7 Reasons You Need to Visit Valencia.

Having spent a year in Valencia, I can safely say that it is my favourite location in Spain. Not only is it a vibrant and convivial city,  but it also perfectly merges beach relaxation with bustling city life. Plus, it’s bursting with culture and history to boot. Whether your ideal vacation involves relaxing on the sand and soaking up the sun, getting drunk and hitting the bars and clubs, or admiring stunning architectural feats, Valencia has got it all. Here are 7 reasons YOU NEED TO VISIT VALENCIA NOW:


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Ever thought that bonfire night was the ultimate annual event for a pyromaniac in a celebratory mood? The best night of the year for setting things ablaze and reveling in it? Well, think again. Valencia’s ‘Las Fallas’ festival, held every year from March 14th to 19th, is like bonfire night on crack – and with hundreds of creepy, albeit impressive, satirical sculptures thrown into the mix. This annual celebration, organised in commemoration of Saint Joseph, sees the streets of Valencia filled with towering effigies, or ‘ninots’, constructed by the Valencians themselves, which they then set on fire in a symbolic gesture to welcome the arrival of spring.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetEach neighbourhood in Valencia creates their own unique ninot, and competes with all of the other neighbourhoods in an attempt to be crowned the winner. To ensure that they come out on top, they usually begin creating their constructions months in advance; it is only on the evening of the 19th of March that every sculpture is set alight, and throngs of delighted onlookers can marvel at them as they go up in flames. If anything, each statue is a shining (or burning) emblem of the indomitable Valencian spirit, and their ability to come together and work collectively to celebrate art, satire, and tradition.

After the burning effigies have turned to ash, the streets come alive with rapturous cheering and drunken revelry, as los Valencianos continue their celebrations through the night at one of the many parties held in las calles. As cheerful and welcoming people, they are always happy for you to join in with the drinking and merrymaking, so feel free to do so.

If burning statues and late-night street parties aren’t your thing, not to worry, there’s plenty more to enjoy during the festive period. Indeed, throughout the month leading up to the festival, one can bear witness to lively street parades accompanied by marching bands, in which women walk together clad in traditional garments. If you venture into town, you may want to take a moment to stop off in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to watch the deafening (to put it lightly) sound display, also known as ‘la mascletà’; it takes place every day at 2pm from the 1st until the 19th of March, and is essentially a load of gunpowder explosions set off in sequence.

For the foodies among you, food stands are set up throughout the city for the festival, selling tasty churros and buñuelos (Spanish donughts) coated in sugar and served with rich dipping chocolate; these are sure to whet your appetite. If you haven’t got a sweet tooth, just stop off at any local eatery for a legendary Valencian paella – they are seriously unbeatable (see no. 4).

Note: For those of you that like fireworks, there is a breathtaking firework extravaganza on the night of the 18th of March, called ‘La Nit del Foc’ (night of fire), which makes for fantastic viewing.


The beautiful coastal city boasts impressive sandy beaches, the most popular being La Malvarrosa beach. ThIMG_6097is golden wonder stretches for miles and is miraculously clean, unsullied by tourist waste and litter (thus far). One of the best things about this pristine beach, save its spaciousness and cleanliness, is the gorgeous promenade that runs parallel to it. At any time, day or night, the promenade is used by dog walkers, cyclists, and joggers alike, looking to get a bit of fresh air and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Better still, the promenade is lined with swaying palm trees and an array of local restaurants and bars serving delicious food and drink, and locally-sourced seafood.

Note: if you hang around at the beach until dusk, you can bask in the warm evening air and watch on as the bright blue sky transforms into a magnificent pink and orange hued sunset – an absolute must.


A visit to Valencia’s historic quarter is the perfect way to satiate one’s desire for a good ol’ helping of culture and history. This architecturally-stunning district, located in the heart of the city, is filled with impressive landmarks, including the Serrano towers (Torres de Serranos), the Silk Exchange (Lonja de la Seda), and the Valencia Cathedral. To get to these historic landmarks, you’ll need to wander through the centre’s labyrinthine cobbled streets, lined with a multitude of beautiful boutiques, cycle shops and inviting bars.

When wondering around the centre, be sure to stop off at Valencia’s two main squares: La Plaza de la Reina and La Plaza de la Virgin. Both are unbelievable, with La Plaza de la Virgen a personal favourite; this square is surrounded by historic treasures, including the Valencia Cathedral and the Basilica of the Virgin, all of which you can admire whilst you sit back and relax with a glass of Agua de Valencia and some tapas at one of the square’s restaurants. The best thing about the square, is its centrepiece; a stunning fountain depicting Neptune surrounded by eight women, which lights up at sundown.


