another excellent midday menu.

It was a great day out.

So…which hat!

A wedding has just taken place – the bridesmaid is the one in white

Twin fun on the lake

During the various visits, I have taken so many photos of the many bridges along the gardens length, the buildings at the Art/Science complex and the sculpture exhibition that I think I am going to have to create a separate blog post just for them!

Another popular place with visitors has been the seafront. Lots of restaurants, some of them very decorative….

…… line the promenade overlooking the fantastic stretch of beach.

Beautiful sand sculptures too

Surfing and yachting are obviously popular pastimes….

….though our visitors preferred to paddle!










Mike and I cycled along the whole of the promenade….

…on my first birthday present ride. We went about 8k north to Puerto Saplaya,….

…… an artificial marina which isn’t really our preferred style and is, anyway, too shallow for “Owl and Pussycat”. But it certainly made for a good bike ride.

On the way back we found a great bar “Spaghetti and Blues”….

…. to which we returned two weeks later….

Obviously before the first pint…different face from Mike three pints later!

….and no doubt will again.

Talking of marinas and boats, Valencia actually had a Boat Show which happened to coincide with Jack and Christine’s visit.

Although they now have their boat “Mekeia” on the market [in the US], they enjoyed looking and thinking about all the expense they are now spared!!!

And that’s about it…. Except, in the Museum of Wine there was another plaque…..

Literally – “to good eating or to bad eating drink three times”

…which rather encourages drinking. Not that we really need much encouraging but it was certainly fun doing it with all our wonderful guests.

In Plaza del Virgin again….

Best birthday night…thank you Sundowners [especially Anne and Sue]

“Shall we dance”- Sue asks David

“Sorry we were late – but get your restaurant sign right!!!!

Local tapas night…

Marina Sud bar

Supermarkets closed….but John managed to find a bottle….

Great, wonderful, happy times. Thank you everyone.xxxx

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/12/21/60th-birthday-fun-with-friends-in-valencia/

1 comment

    • M&N on December 22, 2017 at 8:45 am
    • Reply

    Super, super, super memories! A birthday not to be forgotten eh! Great images as always Clare ? xx

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