On September 2003 I went to Valencia
(Spain) with my wife. We don't like arranged travels and we
prefer to travel on our own, because we think is the only way you can get in touch with
the real country and its people. This way of travelling is harder and more expensive than
others, but also more pleasant, relaxing and, that's the best, gives you a different point
of view on the culture and way of life.
After my experience here you have my advice if you
plan to travel on your own to Valencia and Cuenca. You have to understand that
this is MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW and that it is not my intention to
criticize the people or culture of Valencia / Cuenca. You also must take into
account that these observations are from year 2003. Things might have
changed (either in the right or in the wrong way) since then.
Click on the links on the map to see some
photos of the area in my photo album.
The main idea of this journey was to visit the City
of Arts and Sciencies of
but in order to complete the journey we also spent some additional rest days
in Cuenca, which I hadn't visited since I was a teenager.
When we got to Valencia's airport we picked up the car from
"Europa Rent a Car" that we had ordered in advance by Internet at Amigos
Ordering it in this way the price was really excellent and we didn't
have any trouble.
We stayed three days in Valencia , hosted at "Encarnin's house" (Aunt
of Trini, my wife), so I can't give any reference regarding hotels.
The first two days were spent visiting the City
of Arts and Sciencies.
The first day fully dedicated to l'Oceanografic ,
with its excelent installations and impresive aquarium, without
forgeting its refined (and expensive) submarine restaurant (Restaurante Submarino) .
The second day we visited the Museum of Sciencies
(specially interesting if you go with children, but little attractive for
(That holds a planetarium and an IMAX cinema).
In spite of the relative disappointment with both the museum and the
cinema, the truth is that it's worth going even only for seeing the
absolutely impressive arquitectureof the buldings of the Museum, l'Hemisferic, l'Umbracle and the Palace
of Arts (Still not finished at that time)
On the third day we visited the city of Valencia
Leaded by "tia Encarnin" we visited the most typical areas of the
old town, from which the most interesting for me was (because of its
olds-times charm) the Plaza Redonda (Round square). Although other places as
the Palace of thel Marquis of Dos Aguas (Where the Museum of Ceramics is
located) the Lonja de la Seda, the Central Market or the Cathedral (with
it's famous tower know as El Miguelete") are also worth the visit by
At dinner time, and because of me insisting to taste a good Arroz a la
Cazuela (a dish with rice, pork chops, potatoes, etc.), we were taken to the
restaurant La Riu?,
specialized in rice dishes (In Valencia there are many dishes with rice,
apart from the well known "paella")
At the evening and in order to recover from the hike we went to the famous Horchater?
in Alboraya (The bus stops just in front of the entrance) to try their well
known cold "horchata" (tiger nut milk) and "fartones" (A
typical cake of Valencia)
The following day we left towards Cuenca, with the idea of stoping in Villanueva de la Jara
and in Alarc?. Villanueva de la Jara
is a nice village with a beautiful square of renaissance style, that it's
worth a walk by its streets.
Stoping at Alarc?
is also a must. You can walk along the streets of this small village,
declared historical-artistical monument, in little time, and the visit of
the Castle (currenly holding a hotel of Paradores Nacionales) is a good
pretext to begin geting used to the regional gastronomy, at the excellent
restaurant of the "Parador"
(located in a room of the own castle), where you can begin with some
"Patatas Viajeras" and end with any regional delight.
Next stop was the own city of Cuenca. There we stayed at the
(Convent of San Pablo), altough the first night we had to sleep at the Hotel Torremangana ,
because the Parador was full. The option of the Parador Nacional is
certainly not cheap, but its exceptional location (at a few minutes
walk of the center of the town, but away from noise at the same time) its historical
nature (it's a building of the XVI century) and the incredible view
over the river Huecar and the Casas Colgadas, are worth the money.
The itinerary by the city of Cuenca
took us, from the Parador, crossing the river Huecar by the iron bridge, to
the well known Casas
Colgadas (hung houses) and from there to the close Plaza Mayor (main square),
start point of all tours by the old town.. What I particularly liked
the most was walking up to the Castle's neighborhood, which provides and
excellent view of the city and the rivers Jucar and Huecar (which
La Cathedral (with its particular main front, result of multiple
rebuildings along the years) is also worth a visit, together with a
visit to its museum.
At the Plaza Mayor you can eat at the restaurant with that same name
(Plaza Mayor) .
A roast lamb or pig are good for helping the body after the walk.
The two following days, in order to rest a little, were dedicated to visit
by car the Sierra de Cuenca
with the pleasant surprise of finding it as virgin as when I was
there in the 70's for camping.
The tour of the first day took as by the north of the "sierra",
passing by Priego,
Solan de Cabras and Beteta
(with its fantastic forests of conifers with yellow spots of deciduous
trees), by the spring of river Cuervo
and then to
Poyatos and Las Majadas along narrow and solitaire roads crossing the
forest, where it's still frecuent to watch deers and wild boars. A very
advisable tour for relaxing and enjoying the spectacle of nature. In
this last part of the itinerary there are not many restaurants or gas
stations, so keep this in mind when making your plans, and don't do
as someone I know who was just about to end the route by foot ;-)
A place I can recomend, although it means a deviation of some Km.
is Vega de Codorno, curious village made up of multiple
"neighborhoods" (barrios) aligned along the road and each with
only a few houses. In the Barrio de los Eustaquios you will find the Pension-Restaurant El Chopo
where for a very little money you can eat an abundant and home-made menu (Artatunos, Morteruelo,
Roast lamb, Stew of deer...) in a familiar atmosphere.
The second day by the Sierra took us to the Ciudad Encantada
(a must when travelling to Cuenca) and by the road that goes parallel
to the river Jucar towards Tragacete, one of the most important villages
in the mountains of Cuenca, where you can stop at the restaurant El Gamo
to taste a Sopa Castellana and a Cochinillo[Roast pig] (for instance...).
FORGET the big restaurant//bar
in front of the entrance of the Ciudad Encantada (across the road), is
expensive and the attention of the waiters is far beyond what one can expect
from a touristic business.
In the middle of the mountains of Cuenca there is a National Nature
Reserve (Parque del Hosquillo), where it's possible to watch many wild
animals (even bears, if you are very lucky), but to our dissapoinment you
require a previous authorization to enter it, what we didn't know till
the last minute and so we missed this visit.
We had a relaxed return to Valencia, passing by the
Torcas de los Palancares
(Impressive collapses of the terrain dude to underground caves, some
of them filled by water) and stoping at the ruins of the medieval city of Moya
Specially interesting for the inveterated romantics and amongst which
multiple buildings covered by the vegetation it wouldn't surprise to meet
the soul of Lord Byron passing by.