Archive for the Ciutat Vella Category

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – St Francesc – Things to See

Posted in Ciutat Vella, Spain, St Francesc, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , on October 25, 2015 by gannet39

Please see the separate post for eating in St Francesc.

Just around the corner from the Hotel Catalonia is the National Ceramics Museum

The alabaster front entrance, done in the florid Rococo style, is just stunning. The eyes of the two male statues either side of the door stare at you piercingly if you view them from immediately below.

The palace was first constructed in the 15th century but was given a Baroque makeover in 1740. I’ve never actually been in to see the ceramics exhibitions, but have made it through the first front door to see the funny little statue of a child sitting on a goose.

Please click on these images to see them in more detail.

Also near the hotel in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is the Art Deco central Post Office or Palau de los Correos. It’s worth popping in for a view of the nice elliptical glass dome but my favourite features are the lion head post boxes outside.20140926_13525320140926_135312

The Plaça de l’Ajuntament is where people also come to view/hear La Mascletà, a deafening barrage of fireworks and crackers, which is held at 2pm each day of the five days of the famous Falles festival. Pyrotechnicians compete for the honour of conducting the final Mascletà on the last day of the festival (March 18th). The mayor gives orders and judges the competition from the viewing balcony of the town hall opposite the display.Spain1a 002

My friend Angie brought me here to experience the truly deafening din in 2014. The square was packed but we still got served easily at one of the bars. I needed a glass of Turia beer to steady my nerves!

20140920_134552There are lots of other nice buildings around this part of town. The old Banco de Valencia on the corner of Career del Pintor Sorolla and Career de Don Juan de Austria is quite impressive. The latter street is a pedestrianised shopping area where you’ll find the ubiquitous but very useful El Corte de Ingles. Lots of other big brand shops can be found in St. Francesc if shopping is your thing.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – St Francesc – Places to Eat

Posted in Ciutat Vella, Spain, St Francesc, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags on October 25, 2015 by gannet39

San Francesc is one of six barrios in the Ciutat Vella (old town). It’s very centrally located, and is quite a safe area, which is why my employer likes to have us stay here.

I’ve organised this post and all the others on Valencia on a barrio by barrio basis. To help you understand where all the neighbourhoods are, here’s a map of the barrios, and my Google map of Valencia. Please see the previous post for Things to See in St Francesc.

My employer invariably uses the Hotel Catalonia Excelsior (lovely staff, average rooms, ok breakfast). It’s next to a small and very pleasant square where you can sit and drink outside, although the bars there are quite expensive.

However this inexpensive place has good food is just a stone’s throw away too, just what my colleagues need after a hard days graft…

La Utielana(Intermediate B+), The official address is Piazza Picadero de Dos Aguas 3 (between Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas and the next door church) but coming from the hotel it’s easier to use the backdoor on Calle Sam Andres 4. Tel. 963 52 9414 utielana.restaurantesok.com

A bit hard to find the first time you go but well worth the effort. Plain and simple tiled decor, friendly and plump staff (definitely a good sign) and very popular, so get there at 8 to avoid disappointment. The cooking is not haute cuisine by any means but homey comfort food, the kinds of things a Spanish granny would cook.

For me, a very satisfying dish to start with is a bowl of murky Lentejas (lentil soup)(B+). For the main you can’t go wrong with the house speciality of Cordero al Horno (roast lamb) with chips and gravy (B+). They also have Platos Especiales del Dia (daily specials) which are usually classics like Cocido or Fiduea. Feeling daring one night I tried the sheep’s brains but once was enough!(C). The Rinones al Jerez are a bit grim too (C) but it’s all very cheap so I gave them a whirl. The house red (Cabellana) is dirt cheap but drinkability seems to vary by the bottle (C/D). You may want to fork out a bit more for something better. For afters I’d suggest some Frutta de Tiempo (grapes in a plastic cup?) or perhaps the Natillas (custard) or Flan (all B) and a glass of the wonderful local Moscatel (A). Total cost will probably come to around 20 euros which is dirt cheap in comparison to elsewhere. It’s all perfectly fine, just make sure you order the right things.

