Saturday 20 June: Los Narejos to Elche
After yesterdays planning we were up, up and away before you could say Norway! Well I said Norway and Craig said Greece. Then we burst in to laughter. Ahh well, lets decide when we get to the Pyrenees.
Just outside Los Narejos, a circus. A circus with animals, elephants and rhino’s, now that I haven’t seen for a long time. Marg our TomTom needs a serious Spanish lesson. In fact, thats what they need to do, install an accent option on the TomTom, so their voices sound more authentic. Either that or select a lisp button for Spain. We hit the motorway section first to avoid the poly tunnels and then ventured off near an Aldi. We were now hitting massive developments and really built up areas. Gone were the back street cafes and in with the warehouse restaurants. Every shop or retail outlet you could desire and all dosed in steroids. It was no different to home but it felt strange after living a quiet, non commercial life for several months.
We weren’t long in Aldi cause they didn’t have what we wanted – Chinese crackers and pickles. After Aldi, the China bazaar where Craig spend several hours cruising the store in search of a bargain. The majority of his time spent at the bucket isle where he deliberated another bucket. I really don’t understand how someone can take over an hour to pick s bucket. A bloody bucket, I ask. A good job it was a whopper of a store otherwise I’d have finished walking down all the Isles ages ago. He finally settled on a 12L only to then change his mind half way round the store to an 8L. I told him to buy all 3 sizes and be done but no he only wanted another one. He then had the cheek to ask me what size bucket do I want, oh no don’t push your bucket obsession on to me. Finally he bought one and within seconds of getting back in Vin he was offer making a new handle for it.
That reminds me, a few of you asked how we were doing on finances and how we were managing to spend so little yet do so much. We think the main contributing factor is cash as opposed to card. This may sound silly but we only ever use cash and not card and when you physically pay in cash it makes you more aware of what you are spending. Using cash also means that we are less exposed to credit card fraud, which could be a nightmare when traveling. We draw out cash, we always use the same value then we have a better chance of spotting fraud, if it did happen.
We set off down the coast and pulled in at Santa Pola. No chance of stopping here, it is littered with no Motorhome signs, so with that we set off straight to Elche. The drive to Elche was lovely passing salt plains and wet lands with lots of flamingos. Once in Elche we parked on a dusty car park at the side of the hospital. It seemed a quiet and safe spot.
Elche GPS Position: N38.261655, W-0.685700
We got the bikes out and off we went for a cycle around the town. Elche is famous for its palm trees and everywhere you went there where palm parks or Horts. Thousands of Palm trees and all in good shape. The female trees produce dates and the males produce fronds that are used on all over Spain on Palm Sunday or as charms against lightening. The Moors first introduced palms to this region and they installed a complex and effective water irrigation system that is still used today. As well as the Palm trees the town has a nice Basilica which was host to a wedding, so closed to visitors. A nice museum and plenty odd giant ladies shoes dotted around. It had quite a nice feel to the place although it was extremely quiet.
Back in Vin and next minute a young girl at the door begging for money. Hate to see people like this but you have to say no otherwise they all come around. Later that evening we saw the same girl and an older lady were offering their services. They strutted up and down the high street, whilst being watched by El pimp.
I am not sure of the time but it must have been around 4am when I heard someone crying Aqua, Aqua, Agua. I looked out and the young girl was sitting on our step crying for a drink. I felt so sorry for her and just as I was about to open the door, I saw the pimp near the tree. I decided to keep the door closed…I think I smell a rat. Needless to say, a restless nights sleep.
Sunday 21 June: Elche to Penya Redona
Up and off! The drive to Alicante was good. Nothing too exciting just commercial units and built up areas. We drove in to Alicante from the south and we drove the full length of promenade and first impressions were good. Yes, a little built up but in a nice way. In the middle, the castle and then at the marina some nice sizeable yachts. Then we hit the beach and wow, it’s busy. Look at all the people. We spotted a potential nice wild camping spot, so we quickly turned round and headed back. Just after the flyover and right on the beach next to the Real Sailing Club. We couldn’t have picked a better spot.
Alicante GPS Position: N38.351596, W-0.467742
As we stepped out the van, a cockney voice said “how ya doin”. To our surprise they turned our to be 2 polish lads who worked in south end for several years. They were working for a polish company who were messing them about, so they decided to go to the beach for a week at the company’s expense. They were sleeping in the company van and showering on the beach, that of course if they didn’t ‘pull’ first.
