Posted in Spain

25th Nov – 7th Dec, Calpe, Bullas and Santa Pola

20171127_165351.jpg

Arriving in Calpe to a very British grey and blustery day by the sea, this was not quite what we wanted. The icon of the town, Peñón de Ifach, is a great limestone rock jutting skywards to 332 meters high and a magnificent sight with the sun on it, as we would see later next day. On a clear day it is said you can see Ibiza from the top, however, today it looked like you could only see the far side of the bay today and no further. I wanted to climb it as Richard and Trish had done, however having read various accounts of how scary and dangerous it was, needing stout footwear and nerves of steel when attempting the part after the tunnel, I decided I wasn’t going to attempt it. Shame, but the weather wasn’t playing ball and I couldn’t cope with my fear of falling so I decided there are other things in life to enjoy. Like a beer on the promenade, much safer I think.

20171129_212040.jpg

There was the usual harbour area with a mass of masts pointing up to the ‘Rock’, their reflections jiggling in the water as the tide brought the sea in, men mending fishing nets on the quayside and gulls squawking loudly. Two paddle-boarders made their way around the bay accompanied by their dog, a small pug who walked around the board and balance so well he seemed to be a natural, but when arriving on the sand he wanted lifting off so he didn’t get his feet wet! The high rise buildings are not what we really like, but on the front was a set of fountains and a long curve of beautiful soft sand.  I managed to capture us doing our own things by a palm tree, him with binoculars and me taking the photo, as a silhouette on the sand.

20171129_211128

The lagoon and wild area behind the beach had flamingos wading around, looking ghostly pale until they flapped their long, elegant wings, glowing deep rosy pink even on a dull day. There were also a good number of shell ducks and gulls bobbing around on the water, herons standing on sentry duty on the margins with a single common redstart amount the numerous black redstarts as we walked back through the scrub and bushes.

The ‘old town’ area of Calpe was a lovely surprise after the high rise on the sea front area. More traditional styled houses and restaurants jostled for space on the crowded streets, small streets jutted off at every angle as more as more buildings had been crammed in. This lovely informal jumble made a pleasant change from the grids of modern towns and together with some amazing murals on many buildings, it really is worth exploring.

20171129_211306

Up a red and yellow flight of stairs I found my favourite artwork which was painted on a hotel; a seascape with seagulls and a very well painted wooden ship, the photos do not do it justice, the buildings being so close together I could not get a decent angle on it.

20171128_145009.jpg

20171129_211608

Some paintings were 3D with a balcony looking like it supported two buildings above it, others depicted scenes with many people even going up stairs along a balcony even though it was totally flat, so clever.

 

 

A depiction of the Moors & Christians where ships were coming into the harbour at Calpe, it covered an entire wall and gable end of the façade of the Tourist Office. There was a tiled map showing the produce from different towns in the Alicante Provincia which was interesting as we could see where we had been with various towns shown on the map. Later we found a modern amphitheatre used for regular theatrical productions, a few statues and some nice gardens and pots on terraces.

20171128_143821
20171129_211733

One really weird building was a triumph of amalgamating an old building with a newer one. There was a modern entrance with an artwork and fabulous stained glass work either side of the massive door. To the left was the original classic church with vaulted roof, religious paintings, lots of gold, candles and wooden seating. Then to the right hand side of the central nave was the newer section, directly connected through a squared arch, having abstract roof lights, wall paintings and a stage in front of rows of seating.

20171129_211008.jpg

With a longer drive ahead of me, we had set off earlyish on our way to Bullas, West of Murcia, to meet Jess and Martin who I last met in Bridgnorth, Shropshire in 1978/1979! We chose a campsite in the hills 30 minutes from them, and settled in to relax after 125 miles of driving via a fruitless search in Murcia for some waste pipe we need. The temperature at 3 degrees Celsius was seriously down from the coastal regions and windy too, the sky a bright blue contrasting with yellow leaves and pine trees on the site. We spent the following day in the small town firstly in the very good Museo de Vino, great information boards, photographs and diagrams. Predictably 95% was in Spanish, along with a small explanation in English, and we were able to understand it fully even with our limited Spanish. There were life size model displays of working cellar rooms and a video in English, however this was so loud it sounded distorted and I was better off reading the Spanish!

