I must admit Valencia had never really been on my radar as a place to visit! In fact if I admit my total ignorance I knew very little about the city or the local area. However, when I mentioned to a few friends that I was heading to Valencia for the opening of a new hotel they all sang the cities praises and regaled their stories of what a wonderful time they had there… So now I was very intrigued. After a two and a half hour flight we landed in Valencia, we collected our bags and met with our chauffeur and within fifteen minutes we were standing outside the Hotel NH Collection Valencia Colón in the centre of Valencia; now that is the type of transfer time that I like. An understated and discreet entrance on Carrer de Colón one could miss the two doors entering into the lobby of the hotel. Once inside it is clear that the hotel has only recently been refurbished, with the lobby having an air of the 20’s American prohibition era with dark oak and mirror paneling. Amazing to think that this was for many years the regional Department of the Economy, Industry, Commerce and Tourism! The interiors have been imagined by the Spanish designer Lorenzo Castillo and he has drawn inspiration from all over the world and from various eras creating a timeless elegance throughout the hotel. Each of the 47 cosy rooms have their own style paying homage to classic English, French, Indian interiors.
We were in Valencia to celebrate the opening of the hotel, and part of this mission was to taste our way through the cocktails of the hotel bar Caraacara and the food of the hotel restaurant Sonata32; so we made our way to Caraacara to start proceedings. The timeless design of the bar or rather lounge is eclectic yet homely, with pieces from various geographies and eras one feels right at home here. With floor to ceiling windows filling the space with light, this felt like a place that one would want to spend much time with old friends and new friends putting the world to rights. Of course to do this one would need something to wet one’s whistle, so step forward NH Collection mixologist – Argentinian Diego Cabrera; having revolutionised Madrid’s cocktail scene Valencia was now in his sights. The cocktail menu is cunningly broken down into five sections: ‘Refreshing’, ‘Sour’, ‘Fruity’, ‘Strong’ and ‘Non-Alcoholic’. The menu contains many classic with twists as well as more personal mixes such as the Guaracha #2, Andrea. Personal favourites that stood out were the ‘Pasión’ with coconut rum, passion fruit puree and pineapple juice, the ‘Tonico Sprenger’ with Gin, various spices and ginger beer and the ‘Valencia Water’, go and try it.
It goes without saying that every good cocktail should be accompanied by some gourmet cuisine. Step forward Carlos Monsonís the young head chef of the NH Collection Valencia Colón’s restaurant Sonata 32. A local Valencian, he climbed the gourmet ladder quickly with his talent and hard work ethic. Having worked in many Michelin star restaurants across Spain, Carlos has returned to Valencia to whip up a storm in the kitchen of the NH Collection – Valencia Colón. A local talent, he strongly promotes and works with local produce with fish and seafood being his favourite, with a preference for rustic traditional Valencia styles of cooking using the grill and barbeque, with the Josper Grill playing an integral role in the kitchen. As the evening commenced we experienced many of Carlos’s delightful ingredients from local Oysters, fried fish skin, steak Tartare on crispbreads, flame grilled duck in steamed Bao buns and thyme ice cream, basil gel, and fresh mint, infused with jasmine and decorated with herb powder and a lollipop made of dried thyme. This all made for quite a wonderful evening of fanciful drinks accompanied by fantastic food with fabulous conversation.
The hotel, its cuisine and drinks obviously were the reason for our trip to Valencia, but what particularly makes the hotel so special is its location. Positioned on Carrer de Colón right in the centre of Valencia this makes it perfectly positioned to experience and take in everything that Valencia has to offer, and it has a huge variety to offer the visitor and residents alike. Leaving the hotel on foot one can reach up market shopping areas, high street style shopping, historical landmarks such as the The Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the Mercado Central- the busy food market, La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (The 15th Century Silk Exchange) and the bustling streets of El Carmen- The Old Town. To experience the deliciously sweet drink local drink Horchata, then walk six minutes to the Mercat de Colón, pick a cafe, order your Horchata and watch Valencian life go by.
To venture further afield in Valencia one should jump on a bicycle, for Valencia is very well set up with bike lanes criss-crossing the city opening up a multitude of routes; the local bike hire scheme Valenbisi is easy to use. Go explore the nine miles of the Turia Gardens park- once a river that regularly flooded, killing many local inhabitants the Valencians rerouted it and turned the park into a stunning park, towards the east end of the park sits some of the most futuristic architecture I have seen- Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia- the opera house which sits opposite the equally futuristic space that is La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias- City of Arts and Sciences and Oceanogràfic. A little further to the east are the long swathes of beaches looking out to the Balearic sea, there are few cities that have such lovely long beaches right on their doorstep. To the west end of Turia Gardens sits the Valencia Bioparc, one of the most amazing Animal parks I have seen; it feels less like a zoo and more like a mini safari park. Altogether Valencia seems to have it all- cuisine, culture, architecture, beaches, arts; one could visit here for some time and not get bored; but due to its easy access it is well suited to long weekends too… Come to the NH Collection – Valencia Colón and leave wanting more.
NH Collection – Valencia Colón
Carrer de Colón 32