For something a bit different…

Vuelva Catalina (Intermediate B), 8 Career de Correos, www.vuelvecarolina.com

This is a good place to come and eat modern Spanish tapas. It’s the second tapas bar from famous chef Quique Dacosta who also owns Mercatbar (see Eixample – Gran Via post). I like it but sometimes I think form takes precedence over flavour. Still it makes for a change. Although very busy at other times, there weren’t many customers on the Monday I went. The MD was very nice and spoke English though other staff members didn’t really, not that they should have to. I was just feeling rusty as it was my first day in Spain for a while.

On arrival I received some rather dry bread (C) and cream cheese (B). The ‘Yogur’ de Foie Gras y Frutas Secas, sealed in a glass jar, was different but not amazing (B). The Cebollita Roja com Emulsion de Anguilla, red-stained onion with a dollop of eel emulsion in the middle were visually very attractive and had a fair bit of flavour (B+). Next the Sushi with mango and lemon wasabi mayo was a winner (B+). However the Calderoso was tasteless and had strange crunchy bits which I didn’t appreciate (C). I wasn’t really impressed with any of the wines the sommelier suggested to accompany the first courses. The introductory cava (C+) and the following white (C) had no flavour although the Bobal red was okay (B-). To finish, the almond ice cream (A) and the sponge (B) went well together (A). Final glasses of Madeira (B) and Hierbas (B) sent me home pretty happy.

El Poblet (Advanced B ), 8 Career de Correos (immediately above Vuelva Catalina), www.elpobletrestaurante.com

I came here for lunch to celebrate my 48th birthday with my good friend Nicky. It’s generally seen as one of the best restaurants in town, the kind of place where ladies get a little pillow to put their bag on! It’s the third and poshest establishment in Quique Dacosta’s small group of restaurants, along with Mercatbar and Vuelva Catalina.

We had the ‘Grace Kelly’ tasting menu of six dishes for €38. This began with Cebollita Roja com Emulsion de Anguilla, the same red onion with eel emulsion that I’d had downstairs some days before (B+). And continued with Parmesano con velo de albahacas ,parmesan with a ‘veil’ of basil (B). an oyster served with roe and a soya based sauce (A) , a deepfried cracker with minuscule prawns reminiscent of Cadiz’s Tortas de Camarones (B+), Cubalibre de Foie (a larger version than I’d had at Mercatbar and way too big (B) , La Gallina de los Huevos de Oro, an egg cooked in chicken broth with some gold foil which seemed pretty pointless (C) , Fideua Negra con Ajetes y Aire de All I Oli (short noodles cooked in squid ink and served with a foam of allioli, give me the real stuff anyday (B).

To finish, Helado de Alemendras (almond ice cream with I think lavender ice cream as well (B-) and a few not particularly nice complimentary chocs and sweets to finish (C+). The bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and glasses of sweet Dolc de Mendoza were okay (B). It was all pretty good value really, and visually very appealing but the flavours weren’t there for me. I’d advise people to go to Ricard Camarena’s restaurant in Ruzafa for a better fine dining experience.

Casa Mundo (Elementary B) at Carrer Juan de Austria, a pedestrian street in front of El Corte Ingles.

Described by some as a ‘classic’ Valencian tapas bar it’s quite run down and there’s not much of an atmosphere. However it’s justifiably well-known for its fried squid which, with a caña, cost me €6.20 in 2008. It’s not a place to spend much time but it’s handy for the hotel and the squid is good.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Mercat – La Lonja

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Mercat, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 14, 2015 by gannet39

Just over the road from Mercado Central is another favourite building of mine. La Lonja, or in Valenciano La Llotja de la Seda, (the Silk Exchange market) was built in 1482 and is a UNESCO world heritage building. Click on the photos to get a better view.

 

I love the gargoyles and chimeras that run in arched columns around the doorways and adorn the window lintels. Some of them are quite cheeky!

 

In the main hall, with it’s forest of twisted columns, is the entrance to the tower. Debtors were kept here as punishment which must have been purgatory during the hot Valencian summers.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Mercat

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Mercat, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , on October 14, 2015 by gannet39

Around La Lonja and Mercado Central in the barrio of El Mercat are a few other nice buildings, including some old churches.