20171201_17581820171201_180008

The town itself had a nice plaza with brightly painted buildings, a statue to celebrate the local industry of winemaking with a man treading grapes, a church and a few shops. It was still cold and as it was lunchtime we had tapas and beers at a corner bar and warmed up before walking back to Bessie at the campsite.  The campsite bar was warm and inviting so to round off a good day I had café con leche y cognac, and for Himself, a glass of wine or two!

 

 

 

We were collected next day by Martin and Jess and we enjoyed an impromptu wine tasting at their preferred Bodega, red wine at 11.30 is wonderful and between the four of us a whole bottle of delicious red wine just disappeared! A few purchases later and we made our way for coffee next, chatting non stop and admiring the cakes in the displays, but resisting temptation so it wouldn’t spoil lunch later on.

20171205_204310

20171201_113540.jpg

IMG_0644.JPG

Piling into the car we driven through open countryside and the narrow, open lanes around the lower slopes of the Sierra Cambrón, up to the tiny village of Coy where we were having lunch. Although it was a Friday, there were lots of people enjoying the food with friends and family, a noisy chatter filled the place making a lovely atmosphere. With great food and more wine inside us, we set off on our return journey. During the day so far, among other things we had discovered mutual hobbies of bird watching and walking, so on our return journey Martin stopped off at a couple of likely spots and some reservoirs, we picked up 3 new bird species for our tally which now stood at 97. Back at the campsite we were treated to a stunning red and orange sunset before sitting by an equally colourful, blazing woodburner later that evening. We had a fantastic time with Jess and Martin and will certainly be in touch in January when we return to the area.

20171201_174941

Heading for the northern corner of the Mar Menor back on the coast next day we walked along the salinas, (salty lagoons) in warmer temperatures of 13 degrees with the sun gently warming our backs while we looked for new bird species. Walking through the dunes at San Pedro de Pinatar we saw several stonechats and loads of gulls with beautiful silver sea holly growing in the sand. Further around and away from the sea with our eyes were scanning the inland pools we triumphantly we identified several black necked grebes, sanderling and ruddy turnstone; we were so pleased to reach 100 species, 5 more than our February/March trip to Spain.

20171204_201306-COLLAGE

After only one night here we moved to our last destination at Santa Pola. Chris cooked up a feast of seafood paella and we opened a bottle of sparkling Cava to end the evening with.

20171204_190304

Settling in for the next 5 days with washing to do, and sorting clothes to return home with, we spent a couple of days doing nothing much really, except prepare for returning to the UK. At the back of the site is an area of wasteland covered with small trees, weeds and cacti in an assortment of sizes and prickles, some with flowers or fruits.

20171204_200635

Another walk around to the salinas added a couple of ospreys and 2 spoonbills, the local Nature reserve had flamingoes, black winged stilts, shovellers, egrets and numerous little grebes, but before long we headed into town for a few tapas for lunch. We had a varied assortment brought by our table, all smelling delicious and needing to be tasted, accompanied of course by beers and then more tapas plus some vino blanco. It’s a hard life but we do need to practice.

20171205_204438

20171205_204639

Wandering back to the campsite we met up with fellow Bessacarr owners, Jilly and Alan from The Gower in South Wales. The next 3 hours were spent chatting, drinking more wine and beers and swapping experiences and tales until it had gone dark, oops where did the light go?

20171206_191937

Walking in the opposite direction next day, the sea was so calm, sun shining brightly and temperatures must have been around 17-18 C as we headed into the dunes area. Although it looks quite barren with sparse vegetation, there were several wild flowers, loads of crickets, snails that looked like humbugs, with dozens of sparrows and goldfinches feeding on a banquet of seeds.

20171206_191648

When you look around you it is surprising what you can notice. The boring looking bush below looked so insignificant, however it had tiny, pale yellow flowers all over it providing nectar for many insects.

