Feb 282013

Walking in ValenciaWalking in Valencia

Yesterday we decided to take a trip to the beautiful city of Valencia to have a walk around the streets and of course to pick up some useful literature from the tourist information office for our guests to use in the coming season. Also on the agenda was to have a look at the famous indoor food and produce market – known as the Central Market or Mercado Central – to see where many of the hotels and restaurants in the city obtain their produce.

Valencia is so easy to visit from our area, and the best option is to drive to Xeraco station – one stop up the line, where there is plenty of free parking – and go by train. A leisurely journey through orange groves and rice fields brings you right into the heart of the city to the central station (confusingly called Valencia Nord!), which is perfectly located for exploring the historic centre of the town – all directly ahead of you as you leave the station. It was not the warmest of days to go walking in Valencia (but it is February after all!), so our first mission was to make our way towards the cathedral and find a nearby coffee shop. Next stop was the tourist information office in Plaza de la Reina, where the helpful staff were happy to supply us with street maps, pamphlets and lots of general literature about the city that would prove useful to any of our guests planning a visit there.

After that we made our way back towards the indoor market in time to have a good look round – not only at the wonderful array of beautifully displayed fresh produce, but also at the exterior of a building that would be an attraction to visit in its own right. The stalls are laid out in wide aisles with plenty of space so there is no crowding, and the range of fresh food that is available is truly amazing – not only for the choice on offer, but also because of the many unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables only rarely seen in conventional shops. There are extensive meat and fish areas too, and the different sections of produce are allocated different areas of the building. It is not a fair comparison to think of this in the same way as a small town market, as the prices here are certainly not as cheap – but the quality and range of what is on offer is in a different league altogether. This is a gourmet market aimed at the truly discerning individual customer, and of course at the hotel and restaurant industry to be found in the city.

Seeing all that food had given us an appetite, so we then set off in search of a local restaurant for a typical lunch – a Menu del Dia. This nearly always represents excellent value for money, and the concept is that you have a three course lunch, with bread and a drink included, at an all inclusive – and usually very reasonable – price. Restaurants normally display the menu outside on a pavement board or similar, which shows the choices available for each course and the price you are charged for the whole thing – no unexpected extras are ever added on to the bill … what you see is what you pay! And even in the more commercialised areas of Valencia you can easily eat like this for anything upwards of €8 per person – not something you will find in many other European countries!

Since our restaurant was located conveniently close to the station it was only a short walk to catch our train home again, after what had been a very pleasant and impromptu visit to this beautiful city. The train departed on time as always, and soon we were back home after a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile day out. And now we can tell our visitors with first-hand knowledge about yet another attraction they should visit in an altogether lovely city!

Feb 232013
Mediterranean Garden Plants

Mediterranean Garden Plants

We recently had the pleasure of having the Theemann family from Germany visit us for a few days. They arrived with their son and daughter as well as one of their daughter’s friends, and we assumed they were here for a few days’ winter sunshine during the break in the school term. They had booked the self-catering apartment for four nights, but as they arrived fairly late in the evening they had also arranged to take advantage of our evening meal service.

During dinner, it transpired that although they certainly were looking forward to a spell of much warmer weather than they had left behind n Germany, the main purpose of their trip was shopping – but not the usual souvenir shopping that many of our guests treat themselves to. Back in Germany, the Theemanns run a garden nursery business with several outlets, and they were here in order to place orders for palm and citrus trees and other Mediterranean Garden Plants for the coming season.

This is an annual undertaking for them – they come to our part of Spain most years for this – and as a result they have contacts and lines of supply already well established over here. They were therefore able to set off on their first morning straight to a supplier near Valencia city where they knew what they would be able to order Mediterranean Garden Plants with no problems. They returned to us in the early afternoon in time for some food shopping and then an evening taking it easy in their apartment.

The following day was time for some proper holiday activity, and so they decided to have an excursion to the inland town of Xativa, where they wanted to explore the narrow streets and quaint squares. The town is dominated by a spectacular castle which gives beautiful views for a huge area all around, so they were able to spend a thoroughly enjoyable day there and also take in Xativa’s weekly market as an added bonus. The next day, though, it was back to the main purpose of the trip and so they went down the coast to Elche – a world famous centre for palm trees – to order not only some palm trees, but also citrus trees and other Mediterranean Garden Plants. They spent the rest of the day sightseeing along the coast, making their way gradually back towards Gandia with the intention of having a family dinner in their self-catering apartment one last time before returning to Germany the next morning.

Since this is an annual trip for the Theemann family, and they loved the location of our villa and the convenience of the self-catering apartment, when they left to catch their return flight from Alicante they said they would certainly be back with us next year. We certainly hope this is the case, as it was a pleasure to have them visit us, and we look forward to welcoming them again on their next Mediterranean Garden Plants buying trip!

Feb 202013

Rural Bed and Breakfast
Rural Bed and Breakfast

We were really pleased to welcome visitors from far away this week – Mike and Sharon Farrell and their family from the United States. They were travelling as a group of six, spanning three generations, and the main purpose of their trip was to visit another family member who was studying in Spain for a semester. The had arrived in Barcelona a few days before travelling to us, and now wanted a couple of days relaxation in a rural Bed and Breakfast before visiting their relative in Alicante.

Having spent time sightseeing in Barcelona, and then more sightseeing on the way down, they finally arrived after dining en route, and were happy to settle in and relax for the rest of the evening. However, they did not want to miss the opportunity to see something of our part of Spain, so took time to plan what they would do the next day. Having heard about the famous Borgia family of the area that gave the world the only two popes of Spanish origin, they wanted to see the nearby town of Xativa, where the family came from, so made a plan to take a rural drive the next day that would include the town as part of their route.

After a leisurely breakfast they set off for the day, driving up over the La Safor mountains to the back of our villa, dropping down to the village of Simat, before then heading inland to Xativa. They had a great day there, exploring the narrow streets and quaint squares, enjoying lunch at a local restaurant and then heading up to the castle that dominates the town and gives breathtaking views over the whole of the surrounding rural area. After that, they decided to spend the evening in Gandia and have dinner there, so made their way back in time for a walk through the historic centre of the town before eating in one of the restaurants in Plaza de Prado – once the site of the traditional market, but now a fashionable and lively square of bars and eating places.

The following day, it was time for the Farrell family to set off for Alicante to visit their relative who was studying there so they left after breakfast in order to meet up in time for lunch and then to check in to their hotel that they had booked at the coast. It had been a genuine pleasure to have them stay with us, and hopefully they enjoy the rest of their all too brief visit to the Costa Blanca.