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Valencia - Finally going and need advice

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Buenos días!

Sorry if this is a little long, but I have been trying to do my homework beforehand. I have received much valuable advice from this board and have humbly tried to reciprocate whenever I could - here goes!

After hearing several great things about Valencia, and avidly reading the related trip reports on this forum, we are planning a visit in mid-October of this year. We are very much looking forward to experiencing the many delights it seems to offer !

WHO WE ARE:
Middle age and physically fit couple, interests are museums, art (particularly but not limited to modern and contemporary), music, food!, wine!, architecture, general culture. We are not beach/resort/tour persons.

Fluent in Spanish language, in fact studied it in Spain in another life in both Salamanca and Sevilla (just LOVE both those cities), re-immersion in the language and culture is a big and important part of our Spanish sojourns.

In preparation for this next trip, I would be looking for suggestions and advice in two separate aspects as this will be our first foray into Valencia: (a) lodging and (b) itinerary before and after Valencia.

LODGING considerations:

- Central location, and reasonably quiet at night (I know, this is Spain after all!)
- Preference for something with a kitchenette (not absolutely compulsory)
- Much prefer to have a bathtub, i.e. not shower-only
- In-room safety deposit box, for peace of mind
- Would like to keep it under 110 to 130 euros/night


What we looked at so far:
1- Valenciaflats Catedral: some units seem to have bathtubs, units appear to be small though, no in-room safety box (it looks as if there have been a few rare issues), limited kitchen supplies from what I can tell (glasses, plates, salt, pepper, soap, etc.)
2- Hotel Melia Plaza near the ayuntamiento: Looks quite nice and many people seem to really like it, including some Fodor posters. Superior rooms look onto the plaza, surprisingly quiet but no kitchenette. Looks interesting nonetheless.
3- Spain Select apartments: these look quite nice, are much larger than the Valenciaflats, not sure about in room safety box, or kitchen supplies. Some units have a bathtub. The main potential issue here would appear to be night time noise, as Carrer dells Cavallers is apparently party central - is this in fact the case?

ITINERARY ideas:

Our current thinking is to arrive in Madrid where we would be spending a few days as we truly love it there, and then heading to Valencia by way of Cuenca (Abstract Art Museum, casas colgadas, cathedral).

Option 1 is to take the AVE to Cuenca and overnight (or 2) there. Is the Parador a good choice? It seems a little dated in the website pictures. Are there better alternatives? NH? or other? From Cuenca, AVE to Valencia.

Option 2 is to rent a car and drive to Cuenca, overnight (or 2) and on to Valencia. This would make sense only if there are other sights/stops of interest along the way. For instance, going into the Sierra de Cuenca to the enchanted city (geological formations, is it worth it? - for info we really enjoyed El Torcal near Antequera), any other worthwhile sights? Guadalajara?

Finally, after Valencia I am trying to get a feel whether it would be worthwhile to drive down the coast a little. For instance, the Ifac Penyal has caught my attention, and there is a Parador in Javea. Should we be aiming further south to Murcia? (this will be mid-October) This is unchartered territory for me, and keeping in mind the above mentioned sought Spanish re-immersion, I would wish to try and avoid any German, British, Russian, American, (insert your favourite nationality here) enclave along the way.

Sorry for the long rambling, but I would be very interested in thoughts, comments and suggestions on the above.

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