20171206_192620-COLLAGE

We were really chuffed to find a Great Grey Shrike sitting on the wires high up. Another name for this distinct bird is ‘butcher bird’ so called for its habit of impaling it’s food items on thorns in the bushes so it can eat them later! (Photo from Google).

southern-Grey-Shrike-N-Israel-Nov-2013

There is a wreck of a salt barge lying in the sand, it used to carry a ton of salt as it was transported up the coast for sale. Now the process is mechanised the salt sits in huge piles and is transported by lorry over land.

Returning towards the town we passed the nature reserve again where the plants seemed to be glowing in the sun. I’ve no idea what they were, sort of like heather but not, it was the leaves that provide the colour.

20171206_112412

All over this area we see the iconic black bull near the side of the road, made of metal sections it is visible for miles but at last I could stand next to one and it was massive.

20171206_141037

We are now at the end of an 8 week trip, our bird list final count is 105 species and we are flying home tomorrow for Christmas with family and friends. We have had such a lovely time, seen so much and met so many lovely people; this is what travelling and motorhoming is all about.

Lucky for us, it all begins again in January ……..

Advertisements
Posted in Spain

16th -24th November, Pen-pal, Promenades and Parcent

20171116_180633After visiting city environments over the last few days it was time to do the opposite and we headed back to the coast for a free night at Cullera and parked opposite the beautiful, deserted beach. Walking across the wide sandy bay we chatted over a drink to some British expats who had lived in the area for the last 35 years, before returning to Bessie to watch the sun go down out of our front window.

20171116_182150

Moving to a campsite at Gandia early next day I was excited and nervous at the same time. In my quest to learn to speak Spanish, using the internet I found a penpal who lives in a village near to Gandia, I was about to meet Vicent and his wife who were going to visit us at the campsite. I have been writing to Vicent for about 5 months, I write in Spanish and he writes back in English. He is a year younger than me and this year at his 60th birthday on 9th November he retired from teaching at a junior school. When our messages started they were quite short and now we can both write a few paragraphs, we had exchanged a photo so we would know who to look for, and at the appointed time met at the campsite bar. It was scary thinking we would not be able to say much to each other but we managed ok for 2 hours! I thought Vicent had learned a good amount of English and I managed at least some Spanish and Chris could also say somethings too so we enjoyed our time together. It was a good meeting and he kindly gave us a bird book with the Spanish names and a small reading book for me to practice with. We will continue to email and meet up again next time we return to the area.

20171117_133356.jpg

We moved further south to Denia on the coast and chose a pretty campsite. It had parking under pine trees with individual parking areas defined by small hedges and trees, not in rows but in random positions so it actually felt small and intimate. It was only 5 minutes walk from the beach with a rustic promenade and a few bars on the headland where we saw octopus drying on a frame. The rough rocks changed to a beach with a perfect sandy curve leading all the way to the marina. There was a lovely promenade, a sculpture of dolphins, flowers and restaurants, and a long pier which we walked along the whole length and watched men fishing while boats went out to sea or returned to the marina.

20171128_163645-COLLAGE

20171118_181344

We always walk a lot as Bessie stays on the sites, so it was on shanks’s pony as usual that we decided to see what was beyond the marina. We made our way up hill to the ‘castle’, it only cost 2 Euros each and although the position gave far reaching views down over the marina and across the bay, it really was a pile of old stones, a few walls and two storage urns. There was not much definition of the old building except one part they were renovating, the information boards were in a pile on the floor and the few remaining ones were devoid of any script at all.

20171128_174614-COLLAGE

Returning by way of the marina we sat in the sunshine with a beer and spent the time watching the expensive plastic yachts bobbing on the water and listened to the gulls.

20171128_163720-COLLAGE

Next day we turned in the opposite direction, it was a little more rural and the rugged cliffs fell away steeply to the sea below, wonderful turquoise blue with darker patches contrasting in the sunlight. Again we walked uphill where the tarmac eventually gave way to a hardcore stoned track took its place. It lead up to the 16th century Torre del Gerro high above us, originally a watchtower at 13.5 meters high, a series of these towers were built along the coast as protection from pirates. The circular tower has a door positioned high on the outside wall, two windows on the opposite side facing the sea, and a staircase inside although it is not permitted to enter. The views take in not only the sea and coastline but the hills behind and more behind them so it was well worth the climb.

