Valencia is a perfect city for a short stay – compact and easily walkable, but with frequent and low-cost public transport options. But for a first visit, you'll want to be smack in the middle of the Old Town, and that can be costly if you go for the large chains. Besides, the pricier hotels might come complete with life's luxuries, but many are out on the city's edge. An evening stroll's not such an attractive option when you have to negotiate traffic, and when all those splendid sights are a long way off on the horizon.
I booked the Pension Paris with fairly low expectations. No elevator, no air-con, and no meals – would the low cost be at the expense of any comforts at all? But at under £100 for a five-night stay, it was an intriguing bit of risk-taking – I took the credit card just in case, and was quite prepared to move on if the experience was dire.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. OK, it was hot for October, and the fans provided are no substitute for proper air conditioning, but open your balcony windows and you'll be cooled by a breeze that whispers its way down the gorgeous little side-street. No elevator – but the staircase is marble, with elaborate wrought-iron banisters, so even if you're puffing your way to the third floor, you can stop and admire the workmanship. No meals – but there's a cafe on the ground floor, a hundred others in the nearby area, and Vanessa, the proprietor, makes excellent coffee for her guests in the mornings: you can take it back to your room if you like. Oh, and it's free.
It's Vanessa and her family who turn this little hotel into a real find for the budget traveller. She's charming, speaks excellent English, and seems to love her city, if the time she's happy to spend helping guests is an indication. She'll tell you where to eat, what to see, what's on, and how to get there, and even left me a handwritten note on my last day, hoping I'd enjoyed my stay. I've never had that in a five-star.
Pension Paris is a complete delight. It's right in the heart of the Old Town, an easy walk to shops, squares and the tour bus, and spotlessly clean, if not luxurious. If all you want is a comfy bed at the end of the day, and you don't want huge hit on your wallet, give it a try. And say Elaine from England sent you – I'll bet Vanessa remembers.