Posted in Spain

1st March – Benicássim

screenshot_20200326-143034_maps

Time to move north on to our next location for a month of relaxation in the lovely climate of eastern Spain, a far cry from continual rain we were hearing about back home in England. After a short trip of approximately 130 miles we arrived in Benicássim and we soon set up on the large pitch enjoying the sunshine.

20200302_124544

My intention was to join in all the exercise classes and take the opportunity to tone up as well as exercise, so I wasted no time and did two a day plus walks along the promenade. Chris and I also enjoyed the Spanish classes and got the opportunity to try speaking when out and about. We joined in the Whist group which was good fun, especially when I managed to be the winning lady for the first week, not having played for a year I think it was beginners luck! On Saturday night there was a good meal and entertainment evening with a group of musicians and 3 really great French singers who sang in English and Spanish as well as French.

20200307_204957

Our walks took place in the local area along the beach front promenade, around the small town and also near the orange groves, now with most fruit having been picked, we could see the new blossom just starting to emerge. The very beautiful yellow mimosa flowers were prominently showing up against the blue sky, always a nice colour combination. Many other blossoms and flowers were appearing along the road edges and in the fields, birds singing including the familiar blackbirds and chiffchaffs, along with the small Sardinian warbler with its scratchy voice sounding from the bushes.

20200326_16523920200326_165419

Our tranquil oasis of retirement fun, however a was soon shattered by increasing news reports of Coronavirus and it’s course of infection spreading west from China. I was embarking on a planned trip home to UK to visit family for 5 days, but now I felt apprehensive about my journey.  Travelling first by train, then plane with wonderful views of the snow covered Pyrennes, two more trains and finally being picked up by a friend for a lift home. All went smoothly however, visits made and enjoyed very much, at times were somewhat overshadowed by worrying if I could return to Chris, a non-driver, staying alone in Spain with our motorhome.

20200326_175115-1

Thankfully, I made the return journey on the last flight from Gatwick to Valencia by Easyjet, I felt so lucky my ticket was on 16th not 17th when subsequent flights were all cancelled.  The plane only had about 30 passengers, coming into land I could see empty roads, the metro and train station were also sparsely populated. After one hour 15 minutes on a train and finally a 25 minute walk back to the campsite, I was stopped by the police 25 yards from the campsite to check where I was going!  Such a relief to be back.

20200326_175405-1

Euphoria was short lived however, the campsite was now closed to the public. We were confined to our pitch except visits to the shower block, all classes were cancelled, not allowed to play boules or have social gatherings, and for exercise a walking circuit of the site took only 10 minutes so we did multiples to achieve our  target of 10,000 steps per day!  Spain went into serious lockdown earlier than the UK, we could only go out onto the street alone, one person to shop, food and chemist only and receipts could be requested by the police who were patrolling everywhere. We don’t have a dog so had no excuse for a walk outside at all.

 

People were packing up everywhere on the site but our ferry was booked for 16th April. Some people said they would sit it out, but after a day’s rest, the next morning (18th) we suddenly decided to pack up and drive home having secured a booking on the Channel Tunnel on Saturday 21st. On the road by 12 noon we made it over the border, through a tunnel under the snow covered Pyrenees and into France, and finally stopped for the night after 300 miles somewhere near Pau.

 

20200318_181824-1

Starting at 7am next morning, I drove 560 miles in total with 3 stops to near Rouen in northern France, followed on Friday by the last push to Calais by 11.30am. Having amended our crossing time slot for 24 hours earlier, we were on the mid-day train and back in England in 30 minutes! This was a first for us, quite an exciting end to our expedition through France, Chris being the joker as ever told me to look through the windows for the fish.  Comforting?!

20200320_124437

I had driven so far in 2.5 days and I was very chuffed, only 147 more miles to get home.  Google maps measures the journey at 1,179 miles, in spite of the reason for the trip, the countryside was beautiful and I really enjoyed the drive.

screenshot_20200326-155326_maps

Not quite what we planned back in the Autumn, but different. Now we have to sit it out at home like everyone worldwide and hope we can stay safe. Not quite the usual blog of our travels in Bessie, but we are now enjoying the beautiful weather and walks near our home. Stay safe everyone.

Until next time ……

20200325_132404

Posted in Spain

5th February – Jávea Jollies

 

20200208_114602

Landing in Bilbão on a bright sunny day we were soon heading in the direction Zaragoza for an over night stay on our way to visit our friends in Parcent, a small village set back in the hills from the coastline of Denia and Jávea. Great to see the valleys full of beautiful pink and white almond blossom, the smell is delicious and the bees make it sound like summer. Walking around this lovely, authentic Spanish village, the church spire is visible from a wide area located as most are, at the highest point of the village. The lanes between the cultivated areas of vines, almond trees, orange and lemon trees are full of bird song and insects, along with the smell of pine trees and wild herbs of lavender and rosemary.

