We have a foster dog living with us now. In terms of size and appearance, Snatch is the epitome of what dog haters hate, namely huge and hairy, which makes taking a roadtrip with him a bit challenging. First of all, we had to abandon our original plan of taking the RENFE entirely, as they do not accept non-service animals aboard. Secondly, I have never been blatantly ignored by so many hosts who boast high response rates on Airbnb, after sending out messages that began with, “Hi, we’re a couple traveling with our German Shepherd mix…” It all worked out in the end, when one host kindly responded that they do welcome a well behaved dog (Snatch, don’t fck this one up) and we were able to rent a car for 3 days for roughly 60 euros.
From Barcelona, it takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to drive down to Valencia. If you want to avoid the 30 something euro toll (each way), it can take more than 4.5 hours to get there. We stopped by a beach town called Peñíscola on the way for lunch. The sides of the main road are littered by grimey looking motels that cops tend to break into in B movies. It seems to be a popular weekend getaway for Catalans, like Atlantic City for Jersey folks. Not impressed.
After getting hopelessly lost trying to navigate our way to the Airbnb with a dying phone, we finally arrived at a little patch of farm land right by the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias (a compound of science and art museums which also doubles as a posh party spot in the evenings apparently) that seemed to have defied the expansion of the city. Our host kindly showed us in, and to our surprise, we were given an entire 3 bedroom apartment for 44 euros a night. Best.Deal.Ever!
We enjoyed some wine, cheese, jamón, and bread bought from a nearby Carrefour and called it a night.
The next day, we ate lunch at La Matandeta, a paella restaurant situated roughly 15 minutes outside of the city that a coworker recommended. The setting was cute, food was tasty, and on top of it all, it was very reasonably priced. I especially enjoyed the all i pebre, a traditional Valencian eel and potato dish. We tied Snatch to a tree as he was not allowed in the dining area. All of a sudden, he literally jumped 3 feet in the air. I walked over, and saw a live SHRIMP in the bushes. The waitress explained that crawfish hang around because of the rice fields nearby. Now I’ve seen everything.
We finally ventured into the city center of Valencia in the late afternoon. The city itself is less than amazing. The buildings are far less interesting than the ones in Barcelona. However, street arts liberally scattered throughout the city and some of them were quite impressive. This one in particular reminded me of Shishio from Kenshin.
We visited Orxata Daniel, a very happening dessert spot in the neighborhood of Alboraya, in the afternoon. We ordered some fartons, or sweet bread, with our drinks. As a dessert, farton is the definition of anti-climactic. It is not even as tasty as King’s Hawaiian sweet roll, an underrated fluffy bread that comes in an orange bag. Orxata is the nectar of the gods though. I could drink it all day.
Valencia is a city that paradoxically has the slightly sullen look of a declining city yet has a lot of modern buildings that seemed to have been built within the last few years. It’s like they were setting up for a really big party but the guests never showed up. Perhaps a day trip to Valencia for some paella and orxata would be more than enough.
On our way back to Barcelona, we made a detour to Montanejos, the home to Valencian hot springs. To much of our disappointment, it was more like a “not very cold spring” as opposed to a hot spring, and there was a ton of people including screaming kids and store-bought-sangria chugging tourists. Credit should be given to the cleanliness of the people in the area though. Despite the crowd, the whole area was virtually garbage free, and the water was pristine with schools of fish clearly visible and unalarmed by the massive number of children terrorizing their habitat.
We stopped by two other small villages: Segorbe and Onda. Segorbe was a mess because the villagers were celebrating the closing of an event where they ran some bulls which I suppose were tormented with methods according to the specific traditions of this particular village. The whole dirt covered road smelled like dung and Spanish flags flew proudly in rows off of balconies. We moved on to Onda, a sleepy little town, with a castle and some nice old buildings, where we quietly sipped some coffee and mentally prepared the end to our 3 day weekend. Snatch looked beat, squinting his eyes and nodding off, but I think he was happy that we let him tag along.