Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Barcelona – Day 1

Tuesday, May 5: Barcelona Day 1

We are off for five days in Barcelona, a part of this trip that I have been awaiting with great anticipation. We used all sorts of transportation today- a local Valencia city bus to get to the train station; a Renfe train for the three hoimageur ride to the Sants Train station in Barcelona; a local Rodalies train took us so near to our hotel (for free) that we could walk there; and later in the day, after being out and about, a taxi to get us back to Hostal Grau.

Before leaving the Sants train station, we bought our timed entry passes for two Gaudi houses, La Pedrara and Palau Guéll, as well as a museum pass for entry into possibly six museums.

We settled into Hostal Grau at Remeller 28, an environmentally awarded hotel, situated in The Raval district a short walk through old, narrow, but with active and busy character, streets to The Ramblas. The Ramblas is a wide walkway through a touristy, but “interesting in its own way” part of town.

We have our first timed pass at 4PM to tour Palau Guéll so we headed down The Ramblas to find some midday food and happened across the central market place, The Boquería Mercat. We took in all the delicious choices as we walked through it, like kabobs of chocolate covered strawberries. I bet you can’t eat just one!

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Seafood!

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Fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts!

imageWe settled at one tapas bar for a plate of patates bravas (fried potatoes with mild salsa and mayonaise) and a plate of chorizo sausages, along with two beers.

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Most locals order several courses of this type of food along with seafood like octopus, squid, mussels….hmmm. We are not fond of such a wide variety of seafood as we find here, but many are.

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Then, we headed off, on foot, to visit our first Antoni Gaudi site, a home he designed and built for a client. It is called Palau Guéll. The rooftop chimney covers are the best part of this site, predictive of his further works.

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After the tour, we walked The Ramblas from the Plaça Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Statue. Columbus landed here after the voyage where he discovered North America. He is highly honored here, but Barcelona faced a downturn in their economy for decades as ships detoured past the port of Barcelona on their way to the Americas.

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Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

A Garden and some Tapas…

Wednesday, April 28, 2015

We took the #90 bus from Centelles/Suaco bus stop to the stop just past La Jardin de Turìa (riverbed) Then we walked along the pathway in La Jardin until we reached the Jardi Botanic. We enjoyed the quiet, shaded, well-maintained areas. I especially enjoyed the succulents- the yuccas, prickley pears and the cacti, many of which were blooming. I’ll limit myself to posting just three pictures as I took far too many.

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Then we walked through the ancient towers and wall, into the old city and met up with Al and Ingrid at Reina Plaça for a delicious mid-day meal at La Commissaria, hidden deep in the old narrow streets behind the Cathedral.

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One of our host’s sons, Joel, works there. It came highly recommended by them and it didn’t disappoint. We had three starters to share: shrimp in a pop-crunchy rice coating, empenadas, and pot-sticker-like Asian dumplings. Al, Norm and I had Argentian steak and Ingrid had shark. We all found our entrees to be tasty.

We walked to back to La Reina Plaça and took the #7 bus back to the condo where we enjoyed some quiet time and a siesta. Then we headed out for a dinner of Tapas at Meua near the condo.

“Haz tu pedido en barra te lo servimos en la mesa.”
“Get your order on bar we will serve it to you at the table.”

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Choose a tiny crock of potatoes with sausage (hotdog), a tiny pan of paella with black olives on top, or an open face sandwish of brie and fresh tuna. They heat it in their oven and bring it to you, but you can see what you are ordering to make your selections. It is also easy to share a few bites.

More open face sandwiches to heat or eat cold.
More open face sandwiches to heat or eat cold.

More open face sandwiches to heat or eat cold. The red meat is Iberico ham with cheese… Very favored here in Spain.

Chocolate heated on crusty bread is really quite a satisfying dessert.
Chocolate heated on crusty bread is really quite a satisfying dessert.

Chocolate heated on crusty bread is really quite a satisfying dessert.
Norm and Al shared a chocolate with raspberry sauce piece of cake at La Biscita, a bakery where you can watch the items being made that is across the street from the condo. Ingrid and I plan to share a piece of coconut pineapple cake soon.

