Valencia is a city made for walking, which is a good counter to our other favorite pastime – eating. The combination of the two makes for a lovely day in Spain. We worked up an appetite with a long walk through the Jardines del Turia, stopping midway for lunch at a restaurant in the La Gran Via barrio.
The Jardines del Turia (Turia Gardens) is a nine-kilometer linear green space running through the city. Inaugurated in 1986, the park was built on the former riverbed of the Turia river, which was diverted to the south of the city after a devastating flood in 1957.
The park is one of our favorite places to visit in Valencia. There are separate paths designated specifically for pedestrians, runners, and bikes. The paths meander through wooded areas and pass by water features, immaculately manicured gardens, and sport facilities of all kinds. There are soccer fields, skateparks, outdoor gyms, playgrounds, you name it. There is even outdoor table tennis.
You don’t have to work up a sweat, though. It’s a beautiful way to walk around the city with monuments and museums lining the edges of the riverbed and 18 bridges of historic or architectural significance crossing the park. Thanks to these bridges over the former river, the park is uninterrupted so you never have to cross a street.
Midway through our walk, we detoured out of the park at the Pont d’Arago bridge and walked into La Gran Via to find lunch. This triangular shaped barrio that borders the park is strewn with restaurants. We walked around the grid of streets window shopping the menu del dia boards looking for something special.
It is very common in Spain for restaurants to offer a menu del dia (menu of the day), which usually includes three courses for a set price. Usually, you will choose between a few different options for each course. Sometimes wine or beer will be included in the price – it should say so on the menu board.
Our search took us to Tributo Brasas Bar on Carrer de Ciscar. The elegant interior beckoned us to take a seat, and the Menu del Mediodia sealed the deal. I should also mention that they were open at 1:00 pm as advertised.
We both ordered the €14.95 menu and glasses of the house white wine. The menu began with a degustacion de entrantes – a tasting of appetizers. These plates were brought to the table one at a time on a single dish for us to share.
First was Ensalada de Tomate, a refreshing salad of ripe Raf tomatoes (a variety common in Spain) with anchovies and tuna in vinaigrette. This was just what we needed to wake up our taste buds.
The second starter was Carpaccio de Solomillo de Buey, loosely translated as a gorgeous plate of beef carpaccio. The fresh, thinly sliced beef was drizzled with a rich foie gras sauce that was contrasted by tart balsamic vinegar. We had been craving carpaccio, which is one of the reasons the menu caught our eye. Lucky us, it was as delicious as we had been hoping for.
Next came Brochette de Gamba con Pasta Kataifi, fun little skewers of shrimp wrapped in kataifi, those crispy strands of Middle Eastern pastry that we first had in Valdepenas, served with a red pepper dipping sauce.
We finally made it to the Plato Principal (main course). We each chose one of the four dishes offered. I selected the jarrete de cordero confitado (leg of lamb confit). Confit means that this lamb was cooked slowly in fat. Oh my goodness, this was so tender and juicy that I almost didn’t want to share.
But then I wouldn’t have been able to try my husbands delicious bacalao a la plancha (grilled cod) and that would have been a shame. The crispy skin covered a thick cut of the succulent fish. The side of stewed vegetables was a nice touch.
We had the choice of finishing with either the house dessert or coffee. We went with the perfect little cup of coffee. The total price for all of this, including four glasses of wine and a large bottle of water: €41.40
After lunch we continued our walk through the Turia Gardens, where we should have made use of some of the nifty exercise equipment to work off some of those calories.
The walk took us by the spectacular City of Arts and Sciences. This futuristic complex includes an IMAX cinema, planetarium, museum of science, opera house, and the Oceanográfic, which is the largest aquarium in Europe. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences was declared one of the 12 Treasures of Spain in 2007.
After reaching the end of the park at the Oceanográfic, we turned around for the long walk back. I must confess, we stopped again for tapas on the way home. Walking and eating, eating and walking – it’s not a bad way to spend a leisurely day in Valencia.