If you have ever heard chefs or food connoisseurs harping on about Valencian paella, it’s probably for a reason. If anyone knows how to make a paella that packs a punch, it’s the people of Valencia. Their delicious, aromatic rice masterpiece, combines juicy chicken and rabbit, with saffron and paprika, among other things, to create a truly mouthwatering dish. But, the most sought after part of the paella where the Valencians are concerned, is the crispy, caramelised crust on the bottom, known as the Socarrat. Whilst living in Valencia, I tried paella at both fancy restaurants and cheap takeaway joints, and it was always, without fail, delicious – no matter where I tried it.

If you’re like me, and when you go away you like to try delicious food, regardless of whether or not it originates from where you are vacationing, then try eating at the Mexican restaurant, Beers and Burros. Oh my, are their burritos damn good! Also, if you’re strapped for cash, go to 100 Montaditos, a low-key restaurant serving delectable little bocadillos ...   Alright fine, it’s actually a large chain of restaurants that can be found in most Spanish cities, but I feel that not enough tourists know about it, and every Wednesday they serve everything on the menu for 1 euro each. I repeat: ONE EURO EACH!


The nightlife in Valencia is pretty laid back, and there is no shortage of warm and welcoming bars scattered throughout the city. One of the more popular hot spots is Radio City, a quaint bar whose eclectic clientele is both enticing and a little unnerving. You’ll find anyone in there, from students making a pit stop on their boozed-up bar crawls, to hippy fourty-somethings tripping on ecstasy; whatever your type, there’s probably someone in there for you.

If you’re a bit of a party animal, and would prefer to go out on the lash and pull some shapes at a ‘real’ club, then head on down to L’Umbracle and its sister club, Mya. L’umbracle is situated directly above Mya, and is a spacious terrace surrounded by palm trees. Mya, underneath, is much more nightclubesque, with louder music and graffitied walls. Either are a great way to dance the night away.


IMG_7448La Turia is a magnificent grassy strip that runs directly through Valencia, stretching an impressive 9 km. Interestingly, this gorgeous park abundant in stunning trees and flowers was formerly a river bed, until the path of the river was altered to prevent it from flooding the city. Running along both sides of the park, is a path for pedestrians and cyclists, and it is a popular place for people to walk their dogs as well.

The most spectacular part of the park, has to be the phenomenal Ciudad de las Artes y los Ciencias, an architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava. If there is one thing you stop off and see in Valencia, it has got to be this! It looks like some sort of otherworldly, futuristic space station, surrounded by mesmerising bright blue pools of water. Whilst its buildings are pretty to look at, they’re also functional, one being the Hemisfèric, one the Science Museum,  and another the Oceanogràfic – Europe’s largest aquarium.



A really great aspect of Valencia, is that it is in close proximity to a whole host of beautiful and historic neighbouring towns. Among the most notable is Cuenca, a town renowned for its casas colgadas (hanging houses). Albarracín is another, its medieval architecture and hilltop castle earning it the prestigious honour of being deemed a UNESCO world heritage sight and a first-place ranking as Spain’s most beautiful town. Finally, Teruel, whose charming main square is surrounded by stunning colourful buildings.

Within Valencia, there is a wonderful natural park only a short bus ride from the city, called La Albufera. The park is home to the largest lake in Spainthe inhabitants of which include endangered species and a variety of interesting wildlife. For only 5 euros a pop, you can hop inside a fisherman’s boat and take a tour around the lake. The fishermen are most obliging, and they provide lots of interesting and insightful information, but… the information is all in Spanish. Great if you speak it, not so much if you don’t. Well, whether you speak Spanish or not, it’s a very enjoyable, and relaxing ride nonetheless.


A Flower Among Flowers.

To my wonderful older sister,

I am so fortunate to have such a strong, inspiring, and intelligent being to look up to. You are so beautiful, inside and out, and your kindness knows no bounds. I love you so much, and thank you for being the best role model I could have ever asked for.


Lots of Love,

Helen ♥

Two-Week Road Trip in the USA: An Itinerary.

The US indisputably has some of the most stunning national parks on earth, and back in the summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to go on a two-week road trip with my amazing family to see just some of the country’s natural wonders. It truly felt like an all-american experience; we drank at a bar with bikers, lived it up in Las Vegas, and hiked through enchanting forests (constantly in fear of being attacked by bears); we saw waterfalls, trees that turned to stone, and beautiful domestic wildlife. To top it all off, I got to spend hours in the car with my sisters and parents, singing along to american classics from the likes of the Eagles, The Beach Boys, and Journey.