Norm and I are off for a “vacation from our vacation” tomorrow. We will take the train to Alicante, a beach town about 2 hours south on the coast, and spend just one night there, possibly taking some beach or pool time to read and relax. We are also hoping the fresh sea air will clear the pollen from the fresh Valencian blossoms out of our heads.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Up, Up, and Away!

Friday, May 1, 2015
Aaah. Today is the day we climb to the top of Castillo Santa Barbara…good thing there is an elevator! We started with a hardy European breakfast with unlimited cups of cafe Americano con leche, caliente, aparte. Love my coffee with cream, so many fewer syllables in English.

It was a short walk to the elevator, but first we had to walk through a sleek, metal tunnel, far into the rock.

imageAfter determining that we were pensioners (older than 65), we were admitted free of charge as is every pensioner in the world! What a country!

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The elevator whisked us to the top of the rock which is Castillo Santa Barbara. Hey! This place is going to be fun! Watch out for the knight-style archers.

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And it is going to be crowded soon as this cruise ship has just glided into port.
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Here is a gull’s eye view or the view the defenders of this fortress have had since the 6th century.

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The canons were not added until the pirates or foreign attackers had artillery on their ships. It reminds me of the Marin Headlands on the far side of the Golden Gate Bridge where we used to take our fifth-sixth graders on a weeklong camping trip. That artillery was a bit more modern, but still old to them.

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It’s a very special day for this young Spanish girl… Probably a first communion? Not everyone is a tourist like us.

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This wall is riddled with pock marks from cannon balls, and one cannon ball remains embedded on the lower right side.

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Watch out Norm! The archer has you in his sights!

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I’m glad we did not have to descend via these steps.

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The bullring is within our sight from up high.

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Norm has made friends with this archer, but the one up high is taking aim! There is also an interesting juxtaposition between the modern digital tower and the ancient defensive tower. I think that little tower on the left is where they kept prisoners, if my Spanish translation is correct. Only thin slits for windows and nowhere to land even if you could escape and jump!

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A lovely British gal offered to snap this photo overlooking Alicante harbor for us. Good thing we coordinated our outfits today. Riiigghhtt!

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Time to stop for coffee and a soda. It’s getting warm up here.

imageLa Playa de Alicante- the beach at Alicante, Spain. We spent a short time there yesterday.

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We’ve loved our two days in Alicante. Soon we will board the train and take a short ride back to Valencia, our home base.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

A Medieval Festival… Come on along!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

We are on an overnight at Hotel TRYP in Alicante, Spain. We left the condo at 8:30AM and caught Bus #90 to the Juan Sorolla Train Station. Our train to Alicante arrived on time and promptly left as scheduled. We do love the public transportation available in Spain… Clean, timely and everywhere. During the two hour trip, we noticed the land become more dry and arid. This is a good sign for those like us who are hoping to escape from the pollens of the beautiful blossoms in Valencia.

imageWhen we arrived and taxied to the Hotel TRYP Alicante, we immediately noticed the ancient Castillo Santa Barbara rising above the coastal city. The beach stretches around a circle of established buildings, and all varieties of tourists were enjoying the sun, water, drinks, and foods. Notice the interesting tile design on the beach promenade.

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After grabbing a quick lunch at a beach side cafe, we meandered around the Ramblas and coastal shopping areas. Las Paseo Esplanade de España is known for the unusual design of its tiled surface.

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We discovered that a Medieval Merchant festival begins today through Saturday. It looks to be like a county fair of sorts, set in this medieval setting. Setup of food booths and vendors has begun, and tonight should be interesting. We plan to find a food booth that interests us for dinner this evening., and that did not take us long. Take a look!

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All the time we would look up at the ancient castle and wonder if people had to climb the endless ancient steps careening up the mountainside to get to the top. Upon returning to the hotel, Norm asked the desk clerk and was told there was “a lift” or elevator we could take. We plan to do that in late morning tomorrow after the coastal fog has cleared.

