Nancy’s cousin Kathleen - a faithful follower on our blog - added a comment to our first visit to Barcelona and mentioned a former colleague who was living in Valencia - “should you be headed in that direction”. Little did she know that her introducing us to Hop and Douglas would prove to be one of the highlights of our visit there. They were full of excellent suggestions for restaurants and sites, and they introduced us to a number of US expats who created a sense of community that we had been missing as we journeyed mostly alone. Some of these folks were veteran travelers who’d been to many places, yet they were unanimous that Valencia was the best - “Shh...don’t tell too many people our secret”.
Hop's email response to our initial contact was a treasure trove of Valencia "must-do" activities that became our guide for much of our stay there. We arranged to meet at "Contrapunto les Arts" - a café / restaurant tucked under the overhanging point of the opera house. With it's comfortable outdoor furniture and view of the City of Arts & Sciences complex, it's a great place to sit and chat while sipping cava and snacking on tapas on an unseasonably warm February evening. While Nancy ran off to do some coaching, Richard and Hop became fast friends and plotted out the next few days. We mentioned that we were planning to attend a free concert presented by Berklee that night and Hop enthusiastically agreed to join us.
Act I was "Concerto for Cello and Wind Ensemble" by Friedrich Gulda - a contemporary Austrian composer who freely intertwined classical and jazz styles. The cellist from the "Escuela Superior" was amazing. Conservatory wind players were joined by a jammin' Berklee rhythm section to round out the ensemble. Act II was a collection of jazz adaptations (composed by the Berklee professor / conductor and Berklee students) of Rossini melodies from "Il Viaggio á Reims" - the opera that was currently being performed on the Palau's main stage. It was especially fun when the conservatory players (even oboe and bassoon) took improvisational solos during the encore - something they rarely get to do!
After the concert we met up with Hop's husband Douglas for a stroll through the Jardí del Túria and into the city center to Mercat de Colón - a great example of Valencia's Art Nouveau period at the beginning of the 20th century. Once a public marketplace, today it's filled with small bars and restaurants within the beautiful architecture and amazing tile work. We shared some local wine and tapas and the conversation flowed like we had been friends forever. The chilly late-night walk back to the apartment finished up another very full day, with the fitness app clocking 22,105 steps, 8.6 miles, and 12 flights of stairs.
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Nancy McCabe &