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With the new high-speed rail line connecting the Spanish capital Madrid to the Coastal city of Valencia it has never been easier to include Valencia on your tour of Spain. The first train leaves Madrid’s Atocha station at 7:10 am and then another at 7:40 am after that they are roughly every hour throughout the day. The journey time takes a little over ninety minutes where you will arrive in Valencia‘s Estación del Norte, which will be your first treat while in Valencia.
Built in the Modernist-stye, the Spanish version of what we would call Art Nouveau between 1906 and 1917 the interior is covered in tiny mosaic tiles depicting oranges and flowers, and with its brass clocks you can imagine that you are in an Agatha Christie novel having just gotten off the Orient Express, rather than one of the fastest trains in the world.
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The location of the station is also perfect right in the middle of everything a tourist would want to see while in Valencia, there are many hotels and dozens of City Centre Valencia apartments that would make it an ideal holiday home location.
On stepping out of the station immediately to your left is the Bull Ring which apart from a small Bullfighting museum is closed, with Bull fights only in March, and July. Walk straight across the Avenida and turn to your left where you will come into the main square of Valencia the Plaza Ayuntamiento, which in English just translates to the town hall. This is where during the Fiestas and News Year’s Eve the people of the city congregate. On seeing the square for the first time with its lovely buildings palm trees and fountain you could be forgiven for thinking that you are in Buenos Aires as the two city’s share a similar style of Neo-classical and eclectic architecture.
Walk around the square past the Post Office until you come to C/ San Vincente Martir; follow this road until you come to the Plaza del la Reina which is probably the busiest place in Valencia. You will know you are there because you will see the horse and carriages around the Central Green Park area. This square is the location of Valencia’s cathedral built in 1262 on the site of the Moor mosque of Balansiya.
Valencia’s Cathedral has undergone many changes over the century’s and is a must see while in Valencia. It is also the home of the Holy Grail being given to the cathedral by King Alfonso V of Aragon in 1436. It is on display for you to see as you visit behind a thick glass wall. For me however the highlight of my visit was a painting by Goya depicting a man on his deathbed renouncing religion to St. Francis, it is also the first time that demons appear in a Goya painting.
A little tip for you here is that on my visit there were a couple of not badly dressed old men standing outside holding cups for people to put money in, so seeing as we were going into a church I assumed it was for a donation. Well, I was wrong it turns out they were beggars, which meant I had to fork out another 4€ for the admission. Also, rent the headphones the audio tape explains all of the history and art work.
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Now! I love Tapas, and there is nowhere better than Sagardi which is on the road you just walked up to get to the Cathedral. Sagardi started in Basque country where cider is very popular, along with pintxos which are small open topped sandwiches, and with over 80 varieties to choose from everyone is bound to find something they like.
To order you just go up to the bar and help yourself to the ones you want, and when it comes time to pay the staff add up the number of toothpicks left on your plate.
A word of warning here though is these tapas are very good, and you could easily eat five or six so it is worthwhile to know that they cost 2€ each. For a cheaper lunch head away from the tourist areas just a couple of blocks down a side street and you can have a three-course menu del Dia for 10€.