20171121_194214

The time finally arrive for our long awaited visit to see our friends Irene and Trevor in Parcent, we last saw them in March when we were on our way back to the UK. As we drove away from the coast into the hills the almond trees and small farms became apparent again and some olive trees had nets spread under them as it is harvest time. Bessie’s temporary home was to be parked next to orange trees with views of the mountains by kind permission of one of a friend of Trevor’s.

20171128_175837-COLLAGE.jpg

We caught up with each others news over lunch on the roof top terrace of the local Cooperativa; a bar, coffee house, restaurant, meeting place, entertainment hall and the hub of the community. The locals meet most days and if you need some work doing it is the best place to discuss requirements and find the help needed, a true Spanish village community where money may or may not be exchanged, perhaps produce or skills instead.

20171122_140007.jpg

We spent a lovely day together at Moraira in a small coastal bay, looking out over the balustrades and deserted beach and enjoying the best beer battered fish, chips and mushy peas I’ve had in a long while. Back at Parcent the colour of the bougainvillea draped over the wall and arch was so vivid against the sky, the lemon tree had a large crop nearly ripe for picking, many pots had geraniums still flowering and the balcony has views that cover a huge distance.

20171128_181316.jpg

20171125_105254

Over our days in Parcent we walked around the area as we had enjoyed it so much on previous visits. Starting in the small square by the church we walked steeply downhill towards the old community Lavadera or public wash-house, crossed the road and up towards the fields and pine trees with scattered farms and houses. I was amazed to see so many wildflowers in late November and we could hear birdsong everywhere.

The trees were full of fruit; lemons, oranges, pomegranates and persimmons (or sharon fruit), with unpicked olives that are green or black against the grey foliage. The grape vines had turned red and yellow but weirdly some almond trees had new leaves with unharvested blackened nuts on the high branches, and a few with very early soft pink blossom all on the same tree! We also saw vegetables growing on the plots of land beside a lot of the houses, ripe tomatoes, artichokes and cabbages with new rows of brand beans over a foot high already, lettuce and shallots or small onions. Returning into the village over the bridge there were white roses and pink osteospermums in flower, huge cacti plants and two of those Kapoc trees with the spines and pink flowers I had seen at a previous location.


It is olive picking time in the area and we often heard the chug-chug engine noise of the odd looking tractor/rotavator vehicles dragging small trailers. In the back were plastic baskets full of olives and they were heading towards the Cooperativa where each farmer brings their crop to be weighed. The olives are all collected, washed then an elevator loads into large boxes before enough are collected to be taken elsewhere for pressing. Each farmer gets a percentage of olive oil back, relative to his contribution of olives and some of the oil is then sold in the Cooperativa.

20171128_203503-COLLAGE

 

We had a wonderful lunch at the Tramonti Restaurant with Irene and Trevor on our last day in Parcent. The most delicious tomato soup was enhanced by vodka, Worcestershire sauce and tobacco sauce, brought to the table to add your own, and this delight is Trevor’s invention now requested by some of the regulars!

20171128_181101

We each had different main courses followed by profiteroles to finish and didn’t eat for the rest of the day. As usual, we spent our evening with Irene and Trevor, drinking and chatting before returning to Bessie each night. We had a fabulous time together and look forward to seeing them again in January.

20171125_135029.jpg

Posted in Spain

14th November, Old Valencia

20171114_110054.jpgHaving walked around the new area of Valencia we took a whole day and visited the old city area with the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen anywhere, so many crammed into such a close area, everywhere you looked was another wow factor.

20171114_143235.jpg20171114_143445.jpg

The Plaza del Ayuntamiento in particular was surrounded by works of art, most of the buildings a white, cream or pale in colour, many have towers, turrets, columns and arches. Black wrought ironwork on balconies and window grills contrast with the stone or plasterwork and massive doors are another feature of these buildings.
On our stroll around we found a few narrow side streets, an old record shop with 1,000s of LPs and lots of dust, a small street cafe with a very elegantly presented leg of ‘Jamon’, several heladarias selling all flavours of ice cream and countless coffee shops.

