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Come paella high water… You’ll go prawn crackers for Spanish port city Valencia, renowned for spicy rice dish

The old town in Valencia from the Serranos Gate (Getty Images)
The old town in Valencia from the Serranos Gate (Getty Images)

IT was one of the first things I asked our host – do you put chorizo in paella? The answer was a resounding “no”.

From the moment I knew I was visiting Valencia – the home of paella – my mouth was watering at the thought of spicy Spanish sausage combined with fresh prawns, chicken and rice.

This combo, as I quickly learned, is a version we Brits have rustled up.

In Spain, the dish is served as chicken and rabbit, or fish, with prawns or langoustines. It is Spaniards’ traditional Sunday dinner, families squeezed around a large, piping-hot pan.

So we opt to dine like locals – and fighting off my friends for the biggest prawn is the perfect way to begin a fantastic trip.

The prawns come fresh from the sea, just 50 yards from our feet, and later we venture out on to the water via a choppy Catamaran ride, offering super views of beautiful Malvarrosa Beach.

We leave from the Juan Carlos I Royal Marina, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and setting for The America’s Cup sailing competition in 2007 and 2010.

Looking back to shore, I realise traditional seafront shops selling buckets and spades are nowhere to be seen.

Instead, take your pick of classy bars and restaurants.

Sandy haven (Getty Images)

A nightcap is, of course, the perfect way to round off your evening – but after a swig of the local Valencian cocktail, you’re more likely to head out on the tiles than retire to your hotel room.

Agua de Valencia – a bold combination of fizz, vodka, gin, orange juice and a pinch of sugar – is served up in a pitcher.

But don’t be fooled by the non-alcoholic taste – it’s certain to leave you with a fuzzy head the following morning!

Thankfully our base, the Eurostars Gran Valencia, has a rooftop pool and panoramic views of the city. It’s the perfect place to blow away the cobwebs and soak up some sun.

It has everything you need for a relaxing trip, from a hydro-massage bathtub and sauna to a terraced bar 14 storeys up.

After a spot of relaxation we decide to leave the luxury behind for a while and hire bikes to experience the city on wheels.

The Turia Gardens is one of the largest urban parks in Spain, a staggering nine kilometres in length, built on the former riverbed of the Turia.

It boasts 18 bridges, foot paths, bike lanes and several sports fields.

The futuristic architecture of the Ciutat de les Arts i de les Ciencies (City of Arts & Sciences)

Using the “green river” as our route through the city, we’re able to explore its historic centre with ease, dipping in and out of the park, along designated cycle paths and cobbled streets.

We head to the Plaza de la Virgen, a peaceful square right in the heart of the city, filled with locals gathered around the Turia fountain.

The Valencia Cathedral, home to the holy grail, sits on the edge of the square. With an impressive octagonal bell-tower and stunning Gothic architecture we are drawn in and won over by a breathtaking interior.

In contrast to our morning, we step – or should I say cycle – into the future. Well, almost!

The City of Arts and Sciences is the most futuristic collection of buildings I have ever seen.

It’s home to Europe’s largest aquarium, Oceanografic, as well as an IMAX cinema, opera house, science museum and a rooftop garden which in the evenings is transformed into Valencia’s hottest nightclub. We decide to pop back later to discover if the Spanish really know how to throw a good party – and it turns out they do.

Thousands have descended on L’Umbracle Terrazza, the open air nightclub.

An “I love the ’90s” musical festival is happening at one end of the club while at the other I’m doing my best to master Spanish dance moves while juggling drinks and my travel money card.

The night passes in a flash and, before we know it, 4am has crept up on us – and I have become a semi-professional salsa dancer!

Inside the hotel

For a country which sees an average of 300 days of sunshine a year it would, of course, rain on our holiday, just to make us Scots feel at home.

This unfortunately means our trip to Bioparc Valencia is cancelled.

However, wearing our emergency ponchos we plough on, making our way to the Albufera Nature Park.

Lying six miles south of the city, protected from the sea by a thin strip of coastline, it’s a completely untouched, perfect reserve where all you can hear is the sound of the birds over the water.

A couple of miles further on, we arrive at the final stop – the famous rice fields, home of the Paella.

So we round off our holiday the same way we started … fighting over the biggest prawn.

But this time I know better than to ask again about chorizo. The Spanish definitely know what’s best.

Facts

Ryanair has direct flights to Valencia from Glasgow, departing twice a week (on Fridays and Mondays), and also from Edinburgh (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), starting November 2. For more information, visit ryanair.com

Rooms at Eurostars Gran Valencia start from £47 per night. See eurostarshotels.co.uk/eurostars-gran-valencia.html