It’s La Hoguras or the summer festival in Alicante and the streets are alive with parties and celebrations. Every two minutes fire crackers are going off and fireworks are lighting the skies. The bang doesn’t half echo around the narrow streets. We cycled around and around and soaked up the Spanish fiesta atmosphere, it was party time.
On the way back to Vin, we spotted a nightclub just around the corner from us. The crowds were starting to arrive for the sunset cocktails. Oh dear, not too sure our spot will be a good one for the night. It was stifling hot inside Vin, in fact it was so hot the temperature gauge switched off, so it was at least 40 and no sea breeze. After a debate we opted to move out of town in to the hills. We both know that sleeping next to a nightclub is going cause a sleepless night.
We set off driving right in to the hills until see were 900m above sea level with the most awesome view over Benidorm. What a vista to end the day, watching fireworks from afar and the twinkling lights of the bustle on the strip below. Now it feels like we getting back on track…that is off the beaten track and finding places that you don’t find in the tour guides.
Penya Redona GPS Position: N38.604581, W-0.485264
I love Benidorm, it is where I spent most of my childhood holidays. My dad has been coming here for nearly 50 years and remembers Benidorm before the boom. He still visits here at 85 years young to catch up with his Spanish friends and of course, a vino or two in the tavernas. We skipped Benidorm and its surrounding resorts, it’s glorious beaches and throbbing nightlife will keep safe for another day.
Monday 22 June: Penya Redona to Simat de la Valldigna
Last night we thought we spotted the rare Lynx but sadly mistaken just a beautiful brindle coloured fox. It sniffled around the Vin, no doubt it could smell a traces of our little Peanut.
It was a little overcast and a lot cooler in the mountains, so we took the opportunity to do the weekly scrub & cleaning, where I do inside and Craig does the out. For a treat we cleaned the shower, sinks and toilet with limescale remover. The Spanish waters leave everything caked in the limescale and its damn hard to get off. Lidl sell a remover and its €0.99 and very effective. The amount of fly caucuses was unreal, I knew we’d swatted and splatter a few but by Christ we could open up a fly cemetery at this rate.
Mid morning we set off and stopped at Alcoy for a few grocers then after sort out a fresh water tap at a children’s park. We need water for washing the bedding and towels. Tip for you ladies…filling water containers from a park tap can be boring, so why not do a few leg and arm exercises to tone up. I could certainly do with getting rid of these chippy arms. With no one around, I had a go. Not bad, think next time I will bring my iPod and few tunes then i can do a few body beats. Before we set off, I put two washes on..the bedding in one and the towels in another. Not sure if we’ve shown you our washing technique and spinner? Will take a few pictures next time for you.
Today, it’s all about the drive over the sierras to Valencia. What a scenic drive! Ignore the motorway and head down the old N340 it is wonderful. The landscape changed from dusty desert to lush green plains with valleys and peaks galore. It made such a refreshing change after spending so long on the coast. We did hope to pull over but no where to stop. This land is just farm land, so no pavements or lay-bys just stone walls and water troughs. The property and architect styles seemed to change to. More Mediterranean and less moorish. About half way we spotted a nice church, so we turned off to the village of Montoverner. The church was closed and the village was asleep. We didn’t see a soul but it was very hot and humid at 400c plus. In fact, I have never been so pleased to cool down inside Vin even though he was 370c. Sweat was pumping out both of us.
We crossed over the Rio Albaida, all dried up and cracked with not a drop of water in sight but on the plus side, it made for a beautiful wild flower bed. We bumbled along and hoped something would turn up. Not a sausage until all of a sudden we went around a corner and whoosh what a beautiful view. We were driving in to a lush, green valley with terraced orange groves all around. It was stunning. In the distance a small village, so we headed over. In the centre, a small car park surrounded in rose bushes. Wow, we will stop here tonight. We pulled in, cracked open all the windows to let in some air and admired our own little rose garden. Jeez it was hot, hot, hot.
Sumat de la Valldigna GPS Position: N39.043950, W-0.308186
Evening meal was just yummy with a mixture of hams, breads, home made humus, sweet pepper and cheese and all swilled down with an ice cold shandy. This is the life!
