For the first time ever I almost missed my plane! I had booked the taxi driver one week earlier, while still in Poland. Waking up at 3 a.m. is never pleasant, but I was very excited about the trip to Valencia that morning. So after a busy week of travelling back to the UK by car, and delivering various client projects, the last thing I needed was the taxi driver not turning up. Thankfully the company scrambled a different driver. Somehow, along with my new personal care assistant Olga, we just made it through the airport in time.
After the usual audiobook, and a power nap, Spain was below the aeroplane. This particular trip was to focus on the Region of Valencia. Our visit acted as an umbrella for a series of events based on accessible tourism. It was organised by the Autonomous Community of Valencia (Turisme Comunitat Valenciana) and PREDIF (the Representative State Platform for Disabled People with Physical Impairments).
The main objectives were to promote accessibility in the tourism sector in the provinces of Valencia, Castellón and Alicante. Also to raise awareness among professionals in the public and private sectors, as well as to publicise the area to visitors from other countries. All through our experiences.
No pressure there then.
The Hotel and the Group
At the airport an accessible taxi and a fellow project member, Marianne, greeted us. We headed for the short ride to the Vincci Mercat hotel. After the usual shifting of some furniture, the room was setup for the rental hoist and my shower chair. This is always a relief to know I’ll be ok to use the bathroom for the visit.
Then a week of amazing food and drink and adventure began. We met that evening with Tatiana from PREDIF, Oscar from Accessible Madrid, Marianne from Marianne Tours, and last but not least a fellow blogger Nuria. Plus her guide dog Aldo.
We only had one day in the actual city of Valencia. But we certainly covered many great things. One thing I learnt immediately from the tour guide was that Valencia is actually the third largest city in all of Spain. Behind Madrid and Barcelona.
We all took the short walk to the college and museum of high silk art. The guide took us on a tour not only of the building, but through so much of Spain’s history.
Silk was a major factor in shaping the jobs, culture, agriculture and so forth many centuries ago. In such a fearful and divided political climate, it was enlightening to learn about the beautiful consequences of different cultures coming together. Of course the battle between Christianity and Islam in Spain had its problems, but the positive outcomes of diverse populations was easy to follow through this silk story.
In keeping with the silk theme (hopefully you’re getting how vital it was for this area of Spain in the past now), we visited the silk exchange. There we also met the president of PREDIF Comunitat Valenciana, Carlos Sotos, and Francesc Colomer, Regional Secretary of Tourism.
After a hugely delicious lunch, we headed to the San Nicolas Church. It was really special inside the building. The art work and sculptures were so beautiful. It really gave me a feeling of peace inside for that short visit, on what was a busy day.
Via a short bus ride (adapted minibus from Marianne tours), we then headed to the Fallas museum. The word is pronounced very similarly to ‘fires’. I only realised the word was different later in the visit, because the whole museum was filled with amazing sculptures. Sculptures that were from the community during their annual festival. Whereby the sculptures are actually burned, very similarly to our Guy Fawkes night, in a crazy March evening of fun. Only the winning sculpture survives and takes its pride of place in this museum.
Apparently the night is a true spectacle not to be missed. So I hope to return for the actual Fallas party with the loud firecrackers and the bright burning lifelike mannequins.
Our evening drew to a close by walking around the fascinating art and science centre. Designed by a fantastic architect; the pavement, lakes and buildings are clever and symbolic. It’s very hard to describe them in words. But it’s definitely a place you should also see once, for sure.
So this epic day finished at a beachside restaurant, with yet more amazing food. Oh the life of a travel blogger!
Xativa and Gandia
If you thought there was some interesting history in Valencia, then Xativa will blow your mind. In a good way of course. Particularly as I am a proper history geek. Every street had its own tale to tell. The museum was lined with interesting and intriguing paintings. Plus the church was a true relic to enjoy.
Being older meant some of the streets were a little bumpy, but it was manageable in my chair. I was able to get inside all of the buildings. Most importantly I really felt like I had gone back in time.
There is the old pronunciation expression that goes: the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. Well the plain could be in a few places, but that afternoon the rain definitely fell bloody hard. It didn’t stop our plans, but I’m very pleased I took my new rainproof poncho.
That afternoon, following delicious fideua (paella with pasta), we visited the Ducal Palace of Gandia. Having coincidentally read a book about Leonardo da Vinci before, I was very plugged in to 15th and 16th century life in Italy. During this time there was an interesting story about a Spanish Guy who became the first non Italian Pope.