Anyway, whether you’re considering jetting off to take your own road trip stateside, or simply want to learn a bit more about what the country has to offer, this itinerary will hopefully provide some inspiration, or will at least be of some interest to you.

DAY ONE. We woke up bright and early and took a flight to Chicago‘s O’Hare airport, and from there we took a domestic flight to a city in southern Montana called Billings. We stayed at the airport for a short while to take some snaps of the amazing skyline – this is visible from the airport car park – and then took our rental car to our hotel for the night: the Hilltop Inn (around £70/pn in peak season).

DAY TWO. In the morning, we took a walk along the Yellowstone River, which runs through Billings, and then set off for Cooke City: a quintessentially-american town with a population of only 140 people. This quaint little town at the northeastern border of Yellowstone National park is reminiscent of the western movies of golden-age cinema; it even has its own saloon and casino. On route towards Cooke City, we drove along the scenic Beartooth Highway, with roads winding through mountains and towering pines. There is a viewing point along the highway called Rock Creek Vista Point, with a great photo opportunity to look at the valleys down below. A little further along, you come to the Beartooth Pass Summit (elev. 10,947), overlooking a lake and snowy mountain peaks.

After a couple of stops to take in the views, we finally moved on to Cooke City. Once there, we left our things at our motel for the next couple of nights, the Alpine Motel (£114/pn in peak season), and then drove to the Lamar Valley: a great opportunity to look at Bison. On our way back from the Valley, we struck gold and got to see a black bear wandering across the road.


DAY THREE. After a delicious breakfast in the morning, we drove into Yellowstone and stopped at the Yellowstone Canyon. We parked up and did a short hike down to the Lower Brink Falls, a truly astounding waterfall cascading down into the valley below. The views were astonishing, and the sunlight hit the water perfectly to create a double rainbow. After taking a few pictures, we drove to the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel for a bite to eat. With the afternoon wearing on, we made our way back. On the way, we stopped at the Fishing Bridge and the Sulphur Cauldron, which, as you can imagine, was a delight for the senses. If you take a walk around the Sulphur Cauldron, make sure to check out Dragon’s Breath. 

DAY FOUR. This was a more relaxing day, with far less walking. We drove to some falls and strolled around a beautiful little spot called Trout lake. We then took some time to marvel at the “wonders” that Cooke City had to offer. The first place we went to was the Taxidermy Museum, which was unusual but interesting nonetheless. After glaring into the lifeless eyes of stuffed lynxes, bison, and eagles, we walked a few meters across the road to the Beartooth Plateau Outfitters, a small shop whose walls were adorned with moose heads. In the evening, we went to the local watering hole, Hoosier’s bar, where we met three lovely, albeit highly intoxicated, biker couples; among the group was a gold minor and a beekeeper. We spent the night chatting with them, and one of the bikers constantly teasing me about my British accent. They were great, though, and bought us drinks all night.

DAY FIVE. In the morning I awoke feeling extremely hungover. but we went to the Cooke City bakery for breakfast, which certainly helped to take the edge off; they served a delicious fish-cake Eggs Benedict. We then moved on to Mammoth Hot Springs, but stopped for a hike to look at some petrified wood (wood that has fossilised). The walk up to see the wood is quite strenuous, so if you are not a fan of hiking, there is some petrified wood that can be reached without the need to hike. Once we had finished the hike we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs and checked into a Best Western hotel; the rooms are absolutely stunning. The hotel also comes equipped with a pool, spa, and hot tub, which is always a bonus!

DAY SIX. On day six, we traveled down to a creek that the barman from Hoosier’s had recommended to us. We followed the directions he had provided and eventually arrived at the Boiling River. As we parked up, we saw a sign that read, “warning, water may scald”. This was rather disconcerting, but we decided to take a dip anyway. There were parts of the river where the temperature was perfect, but there were also spots  were the water was uncomfortably hot: you have been warned.

DAY SEVEN. The first activity to tick off on day seven was a viewing of Old Faithful – the most famous geyser in the US. It is great in terms of accessibility, located conveniently next to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, with benches placed around the geyser for a more comfortable viewing experience. It is also really easy to schedule a viewing because it has highly predictable eruption interval times. The eruption is definitely worth watching, spewing an impressive tower of steam and water only a short distance from the viewing area.

Note: If you stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, slip out after sundown for a magical viewing of Old Faithful under the stars:

After Old Faithful, it was time for the most highly-anticipated landmark of our trip: the Grand Prismatic. This enormous hot spring (the largest in the US) is a natural marvel, with its vivid blues and oranges evoking strong feelings of wonderment. I had seen pictures of the Grand Prismatic previously, but it is a completely different experience to witness it in real life.

