By Don George
I can’t actually swear that the charming chocolatería I serendipitously discovered in Valencia (Spain) serves the best hot chocolate in that entire city. I didn’t have time on my day’s excursion to sample all the hot chocolates in Valencia — much as I would have liked to! But I do know that a hot chocolate at the Café Valor was the perfect way to end my exhilarating explorations of that historic port.
I began my day with a delightful and insightful small-group cooking lesson at the fabulous Valencia Club de Cocina cooking school and cookware shop. There, my merry band of eight fellow Crystal cruisers and I learned how to concoct a piquant Andalusian gazpacho and a sizzling, super-sized serving of savory paella Valenciana.
After that culinary adventure, some of our group returned to the ship. I opted to explore on my own and wandered among the city’s stately buildings and squares, many studded with bright, orange-bearing trees. I somehow found my way to the lively Plaza de la Reina, where an Old World pop-up market was in full and glorious swing, with two rows of local artisans’ open-air stalls swarmed by energetic shoppers. Everyone was in a festive mood, picking up handmade necklaces and admiring them, trying on fanciful hats and preening in mirrors, fingering fine silk shawls and scarves.
After an intense session of stall-shopping, I needed a break. At that moment, I spied in a far corner of the square a green and white palace dedicated to coffee, pastries and, I discovered as soon as I entered its sweetly scented portal, chocolate. This was the Chocolatería Valor.
I was shown to a quiet table on the second floor. Though I had been planning to order a café con leche, it was evident from fellow patrons’ tables that hot chocolate was the beverage of choice here. So I ordered a hot chocolate a la taza. Little did I know what a wise choice that was!
Minutes later, the white-shirted waiter returned to set before me with a flourish an elegant white china cup filled with a deep, dark brown liquid. I lifted it ceremoniously and took a sip. Ah! Molten heaven! The creamiest, thickest, smoothest hot chocolate I had ever tasted. I sipped and sighed and jotted in my journal and watched local families indulge in their own hot chocolate rhapsodies. Outside, old men in berets sat on wooden benches enrapt in animated conversation, shoppers swirled, traffic twirled, and all was right with the world!
Suddenly, I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to be back on board the ship in 20 minutes. I paid my bill, then raced to a stall I’d been eyeing earlier and impetuously bought myself a beautiful, hand-tooled leather belt. Chocolate colored.
Now, whenever I loop this belt around my waist, I remember that day in Valencia: the paella lesson, the stately buildings, the orange trees, the marvelous market, and best of all, the most decadent hot chocolate ever. Viva Valencia!
Travelers can experience the flavors of Valencia on Crystal Serenity’s November 6 “Iberian Images” voyage.