Biking to the Bioshops of Valencia along the Beach

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Saturday 13 December 2014

Biking to the Bioshops of Valencia along the Beach

During our first visit into Valencia the previous Saturday we'd been sadly disappointed to find that due to the national holiday festival weekend all of the organic/bio supermarkets we'd tried to visit were closed. When we'd left France for Spain we'd resigned ourselves to the fact that Spain is currently much less organic-food and vegetarian friendly and had stocked up as much our small fridge and storage would allow.  However, after meeting Sarah in Barcelona and her telling us that slowly things were changing in Spain and in particular that Valencia was leading the way, being considered the vegetarian capital of Spain, we'd been excited to explore. So, after passing a very pleasant couple of days in the Albufera National Park we headed back into Valencia on Tuesday afternoon to have another look.

Having checked Google maps at our campsite we'd learned that the few bio (organic) stores we'd found when wandering the streets on Saturday were in fact just a small fraction of the numerous vegetarian restaurants, organic supermarkets, herbolarios and pharmacies offering 'health food' in the city.  Rather than wander aimlessly through the streets as on our previous visit, this time we'd marked the store locations on our tourist map and were eager to compare the stores in Spain to our experience in France and Holland.

What we found was a wide range of shopping choices for anyone wanting to make more healthy food choices and steer away from excessively processed food and major supermarket chains. At one end of the spectrum were pharmacies and small 'herbolarios' offering various vitamin pills, supplements and non-perishable bio items alongside more traditional pharmaceuticals. A step up from these stores, the larger 'herbolarios' or 'ecotiendas' we found were more dedicated health food store.

These larger stores tended to also primarily stock bio food 'products' that were prepackaged and long life but had a small token section of fresh vegetables, a bakery and some even had a small bio cheese and meat counter. One store, Herbolario Navarro (the city-centre store), in particular was vast with thousands of products and it had a very impressive floor space. However, once inside we found that just a small area was devoted to fresh veggies and unprocessed whole foods.  There were a few too many organic cookies, bio cocoa puffs and protein powders for us. It may be organic or wrapped in a green package, but we personally feel this kind of 'organic' doesn't automatically make something healthy.  We understand that shops stock these items because its what many people want and at least its definitely a step in the right direction with most of these items being fairtrade and produced in a way that's more environmentally friendly. We felt sure that if we'd had the time or inclination to hunt through the huge number of shelves we'd have found some great and very healthy wholefoods and ingredients, but we were somewhat reminded of a large Holland and Barrett in the UK which sells some great products, but also a lot of processed organic foods as well.

However, we really hit the jackpot (for us anyway) with two stores that we liked very much and so chose to do our shopping in. The first store, ecorganic ecomarket (actually the chain has three shops in Valencia but we visited the one on ) offered a great range of fresh fruit and vegetables that looked like they'd come out of the ground not that long ago.  In addition there were dispensers full of nuts, seeds, herbs, grains, dried fruit etc. which you could weigh out yourself which made us feel a quite at home as we'd got used to this sort of set in the French bio stores.

The second store, Bio BASIC, was quite a bit smaller with less product choices but again had some very fresh leafy greens, such as beets and chard looking firm and vibrant and another good selection of fresh produce. Although both stores still also had their fair share of more processed options, we felt it was much more well balanced for someone seeking unprocessed wholefoods. It was wonderful to us, our first bio shopping since leaving France 2 weeks ago and we stocked up as much as our cycle panniers could manage. In addition to having a good choice we also felt both stores were well priced in the fresh food sections, comparable to some of the bio stores we'd visited in France.

We enjoyed ourselves and the food so much that a few days later when Saturday came round again we made a third journey into Valencia to restock our fresh supplies before checking out of our campsite and hitting the road. Rising early we cycled once more into Valencia along the beachfront cycle way that led towards the City of Arts and Sciences. Riding in the morning light along the sandy shore, past the fishermen, morning joggers, dog walkers and countless early morning cyclists was amazing. With the waves crashing on the sand, the sea birds wheeling above and the fresh sea air rolling over us we felt so alive.

Upon entering the city we rode through the parks and green spaces full of more cyclists, joggers, walkers and people training on the public resistance exercise machines as well. We were both aware of a shared community spirit amongst the early rising people of Valencia that morning and we arrived at our chosen favourite, ecorganic ecomarket, just after opening time.  If anything the fruit and vegetable selection seemed even fresher on our second visit and we'd come armed with our larger rucksacks to take as much back to the motorhome as we could.

One especially nice surprise we had was that whilst checking out we got chatting to the charismatic and very helpful assistant, Sujan. Originally from Nepal, Sujan had moved to Spain from Kathmandu for work and we had a great time hearing a little about his life and sharing our adventure and passion for bio foods. Meeting like-minded and compassionate people is one of the best things about travel and we really enjoyed meeting Sujan and plan to keep in touch.  We left the ecorganic ecomarket store with very fond feelings of our visit and it was very much worth the early start and bike ride in.

As we made the 9km ride home, laden down with lots of fresh greens in our rucksacks plus extra nuts, seeds, sprouted ryebreads and other tasty wholefood goodies in our panniers, we felt so energised and awake. It felt especially good to have made the 12 mile round shopping trip using pedal power alone.  The longer we spend on the road the more we are enjoying modifying our shopping habits to fit in with our love of nature and finding great stores like these make us very happy indeed.  We will definitely be passing through Valencia to resupply on our way back North in the new year.

Update: As it worked out, we didn't wait that long until our next resupply.  As Camping Coll Vert was closing we moved to a paid aire closed in El Saler. Some bad weather and lack of enthusiasm for the long drive to our next chosen place to explore, we stayed put, relaxed in the motorhome and during the breaks in the rain enjoyed another beach walk.  However this meant we were eating our food!  So before setting off early on Tuesday morning, as the route we were travelling took us back to the main roads around Valencia, we couldn't resist a quick return to ecorganic. This time we visited the store on Av. de Blasco Ibanez as it was easier to get to and had parking outside.  Whilst the floor space was not as big as their city centre store, it was very well stocked with all the nut, seed, grain, bean dispensers etc and again an impressive selection of fresh vegetables (particularly leafy greens) and fruits at good prices.  It feels good to have so much healthy food on board to fuel the next part of our adventure.  

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