By 10pm it was still 35 degree and no breeze, we were like wilting flowers. Well Craig was, I’d wilted and died. I was like a walking prit-stick, sticky and tacky. Everything I touched just stuck to me, it drove me mad. Nothing for it, cold shower before bed.
We left open as many windows as possible and turned on the fan. Ahhh that will do nicely. Craig, what is that noise I can hear? Not sure but I think it might be frogs. Frogs! Well they are very loud and sound more like a bird with a very deep singing voice. There were a mixture of tunes going on including one frog that sounded like two snooker balls colliding. Well our little frog and toad choir croaked and ribbited a fantastic lullaby.
Tuesday 23 June: Simat de la Valldigna
We’d left the bedding to soak overnight, so Craig went and rinsed them before giving them a final spin. We hung the washing inside our hidden clothes line and let the sunshine on the screen do the rest. Not long though and it was like a blinking sauna with all that extra moisture. Quick shower and off to toot at Simat.
The village is surrounded by lush orange grove hills, so it sort of sits lost in the middle of a basin. We walked up the street passed a children’s play area and then swung a right. Wow, wow wow. What is this? On closer inspection it was Real Monasterio de Santa Maria De la Villdigna.
We walked inside and a guard made a gruff noise and pointed us to the reception. The reception lady treated us with a warm smile and kindly gave us a leaflet of the monastery informing us to follow the map on the back. We were stunned, no entrance fee. We followed the map and discovered the monetary started life in 14th century. A the main entrance to the walled enclosure is the reception and the original chapel. Inside the grounds and oil press and granary where they now exhibit the stone work and finds from archaeological dig (which is still going on). As you walk in to the centre, a fountain surrounded in roses bushes and heavy scented lavender.
Then the main church which is just gob smackingly beautiful, with the most ornate and unusual detail. I stood in the doorway for ages just looking up, it was captivating. There was no one around but in the distance, I could hear ladies singing hymns. It sent shivers down my spine along with the odd little tear. Craig on the other hand was seeking out the best photo opportunity and decide planking was the best option.
We walked around the back of the church to discover ruins of what once were the dormitories, the wine cellar, the kitchens, a temple and gardens. It was huge. Walking around you spotted the odd original colourful floor tile and baked clay floor. As we turned to the west side a couple more buildings. In the first, the refectory were the young at heart ladies were sat in a circle and signing hymns. Not sure if they were ladies from the village of a group of retired ladies on a day out but they sounded lovely. Then finally the abbots palace and chapter house.
The monastery isn’t in any guide book but believe me folks, it is well worth a visit. The benefit of no guide book is the fact it is quiet and off the radar. Not only is it wonderful but it is truly beautiful, so if you are passing well worth a visit and it only gets better…outside just a couple of street down is a free aire de service. Basic with fresh water, a grid and place to empty your loo but what more do you need!
Just after lunch, Craig realised we had free wifi with a reasonable connection, so he took advantage. Download, upload and any other type of load, he did it. I sent out a few emails and started updating Our Bumble Facebook page. Something we only did a few days ago. Now we have access to the Internet daily, we might as well do a quick one line update. However, I am thinking more and more of doing a blog but Craig’s nots convinced. He feels it could be a big hassle when things go wrong, he is the technical guru but with little(or should I say, no) patience.
I sent out a few old bumbles to new followers and the damn connection disappeared. It seems to happen quite a lot but the frustration is it starts all over again. So some of you may get two emails…sorry guys, it’s not us, promise, it’s when we lose connection. With this Craig started looking at options and he had another look at Google folders. Several hours later and we were all set up, so we have all our old bumbles saved on line for you guys to view, if you wish.
Wednesday 24 June: Simat de la Valldigna to Les Gavines
This time 27 years ago we got engaged! How time flies!
We utilised the free aire to empty our black and grey waste and top up with fresh water. Craig also took the opportunity to climb on to the roof and clean the solar panels. It’s been a while since he did them and as it’s nice and quiet here, it’s a good spot.
We secured Vin and set off waving ter-ra to the village. As we wound our way through the hills and towards the coast the fields changes from rows upon rows of orange groves to rice fields. Fields upon fields of rice. Valencia’s paddy fields are the biggest outside of Asia, so it should be no surprise to find Valencia is home to paella.