Every day seems to bring so much fun! Glad you can join us!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Quiet Days…

The last two days have been days to do the laundry and accomplish some basic tasks.

Monday, April 27,2015

Norm and I went to Corte Inglés Department store to find a map of Barcelona and some pens. With that task accomplished on the firat floor, we were curious about what other treasures could be found in this USA style department store… with very few US products. We rode the escalator up to the top floor, #7. Each floor was dedicated to a different product…. Clothing for men, clothing for women, clothing for children, appliances, household furniture, dishes and china, and finally, patio furniture and a cafeteria (remember, the first floor is #0). We ate in the 7th floor cafeteria… cheeseburgers, fries, and coleslaw, our first American-style food since March 16 when we left on our extended trip.

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It tasted pretty good, but not as good as a hamburger at Eddy’s Interlachen Inn in Alexandria, MN.  We ate dinner later, with Al and Ingrid, at El Fredo Italian Restaurant near the condo. They treated us to grilled artichokes prior to our 3 course menu de dia: salad, lasagne, crepe with chocolate sauce. All very good.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Norm and I found our way to the Joaquin Sorolla Train Station by bus. We bought round trip tickets for our day trip to Alicante on April 30 and returning on May 1. We also bought our return trip from Barcellona on May 9 as we are staying an extra day longer than the Moldes.

After relaxing in the afternoon, we ate dinner at Kana Makan, a Syrian-Lebanese tapas bar. Every one ordered their own drink, but then all four of us had to choose the same tapa for each round of service. We had 4 rounds of tapas:

Round 1: Chili in a wrap brought because we ordered drinks

Round 2: Pollo- pechuga de pollo especiada y queso manchego / spicey chicken with manchego cheese.

Round 3: SFIHA-carne de ternera, verduras, aceite de oliva y reducción de granada. En masa fina/ beef, vegetables, olive oil and pomegranate reduction. In thin crust.

image Round 4: Kufta- mini kañaburguesa de ternera, perejil, cebolla caramelizada, y queso manchego/ mini beef burgers in a wrap, parsley, caramelized onion, and manchego cheese. (These were delicious and were our favorites.

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Round 5:  Baklaua- Baklava for dessert

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Here’s the menu front and back from which we made our choices. I’m a word person so I like to study the menus to help learn the language. The first side has Mondaitos (tiny tastes) and Tapitas for €1- 1 EURO; Ensalades (salads) for €3.50.

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The back side of the menu has Bocadillos (sandwiches) for €4.00. Bebidas – Drinks (see the bar for prices) or Aromatic Teas and €1.80; Postres (Pastries) €1.00

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Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Come along for the ride!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

This was a city bus day for Norm and me. First, we took the bus to the Old Town area hoping to find an advertised craft and flea market. When we checked at the tourist information booth, we were told it had been moved to an area too far for my feet to find. So we picked up a bus route map, and selected the Bus #4 route which would take us toward the port on the Mediterranean, like turtles drawn to water. Here are some photos in the order I took them on the bus ride… Common “everywhere” types of sites.

