Alboraya is a charming small town just 5 miles from València and is known as the “Land of Horchata”.
We have been in València since the beginning of June this year. One beautiful morning in mid July we boarded the #9 metro and took it all the way to the end of the line to a town named Alboraya. A brochure we picked up described the town: “Sea, gardening and horchata, Alboraya, a place for your senses”.
Alboraya has influences from the Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs and like many towns in Spain whose names begin with the letter A, Alboraya comes from the Moorish name for the town, al-buraīĝ.
When King James I of Aragon reconquered the land from the Moors, he gave this part of Spain to the Bishop of Huesca. In 1331, the land was passed to Gilberto Zanoguera, who founded the lordship of Alboraya.
Alboraya is in the Community of Valencia (like a state or province), has a population of 24,000, and is filled with a interesting variety of architectural styles. There are restored 17th century homes right through to modern and art-deco style buildings from the 19th and 20th century.
This charming ‘horchata’ town, we felt, made a great day trip. We do recommend, if you arrive via the metro into Alboraya-Peris Aragó station, that before you exit the station, walk around and view the four black and white large wall murals created by local artist Peris Aragó (1907-2003). The 4 panels cover planting, working, harvesting and washing the chufa or tiger nut that is used to make the horchata drink.
Parish Church of Assumption of our Lady
This curvaceous church dates from 1731, although there is an earlier 1240 reference to it found in València’s Cathedral.
Attached to an outside wall of this church the mosaic sign below caught our attention. It says “Alboraya 650 Anniversary of the Miracle of the Fishes, 1998”. With our curiosity peaked, we went in search of the story of the Miracle of the Fishes.
In 1348, in the town of Alboraya-Almácera, a priest, carrying a ciborium containing the Eucharist (usually consecrated bread, referred to as Hosts here) destined for some sick people, was crossing a river on a mule when he was suddenly swept off his mount by a rushing wave. The priest tumbled into the water along with his ciborium, which was emptied of its precious content. The Hosts fell out and were being carried away by the current toward the mouth of the river nearby. The priest, barely saving himself, full of remorse, and lamenting what had occurred as he tried to free himself from the mud and the waters, was approached by some fishermen who were stunned to have witnessed, in the place where the river water flowed into the sea, three fish, each with a little white disc resembling Communion Hosts, in its mouth. The priest immediately ran to the church and returned to the river bank with another ciborium. He did everything in such a hurry that he didn’t even stop to ask himself if the fishermen’s story was believable.
Great was his joy when he saw that the three remarkable fish were there, almost completely out of the water, lifting the Hosts intact with their mouths, like little trophies. He fell to his knees, and extending his chalice, prayed as he had never prayed before in his entire life; and thus, he saw the fish deposit the Hosts in the chalice, one after the other, and then dive and slither rapidly back into the water to disappear into the sea. Only at that moment did the priest notice that he was surrounded by a group of men and women who had witnessed the entire scene.
Today it is still possible to consult numerous documents testifying to the miracle. © 2006, Istituto San Clemente I Papa e Martire / Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
Land of Horchata
The most important crop grown in this agricultural area is the chufa or tiger nut. (In Spanish:Chufa and in Valèncien:Xufes. X is pronounced Sh)
Chufas are edible tubers which grow underground similar to a peanut or potato. Valencian Chufas are smaller and sweeter than chufas grown in other countries and are said to be the best variety to make Horchata or Chufa Milk.
Chufas have an extremely long history. They have been found in ancient stone tools dating to 12,000 BCE in North America. Ancient Egyptians in 5000 BCE ate them dry and soaked and used the oil to nourish their skin. Greek author, Homer mentions them in The Iliad. Chufas throughout history have been used for both medical treatments and culinary purposes. There was an Arabic author who described a chufas cultivation process in the 12th century and it is believed it was the Arabs that introduced the chufa into Spain.
Hundreds of chufa fields surround Alboraya and there are a few dozen orxateries (horchata bars) where you can pop in and enjoy a cool horchata away from the Valencian summer heat. We have enjoyed this nutty, sweet, milky flavored drink before but we agree that the Alboraya version lives up to its reputation as being the best.
The local dessert is called the farton, an elongated sweet pastry glazed with sugar and perfectly paired with a cool refreshing horchata. Fartons are typically ordered with and used to dunk into your delicious and nutritious horchata. Drinking horchata in Alboraya is like partaking in the history and passion for this centuries old unique tradition.
There are different drinks called “horchata” throughout the world, but not all of them are made with chufas. For example in Mexico, they make a much sweeter horchata from rice. Some villages in South America make Horchata from melon seeds or sesame seeds. In Italy, Horchata is made from almonds and even in Spain it can be difficult to find fresh Horchata de Chufas made with chufas grow in València.
After exploring Alboraya for a few hours, we hailed an uber-like taxi service, called Free Now and headed to Alboraya’s picturesque beach community, Port Saplaya.
There are two beaches in Alboraya: Port Saplaya and La Patacona. La Patacona has a boulevard that connects to the Malvarrosa Beach 3.5 kilometers away in Valencia, and we would love to take that walk one day.
On this trip however we headed to a hidden oasis – the Port Saplaya beach community. Known as the ‘Venice of València’, all residents have views of and access to, either the canals on one side or the Mediterranean on the other. The apartments are built around two large plazas and each has at least one balcony. So many of the balconies were overflowing with colorful flowers during our visit. The terraced houses are painted in pastel colours and strolling along the long seafront promenade that connects the entire village is magical. With only 2,000 residents in this resort like village, it was easy to imagine staying awhile in this delightful area.
This day trip may not have been far away, but there was a lovely vacation vibe in Port Saplaya. Just in case we have to go through another lockdown, we made note of the “for rent” signs.
Salud from these Alborayense,
Ted and Julia