For a few years now, our friends with el perrito in Jalón have been threatening to shoow us round Valencia, particularly the covered market about which they eulogize. Being a foodie, I couldn’t help but be impresssed, they claimed. Finally, today it was going to happen. We’d drive to Xeraco, the second stop on the line from Gandia, and take a train ride into Valencia so we were really going to be educated – our first brush with a Spanish train, as well.
In common with most railway stations, Xeraco could use a bit more in the way of parking but we found a spot and bailed out. The Spanish seem incapable of buying anything without a protracted conversation. This includes train tickets. The lady in front of us at the ticket window had picked up her tickets but kept nattering with the ticket seller just long enough for the train that had recently pulled into the station to pull back out again. We finally got a chance to buy our tickets and waited the 30 minutes for the next train. Never mind, that’s 30 minutes of city that I wouldn’t have to survive. 😀
Next lesson: to get to the platform on the other side of the station you simply wander across the railway tracks. Pedestrian bridge? No, of course not. Wonderful. Fortunately, we were on the correct platform to head into Valencia and didn’t have to take our lives in our hands.
The train ride took about 50 minutes and went through the pan-flat rice fields of Valencia. Valencia is the rice bowl of Spain and is, of course, where the famed Paella Valenciana hails from. At this time of year the fields were bone dry and empty – just dry tilled soil. A little work was going on in a few fields so maybe soon they will be cultivating the next crop of Valenciana rice. We wondered where they were going to find enough fresh water in this arid part of Spain to flood the seemingly endless landscape of rice paddies. [Yes, I know we’ve suffered more than our fair share of rain but it’s normally arid.]
The station at Valencia is an impressive structure worthy of the Victorians. Having paused for long enough to go, “oo, ah” appreciatively, we wandered outside and stepped back a couple of millennia as we were faced with the adjacent bull ring, reminiscent of a Roman amphitheatre. The Romans were keen on slaughtering animals, and each other, for entertainment, too. The red, London-like double decker bus was a little incongruous, though maybe it continued the bloody theme. 😉
Pausing again en route for a coffee and toast with olive oil, we finally made it to the revered covered market. When we entered, it didn’t seem that large but, as we started wandering around, up and down alleyways between files of market stalls, it became evident that this building was actually a Tardis. Food dilation – now there’s a concept!
The market did not disappoint. I found myself wanting sufficient Spanish, any really, to engage the stall holders in conversation, quizzing them about their wares. The stalls appeared to be arranged reasonably logically, with similar produce grouped together. We began with butchers, worked our way past vegetable stalls, charcuterie [sorry, French term] stalls with endless Serrano hams and sausages dangling temptation our way. One stall had piles of that quintessentially Spanish ingredient, pimentón. Another stall had just piles of something more associated with the French but of which , the Spanish are equally fond: nothing but snails; more snails than you could shake a bulb of garlic at. Finally we came across the fish and seafood area which mesmerised us for quite a while and set the conundrum of the day. [More later, methinks.]
One other feature struck us at the market: not only was the apparent quality of the produce on offer very high but also the dress of some of the more attractive female stall holders. One delightful lady even waggled a large langoustine at us. An attractive woman with fresh seafood – I was in heaven!! Really, they were a delight. It was all a delight. We’d have loved a cold box to enable us to purchase some of the more perishable items but we came away with just some freshly podded habas [broad beans]. There is an intriguing machine that pods the beans, too, though I couldn’t see enough of the mechanism either to snap it or to figure out how on earth it works but work it most surely did.
We finished the day with a pleasant tapas lunch before returning to the station and our return train ride. This time, we did have to wander across the tracks to exit Xeraco station. Experience complete.
At least we now know enough to repeat the day out by ourselves, maybe with a cool box, next time.