For food, Tasca Angel (Elementary B+) at 1 Carrer de la Puríssima, is a classic (since 1946) stand-up tapas bar just around the corner from La Lonja. It’s a tiny place and always full to bursting, so they appreciate it if you keep reusing your glasses. We tried the All i Pebre (chunks of eel in a garlic and pepper sauce) and while it was a good example of this dish, I’m still not a fan of eel (B-). The sardines and brochettes here are good though.

The famous La Pilareta aka Bar Pilar (Intermediate B+) at 13 Calle del Moro Zeit, is considered by many to be the best place in town to have Clochinas (Valencian Mussels). Clochinas are smaller and more yellow in colour than normal mussels and have more flavour. Both are on the menu so you can compare. I had them ‘al Vapor’ (steamed and served in a broth of, I think, garlic, bay leaves. black pepper and paprika) and they were great (B+). The Calamari, fried in a very delicate batter were excellent as well, some of the best I’ve ever had (A). The old chap in the pictures is showing us the gas powered machine that was used to refrigerate food in the old days.

There are a few quirky shops around here too. For modern and very cool clothes I really like Bugalu at 6 Carrer de la Llotja. Original CV at Plaza del Mercado is a good place to buy local products to take home.

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Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Mercat – Mercado Central

Posted in El Mercat, Spain, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 14, 2015 by gannet39

To the west of La Seu in the old town is the barrio of El Mercat where, not surprisingly, you’ll find the world-famous covered Mercado Central, Valencia’s principle market.

It was constructed in 1914 by Francesc Guàrdia i Vial and Alexandre Soler in the Modernism style, and is adorned with brightly coloured ceramics and mosaics. My favourite bit is the cockatoo on the top of the central dome.

It’s one of the oldest and largest working markets in Europe and houses four hundred traders in two areas, one for fish and one for all other food stuffs. You can buy a kilo of tangerines for a euro here, or get a warm empanada from the bakeries. However I only come here to eat at…

Central Bar (Elementary A+), Plaza Ciudad de Brujas (towards the back of the market) www.centralbar.es

This was once a run of the mill market bar but has now been taken over by my favourite Valencian chef Ricard Camarena whose other two establishments I have raved about in my Ruzafa post. It’s very popular and people often queue by standing behind the bar stools waiting for the person sitting to finish eating. I’ve even seen people tag team a space by taking turns eating half of a dish each. The lesson is, go just before or towards the end of normal lunch hours to get a seat, bearing in mind the market closes at 3pm.

The food is fantastic as you’d imagine with so many quality local ingredients close at hand. I didn’t take notes but it was all A or A+. The bocadillo in the picture is called ‘El Canella’ and is made with morcilla, scrambled egg and pickled green peppers. I remember reading it once won European sandwich of the year although I can’t find any reference to such an award.

If you’re lucky you’ll be served by the lovely Isabel, the hostess with the mostest.

More on El Mercat in the next two posts.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Seu – Stuff to See

Posted in La Seu, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , on October 13, 2015 by gannet39

As mentioned in the previous post, the most central point in La Seu is Placa de la Mare de Deu from which runs Carrer dels Cavallers, the main street in the old town. There are a few quirky statues and buildings at the square end of Cavallers.

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The Catedral de Valencia is to the south of the Placa de la Mare de Deu. Not exactly a beauty to begin with (it was built in haste when the Christians reclaimed the territory from the Moors), over the years the cathedral has been altered and messed about no end. It has two entrances, a Romanesque one at the rear which I prefer (first picture) and the main door in Plaza de la Reina which is done in an incongruous Baroque style (third picture).

The cathedral is the home of one of the contenders for the Holy Grail, in this case a first century stone chalice supposedly used at the last supper and subsequently by many popes. You can pay to go and see it but as I’m not one for religious trickery I just put my head inside for a peep at the Gothic arches inside the cathedral and then walked on.

20140924_182104In Placa de Lope de Vega, adjoining Placa de Santa Caterina, you can see what is billed as the narrowest house in Europe. You have to look carefully (it’s the red stripe in the centre of the picture) as it’s only the width of a door, and there are one or two other contenders in the square.

I’ve heard a couple of explanations as to why it was built this way, one being that it was due to a father dividing land between his sons, and another that it was a way of paying less tax. Apparently the building widens out once your inside which it would have to really or else what would be the point of living in a house you couldn’t move around in!