Hop on and come along for the ride!
Hop on and come along for the ride!
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We started out at the Plaza de La Reina in the historic Old City. Not your ordinary skyline…the lion in the distance marks the government offices.
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This could be a one-way street anywhere.
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Another common looking street and skyline in any big city… Except for the palm trees! Very nostalgic for us.
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There are always outdoor eating areas by cafes, even in very common neighborhoods.
Across the Jardin de Turia, the Turia riverbed park we catch a glimpse of the Ciudad de las Atres and Sciences buildings.
Across the Jardin de Turia, the Turia riverbed park, we catch a glimpse of the Ciudad de las Artes and Sciences buildings.
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Here by the port, the River Turia resurfaces before flowing into the sea.
As we turned to start the route back to center city, the neighborhoods are those not usually on a tourist's route. This building with the grren cross is a pharmacy.
As we turned to start the route back to center city, the neighborhoods are those not usually on a tourist’s route. This building with the green cross is a pharmacy.
A view of one of the streets in the port neighborhood.
A view of one of the streets in the port neighborhood.
Every day is laundry day!
Every day is laundry day!
Tagging is everywhere. Hope the translation isn't X rated!
Tagging is everywhere. Hope the translation isn’t X rated!
This tagging was planned and advertised a children's playground.
This tagging was planned and advertised a children’s playground.
Bus Stops look the same here as anywhere.
Bus Stops look the same here as anywhere.
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In every one of the bus stops in the port area, this advertisement is featured. The girl is showing an emergency phone number to call if you (a woman) are experiencing violence. I don’t think Norm even noticed it. Vive la difference… C’est la vie!
The skyline starts to get interesting again.
The skyline starts to get interesting again.
There are alwayslaces for,children to play.
There are always places for children to play.
Beautiful skylines start to appear again as we near the main city.
Beautiful skylines start to appear again as we near the main city.
The sreet signs are posted at the top of the first story of the buildings.
The street signs are posted at the top of the first story of the buildings.
Norm wanted to photograph fro the "old bridge" so we exited the bus there.
Norm wanted to photograph from the “old bridge” so we exited the bus there.
Love how these buildings were designed to curve allowing for plazas in front of,them.
Love how these buildings were designed to curve allowing for plazas in front of them. And, of course, the tall palm tree is a good idea too.
W ambled down the wide boulevard towards our "trendy" (so we're told) and artsy neighbor
We ambled down the wide boulevard towards our “trendy” (so we’re told) and artsy neighborhood.
There wer ame tables and a picnic area, or so we,thought. After sitting there for quite some time, a waiter came to ask us what we would like to order. Nevermind!
There were some tables and a picnic area, or so we thought. After sitting there and relaxing for quite some time, a waiter came to ask us what we would like to order. Nevermind!
I've decided I will buy a condo in this building... when I win the lottery.
I’ve decided I will buy a condo in this building… when I win the lottery.

 

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Seville, Spain… Day 1

April 10, 2015 Sevilla, España

We are off for a two day trip to Sevilla, staying right in the Old Town with easy walking distance to the historical sites. (Alcantara Hotel). We metroed to Malaga and took the Renfe AVE train to Sevilla. After settling in at the hotel, we walked to the Santa Iglesia Catedral de Sevilla, the largest gothic temple in the world and built over a 9th century Alhadro mosque. We took a basic tour, crossing El Patio de Los Naranjos, a patio of orange trees and an ancient brick patio, crisscrossed with tiny canals for irrigating the trees, also remaining from the ancient mosque.

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We walked up the 35 ramps to the top of the La Giralda Tower, the only portion that remains of the 9th century mosque. It has ramps rather than steps so that the muezzin could ride his donkey or horse to the top in order to call the moslems to prayer. It was the tallest structure in Europe until  the French built the Eiffel Tower.

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An upper structure was added to emphasize the Christian takeover of this mosque, a belfry, with the giradillo, a weathervane type woman.

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One of the 25 bells pealed while we were up top; some of the bells date from the 1400s.

Then we had tapas at a place along our walk. I had pork cheeks in gravy… Very good, small portion. Siesta in our room while Ingrid and Al relaxed with wine, explored some more, had tea and coffee. We met up for the excellent Flamenco Show in our hotel, and then went to El 3 (Tres) del Oro for a late dinner at 9:30PM so we could experience the late night life Spain is so well known for.

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*11 de avril: (sabado) Torremolinos- Castillo de Santa Clara with overnight trip to Sevilla. Ate our pre-purchased breakfast at the hotel… Usual cold cheese and ham sandwich-dry. Blah. Norm and I walked through some of the old town. Stopped for coffee, tea and a sugared churro. Took a horse carriage ride that covered many of the sites to see… Excellent narration. Walked through more of the old town, stopping at Vinela Tapas y Vinos in Plaza de Elvira for a tapa lunch. We ordered a racion of Iberic Ham, sheep cheese and sausage, blood sausage (marcilla) with bread and a tapa of sheep’s cheese and orange marmelade. Then we returned to Sevillarte-Ceramica Antigua Sevillana (www.sevillartecollection.blogspot.com) to purchase a Sevillian ceramic platter with cobalt/manganese blue trim and a lemon design. Created and painted by ROMA -Ramon and Manuel. After getting lost, we found our way out of the old town. We will soon return by AVE and metro by late evening train from Seville to Torremolinos. The Alcántara has been an excellent, but basic place to stay. It’s location is its best feature, but it is clean and comfortable as well. Just be sure to go out for breakfast!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

