Valencia CF are one of Spain’s footballing powerhouses – and seeing them at the world-famous Mestalla stadium simply has to be done.
Henry Chard made a long-awaited journey to the Spanish coastal city – see his report below.
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Valencia has been a city I have wanted to visit for many, many years. Growing up watching Champions League football I can remember watching a Valencia side containing the likes of David Albelda, Roberto Ayala, Santiago Cañizares, Pablo Aimar, Vicente and Rubén Baraja to name a few.
In that era the side were consistently challenging for La Liga titles and reaching Champions League finals and Mestalla was packed to the rafters and rocking, it looked a proper traditional Spanish stadium with a fantastic atmosphere.
Add into that a wonderful city, a beautiful beach and superb food and you have several reasons to pay this Spanish city a weekend visit.
Flights out to the city are cheap enough. The metro system is brilliantly easy to navigate, you jump on the metro at the airport and it will take you into the city and right through to the beach if you so desire!
Firstly I dropped my bag off at the hotel that was located in-between the city centre and the beach and it had a pool and sauna, apparently us English are obsessed with hotel pools? I wasn’t aware of this stereotype but I can admit I was looking forward to a morning dip every day!
City of Arts and Sciences
On the Friday evening I headed down to the City of Arts and Sciences. Most, like me, know it as the place where there are loads of new, modern, huge funky looking buildings. It was almost like a load of spaceships had landed and were surrounded by perfectly kept water.
I’m not massively sure of the point of it all still but it was well worth having a look at and it was certainly very relaxing having a beer and listening to a band playing on a stage constructed in the water.
I then headed into the city centre to check out the old town which on a Friday night had a typical Spanish buzz to it. Beautifully lit up water fountains surrounded the incredible architecture of the cathedral as people sat in the square chatting, eating and drinking. For me, it’s one of my favourite things about visiting Spain and I followed suit by ordering in a paella and a beer whilst taking in my surroundings. Perfection.
Saturday I had designated as beach day and I got on the metro and followed the obvious beach goers who led me to the golden sands. It was simply stunning, not a cloud in the sky and a beach as perfect as they look in holiday brochures. With a string of cafes and bars overlooking the beach I got some breakfast in before taking a walk along the coast in the scorching 30 degrees heat.
After dipping my toes in the Mediterranean and getting burnt sunbathing like a true tourist it was lunch time and being on the coast it is hard not to order anything other than seafood.
Back to the hotel to assess the skin damage, and then into the city centre to meet my friend for dinner who works for the Diario de Navarra press covering Osasuna.
On my way to meet him I passed the famous Mestalla which looked superb from the outside. It looked like Batman’s HQ with the huge bat towering over you. Oddly all the Valencia players were getting on the coach too so I saw the likes of Dani Parejo, Nani and Diego Alves posing for selfies with fans. The Osasuna bus was parked up too so I took my chance and blagged my way onto it to have a look around, being an English fan has its perks!
Valencia match day
Sunday was match day and I as walked into the city centre I saw the Osasuna players at their hotel and couldn’t help but pop in and see them. I found a traditional café in the old part of town that was famous for serving the traditional ‘Horchata’ drink of Valencia.
It’s hard to describe but it’s like a thin milkshake with a hint of a nut taste that you dip a pastry based product into for breakfast called a ‘Farton’.
Then I headed into the cathedral to find the actual ‘Holy Grail’, yes Valencia is home to the real ‘Holy Grail’. After wandering around and almost giving up trying to find it, I found it, purely just to say I had seen it.
After more seafood paella we headed to the ground. The game itself was a dead end of season rubber for both sides. Add into that the heat and the fact the fans were holding a protest and so did not turn up, it wasn’t the ingredients for a classic.
However, the ground is a great one, very steep and I kept thinking that, for a big game packed with passionate fans, this place would be rocking.
After the game it was time to grab some food and look back on a wonderful weekend. It really is one of the best cities I have visited, I couldn’t think of anything bad about the place and will certainly be returning soon!
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This is an edited version of a feature that first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, the fan’s guide for great trips in Europe and the UK. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk for more details.