To get our bearings in the city we hired bikes in the old town at 'Do you bike', tucked down a side street in Barrio Carmen (€15 per person per day). Orange Bikes is also nearby but it was closed on Sunday and we also found an interesting small hire shop run by an English guy that specialised in Chopper bikes, but sadly not for children. Following our man in Valencia and new friend Angel we wheeled our bikes through the narrow streets and alley ways to join the Jardines del Turia, once the bed of the river that flowed through the city, which was diverted in the 1950s due to regular flooding. It's now a big public park with a series of sports grounds, green spaces and childrens' playgrounds.
On the way I glimpsed a lady in traditional dress and wondered where she was off to - she led us to Plaza de la Virgin and the Cathedral with the Sunday morning church bells mingling with the music of accordian players and the chatter of families out for a morning stroll. There in the Plaza a stage had been set up and we were just in time to hear the band strike up and the group of folk dancers make a small parade and then perform some Valencian folk dancing with much twirling of skirts and clattering of castenets. Pressing on we joined the Jardines del Turia at the imposing Torres de Serranos, once the heavily defended gateway through the city walls into the old town.
As we descended onto the old river bed we passed a girl's football team and then bowled along the boulevard past the Valenican families taking the Sunday air. Beside the route and in many parks I noticed had been planted a large evergreen shrub which gave out a delicious scent of orange blossom, especially in the evening. For lunch, Angel guided us back out of the river bed to a restaurant he knew on the adjoining boulevard, where we sustained the children with Patatas Bravas (Fried potatoes covered with spicy ketchup and mayonnaise). Then on past the fountains in front of the Palau de la Musica, where music was playing and skateboarders and rollerbladers were practicing their moves. Then past the futuristic buildings of the City of Art and Culture which we hoped to visit properly on another day. By this time the beach and the promise of a cooling swim or at least a paddle beckoned.
After the City of Art and culture the cycle path moved away from the river bed and into the streets and we were glad to have Angel to guide us and not to have to constantly consult the map. We passed through the Port area which hosted the Americas cup last year - it was a strange mixture of the commercial and industrial, with cranes on the horizon and shiny new glass buildings, but the building work was still continuing, as we have found throughout Valencia so far. So on toward the Las Arenas beach and on to the beach boulevard, backed by a string of restaurants, all packed with families taking their Sunday lunch of seafood or Paella. We decided not to compete but to come back to sample the seafood on a quieter day.
The beach was also packed with groups of people and we came back with a sunkissed glow even though it is only April. After a quick splash for the children and a paddle for me we lay down on the sand and soaked up the sun a while. Then as it was now late afternoon we decided to make a move and cycled back by the same route through the Jardines del Turia and to the Home Backpackers, where we checked out and decamped to our new hotel for the rest of our stay, Home Deluxe Rooms, near the City of Arts and Culture.
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