Valencia, Spain (cont’d)

On our second day in Valencia, we decided to focus a bit more on exploring the sights and less on eating (of course, we ultimately ended up doing way too much of both!). To start off, we wanted to visit the item Valencia is best known for: the City of Arts and Sciences. To get there, we had to navigate Valencia’s bus system (pro tip: Google maps really has no idea what is going on).

Set towards the east side of Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences is a huge complex with very futuristic architecture. Unsurprisingly, it includes spaces dedicated to the arts (museum and performance space) and sciences (museum and conference space). While we didn’t go inside the buildings, we did enjoy seeing the sights throughout the complex.

After visiting the City of Arts and Sciences, we wandered back through the city, ultimately ending up in the Ruzafa neighborhood.

We visited the Ruzafa market, which was similar to the old market in central Valencia (and slightly less exciting, if I’m honest).

For lunch, we had reservations to try paella at Casa Roberto, an old-school establishment specializing in paella of all types. When you make a reservation, you tell them what your preference is (i.e., seafood paella vs. other types). To start, we ordered grilled squid; we also ordered sangria and a delicious seafood paella.

After lunch, we decided to visit a couple museums and to finish seeing the sights, meandering through Valencia’s tree-lined streets on the way.

First up was the Ceramics Museum, which we had passed the day before. The building includes a variety of ceramics and collected historical goods, from tiles to kitchenware to upholstered furniture.

I especially loved the architecture of the building, which has an amazing interior as well as exterior.

After the Ceramics Museum, we headed towards Valencia’s famous cathedrals – the Valencia Cathedral and the San Nicolás Cathedral, which are both located at the north of the city.

We stopped first at the Valencia Cathedral, which has taken a variety of uses over the years. It’s a bit of a stark building, although it does include a pretty interesting museum with church artifacts (paintings, sculptures) as well as access to archeological sites (including skeletons found on the property, which was a shock we weren’t initially expecting).

We paid slightly more to to see the more formal side of the cathedral and the museum, which offered some good views.

After the Valencia Cathedral, we headed for the San Nicolás Cathedral (according to one person, it’s the “Sistine Chapel” of Valencia). Along the way, we walked through some beautiful squares (although, as we got closer, it was clear that San Nicolás is located well within the hyper-tourist district of Valencia).

The Cathedral did not disappoint, with incredibly ornate detail on the ceiling.

From San Nicolás, we headed back to our hotel to quickly pack before dinner. We briefly stopped to see if we could try bunuelos (a Valencia-style donut), and ended up grabbing a horchata (a drink that originated in Valencia) instead. From there, we enjoyed walking back past Santos Juanes church on our way to the hotel.

For dinner that evening, we wanted to see what Valencia’s gourmet scene had to offer. We had made reservations at Riff, a Michelin-star restaurant in an austere space. We signed up for the 7-course tasting menu, which (of course) ended up including about 11 plates between the pre-meal starters and the included post-meal desserts.

Before the meal, we had the pleasure of meeting the chef, who chatted with us a bit about the concept and Michelin-star restaurants in Chicago (sadly, we didn’t initially realize the name of Alinea’s chef, so there was a bit of an awkward interaction when we appeared to have never have heard of Chicago’s only 3 Michelin star restaurant). Despite that, we proceeded to enjoy the meal whole-heartedly. The food was incredible, with a variety of flavors, textures and plays on common dishes. The wine pairings were also incredibly good.

After that, it was back to the hotel for a sadly short night of sleep before proceeding to the Valencia airport (not very) bright and early for our flight home.

Overall, it was an amazing trip. Travel is such a privilege, and I could not be more thankful to have had the opportunity to explore so many new things after a year and a half of effectively being stuck at home.

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