20171115_090220

 

20171114_120055.jpg
We found an old church with light terracotta bricks and detailed plasterwork features above the door, figures in alcoves and statues and balustrades, with its tall bell tower beside. Inside was a huge ornate carved wooden feature behind the altar and a pale creamy gold coloured circular dome with light streaming in making it glow.

20171116_193555

 

20171116_195214
The Silk Exchange is impressive from the outside, looking a bit like a castle with its high stone walls and a central courtyard, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. But much more interesti g on the inside, built during the 15th century it was the financial centre of La Lonja. The Main Hall with its amazing twisted columns was where Merchants worked out contracts. The honesty of the merchants is noted by the inscription in gold letters on a blue band near the ceiling and runs around the whole hall.

20171114_134728
Main Contract Hall
20171114_135517.jpg
Tribunal del Mar – main function room

I loved the patterns within the building, stained glass reflecting on the walls, a tiled floor looking like cubes or steps, diamond glass window and the detailed guiding work on the Tribunal function  room ceiling.

20171120_201437

The daily Central Market is housed in another beautiful building featuring big pillars and archways in on all four sides, colourful tiling and more wrought ironwork features. Inside the roof was a series of geometric shapes in black and white with a beautiful circular painted dome having windows to allow the light in.

20171114_121518

 

20171114_141435

There were hundreds of stalls selling all manner of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, eggs, cheeses, meat and fish, also wines and beers, breads and cakes, candies, nuts, tapas, snacks and coffees. We even found ‘Shropshire Blue’ cheese on sale and it has pride of place in the centre of the bottom photo! The sights, colours and smells of this fabulous market will stay with me for ages, such excellent produce and such variety.

20171115_084857

20171115_084540

20171115_085105

20171115_08474520171116_194519

We spent ages in there walking all the isles, ooing and aahing at so much wonderful and colourful food, gasping at some of the horrors of chickens feet, necks and heads left on, big fat grotesque tongues; they don’t waste anything, even the chicken carcasses all piled up to be sold alongside piles of bones. As we would be out walking all day and didn’t want to be carrying stuff around, sadly all we bought were 2 onions and a courgette, plus two crunchy rolls with the delicious jamon for lunch.

We couldn’t come to Valencia and not see the famous cathedral, consecrated in 1238, so glad we didn’t miss it as it is the spectacular one either of us has ever seen. Tucked in between buildings either side it, the octagonal tower with two rows of arched windows stood high above the grand door and rose window above. To the side were a series of arches looking a bit like an aqueduct!

20171114_173248.jpg
Inside seemed quite stark and plain at first with three vaulted naves, the main central one being wider and lighter than the other two. The tower with the arched windows was much more amazing inside, the bottom row of windows being more elaborately designed than the top row, all in white stone it looked very striking topped off with another vaulted ceiling.

20171118_214821

Behind the altar is the most elaborate chancel we have ever seen, the ceiling was so colourful, beautiful stained glass, so much gold and ancient religious paintings.

20171114_16564920171114_171151Around the back of the chancel is semi circular, wide walkway with many arched and vaulted side chapels and two enormous organs stand on either side, I would imagine the acoustics sound amazing.

 

 


It was quite cold and the light was beginning to go when we came out, time for some brisk walking to warm up. We found a square with a reclining figure in a fountain not far away and later a huge stone entrance gate to the city, sadly we were too late to go and walk around it, maybe next time!

20171114_17334520171114_174616

On our walks around Valencia, a city of approximately 970,000 people, while we were in the Oceanogràfic at a display, we realised we were standing by Caroline and Jeff who we had last seen in Navajas, first having met them in Benicàssim!  Then while looking around the old city and eventually needing a sit down before visiting the cathedral, we chose a cafe in the sunshine, as you do! The people on the table next to us said hello, we laughed because it was Joe and Sylvia from the Benicassim site, over 50 miles away, last seen helping me celebrate my birthday. How amazing is that, what a small world.

