After spending a wonderful time over Christmas and New Year with family and friends, it was finally time to leave Salisbury for Spain. Flying over the Pyrenees I stared out of the window, where many thousands of feet below I could see the snow capped mountain chain separating France and Spain. It looked beautiful, but cold and remote; I was longing for warmth, for walks in the countryside, the sound of the sea, sandy beaches, paella and wine, and above all else, the sun.
We have decided to be less nomadic in the next 3 months, and to start with we chose a pretty campsite at Villajoyosa, set back from the coast in amongst the fields with beautiful views of Puig Campana, a bare rocky mountain of 4,613 feet. (1,406 meters). The craggy mountains to the side create a backdrop for the villages nestled underneath, many of the houses having their own areas to grow vegetables, orange and lemon trees are hang heavy with fruit, almond blossom is just starting to show and chickens scratch around among the weeds. Broad beans, artichokes, and even tomatoes growing outside, the lovely Burmuda buttercup carpets the ground in places and there are several Poinsettia trees with bright red bracts, so amazing to see the full grown plant when we only see them in pots at Christmas.
It takes around 25 minutes to walk into the town and stroll along the promenade beside a large sweeping bay with soft white sand, the most striking features are the beautiful multi-coloured houses that line the seafront. Stretching up 3 or 4 storeys high, many with restaurants, cafes and bars under the living accommodation, they have decorative wrought iron grills on windows and balcony surrounds, with bougainvillea, jasmine and geraniums adding more colour while the deep blue sky sets everything off to perfection.
At the other end of the long beach is a picturesque harbour with yachts and cruisers reflecting in the water, while over the wall are the fishing vessels and working boat yard. Black headed gulls line up along the walls with numerous cormorants stretching their wings out to dry; black mullet swim in large groups of varying sizes in crystal clear water.
The small village of Finistrat looks picturesque lying close to the foot of the mountain, a welcome sight after walking up hill for 5 miles along the edge of a road with little traffic. The final steep push led us into the village itself with narrow streets shaded by tall houses, a pretty church with an unusual pastel coloured interior, several small shops and tremendous views in every direction.
A walking trail sheet from the tourist information office took us around many places in the village with wall plaques giving points of information. Continuing uphill again we found a small new looking amphitheatre, beautiful gardens, a few sculptures and a white chapel hidden away in pine trees right under the mountain. It was a lovely day and thankfully the walk was all downhill on the return journey.
A much shorter walk passing though the rural lanes took us to the small village of Ermita de San Antonio. Ermita means chapel in Spanish and there has been a place of worship established in the village since 16th century. We met up with others from the campsite for tapas and drinks before returning for a late lunch together and an afternoon game originating from Finland called Mölkky, something akin to skittles. We thoroughly enjoyed being included in the activities of the C&C Rally, learning how to play Whist, being part of the team which won the quiz, and a really great Fish’n’chips night with music of our era.
Never having been to the infamous Benidorm with its reputation for high rise blocks, loud music and drunken behaviour; we had read an article in the MMM magazine for motor-homers that detailed a different side of the city. We caught a tram for the 15 minute ride along the coast where we found the typical image of Benidorm, its high rise apartments, holiday accommodation and hotels fringed by the golden sand beaches. But it is not all there is to see here.
We were soon walking past some attractive buildings with interesting shutters and architecture. In the Old Town area, attractive shop fronts selling everything from clothes and handbags, delicious bread and cake shops to Chinese Bazaars where there is a massive range of items you didn’t even know you wanted! Trees trimmed for the winter months will provide greenery and more shade later into Spring and few flowers added colour to the areas of benches. The tall buildings made the narrow streets rather cool but it was an attractive area and in warmer months it would be great to eat lunch alfresco while enjoying a bit of ‘people watching’, but in the shade it was not very good for photography unfortunately.
A street of cobbles with steps and an archway leads uphill to the 18th century Church of San Jamie, white with the beautiful blue, tiled domes and a 4 sided tower housing the bell. Leading out onto a black and white Plaza with views over both Playa Levante and Playa Poniente, the paved area is completed with a circle of canons leading to where a castle used to stand. Now there is a wonderful multi-sided viewpoint; the sany beaches either side, Benidorm rock is far out in the bay, seating arranged around a pergola which in turn leads to a set of steps down to a lower vantage from where you can see the whole panorama.
We found an interesting bar to have some lunch, it had factory like ducting near the ceiling, old fashioned lights, memorabilia on the walls and a counter full of delicious tapas. So much choice, 5 items for €9 – (£8), which was more than enough for two of us. Oops, I ate the prawns before I took the photo!
Along the seafront where I noticed a mural depicting a mariner in his boat with compass, paddles, anchor and fish.
Taking the promenade next to Playa Poniente towards some skyscrapers, I particularly wanted to see the Intempo; the highest residential building in Spain at 630 feet (192 meters). It was completed in 2015 with a total of 55 floors and cost £72,500,000! It divides opinion, but I really liked its simple design of two towers with the elaborate golden cone connection in the middle. Close by were two tall curved buildings with blue glass that I also liked and the juxtaposition with a simple brick tower made an interesting and colourful combination.
Returning to Villajoyosa by tram later on we were looking forward to a sit down having walked a total of 9 miles. No rest for us though, we had to take down our awning and repack Bessie ready for our drive up to Javea in the morning.