The Palace…

Thursday, April 23, 2015

After a taxi ride to find a recommended restaurant, we discovered that it was full… No tables available. So we reserved for a future date and found another spot to grab a bite on Reina Plaza downtown. Norm and I found an Irish pub for traditional fare, and Al and Ingrid tried Paella Valencia (rice with chicken and rabbit). We had tried paella with chicken the previous day. Then we walked to Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, a beautiful place to see.

2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain Taken with my iPad

There is a collection of ceramica so prevalent in designs throughout history on the 3rd and 4th floors of this spectacularly refurbished palace, including the charmingly decorated kitchen.

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2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain. Panoramic Photo by Norm Ritter

I love all things pottery and ceramic and crystal and china, but I will include just a couple designs that I liked.

2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain. Taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain. Taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain Taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain Taken with my iPad

We caught a city bus to return to the Rusaffa condo, picking up some snacks at the street cafe or market nearby, and retired to catch up with the rest of our world on our digital devices.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Just plain cute!

A start of a collection of opportune moments. I hope this blog will have some additions over time.

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2015-4-24. Train Ticket Negotiators. Notice the beauty of the train station. Estación du Nord-Valencia, Spain
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The Ticket Buyers! 2015-3 Malaga Maria Zambrano Train Station
The Map Readers 2015-4-23 Valencia, Spain
The Map Readers 2015-4-23 Valencia, Spain   Photo by Ingrid Molde
Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Valencia, Oh Valencia!

OK! So we have been here four days and we are beginning to get our “Valencia legs”, and our “feet on the ground”! Al took the helm today, and did a good job of shepherding us around the city. That is not easy, even for a coach, when leading two elementary school teachers and one USAF Lt. Col. We decided to catch one of the city buses that roars down our street, Calle de Cadiz! Every 10 minutes! Speaking of our street… We have made quite a change from our oceanside condo to a busy city street in Spain’s third largest city.

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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. Standing on our 3rd floor balcony and looking south down Calle de Cadizk
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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. Standing on our 3rd floor balcony and looking north down Calle de Cadizk

As we sat in a corner cafe eating tapas and drinking cañas (small beers) last night, we noticed the #7 bus roaring past us every 10 minutes. Its lighted placard said it would take us to the central mercado-the large open air market downtown. Since he was up early, Al researched a bicycle rental near the central mercado, and today’s adventure was sealed. He led us from the bus stop through narrow streets between very tall old buildings, and we soon had four bikes rented, two with baskets, of course. Then we headed off, mostly on bike paths that are designated along the narrow streets, but closer to the sidewalks than the streets.

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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. Norm, Al, Ingrid, Mary

Soon we were on a wide bike path along the Turia dry river bed where all sorts of amenities for the people have been built. We rode the bike path all the way to the Mediterranean coast, (10 miles round trip) to the beautiful beach near the ferris wheel that I wrote about last blog. In a little seaside cafe, we all ate paella, a dish for which Valencia is famous.

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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. YUM! Calamari, shrimp, and calamari in safron-seasoned rice.

We rode near all of the Ciudad Arts and Sciences buildings that we had viewed from the Hop-on/Hop-Off bus tour Norm and I took  a couple of days ago.

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I was able to get a snapshot of one of the horticultural buildings from a different perspective. You can see the beautiful cobalt blue and manganese ceramica that frequents Spanish design and architecture over the centuries, except this shows a modern usage.

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Here are Al and Ingrid.

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They stopped for a quick caña after our bike ride. I snapped a picture of them from our balcony! A pleasing end to another adventure in España!