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Valencia trip includes Mestalla tour, mixed grill and English village pubs

The Bar Man column, by Jeff Hoyle (West Norfolk CAMRA), Friday, January 24, 2020

It seemed like a good idea to take a final trip to Europe while it is still possible, so we chose Valencia.

The stimulus for this choice was to watch a pre-season Rugby League game between the local team and Featherstone Rovers, but the match was moved a hundred miles south to a town near Benidorm, and neither club was prepared to answer my emails.

The Mestalla, home of Valencia FC
The Mestalla, home of Valencia FC

It turned out that the local football team was playing in a mini tournament in Saudi Arabia, so we had to be content with a tour of their home ground, the impressive Mestalla, with the city emblem, a bat, picked out in the seating of one huge stand.

There were disappointingly few references to former manager Gary Neville and I guess he will be totally airbrushed from their history when they relocate shortly to the suburbs.

There were plenty of other attractions, including a large number of craft beer bars close to the wonderful pedestrian friendly old town.

Valencia. The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle
Valencia. The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle

Instead of the rugby we met up with International Race Walker Cath, and husband Pete, formerly of Ryston Runners and who still feature occasionally on the sports pages of this august journal.

As it was my birthday, (sweetly marked by a candle in my breakfast croissant by the hotel), we had a couple of pints of the local ale while I shared a Valencian mixed grill with Cath. Maybe not the traditional preparation for her race next day, but it had some success as she recorded her best time for four years.

An even more impressive feat with the local craft ale coming in at around 5 per cent up to 11 per cent, and many bars serve in proper halves and pints rather than the smaller glasses often found on the continent.

As well as the variety of beer, the range of bars also impressed.

One was a tiny shop with home-made shelves, no seats and barely enough room for a dozen people. Another was an American style bar with large screens showing the NFL.

We found one that could have been an old English village pub with a vaguely ecclesiastical feel, church style woodwork including a kind of rood screen.

A posh basement bar in a converted market reminded me of Covent Garden, and the list goes on. You may be forgiven for thinking that all we did was drink, but this was not the case.

We intended to go and watch Cath compete, but were side-tracked by a couple of wonderful galleries and museums while the chance to climb the city gates was too good to miss.

Still, Cath talked us through her exploits over more beer and steak the next evening and we departed for home vowing to meet up again in this wonderful city some time again. Shirt sleeve weather in January and reminiscent of Barcelona, but lacking the crowds of tourists - why not?

The mood of contentment and satisfaction lasted until Royston on the way home, where the 6.09 from Kings Cross came to a halt. There was a power cut near Cambridge, and we joined the thousands queuing for the replacement taxis to take us onwards.

Three hours later, stood in the pouring rain and we were on our way, only to have a repeat at Cambridge. We arrived home just before 1am.

The journey gave me the chance to contemplate eternity and in the context of Spain and Brexit, the title of Douglas Adam’s fourth book of his Hitchhiker trilogy suddenly made more sense. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.

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