Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Mediterranean Magic (2016)

Onwards to Valencia

I awoke to find Royal Princess docked in a surprisingly hazy-looking Barcelona. The Catalonian capital was also presenting an uncharacteristically smelly image on this occasion, as the cruise terminal was adjacent to a petrochemical complex. The disembarkation process was the smoothest ever, thanks to the intra-Schengen Zone nature of the voyage. In no time at all we were stepping ashore for the last time and boarding a local black-and-yellow 'bumblebee' cab for the short transfer to Sants Station. Once we were safely delivered to where we needed to be, we allowed ourselves the indulgence of a McDonalds breakfast.

Our train to Valencia was old, skanky, uncomfortable and frequently slow. That's not much of an endorsement, but at least it got us to our new destination more or less on time. The city of Valencia (population 809,000) is the capital of the Spanish autonomous community of the same name, and is the third largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona. It is a bilingual city, where both Spanish and Valencian (a version of Catalan) have official status. Founded in Roman times, Valencia is a major Mediterranean port and a commercial and industrial centre, but the city has recently been putting much effort into advancing a range of cultural developments. For both Bruce and me, it was a first-time visit.

On arrival, we had a delightfully short walk from the station, past the bullring to the AC Colón hotel, in bright, balmy sunshine. The hotel exuded a sense of style, and excellent first impressions were formed from the moment we stepped through the front door.

After settling into our new room and briefly familiarising ourselves with the layout of the property, we walked into the nearby Old Town district and quickly found a place to eat. Given the extensive menu, it perhaps seemed a little surprising that we settled on burgers - but they were tasty, well presented burgers, and not mass-produced. Duly refortified, we enjoyed a good walk around the western half of the historic area, the eastern limit of today's explorations being marked by the Plaza de la Reina and the Plaza Ayuntamiento. In so doing, we saw a number of specific sights, including the Torres de Quart city gate, the cathedral and Central Market - but the main point of today's walk was simply to gain an initial feel for our new location. In particular, we wanted to defer a detailed look around the market until Monday, as it was in the process of closing down when we passed by. I found much of the architecture to be stunningly beautiful, especially - as is so often the case - when directing my gaze above street level. I was already confident that this destination was going to be another winner.

Later, we used the hotel bar for cocktails and (reasonably!) light snacks, particularly enjoying the stylish surroundings, the friendly service and the Spanish-style G&Ts!

Evening relaxation in the smart and stylish 'AC Lounge' at Marriott's AC Colón hotel

Saturday 28 May

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