Posted in Spain

10th – 16th November, New Valencia

20171120_173047Heading south again we stopped off at Val de Uixo where there is a great system of caves that are deep inside the hills. Getting into a boat with 13 others we slipped off the jetty and into the dimly lit caverns, powered along like a punt we were taken slowly through the water only 2 feet deep pausing along the way to admire the stalagmites and stalactites, tall columns and stone curtains. We had an audio gadget to accompany the tour as the guide only spoke Spanish. Staying briefly further along the coast, we walked along the seafront and looked at the lagoons behind towering rushes to find a few more birds feeding in the shallow water.

20171112_121840

Finally we returned to Devesa Gardens, having stayed there in March we knew it was ideal for trips into Valencia. First we relaxed, walked along to an observation tower overlooking the lagoons and later that evening we went on a boat trip up the river and out into part of one lagoon.

20171112_191846
20171112_191709

There were herons, egrets, hundreds of mallard and probably around 2,000 red crested pochard with the males having chestnut coloured heads, also we saw loads of marsh harriers cruising over the reeds beds.

20171113_130705

We planned 3 separate days in Valencia and used the very regular and cheap buses to ride in and out, a journey of 30 minutes at only €1.50 each. For both of us with return journeys that works out to only £5.50 (ish) with the current exchange rate.

We headed straight to the new area known as the City of Arts and Sciences and the magnificent archictual and cultural buildings that are entertainment based. There are seven very different buildings along a very wide walkway close to each other and linked by water and the promenade. We walked by all the buildings but only went inside three of them.

L’Hemisfèric built in 1998, also known as the planetarium or ‘eye of knowledge’ and it is the centrepice of the complex. The design looks like an eyelid which reflects into the surrounding water to create the whole eye. The roof opens to show the dome that is the ‘iris’ and this is the Ominax theatre which we didn’t go in this time. It is the first building in the photograph below.

20171113_103922.jpg

We spent most of a day inside the El Museo de les Ciènces Principe Felipe built in 2000, (the ribbed building behind). It was built to look a skeleton of a whale and covers 40,000 square meters on three floors, the first floor looks out over the Turing Garden with massive pools of water surrounding it. The science element was designed to be interactive and more to entertain and arouse curiosity than for education, although I think it does both. We tried several of the ‘hands on’ features, my favourite being ‘mind games’. I sat opposite Chris at a small table. In front of us was a tube with a small ball in the centre. We had to put our foreheads against a curved metal contact strip, then relax totally and zone out. The idea was that the most relaxed person’s brain activity would move the ball to the opposite person. I am quite a sceptical person and with the noise level in there I couldn’t believe it would really work, but amazing it did, and I was the winner! There was a Legacy of Science exhibition on the second floor which we skipped, and on up to the third floor which is known the Chromosome Forest. There was a section for each of our chromosomes, with multiple sided pods full of information and interactive facilities on each, things like sight, touch, genes, weight, why we age, diseases, speech and language.

20171117_200401-COLLAGE
Photos from inside the Science Museum

20171117_211918.jpg

We also saw a dinosaur exhibition with loads of fossils and enormous replicas of the extinct animals, birds and fish. There was also another area full of stuff about space, rockets and the international space station with scaled down models. It would be easy to spend all day here too as there is so much to see and do. http://www.cac.es

20171115_170301

Below is my favourite building the L’Umbracle built in 2001 in an open series of 55 arches and 54 floating arches (I didn’t see any difference!) They are huge at 18 meters high, 320 meters long and 60 meters wide.  We spent quite some time in here, it houses hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees planted to change colour with each season, plus The Walk of Sculptures, including Yoko Ono’s work. I enjoyed walking through the gardens and really appreciated the building’s symetry and elegance.

20171117_205849.jpg

We spent a full day in the Oceanogràfic Park, opened in 2014 it is the largest complex of its kind in Europe, and certainly quite spectacular too with its lovely curved lines and reflective glass. Situated in the east side of Valencia it is housed in an iconic new building covering 110,000 square meters.  http://www.cac.es/oceanografic

20171113_202901

With 45,000 animals of 500 species including, fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates – sharks, beluga whales, walrus, sea lions and dolphins – penguins, scarlet ibis, spoonbills, egrets, herons – loads of fish, rays, moray eels, oh and over 80 species of plants too – the list is endless. It is such a fantastic place to visit and we spent over 6 hours in there! I’ll just add some photos so you get the idea!