We pulled in to a lidl for a quick shop and noticed an Eroski fuel station. Yo, look at the price €1.07 for diesel, we will fill Vin up to the tash before we leave, that the cheapest price in a long while. We got our bits and just as we were leaving a Welsh couple pulled in and said hello. Would you believe if, they had a miniature dachshund called Jess. She was adorable and reminded me so much of peanut. Needless to say, I shed a few tears.
We continued to the coast and turned left at L’Alberfura, a natural park. Basically, you drive through the park and the road is positioned, so the sea is one one side and the lake is on the other. Lots of trees and bushes but unfortunately not so much wildlife. Not sure if the birds have migrated but there are no feathered friends to be seen around here. No ducks, nada! Oh we tell a lie, flies. Half a dozen of the annoying buggers, who had the cheek to try and hitch a ride.
Once out the park the road just continued along the coast with the odd apartment block every so often. There was loads of parking on Tarmac car parks and/or loose gravel beach parking. We pulled in to a nice flat beach car park. Clicked off out shoes and went for a nice walk along the beach to the pungent aroma of curry. The whole stretch of coastline stunk of Chinese curry wafting out from dune bushes. Shame we are not next to a paddy field we could have rustled up curry and rice!
Les Gavines GPS Position: N39.362843, W-0.317843
So why here?
It’s quiet and a good stop before exploring Valencia tomorrow. We want to head in to the city early, so parking means we can be up and in within 10 minutes.
What’s it like?
Imagine 5 strips – the sea, the sand, sand dunes, gravel car park, grass land with the odd apartment. That’s it. The sea is quite choppy, so good if you like playing in the waves. Not so good if you still need the arm bands. The sand is actually very nice, fine and white. There are sections of the beach where bare all is the in thing. Overall the beach is relatively quiet and whilst it is nice, I wouldn’t break a leg to get here but equally it’s a damn sight nicer than Manchester quays.
Thursday 25 June: Les Gavines to Playa Puig
I forgot to mention, I sent an email to our insurance company just to check out our cover for a given country. You know, they replied within 10 minutes. I must admit Comfort Insurance gave us a great price for full time cover and are very easy to deal with. I’d certainly recommend them.
We set off and hugged the coast all the way in to Valencia despite what Marg the Tom Tom said. It was nice morning drive with nothing but sand dunes and lots of wild camping options. Craig had noted a few parking spots within Valencia, so we did a recon. The first near the conference centre was good but it was on street parking manned by ‘lift my shirt up and scratch my belly’ men just seeking out a quick buck. We then headed across to Mercadona parking but it was underground with height restrictions. Our final stop was near the train station and only 2km from the centre. The original coordinates took us to a lock up parking lot asking €25 for the day. Instead, we drove across the road and parked on a stretch of land along side a few cafes in a residential area. It was a reasonable area with a posh car shop (an old corvette in the window, which Craig dribbled over) and nice people.
Valencia GPS Position: N39.454481, W-0.380353
We cycled in to the city following the train tracks and we were there within 10 minutes. The train station was the first building and how fabulously ornate it looked. We continued to cycle around the ring road and then wound in like a coil, stopping at each place of interest. The old part of Valencia is almost encased in a garden, as the dried up riverbed of Rio Turio is now filled with flowers. Lots of small plazas all with a building or monument of interest but at times we weren’t quite sure what we were looking at. A lot of the signs were faded or missing, so we constantly referred back to our map but some of the places were list and some weren’t. In the end we just cycled around the streets and if we spotted something we stopped.
Valencia is Spain’s 3rd largest city and was founded by the Romans in 138bc. The Moors conquered for a while and El Cid had a go before being kicked back out by the Moors. So Valencia is steeped in history but unfortunately fire and floods have destroyed most of the historic sights. Despite some old ruins and beautiful buildings the most impressive building (for us) was the market. Yip, a bloody market but it was lovely both inside and out. Over 350 stalls selling all sorts of food produce and catering to locals and tourists alike. In and around the Cathedral and the Basilica were interesting too with plenty to see. Unfortunately, most of Valencia’s monuments got wiped out by fire or flood, so not loads to explore but some nice places all the same like the gateway, the cathedral and the basilica. For us, Valencia didn’t have the charm and appeal of Seville, it just felt like a big European city, high rises and ring roads.
