Traveling Abroad: Valencia, ES – Edition

Apparently calling myself out and saying I’m bad at posting regularly doesn’t actually affect me.  Since April, we’ve been cooking less, but traveling more.  This time, it was off to Valencia, Spain and Le Mans / Montmirail, France for a wedding with a quick layover in Paris (because how can you skip Paris when in France).

As soon as we landed at CDG, we zipped off to Le Mans / Montmirail, FR for our friends’ weekend wedding.  Friends got married, food and (plenty of) wine was drunk, and festivities ensued.

After 2 days in Le Mans, we drove back to Paris for a night before our trip to Spain.

Neither my fiancé nor I had ever been to Spain before and initially when we were trying to decide where to spend 4 days, we were actually leaning towards Italy.  However, as I was obsessively looking at flights / prices to Italy, I noticed that we would have to either pay to check our luggage or, store it at the baggage lockers near CDG – neither of those options seemed great.  Then, I stumbled across an Air France flight from CDG to Valencia, ES that was cheap AND included 1 free checked baggage item – I was sold, and off to Spain we went!

Valencia was gorgeous and the warm weather a nice change from the overcast, almost-about-to-rain temperatures of France.  The architecture was quintessentially European with its ornate Gothic stone work and charming windowsills flower boxes.  We explored Malvarossa Beach, Mercat Central, and the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias / Oceanogràphic – all by foot (and one uneventful bus ride).

One of the main highlights of this trip however, was our dinner the last night in Valencia at El Poblet.  As Lonely Planet puts it: “Run by noted chef Luis Vallis Rozalén, El Poblet offers elegance and fine gastronomic dining at prices that are very competitive for this quality. Modern French and Spanish influences combine to create sumptuous degustation menus.”

We opted to go with the Festival menu (there are two to choose from) and it began with a presentation of Rose Petals and Apple Tonic Gin.  From there, we continued through the 15, FIFTEEN, course menu – each course just as beautiful and delicious as the last.

There was beautifully cooked sea urchin which I’d never had before and surprisingly, loved. Delicious tomato snow, ashes rice, wild strawberries, and a particular favorite of ours was the misty forest which arrived with great fanfare and an accompanying “misty forest” [dry ice] for ambiance. Compared to one Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area that easily reach $200-300/person, pre-wine pairing, the cost of the menus at El Poblet were reasonable (approx. €80-115/person) and the service was nothing but gracious.  By the end of the meal, we were both thoroughly stuffed, and satisfied, after our nearly four hour long meal.  While I wouldn’t necessarily say El Poblet is worth flying to, if you find yourself in Valencia or the surrounding area, I would definitely recommend making a reservation.

 

Valencia isn’t a small town by any means nor is it as large as Barcelona or Madrid which made it a perfect destination for a quick getaway from France.  Despite our complete lack of Spanish / Catalan-speaking abilities (I only learned so much “Californian-spanish”), we were able to get around on public transit and by foot, buy food at the local markets, and explore without any issues – Overall in Valencia, the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the weather was gorgeous.  What more could you ask for?

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Traveling Abroad: Taipei, TW -Edition

Martyrs’ Shrine

I’ve been bad at posting so I’ll be working my way back-and-forth through all the things I meant to post but never got around to doing so.  Back in March 2017, my fianceé and I (along with his parents) spent a week in Taiwan.  Despite Taiwan being a small island, we could’ve easily spent more than a week just exploring Taipei City and the surrounding areas.

Taiwan is known for its eats, and it did not disappoint.  We probably ate ungodly amounts of xiao long bao (小笼包) and mango shaved ice (芒果冰).   Ice Monster was a particular favorite but honestly there was so much delicious street food that we could’ve easily spent a month just trying all the food.  There was a vendor near our Airbnb in Zhongshan District (中山區) that sold Taiwanese Egg Crepes (蛋餅) for approximately 30-35NT (~$1-1.50 USD) depending on what toppings you wanted added – i.e. basil, onions, or oysters.  I’m pretty sure we ate there for breakfast at least 75% of our trip.  In addition to the shaved ice and xiao long baos, we had sesame oil noodles (麻油雞) that were cooked in such strong rice wine, I’m pretty sure we walked out of the street stall slightly tipsy.  And then there was all the beef noodle soup (牛肉麵) that we ate that was amazing – no matter if you were buying at a street stall for 200NT or at a department store (of which Taiwan has many) for 400NT.

With all the food we consumed, we obviously had to get out and explore by food.  However, Taipei makes it relatively simple with a metro system that is efficient and relatively top-notch as well as a bus system that functions…functionally.  We were able to make it out to hike up to the top of Elephant Mountain (象山) for a view of Taipei City as well as a 30-45 min harrowing, windy bus ride and 30 minute hike to Wulai Falls.  The views were gorgeous despite some rain showers and some smog (or fog, but it was most likely smog).  There were a few other places such as Yangmingshan National Park that we wanted to go to but simply didn’t have enough time.  Our last destination before flying back to SF was Beitou Hot Springs which were really quite spectacular.  I would have included pictures except the drizzle from the sky and the steam coming from the underground hot springs basically rendered all pictures foggy and, steamy – essentially it would’ve just looked like a posted a picture of white clouds.  There is a Beitou Hot Spring Museum that is open to the public, and FREE. It’s not particularly large but worth a walk through if you’re already in the area.

 

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