Ribarroja is a long town, one of these that grew alongside a main road that followed the merry, winding River Turia.
And it’s rtight there down by the river that you’ll find the Hotel Muralleta and its adjacent restauarant La Borja, in front of the restored Muslim castle, now an exhibition and events centre with a surprising display about the Visigoth presence around Ribarroja.
I had driven through Ribarroja a few times, to take the kids to a park with a little train you can ride; but I’d never gone down to this little corner, the origin of the village, beside the old bridge and the old mill (now also a museum).
Both the hotel and restaurant have wonderful views across the fields gathered around the river, each bedroom having the same view.
The only complaint we had were the two 24/7 cocks that seemed to be competing for what must obviously be an acute shortage of hens under our window.
Of course, you can always shut the window, but then you wouldn’t hear the more infrequent ass calling out for whatever it is that satisfies asses.
Also across the narrow street from the hotel is a late 19th century convent, now a day centre for the elderly, all of which gives you the imptression of being in a priveleged spot, and only 25km from Valencia.
Patricia from the tourist information office gives free tours of the area, and will tell you that the river water is so clean that they have beavers, or that the old bridge was the nearest to Valencia, and therefore of strategic importance, which is why the locals destroyed it in 1811 when Napoleon’s troops advanced upon the city.
Because it was so important, the local nobility charged people to cross it, a toll known as the ‘pontazgo.’
There is a path along the river for walkers, cyclists and horses (probably with riders) that will take you from Valencia as far as Vilamarxant, and probably beyond. A 35 km stroll that is clearly popular judging from the number of people using it on a Saturday evening.
The Turia has seen better (and worse) days. Before the reservoirs were built upstream it was navigable, and sturdy men known as ‘gancheros’ would accompany timber from the mountains down to Valencia to be cut up at places like Serreria.
Talking about hard work always makes me famished, and La Borja is elegant without being expensive, very popular with cyclists who take advantage of the terrace before tearing off to annoy tax-paying motorists with a legitimate right to use the roads.
It has a vegetarian menu, and also indicates if any dish might cause problems to people with allergies.
There is a 15€ set menu, an extensive wine list, and a menu with various rice dishes including duck, wild mushrooms and foie, and a variety of hamburgers made with ox meat (not cockrel unfortunately otherwise I would have ordered a brace), and a delightful, spicy variation on patatas bravas using unpeeled potatoes.
The hotel has been there for 15 years now, and two things about the owners strike you in a positive way. In the restaurant they play sixties music (Stones, Moody Blues etc), and they collaborate with NGOs, in projects such as Restaurants against Hunger. Enough said.