After a wonderful drive along small roads across countryside, we stopped off for a picnic lunch at Morella overlooking the castle we saw back in the very blustery and cold March weather. Perched at the top of a lofty peak, high above the valleys below, it looked stunning in the sunshine and dominated the countryside around.
Moving on again we saw isolated farm houses, sheep and cattle in fields for the first time, dry stone walls separated the fields in the valley bottomed while tall mountains surrounded the area. The highest part of our journey was 3,934 feet, with plenty of wind turbines making good use of the wind in these areas. There were roads signs depicting ice and snow poles marked in black and yellow along the road edges, presumably to show the depth and the direction of the road, it must be bleak here in winter. More cuttings through the rock as the roads lost height, gradually the olive and almond trees became evident again and cultivated fields with artichokes and beans.
Eventually we arrived at the coast for a period of relaxation in Benicàssim in Valencia Province, with its vast long curve of sandy beach edged with a wide promenade. Not our usual type of venue due to high rise blocks of apartments, but one that several people had recommended with easy access for food shopping and supplies of all manner of things in the Chinese Bazaars. The campsite is very well appointed, great sized pitches, trees all trimmed so the sunshine can reach everyone, swimming pool, bar, restaurant, Spanish lessons, book swap library, dancing, singing and pilates. There are many rows of motorhomes with numerous British escaping from the cold, you can get to know your neighbours as much as you wish, and we had some lovely people in our immediate area.
Halloween is big in Spain, we booked a table for evening meal and a night of music, so many people had gone to a lot of effort with costumes and headgear making a special night of it. We didn’t of course, even though we had seen all manner of dressing up stuff at the Chinese Bazaars shop in town, just being content to eat our meal, have some drinks and stare at everyone else’s efforts.
On my birthday, Chris and I went for a sea food lunch with Andalusian style squid, sea bass, chips and salad followed by a wonderful desert each plus a bottle of wine. The terrace overlooked the beach and it was lovely sitting in the sun in early November doing a spot of people watching. I had invited our neighbours, 8 lovely couples for drinks and nibbles in the mid afternoon while it was lovely and warm. One couple came from Redlynch only 6 miles away from where we live! We enjoyed wine, beer, crisps, nuts and olives added to the bottles and chocolates that were brought for me and we chatted for over 4 hours – a great birthday indeed!
The promenade is paved and wide, with palm trees, oleander and hibiscus along the length. We soon discovered that there were many interesting ‘villas’, which were built around the late 1800s up to 1940s. There are plaques every so often detailing the facts about the villas and their histories, complete with photos of each. Some were in very good condition and still occupied but others are sadly looking dilapidated with over grown gardens.
Our favourite was the Torre San Vicente, dated approximately 16th Century in the Renaissance style, one of 18 watchtowers along the coast of The Province of Castellón.
The plaques were full of information including details about publication of a ‘bathing dialogue’ stating that ‘bathing in sea water was highly recommended for all temperaments and builds as it was considered an excellent hygienic and therapeutic measure to cure diseases’. Bathers were advised what to eat and drink, also to immerse themselves for no longer than 5 or 10 minutes at a time and not before 10am. Benicassim’s esplanade became one of the most highly sought after places to bathe, ‘middle class members, industrialists, artists, literary persons etc walked along the beach’ – this resulted in villas being built and also the ‘Varamar Bathing House and Cafeteria’ which became the first hotel as a result of the social activity in the area.
Along the back of the campsite is a ‘via verde’ or green road and we decided to walk along a section of it. Originally a railway line, it was developed into a walkway and we followed it along the coast towards Orpessa del Mar, with open views, cuttings through high rock and bridges crossing over it on the way out of Benicassim. Pine trees are common near the coast but we also saw several fig trees but few wild flowers are left this late in the year, only a few small yellow dandelion types edged the walkway. The Torre de la Colomera stood high on a on a tumble of rocks that went down to the sea far below, there was no pathway up to it and a only a basic notice at the bottom giving it’s name, nevertheless it looked impressive! Walking on for a while we passed many walkers and cyclists before stopping off on a bench for half an hour for our picnic, then retraced our steps back into Benicàssim and a drink at a bar along the main promenade.
We spend a few days on the beach but not venturing into the sea like some people, a bit of sunbathing and reading was all the activity we wanted. Benicássim itself had the usual shops and bazaars, an ornate drinking water fountain with a lamp on top, statues, decorative park fountains and a massive key on one island approaching the town. The weather had been wonderful on the coast, sun every day and temperatures of 22-26C only dropping to 16-18C at night. It was good to do something different and meet lots of people, but my feet were getting restless again, it was time to move on.