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Restaurante Al-Balansíya

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Although it’s difficult to find, Restaurante Al-Balansíya rewards the intrepid with possibly the best Arabic food in Valencia, at very reasonable prices. We enjoyed the menú desgustación “Sherezade” for €20/person on a Saturday afternoon. Let’s see… what all did we get… [gathers deep breath]

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An incredible salad and breads, hummus, baba ganoush, olives, a cinnamon fideo dish, cous-cous, chicken tayin with almonds, a strange lemon drink, two bottles of non-alcoholic wine (this being an Arabic restaurant, there is no alcohol on the menu), a plate of sweet and sticky desserts, and tea to wash it all down.

I was full midway through the meal! But everything was so delicious, I had to continue chowing down.

The decor and ambiance of Al Balansíya rivals the food as the restaurant’s best quality. Arabic tiles and a little fountain greet diners, and you can grab some fennel or black tea to munch on your way out. The staff is friendly, and stays out of the way, except for when piling even more food upon the table.

By the way, did you notice what the name sounds like when pronounced out loud? Balansíya was the Arabic name for Valencia, and this restaurant honors that heritage. We had a great time here, and wholly recommend it to anyone searching for good Arabic food. Don’t forget to make reservations, though! This place is popular.

Restaurante Al-Balansíya
Paseo de las Facultades, 3
46021 Valencia, Spain
96 389 08 24
Location on our Valencia map
http://www.balansiya.com/

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May 10, 2010 at 10:39 am Comments (2)

Video of the Alhambra

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Get your Shisha out and pour yourself some Arabic tea to get you in the mood for 1001 Arabian Nights, and let the video do the rest.

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February 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm Comments (3)

Granada – The Nazrid Palaces of the Alhambra

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Patio-de-los-Arrayanes “I gave myself up, during my sojourn in the Alhambra, to all the romantic and fabulous traditions connected with the pile. I lived in the midst of an Arabian tale, and shut my eyes, as much as possible, to every thing that called me back to every-day life; and if there is any country in Europe where one can do so, it is in poor, wild, legendary, proud-spirited, romantic Spain; where the old magnificent barbaric spirit still contends against the utilitarianism of modern civilization.”

– Washington Irving
on his stay in the Alhambra, 1832

The Nazrid Palaces of the Alhambra, one of the world’s great architectural and cultural treasures, is the pinnacle of Granada’s plentiful touristic offerings.

The very fact of the palace’s survival, let alone its pristine state, is a miracle. Washington Irving, the American author who lived there for months as a guest, relates in his popular collection Tales of the Alhambra a legend about an ancient blessing, carved into the stone entrance, which has protected it over the centuries.

I find it more likely that even the most vicious and intolerant of marauding armies were unable to destroy such beauty.

The Alhambra (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was built in the mid-14th century by the Moorish rulers of Al-Andalus, who had chosen Granada as their capital. Walking through the palace’s incredible quarters, it’s impossible not to sense 700 years of history encompassing you. The beauty and intricacy of the construction is unreal, but we’ll let the pictures speak to that.

For visitors to Granada, the Nazrid Palaces (palacios nazaríes) are a must-see. But take care: you’ll have to book tickets in advance. A limited number of people are allowed into the grounds at any given time. Once inside, though, you can take your time. Too many people don’t realize this, and show up at the Alhambra hoping to get tickets, only to leave disappointed.

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February 5, 2010 at 10:54 am Comments (11)

Alcoy – Christians & Moors Festival 2009

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What must be the Valencian Community’s most impressive Christians & Moors Festival takes place in the beautiful mountain city of Alcoy on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of April.

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Scratch that — this must be the best such festival in all of Spain. We went on the 22nd, and find it hard to imagine that anything else could even come close. This was one of the most impressive celebrations I’ve ever seen. (If you want to go, make sure to book your hotel or hostel in Alcoy early!!!).

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With beautiful, ornate costumes that manage to look both hundreds of years old and sparkling new, thousands of marchers transform the streets of Alcoy’s magnificent old city into a gigantic party. The festival’s first day sees the entrances: first of the Christains at 11:00, and then of the Moors at 17:00. Each parade lasts hours and hours, and is chock full of incredible music, dancing, floats and costumes.

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The streets were jam packed, and it was difficult to find a place to stand. So, purchasing a seat for the parade is well-worth the money. You can do get tickets from Alcoy’s tourist office.

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On the 23rd, Alcoy celebrates the Fiesta de San Jorge. All day long, the streets are packed with revelers. And on the 24th, the city sees recreations of the infamous battles between its historical masters. This, from the pictures I’ve seen, consists of people marching down the streets with shotguns, making a lot of noise.

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All three days are worth seeing, but the Moorish Captain we had a chat with after lunch confirmed that the entrances on the 22nd are the most interesting for tourists. For locals, the battles of the final day are the most anticipated. Probably because they party all night.

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If you go and spend the night, it’s worth trying to get into a Fila hall. We didn’t do this, so I don’t have first-hand advice, but the Filas are the different groups in charge of the festival, similar to Valencia’s Fallas commissions. There are Moorish Filas, which try and recreate a feeling of Arabian marketplaces, and Christian Filas, too. These are private grounds, so you have to be invited to participate, but this is usually possible without too much effort.

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While you’re watching the parades, we can highly recommend the typical drink: la Mentira. Details here!

Even without the festival, Alcoy is definitely worth a day trip from Valencia. The old city is gorgeous, accessible from a more modern area of town across a long bridge. The streets are hilly, and there are plenty of monuments and natural beauty to gawk at.

Book your rental car here. BCO best prices for rental cars in Valencia.

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April 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm Comments (8)