The short distance from Jávea to Xeraco led to our pre arranged meeting for coffee with my Spanish email friend, Vicent and his wife Isabel. Around a year had gone by since we had last seen each other and both Chris and I were able to use more Spanish while talking with them, and Vicent’s level of English has also improved. It would be great to be able to talk with each other with more improvements next year so we must keep learning and practising.
Onward in a northerly direction to Benicàssim, just inland through the fertile lowlands between the coast and the mountains, we passed by the fields full of artichokes and broccoli being harvested by hand. Where the oranges have been picked, the trees are now starting to blossom with sweet smelling creamy white flowers. We pass several lorries full of boxes of oranges and lemons, and as we saw in Jávea, there are many hundreds of oranges left on the ground after the pickers have been through the groves. This region has acres of citrus fruit trees and terraces of almond trees where the blossom has faded fast and small furry green nuts are now visible.
We were allocated a lovely sunny pitch at Bonterra Park in Benicàssim and soon found friends further up the site that we made back in Martial Costa near Crevillente! We would definitely be spending time catching up with both couples, games of boules, and card games of Uno and Sevens as well as quizzes and meals together along with a few Happy Hours! Chris cooked a wonderful paella one afternoon and a great time was had by all.
For a bit of Spanish culture, we took the opportunity of a trip to the carnival in Vinaròs, about an hour away by coach. It was a late sunny afternoon when we arrived and we could soon hear the music, with many people in colourful intricate costumes and decorated vehicles covered with lights. When the parade started, the music volume and noise levels increased, men banging drums, whistles, instruments and batons swinging, adults and children all looked so happy and joyful. The tractors pulling highly decorated trailers with scantily clad women and girls dancing and twirling through the streets were amazing and it went on for hours. The later it got the colder it got, darkness now showing the lighting off to the full benefit, and still the parades continued with no break, I can’t begin to imagine just how many floats there would have been. Thankfully before we froze, it was time to get the coach back, it had been a brilliant experience and one not to be missed.
Behind the campsite is a long section of Via Verde, a disused rail track, now surfaced for walkers and cyclists. We used this a lot, one day we walked to the next town of Oropesa del Mar with tunnels, huge rock cuttings and tremendous views of the sea. The pathway is lined with flowers even in March, the wonderful smell of pine trees, colourful rocks and finally we passed a pretty marina, it is a beautiful walk.
We saw two old watch towers which were used for coastal defence, two foot soldiers manned the tower and two horse riders covered the distant between and communicated between the towers. After a good rest, drinks and lunch we retraced our steps, the whole walk covering 13 miles, I did ache a bit next day!
We walk every day and the promenade is always nice, it’s wide and paved with palm trees and benches scattered along it’s length. At weekends it gets really busy with locals enjoying the beach and restaurants, children playing on beach playgrounds and I loved this boy making enormous bubbles with water and soap.
There are numerous old villas at one end of the beach dating from late 19th century to mid 20th century, with descriptions on notice boards which make interesting reading. Villa Amparo is an American colonial style built between 1880 and 1920, it was used as a hospital during the Spanish Civil War to treat infectious diseases. It was also the place where Ernest Hemmingway and war correspondent Marta Gellhorn enjoyed a romance.
Taking a service bus for a day out to Marina d’Or which is situated on the north side of Oropesa del Mar, we came over an attractively tiled bridge we passed underneath a huge metal bridge shaped like an abstract animal. The streets were full of flowers making a colourful welcome, also there is a the huge display of street lighting in intricate designs which must be lovely in the evening.
We had been told about some beautiful gardens situated next to the promenade next to the beach and we weren’t disappointed. Surrounded by decorative walls, pillars and ornate wrought iron railings it is a contained green oasis with palm trees and cactus garden, ancient olive trees.
Colour was provided by flower beds of geranium, osteospermum, pansy, chrysanthemum and roses not yet out, also a small lake with huge Koi carp in a multitude of colours, ducks, geese and swans. Around the garden are various large and strange statues and very beautiful curved concrete benches covered with coloured tiles and some built to resemble animals.
Walking up to the street market in Benicàssim I was amazed by the sheer number of electric bikes in a special parking place for them, they certainly help people to get around and carry heavy shopping back with ease. There was lots of colourful stands of fresh fruit and vegetables which looked delicious, also clothes, shoes, jewellery and household goods.
After wondering around for a while we watched proceedings while enjoying another tapas lunch under the shade of a blind. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it!