After spending most of our third day in Spain in the coastal city of Valencia, we headed inland away from the heavily touristed beach areas and into some very rural country.
Probably the biggest disappointment of the trip is that the Mercado Central in Valencia closed before we had a chance to really see much of it. The Mercado Central is a huge, fabulous “Farmers’ Market” and is housed in one of the most splendid examples of secular Gothic architecture in Spain (from the 1920s). Beautiful building with stained glass windows and vendors selling everything you could possibly imagine from the earth and the sea. I thought the St. Paul Farmers’ Market was fairly comprehensive, but these locals have the world of food at their fingertips every day. Here’s a few of the vendors we could get photos of before they closed up:
Some things we learned during our travels to the inland part of Spain included:
- Although Spain currently has a 20% unemployment rate, it is not noticeable from all outward appearances. Cris was noting that a similar unemployment rate in the US was during the Depression and the photos burned in my mind of the Depression included long ration lines and people hanging out idle on the streets in run down cars, ragged clothing and dirty. When I asked a relative of my daughter’s senora about this he said it was because the extended family units were so strong that they take in and take care of the ones out of work. He said it would be “impossible” that a brother would not support a sibling out of work. All I know is there was no visible signs of human suffering in anywhere we traveled and we went into rural areas, mountain villages, and tourist areas.
- Spain has the highest production of olives in the world, but Italy has a hold on the processing and distribution of olive oil, and apparently it is due to the control of a few families.
- It seems every small hill or knob in the inland areas has a castle of some size atop it, and all are in some stage of disrepair.
Some food we enjoyed on our third day:
Lunch was in Valencia on the Plaza del Mercado. It was so good and so relaxing that we stayed too long and hence missed out on time in the Farmers’ Market (see above). The menu is typically laid out so that you choose one of a variety of dishes in each of 3 categories (appetizer, main dish, and dessert). Between the three of us we covered a lot of this menu, sharing of course.
After walking and sightseeing in Valencia (visited the Oceaneagraphic), we headed to Teurel for dinner. We were now in the heart of rural central Spain where food from the farms rather than the sea was prevalent. We had a little more trouble communicating here, as the regional accents are different and we are getting close to Basque country where the language can be completely different. Our restaurant in Teurel offered such things as Morro on the menu, translated to pig snout in English. Maybe next time. We did decide to try what translated to “Retains the Earth”, even though we weren’t sure what we were going to get. Everything that came was great and I’m sure the “Nose” would have been good also if we had been that adventuresome. Here’s what we did try:
- Cod with Peppers
- Retains the Earth (pork cuts)
- Sardines and Cheese
- White Asparagus and Jamon
- Green Salad with Goat Cheese and Nuts
- Some great Wine
Left Teurel in good spirits and arrived at our hotel in Zaragosa at 1:00 am and hit the beds, small though they were.