Part of the fun of traveling is exploring the destination and tasting its
cuisine, and this was certainly the case when I traveled to Valencia.  I
spent time exploring lots of interesting neighborhoods, discovering great food
and drinks along the way.

Barrio del Carmen is a funky little area in the heart of Valencia where
students and artists tend to gather. During the day, it was fun to wander
around, popping into an art gallery here or a cute little clothing boutique
there.  But at night things liven up as the bars open and everyone gathers
to eat, drink and be merry.  A favorite place for locals to get a drink is
Cafe Sant Jaume, where I first sampled Valencia’s signature cocktail, Aqua de
Photo credit:
This little number is made with cava, orange juice and vodka, and if
this is the “water of Valencia”, it totally explains why the people of
Valencia are so happy. That and all that gorgeous sunshine.  And there’s
no better place to soak up the sun then on one of Valencia’s beaches, like
Playa Malvarrosa
, with its 7 kilometer long promenade, numerous restaurants,
parks, gardens, live music and museums.

The beach, it turns out, is also a great place to enjoy Valencia’s most
famous dish, paella. It is traditional that on Sunday, locals pack up the
family and the ingredients they picked up in the Mercado Central on Saturday
morning for paella and go to the beach.  While the women and children
entertain themselves, the men cook paella over an open fire.
Since Mr. Man  wasn’t with me to whip up a pan of the city’s signature
dish, I headed to the famous La Pepica for Sunday lunch.  For more than a
century, La Pepica has been a favorite of Valencians and tourists, most
famously, Ernest Hemingway who notes in The Dangerous Summer

“…Pepica’s was wonderful. It was a big, clean, open-air place and
everything was cooked in plain sight…and the seafood and the Valencian rice
dishes were the best on the beach.”

I arrived at La Pepica at 1:30 and things were pretty calm. However, by
2:00, the restaurant was packed and people were being turned away.  When
it comes to Sunday lunch in Valencia, the early bird most definitely catches
the worm. Or should I say, the eel, since Valencian paella was originally made
with eels from Albufera, Valencia’s saltwater lagoon. I bucked tradition in
this case, however, and chose the seafood version sans eel. This picky,
unadventurous eater  has her limits.
A picture of paella from La Pepica. The waiter served a spoonful before I snapped the photo.

I’m always happy to find the good shopping area, and Ensanche didn’t disappoint, with its glam shopping street, Calle Colon. The Horchatería Chocolatería Restaurante Santa Catalina is also in this neighborhood, and I stopped in to try an ice-cold horchata, the almond milk drink beloved by locals, and the decadently delightful churros and hot chocolate.

All I have to say is thank goodness this place was across from a church, because the churros and hot chocolate were absolutely sinful.
In addition to the traditional paella, horchata and churros and hot chocolate, I also had a chance to try some of Valencia’s more modern cuisine, which I wrote about here.
Running was on the menu, as well. All if that eating couldn’t go unchecked, could it?