me-me-me city guide 1: Valencia

The first in a simply stunning series of guides (says us) on where to go and for why.

It's the new Barcelona - only older!

Where is it? What is it? Why is it?
It’s Spain’s third city, down a bit from Barcelona, across a bit from Madrid and a short ferry ride to Ibiza (oh, that got your interest). Muchos neglected by foreign tourist types who’ve been pouring into Barcelona since the 80s, it still feels very Spanish (even though it’s more Catalan, with its own dialect and everything) – so much so, it’s where paella actually comes from! An architect called Calatrava has made it all sexy and new with buildings like this while the locals like a nice late-nite drinkies. And so do we! Perfect match!

Where to stay
It’s called the Palau de la Mar (Sea Palace) and it is – as Tina Turner once waddled – simply the best. A 19th century building gutted of all that old business, and stuffed full of light and gorgeous things, it’s all white with dark brown wood bits and bathroom walls that slide right back so you can be in the bath and still chat to your mate on the bed. The restaurant is one of the best in town.
Palau de la Mar, Navarro Reverter, 14. Tel: 00 34 96 316 28 84

Lovely hotelery What to see
The old town round the Plaza La Reina, with its gothic cathedral, its ‘modernista’ (that’s like art nouveau only Spanish) Central Market, all recently redone and loads of funky little streets and strange market circles is kind of what you expect of Spain. It’s beautiful and clean and dinky and people still actually use those old buildings. What you don’t expect is the City of Arts and Sciences, along the dried-out river bed where the water has been replaced with a park! The city of Arts and Sciences is a complex of cultural stuff, an aquarium, a planetarium, you name it. But most of all, it’s eff-off amazing. Unique. Brilliant. You get the picture? We like it lots.

Yes, it's a building!  

Where to eat
The most wowzer place del momento is called El Alto de Colon, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with colons (Colon is, in fact, Columbus in Spanish) and everything to do with both rinky and dinky. Set in a sort of bridge over the entrance to the newly refurbished Colon Market (no, they don’t sell colons…), it has lovely views on both sides of the skinny little room, while the ceiling is all done out in traditional 19th century Valencian ceramic tiles. Food is fancy with a side order of pantsy, the service immacculate. But for sheer snazzy elegance, with a very contemporary twist, you want Rias Gallegas, a beautiful Gallician restaurant (so lots of fish, not exactly out of place in Valencia) with gorgeous, courteous staff and some great decor touches.   
El Alto de Colon, Mercado de Colon. Tel: 00 34 96 353 09 00
Rias Gallegas, Cirilo Amoros, 4. Tel: 00 34 96 352 51 11

The gazpacho is lovely!


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