Requena: Exploring the Valencia Region

We started our tour of Valencia Region towns in Requena. With 10 euro ‘unlimited’ rail passes it’s easy to go somewhere on a whim. A Google search indicated there was a “sample our artisan sausage” event in Requena from February 10th through the 12th. Wine and olive oil tastings were also being offered. We did a little more reading. Despite not being sure what exactly we were getting into we said, “Why not?”

Requena is situated at 2,270 ft. It’s colder than Valencia. That’s something to keep in mind when Valencia is sweltering. In the winter it means packing sweaters. Donna eventually bought gloves. I brought a hat and ear warmers. I didn’t use them. “Hace frio!”, was how every conversation with locals started.

In February the Muestra de Embutido Artesano y de Calidad is held in Requena’s Recinto Ferial Municipal at the fairgrounds. It’s a ten minute walk from the train station. You just get off the train, walk down the hill, and turn right at the fountain. From there you just follow the paseo.

Locals will tell you the sausage fair is crowded. They will also tell you it’s a place to meet friends and family and drink. All of that is true. Watching twenty-somethings twirl around in traditional dress while not spilling a single drop of wine from their raised glasses was a highlight. So was trying a legendary local sausage called Perro. It’s a blood sausage/head cheese hybrid flavored with a touch of cinnamon and cloves. Not having tried it before…I think a little more spice would have improved my sample. We bought some small press olive oil and headed for Requena’s historic Barrio de La Villa.

Barrio de La Villa was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1966. It makes Requena a destination even if there isn’t a fair or festival in town. Gothic churches, several museums, the Jewish Quarter, the Palace of the Cid, and the Caves of the Villa are all just a short walk from each other. Our timing is notoriously off. A lot of the aforementioned attractions were closed, or closing, when we visited. Time to wander La Villa’s narrow maze of streets was welcomed. We did make a visit to the Museum of the Art of Silk. The self-guided tour was a colorful and informative diversion, and it got us out of the cold.

You don’t have to wait around for the sausage fair to find artisanal sausages in Requena. There are carnicerias and embutido shops throughout the city. Specialty food shops feature local products. The grocery store had a wide range of Requena wines lined up and ready for purchase. We bought a couple of bottles!

Finding a restaurant that wasn’t fully booked was a challenge. It was Friday night and there was a sausage fair going on. Go figure. Spaniards eat a lot later than we do. An early 8:30 PM dinner reservation at Cocina de Pilar got us in the door. The lamb was tender. The greens were fresh. The Bobal-Garnacha-Syrah blend was delicious. The Crema de Catalana was as good as it gets, and a little bit more.

For lunch the next day there was a choice between eating, or catching the last tour through The Caves of Villa. We chose eating. Somehow we managed to get the last two-top at Restaurante Dona Anita. The meal was a culinary tour of local specialties. A smooth mixture made out of potatoes, olive oil, eggs, and garlic was served. It’s called Ajoarriero. We couldn’t figure it out, but we ate all of it. It must have been good. Then came sausage skewers with fried potatoes and eggs, and a rich pork stew with more sausage. Dessert was an apple tarte tatin. You could have rolled us down the hill.

The fair goers rolled home all night long. The singing was bright and hovered near a tune. I slept through a lot of it. We caught an early train back to Valencia.

We have to thank our vacation rental host, Eva, and the people of Requena for their hospitality. They provided all the warmth we needed. We’ll be back!

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