Note: If you do decide to visit this particular hot spring, you may also consider a short 5-mile-round hike to a waterfall called the Fairy Falls, which is within close proximity.


DAY EIGHT. Day eight was another relaxing day. We drove down to Grand Tetons National Park and checked in at the Signal Mountain Lodge on Jackson Lake. The weather had been pretty dismal for most of the drive, making our hopes of good hiking weather for the next day pretty low. But once dusk arrived, the skies transformed and we bore witness to a beautiful sunset; the amber tones of the sun gleamed off the calm lake. We simply spent the evening sitting on the deck outside our room and sipping a few beers as we drank in the view of the Grand Tetons across the lake on the horizon.


DAY NINE. We started off the day by hopping on a speedboat that took us across a neighbouring lake: Jenny Lake. We did a leisurely hike along the Cascade Canyon trail (the gradient at the beginning of the trail is quite steep). On the trail, there is a viewing opportunity at Inspiration Point, which provides impressive views of Jenny Lake.

Day TEN. We said goodbye to Grand Tetons and drove 5 and a half hours to Antelope Island, Utah, to get a view of the Great Salt Lake. There weren’t many people at the lake, so it was nice and peaceful, and the reflective waters were reminiscent of the reflective salt flats of Bolivia. We then drove on to our hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

DAY ELEVEN. Day eleven involved a visit to the ultimate place of worship within the Mormon community; the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City. Upon entering the reception, each guest is generously gifted a complimentary Book of Mormon, before being presented with slightly unsettling introductory videos about the Mormon church and faith. Group tours are offered in various languages and the guides are all Mormon missionaries from around the world. We had a lovely guide called Candy who showed me her Book of Mormon, which was filled with annotations and coloured sticky notes. I even gave her my mobile number and she texted me different passages from the text on a daily basis.

Afterwards, we did a spot of shopping at the shopping center (mall) nearby before leaving for Cedar City, Utah, where, once again, we stayed in a Best Western. Though an unassuming little town, it has its own charm, with lights lining the quiet streets at night and a selection of restaurants from which to choose.

DAY TWELVE. In the morning, we headed seventeen miles south of Cedar to Kolob Canyon, with stunning trails through the crimson cliffs of the Colorado Plateau. The canyon, which is in the northwestern part of Zion National Parks, offers a great opportunity for a peaceful walk among geologically-exquisite surroundings. If you decide to take the Taylor Creek trail – a five-mile-round trip – you will be rewarded at the end with a view of the partially created Double Arch Alcove, a stunning arch of deep reds and oranges. On the way to the Double Arch, you will pass two historic cabins: the Larson Cabin and the Fife Cabin. 


After our hike, we drove on to Vegas, Nevada, making a pit stop at a cafe called 25 Main in St George, Utah. This quaint family-run cafe is definitely worth a stop if you’re passing through St. George, offering large cups of coffee and delicious frosted cupcakes.

Once we had filled up on cakes and coffee, we moved on to Las VegasNevada. Las Vegas is definitely unique, with scorching heat outside and freezing cold air-conned casinos inside. Once there, we checked in to the Belagio, which, though pretty damn pricey, is worth the cost for the views of the strip and the Belagio fountain from the hotel room. Whilst Vegas comes alive at night, during the day the atmosphere is slightly more gloomy, with women in their sixties spending their last pennies on the slot machines.

DAY THIRTEEN. In the morning, we drove to the outskirts of Vegas to have breakfast at the Blueberry Hill Diner, a classic american diner with large, stacks of buttermilk pancakes and free refillable coffee. The quality of the food and the size of the portions make this diner fantastic value for money.

After breakfast, we spent the day wandering through the various hotels along the strip and spent a little time shopping (pretty much the only thing you can do during the day, save gambling).




My First Blog.

Hey everyone! Welcome to my first ever blog! I have always wanted to get into blogging but, unfortunately, university work had to come first. However, now that I have graduated I can finally get started and I can’t wait!

Throughout my blog, I will be chronicling everything from my trips away, to my attempts at creating (potentially disastrous, but hopefully delicious) vegetarian dishes, because I have only recently jumped on the veggie bandwagon. 

I love to take photos and I will try my best to capture the wonderful moments and breathtaking views and landscapes that I encounter, along with my culinary experiments, to the best of my ability. I am so excited to get stuck in, and I really hope that you enjoy!



Lots of love,

Helen ♥

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