At 4-6 Calle del Muro de Sta Ana, you will find La Casa De Los Dulces, Valencia’s oldest sweet shop with spectacular displays of bonbons and lollipops.
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Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Seu – Eating and Drinking

Posted in Ciutat Vella, La Seu, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , on October 13, 2015 by gannet39

La Seu is the most central barrio in the old town, between El Carme and La Xerea. It’s central point is Placa de la Mare de Deu from which runs Carrer dels Cavallers, the main street in the old town which is thronged with tapas bar.

This post is about eating and drinking, see the next one for stuff to see in the area, and the previous one for drinking horchata.

La Salvaora (Advanced A), 19 Carrer de Calatrava, www.lasalvaora.com

I celebrated my birthday here in September 2014 with my friends Angeles, Juan, Karen and Nicky but I can’t recall much about it! Five of us had the tasting menu which consisted of Braised White Asparagus with a Vinaigrette of Cherries, Tuna Tartar with Ginger and Peach, Turbot Stuffed with Aubergine in a Veloute of Langoustines, Confit of Iberico Pork with Mash and to finish, Yogurt with White Chocolate Cream, Tonka Beans and Red Fruits. All I remember about the food is that it was all very good!

Just a stones throw away from La Salvaora is the lovely Placa de Negret which is full of bars where you can sit outside. The most famous bar here is Cafe Negrito but it’s probably easier to get a seat at one of the other bars at busy times.

La Lola (Intermediate B), 8 Calle de la Subida del Toledano, Tel. 963 018 045 www.lalolarestaurante.com

You’ll find this friendly modern restaurant down a small back street next to the cathedral. I first came here on a warm evening in June 2012 at the suggestion of my dear old friend Angeles, a local lass.

Although I’d been aware of the restaurant before, I’d mentally put myself off going because their greeters hustle for custom on the street; generally a turn off for me because it smacks of desperation. I realise now this was a little unfair because the food was absolutely fine (including the very reasonably priced set menu), it’s more that the place is a little hard to find.

In terms of the food, the Salmorejo was very tasty (A) and the attractive looking Goats Cheese starter was nice as well (B), as was the Bacalao with sauteed vegetables (B+). I can’t remember what we drank due to the fact I hadn’t seen Angie for about 5 years and we were having a good old chat! I remember it as a good place though, somewhere I’d definitely go back to.

Which I did in 2014 with Angie and her other half, Juan. Again the food was nicely presented and original but occasionally a bit hit and miss in terms of flavour. However I remember really liking the Meloso (wet paella) with snails, quail and mushrooms. Juan selected an excellent Merlot from Penedes to go with it.

Cafe de Las Horas (Intermediate A), 1 Carrer del Comte d’Almodóvar, www.cafedelashoras.com

The city’s favourite cocktail is called Agua de Valencia which is made from gin, vodka, fresh orange juice and cava or champagne. This beautiful bar, decorated in a Baroque style, is one of the best places to try it. Definitely a good place to start a night on the town.

Las Cuevas (Intermediate A), Technically at 8 Carrer del Comte d’Almodóvar but actually in Placa des Cisneros

‘The Caves’ are just around the corner from Cafe de las Horas. This famous tapas bar gets its name from the three low-ceilinged rooms inside but there’s an outdoor area where if you can sit out in the sun.

Cava Siglos (Intermediate B), 12 Carrer dels Cavallers, www.cavasiglos.com

Siglos bar on cavallersA young and trendy cava bar on the main drag. I tried it on a quiet evening and quite enjoyed the ‘tapas de mercado’, which in my case were canapes of morcilla and cured ham with camembert (A).

One activity I thoroughly recommend is going on a tapas tour, especially if you’re on your own as I often am. My research led me to www.toursinvalencia.com which is run by Suzie Añon y García who is a certified tour guide. She does many different kinds of tours but I chose the eating tour in La Seu.

A gang of eight of us (including four Londoners and two Swiss) went to three bars: La Huerta Santa Catalina, Blanquita and Tasca el Botijo, none of which were particularly historical or famous, they were just good ordinary tapas bars. The food was good and very reasonable (€30 with three drinks) and it was nice to meet some new people.

The highlight of the evening was drinking from a Porron, a wine jug with a pointed spout that you hold high above your head while pouring the wine into your mouth. No mean feat, hence the bib!

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