By Her Next Smile, Aug 17 2017 11:12AM
València: the home of the Mercat Central, the home of the Holy Grail and the home of incredible sights and delicious tapas. It was the perfect place to spend a long weekend and despite being a little concerned about how long I would last in the heat of the busy city, I knew this wasn’t an opportunity to miss. And little did we know that we were about to venture there during the busiest month of all: the Gran Fira de Valencia (also known as the Feria de Julio) was taking place!
Arriving on Friday night, we found a delicious tapas bar near our hotel and had a taste of their sangria, a Spanish red wine and fruit punch. Calamares (fried squid rings), potatas bravas (potatoes with tomato sauce), plus a variety of succulent chicken and fish dishes, cheese platters and so much more. We began our Saturday outside one of the countless eateries with tasty croissants and glasses of fresh orange juice we watched the staff make especially for us. There were many exciting options including cheese and ham filled croissants plus mini breakfast pizzas! After breakfast, we visited the Mercat Central which is the main market of València and is simply amazing - it cannot be missed. It is open between 7am and 3pm every day except Sunday. Full of beautiful stalls, we found everything from souvenirs to meats, herbs and an entire section just for fish, along with some huge octopuses and squids! We enjoyed a refreshing drink outside a nearby restaurant as we watched the world go by. Whilst visiting, don't forget to look up - the centre of the market features a stunning stained glass ceiling.
During an exquisite Valèncian lunch outside a beautiful little restaurant in the Plaza de la Virgen square, we watched as a stage was erected in the busy space and agreed to return later in the evening to find out what the entertainment would be. After an exhausting climb up the Cathedral's 207 stair spiral staircase, we witnessed for ourselves the incredible sights of the city from the highest accessible point in València and were taken aback by the view. I would recommend making the climb close to a change of hour – as long as you can bear being close to the huge (and very loud!) Cathedral bell as it chimes. The Holy Grail is also available in the Cathedral building with a history of how it arrived in Valencia.
Returning to the busy square later that night, we couldn’t have expected to see what we did next! Singers and musicians sat on the stage playing flamenco music while hundreds of locals and tourists watched the central space eagerly. The space was filled with Flamenco dancers! It was easy to tell who was local as they danced with clappers in their hands and were incredible to watch. Fortunately, enough people didn’t know what they were doing for me to get involved and join in without feeling too embarrassed! The music ended at around 12.15 and we got ready for the firework display we had seen being prepared behind us. A lovely local woman explained to us that they were 'stick fireworks', as they couldn’t reach the sky due to the surrounding buildings and risks involved.
The Festival combines numerous events across the city of Valencia, most of which are music-centered live concerts. Other attractions include wine fairs, comedy nights, sports competitions and childrens activities and workshops to give both locals and tourists a chance to get involved with the festivities. Valencia is definitely a place to add to your bucket list: especially if you can visit in July! Events programmes are available in languages including Spanish and English and can be found online at https://granfiravalencia.com/es/ if you wish to plan your trip around the Festival! For those who wish to get involved with the Flamenco dancing night in particular, these events are listed under the term: 'Fair Soirée: Valencian dances in the open air' and honestly was an incredible and uplifting experience I will remember for a lifetime.