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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.