We were all ridiculously excited for dinner because we would finally get to try authentic paella. You can order paella anywhere in Spain but Valencia is the birthplace of this dish
. Even within Valencia, we were warned to only visit restaurants who offered made to order paella. Many places will take advantage of the unsuspecting tourist and serve reheated paella (usually microwaved) made earlier in the day. Also, the good restaurants will charge per portion and specify a minimum order for 2 people. Given that the pan is so large, it is practically impossible to freshly make paella for one person. Unfortunately, the place that we wanted to try was closed so we walked to the beach and settled on La Pepica, one of the oldest restaurants along the promenade. Established in 1898, the monstrous restaurant seats over 400 people inside and another 100 outside. Traditional Valencian paella consists of rice, vegetables, a mixture of rabbit, chicken, and/or duck meat, land snails, beans, seasoning and saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. The girls weren't so keen on snails so we ordered the more popular paella de marisco (seafood). It did not disappoint! At 22 euros per portion, it certainly wasn't cheap but it was oh so delicious!
The next day, we took it easy and got our tan on at the Playa de la Malvarrosa. It was quite relaxing for the most part except for the dozens of merchants who walk up and down the beach all day long trying to sell you everything from sarongs to cold beer to fake designer purses. We enjoyed another fine round of paella at La Rosa for lunch and checked out the city centre in the evening. Our hotel only offered 15 minutes of free wifi so we frequented McDonald's and discovered the ultimate economical snack: Cono Kit Kat. For 1 euro, you get a vanilla soft serve cone with a bar of Kit Kat in it. Simple but scrumptious. Last stop: Barcelona!
Madrid was hot but bearable. Valencia was just smoking as temperatures soared into the low 40s. When you add some humidity to the mix, it's downright suffocating. After we checked into our hotel (luckily, it was only 5 minutes away from the main bus station), we visited the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencia, the architectural jewel of Valencia. The stunning complex consists of 5 different elements all dedicated to science and culture. It's worth a visit even if you decide not to set foot in any of the buildings! The girls were really interested in checking out Oceanografic, the largest aquarium in all of Europe, so we spent the afternoon frolicking with dolphins, sharks and penguins. My favourite exhibit was the Antarctic building because the air conditioning was on full blast.