First think I did when we got back was shower. God it was so nice to de-stick. Craig on the other hand made his eyes water when he plucked a nasal hair that turned out to be the size of a rope. After a bite to eat we decided to move out of Valencia and back to the coast. It was way too hot and sticky in the city with no breeze and I was starting to wilt. Craig does fine in the heat but I just turn to a flump. Thankfully, not far to the coast and we found a great spot. Right on the beach. After an hour or so watching some young kids windsurfing we headed back in to Vin before the Mosquitos bite us.
Playa del Puig GPS Position: N39.596477, W-0.269366
For anyone traveling, you can sign up for UK government announcements on different countries. If the terrorist alert changes or an important event takes place then you receive an email. Here is the link, if you are interested https://www.gov.uk/government
Friday 26 June: Playa Puig to Villafames
Up bright and early, so we could be a Monasterio Santa Maria, which is just 5 minutes away in the town of Puig. Plenty parking space on car park, so no hassle getting in and out of the town, which makes a change.
Puig GPS Position: N39.587760, W-0.302940
The impressive monastery stood overlooking the car park just waiting for us to enter. As we always do, we walked around the outside looking at all the detail before we made a move to the entrance. The fort like building was founded in 1237 by Pedron Nalaso after he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the whole monastery as they were preparing for a special occasion. However, the guard was most helpful and showed us around the front section and the print and graphics museum, one of the most important in Europe. A huge selection of printing presses, which pleased Craig no end…being a graphic designer. The history was fascinating and we didn’t realise that the majority of font and type styles are named after famous printers. In the lower cloisters the smallest book in the world, so small you have to use a magnifying glass to see it. Padre Nuestro, the Lord’s Prayer in 6 languages how brilliant. They had hundreds of old books on display including the Gutenberg bible. A truly wonderful monastery and worth a visit even if we didn’t get to see all.
Up so early and only seeing part of the monastery, we decided to head to Sagunto. This town has some real dark history. In 219 BC it was attacked by Hannibal and after a 9 month siege the inhabitants set fire to the town and themselves. Surrender wasn’t an option. Eventually, the Romans recaptured and rebuilt the town in the 2nd century and what a rebuild! As we appraised the town you could see the massive castle and fort perched right on top of the hill. Talk about big, I think the Romans were on steroids at the time!
We parked up just outside the main street on some spare ground and walked in to town. Not a pretty town but as you entered the old quarters it did get a little better. We passed the church and began the hike up the hill to the top. Why on earth did we decide to walk to the top of a hill in the mid day sun without any water? What were we think? By the time we got to the top we were wet through. Hot and sticky, yuk. Before we walked anywhere we went to the edge and cooled down in the hilltop breeze. The views from the top were stunning, looking out across the Valencian farmlands until of course you looked towards the coast.. the industrial smog of Sagunto Port. The castle stretches over 1km across the top of the rugged hill. Much of the castle is in ruins and at some point they tried to restore sections (badly). However, there are loads of pieces of pillars, stones etc just placed at the side of the castle wall for you to look at. Mid way along the wall a small exhibition room showing off the best of their finds.
On the way down we passed the Roman theatre, which after many years of renovation it is now used as a theatre. The renovation is rather naff in yellow brick and totally spoils the ruins but at least it is functional. Inside half a dozen young students acting out Hamlet and the sound from the natural acoustics were fab.
After a drink at the local watering hole we went inside the museum to look at the key finds from coins and pottery to statues and the body of a young child. Oh by the way, the castle, museum and theatre were all free to visit.
For lunch, we had a special treat. Craig cooked a joint of pork yesterday, so with a bit left over we made pork and stuffing butties, Blinkinek, i haven’t had stuffing in ages and it tasted yummy.
The town of Sagunto is not pretty and the views out of Vin weren’t brilliant, so we headed off. We drove through the rest of Valencia’s country garden, passing orange groves, olive trees and endless farmland. Then we hit an industrial section and before long we were at our final destination Villafames, which we will explore tomorrow.
Villafames GPS Position: N40.113939, W-0.052567
We parked on a gravel patch surrounded by trees and bushes. Craig kindly got the chairs out, so we could sit down for half an hour. We noticed a couple of Mosquitos, so we sprayed ourselves with repellant and chilled. But the chill didn’t last long, within minutes we were chewed to death by horrid Mosquitos. Stubborn little black ones with a very long spiky nose. I bet I have over twenty bites and Craig got three.