20200228_205124

Parcent is situated in a very popular location for professional cyclists, including racing teams from many countries. They congregate in large numbers at the bottom of the village for refreshments before heading off in all directions with different skill levels and demands on body and bike. We walked to the next village of Alcalalí, where a stage of the 5 day Tour of Valencia race was talking place. We had no sooner arrived when a mass of cyclists whizzed past us followed by their entourage of support cars with spare bike frames and wheels on the roof. The route in the immediate area had previously been cleared of cars and roads blocked off by the Civil Guarda to keep the cyclists safe, no doubt an ongoing procedure as the race progressed. Two famous names in the race were the British cyclist Ben Swift and the Belgian, Greg Van Avermaet, who is the current Olympic road race champion from Rio in 2016.

20200228_205213

After that 2 minutes of excitement, we crossed the road into the village for some almond related tapas and a beer in traffic free streets before walking back into Parcent. We enjoyed a great lunch at Tramonti Restaurant with our friends Irene and Trevor, starting with a special ‘sopa de Ramon’ that includes self service additions to the tomato based soup of vodka, Worcester sauce and tabasco. Very special indeed and only done for Trevor, and us by association, his lucky friends! As always, we had a great time together before heading on our way to Jávea.

We were keen to see the beach area at The Arenal end of Jávea after the terrible storms in January had taken their toll. Huge concrete seating barriers, moved by the power of the sea, lay haphazardly between the beach and the promenade. The tidying up has been going on for weeks using huge tractors to move sand and debris from the promenade and remove tons of seaweed to bring the beach back to a good condition.

20200229_162451
Mid January 2020 – photos taken by Alan
20200229_164227
Mid-Late February clean up still in progress

For almost a week we simply caught up with more friends, walked and relaxed. We played boules/petanque some afternoons, had fun trying our hand at bowls at the local club with lunch afterwards, and also learned how to play Canasta and joined in the local club on a couple of occasions. Hiring a car for a few days enabled us to get out to more distant locations than our legs could transport us too.  An initial trip out included a zigzag route to two small bays along the coast, very picturesque with hardly a person around.

20200229_162619
Playa de Granadella and Cap de la Nau

Valentines day was celebrated with an afternoon tea overlooking the beach and music later at a nearby venue. Nice to be romantic in such a beautiful location even it is a little commercial these days.

20200229_170032

We headed to Pego Marshes for an hour where we saw dozens of herons, little egrets and cattle egrets with around 50 glossy ibis and a good number of cormorants. They were feeding on the mud left behind by the rice harvest, still waterlogged in places, no doubt harbouring fish, frogs and crayfish.

20200229_165128-collage

Driving on about 40 miles away, we arrived at Castillo Xátiva. Set up high on a spine of rocky hills, the castle overlooked the plains below from it’s lofty location; the smaller castle section was built in Roman times and the larger walled section later in Medieval times.

20200221_145854

We went through the main Medieval gate and up through many levels of ruined ramparts and walls, originally having 30 towers, 2 chapels, 12 reservoirs and a double ditch enclosure, it really was a massive building. The smaller older section had less structure but also gave great views over the surrounding countryside. The town spread out below the castle with its magnificent large church surrounded by the old style two storey building with terracotta roofs, and beyond to the modern, less picturesque buildings.

20200301_200224
Views of, and from the castle
20200301_200354
Palm, new growth on pine tree, and wild flowers

 

In February it is almond blossom time and in nearby Alcalalí they celebrate this special time by closing the old village streets to traffic, putting out stalls of produce and having a good time for 3 weekends. We arrived in time for a 6 km walk around the local area, along with several hundred others, as we wound our way along the local back lanes, between fields over a very small river and back to the village. We saw a small parade through the main street, music was played and much almond related tapas was made and eaten.

20200228_203432

20200228_202716

A trip to the caves at Benidela was only 35 minutes away from our campsite, and on a hot day it was cool and dry with many impressive large ‘rooms’, information boards were good and not too long or ‘information overload’.

20200228_201441

20200228_201744
Fossils and artefacts

 

A bit of campsite fun was held in the form of a ‘pancake race’s on Shrove Tuesday. Pancakes were made or bought and frying pans cleaned up, around 30 people took part in the separate men’s and women’s races, pancakes had to be tossed on each of three corners and only walking was allowed, running lead to being disqualified! Miraculously, I managed to win the women’s race, Chris was 2nd and our friend Alan was the most imaginative and dressed for the occasion, the only ‘double tosser’ of the day.

20200228_200106

At the end of February we took a long drive into the hills to Yecla to meet up with Jess and Martin, and after coffee we set off again in one car to find some birds. The countryside is already changing with new crops coming up, trees coming into leaf and rural farms and where we found some lesser kestrels using nest boxes put up on the side of a barn. Little owls are well camoflauged on the dry stone piles and walls, crested and calandra larks scurry around on the ground disappearing as they blend in with the colour of the soil. A few little grebes, a moorhen and a green sandpaper inhabited a pool, while flocks of linnet, corn bunting and meadow pipit were also seen. The photos of a calandra lark and lesser kestrels were taken by Martin.

20200229_174056-collage

Suddenly it was the end of February and time to move to our next destination. We had enjoyed a great time with many friends, the weather had been really great, sunny and warm on all but one day during our three weeks in Jávea. Always a great place and one we will return to again and again.