A bit of internet research before our trip to Valencia came up trumps with an aire at El Saler, just 8km south of the city. The sat-nav coordinates suggested it was several miles out to sea, so we just typed in ‘El Saler’ and hoped for the best. Camping La Marina, as the aire is known, was easy to find in single street El Saler. It’s 11 euros a night, and they have space for 70 vans, with a decent service point. Camping La Marina also wins the ‘Most Friendly and Helpful People in Spain’ award, renewing our faith after a few quite surly encounters of late.
We got to the site late on Thursday afternoon, and took a walk down to the sea, where you can see Valencia’s port, along with numerous cargo ships arriving or departing. El Saler is on the edge of the lagoon called L’Albufera, and the whole area is full of rice fields, with egrets and stilts wading around looking for tasty treats.
On Friday, we got the bus from almost outside the aire, straight into the city centre. The bus passes the amazing City of Arts and Sciences, so you can jump off there is that’s your choice. Valencia has chosen ‘cultural tourism’ as its goal, and this massive complex is part of that ambitious plan. Designed in the main by contemporary architect Santiago Calatrava, the buildings are extraordinary.
We admired the complex from the bus and carried on into the city. There, we admired the bullring, the gorgeous central market with all its hustle and bustle, the ornate tiling and art nouveau decoration of the railway station and the cathedral and its surrounds. It’s all walkable and the feeling is friendly and laid-back.
After lunch, the warmth of the sun made us a little bit sleepy, so we headed down to the Rio Turia…to the gardens in the riverbed to be precise. I can’t find any information to tell me when the river Turia stopped flowing through the heart of Valencia, but today the old riverbed is an amazing green lung through the city centre. Most of it is given over to public parks and open spaces, and it’s planted with mature trees and shrubs.
Our plan had been to leave the aire on Saturday morning and drive into the city to the Biopark, an innovative eco-friendly zoo that apparently has no visible barriers between you and the animals. But it was not to be – despite checking meticulouslyonline in advance, when we got to the Biopark (itself located on the old riverbed), we found all the parking had height barriers so it was a no-go for us. We drove round for a while looking for parking, but Valencia on a busy Saturday morning was a hair-raising experience in 3.5 tonnes of motorhome. Eight lanes of traffic is a bit much for a motorway, let alone a city street – and that was just our side of the road, with those 8 lanes going down to just four across a junction, making for some eye-watering manoeuvres. Those 8 lane roads also pile right onto gigantic roundabouts with NO lane markings whatsoever. With random traffic lights thrown in for good measure. I think Valencia has been the only horrible place to drive on the trip so far. Amazing city, just not great for driving a 6.5 metre vehicle.
So our stay in Valencia was a little shorter than we’d planned, but we liked it a lot nonetheless. It’s definitely an easy city to do, with the aire so close and the busesto and from the city every 30 minutes or so, at the bargain price of €1.35 each way.