A city break with a 3 year old? Why, yes! I don’t know why I thought it would be hard work. In fact, our attention spans for lingering over museum displays are pretty evenly matched; and with my rapidly expanding belly and creaky hips – so are our walking paces!
We walked for miles each day on our first buggy-free break – taking advantage of our centrally located Air B’n’B apartment to start each morning in the dusty, colourful Ruzafa district. A quick breakfast before a trip to the local, envy-inducing food market for the day’s supplies; then maybe a coffee and super sweet fresh orange juice in a patch of sunshine before the day’s adventure began. So much gorgeous local produce, and so reasonably priced compared to home.
I find it pretty easy to manage eating as a coeliac in Spain – awareness of coeliac seems high – there’s an abundance of naturally gluten free local dishes, as well as specialist products at even the smallest of supermarkets. The phrase ‘sin gluten’ is emblazoned on packaged cured meats and cheese; icecream stands in the touristy parts of Valencia advertised cones that were ‘apta para celiacos’; and we even found a dedicated gluten free cafe/bakery minutes from where we stayed. Win. On the dairy/egg free side of things for A it was perhaps slightly more challenging – ‘lactose free’ was more widely understood than ‘dairy free’ and we struggled to track down anywhere in the old city serving lollopops or sorbets amongst the abundant gelaterias. Luckily we could rely on the fact that buttering bread is a peculiarly British habit, so there were always bocadillos con jamon as back up for the munchkin (just avoid chorizo which usually contains milk!).
When in Valencia we couldn’t do without having a traditional paella Valenciana (with chicken and rabbit) as well as trying horchata (orxata) – a kind of very sweet ‘milk’ made from tiger nuts – abundant on street corners and dedicated ‘horchatarias’ advertising its gluten free/raw/vegan credentials. Delicious – not sure I could describe it as a health product though!
Food aside, Valencia was a delight. We hopped between sunny spots in tshirts (still a little cool in the shade and the evening) to explore first the cathedrals, grand squares and lush fountains of the old city; then the broad sandy beach by bus. The amazing park formed from the old river bed gives way to the tastefully futuristic city of arts and sciences which provided 2 days of exploration opportunities – especially once we’d hired cycles and stopped at every amazing play park.
Exploring a city through a preschooler’s eyes was a different pace – yes, slower which left me a little hungry for the parts we didn’t make it to; but in a way so much richer because of the details we picked up on, and the endless questions about everything she encountered from shops and buses, to tiny architectural features, street beggars (that was a long conversation) and sandcastles.
Back to Ruzafa each evening we enjoyed sun-downers at just-opening tapas bars whilst A asked why the other children weren’t going to bed soon too. After such big adventures there was no extending bed time to match the locals.