Have you heard of the Borgias? Or rather their Spanish origin was actually Borja. Well this castle is where the third generation Saint Frances lived. You could feel the people, the parties and the politics as we wandered around this stunning palace.
Segorbe and Castellon
I really enjoyed this day. In Segorbe we learned about and were immersed in the festival of the bulls. It’s was phenomenal. Every year people line the streets. The bulls are lead from outside the town. Surrounded by people on horseback. As the bulls run through the streets, fast, the people move over just before they’re knocked down.
In writing it I’m feeling the needs to explain that no animals are injured. Moreover it’s just another thing you need to see. In the museum it feels like you’re right in that market square!
Onto Castellon, we walked through the city with our very passionate guide. The story of the church and nearby towers was interesting. As was the continuation of the time Moorish people lived their.
As you can imagine, we headed for some food and drink, before getting a little shut eye. The next day would be off to Alicante!
We clocked up some miles during this trip. The visit to Alicante also meant changing hotels for one night.
Unfortunately the weather, which did provide warm sun at times, was a bit unpredictable. The boat trip to the island of Tabarca was therefore postponed. Which was a shame, but it mean we got a more chilled day than the previous ones.
Instead we visited Santa Bárbara Castle overlooking the sea, followed by a Michelin star lunch with the same stunning view. I’d like to return to Alicante itself for more of an exploration. However what I saw of it was great.
Onto Villajoyosa and the famous Valor chocolate factory. We started with a video of the company history, and how they make their famous confectionery. Then I went up the stair lift and we all enjoyed the museum tour. Finally we strolled around the factory, watching the chocolates being made.
I say finally, but the true finale was the shop. I’m still burning off the calories now.
Afterwards we headed to the amazing Vilamuseu. Probably my best moment of the whole trip. The access was fantastic. The exhibitions were fascinating, inclusive and so interactive. Nuria being visually impaired was able to touch tactile items.
We had so much fun dressing up as Romans, making historical perfumes, and uncovering a ship wreck. Recently divers off of the nearby Mediterranean coast found a sunk ship. From emperor Neros time! Carrying many amazing artefacts.
The museum director took us to the basement where items were undergoing treatment. Eventually they will be placed in the museum’s exhibition and shown to the world. I felt very lucky to see such a behind the scenes glimpse.
We were caught in a huge downpour after our meal. We’d been eating at 9pm or 10pm. So this was an event later night waiting for the weather to ease. By morning I woke up to the perfect sea view sunrise. It really left an imprint on me. In fact you can see a video on my Instagram back from mid October.
World Changing Trips
I keep talking a lot about changing the world lately. This trip changed the world, but not in a special or arrogant way. Every initiative that encourages accessibility and inclusion changes the world that little bit more. Every positive experience and positive blog post pushes things forward for the better.
That morning we headed back to Valencia city for a press conference. The town hall was quite the spectacular location. Nuria and I spoke to the press and were asked questions too.
Who knows who was there, or read the article, or saw us on tv, and felt compelled to make tourism even better there. Who knows who is reading this, and will be encouraged to travel with a disability. Who knows what butterfly effect it all has.
Here’s to Valencia, here’s to the organisers, here’s to small improvements, here’s to big consequences, here’s to changing the world together!
Oh and here’s the places we stayed and ate in, just in case it’s useful.
Address: Carrer de la Llanterna, 31, 46001 Valencia, Valencia.
Tel: +34 961 01 42 60
HOTEL ALLON MEDITERRANIA
Address: Avenida del Puerto, 4, 03570 Villajoyosa, Alicante
Tel: +34 965 89 02 09
Carrer dels Transits, 4, 46002 Valencia
Tel: +34 963 94 00 08
Marina Real Juan Carlos I, s/n, 46024 Valencia
+34 960 61 54 70
Carrer del Senill, 105, 46713 Playa de Gandía, Valencia
Tel: +34 960 26 03 33
Carrer de Sant Vicent Màrtir, 44, 46001 Valencia
Tel: +34 963 94 24 42
Carrer Palau, 22, 12400 Segorbe, Castellon
Tel: +34 655 93 33 02
Entrevins – Primer Piso, Calle de la Paz, 7, 46003 Valencia
+34 963 33 35 23
Av. del Puerto, 23, 03570 Villajoyosa, Alicante
– World Changer @ martynsibley.com.
– Author @ ‘Everything is Possible’ (on Amazon).
– Inclusion Captain @ disabilityhorizons.com.
– Presenter and Speaker @ visablepeople.com.
– Adviser @ Governments/Businesses/
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