20171113_202749

20171113_202527

20171113_203139

20171113_203313

The last three buildings are:

Left:   The El Pont de l’Asset de l’Or is 125 meters high is a a cable-stayed bridge across the dry riverbed built in 2008. Chris is in the photo to give an idea of scale.

Top:   El Palau de las Arts Regina Sofia built in 2005 which is an opera house and performing arts centre. This one reminded me of the computer game Pac Man at certain angles.

Bottom:  The L’Àgora built in 2009 is a covered square for sports events, concerts, exhibitions and conventions. Designed to look like a pair of hands, palms touching, where the top edges (the thumbs) can be opened up depending on the event being staged.

 

We wanted to walk in the Turia Gardens which were made in the former riverbed of the River Turia. In October 1957 after continued torrential rain, there was a terrible flood causing 81 deaths and widespread property destruction in the city. The river was re-routed south of Valencia over 3 km away, then work started in 1964 to create the city gardens and it was finally finished in 1973.

20171118_180423.jpg

The old riverbed has been transformed into Jardine del Turia, a five mile park of 450 acres, in some places 600 feet wide, with a ‘shallow river’ running through it into pools, it is great for people and wildlife in the heart of the city. There are cafes, sports facilities, works of art, outdoor gyms, walking and cycling routes, gardens and space to chill out and relax.

20171118_180608.jpg20171115_155848.jpg

Valencia has been a wonderful place to visit, a city I could live in, close to the mountains and the sea with everything anyone could ever need. We will return here and visit different things next time.

Posted in Spain

6th – 10th Nov, Navajas & Sagunt

20171106_125750.jpg
Leaving the urban sprawl behind we headed for a small village on the coast and enjoyed a walk along the beach with the wind making the waves spray on their way in to the shore, it looked beautiful in the sun but proved quite chilly while walking along. Finding the track between the massive, bamboo type reeds standing 15-16 feet tall we followed it inland hoping to find water, as indicated on the map. After walking for ages we came to the conclusion that with no rain in months it was now a dry river bed, so consequently no birds or wildlife. On the way back to Bessie we did see a very different and thorny tree, with beautiful flowers, some fluffy seeds and huge pods. I whacked one old pod out of the tree with a stick to see what was inside and to my amazement it was full of the fluff, like masses of thistle down. The only thing I could think of was Kapoc, having once made a rag doll I remembered the stuffing material. When I checked Google, that’s is what it was, amazing! It is cultivated for the seed fibre and also known as Java cotton or silk cotton, but these trees were simply lining a road.

20171109_082056-COLLAGE.jpg

Heading for the hills again we turned south west and after around an hour of gentle climbing we found our new campsite high on a hill overlooking the village of Navajas below. Every village, town and city has a church on a hill and this was no exception, higher than every other building it towered over everything, including the huge tree in the village square. The shock was the drop in temperature, over 23C on the coast and a chilly 16C when we arrived in our shorts and T-shirts! After that it was trousers, jumpers and coats, although when the sun was out you could occasionally do without the coat.

 

 

We found there was an interesting walk below Navajas called the Rutas de las Fuentes, the route of fountains. It followed the small river with lovely yellow poplar trees contrasting against the bright blue sky, their leaves rattling in the breeze. Huge tall bamboo edged the river in places, dragonflies in reds and greens zipped along, flitting backwards and forwards at high speed and butterflies added to the colourful spectacle. The massive high rocks supporting the village above looked like they were full of small holes, it looked fragile but it was so hard and rough.

20171109_093930

Over hundreds of years boulders had broken loose on occasion and the evidence was all around, some with trees now growing on them. We had to bend nearly double to get under some of them! The fountains were all different, some tiled or painted, but the best fountains are natural and we saw the first one splashing down a flight of old steps. 20171107_120256.jpg20171109_082500-COLLAGEFurther on another raced out of the foliage in a white torrent, rushing off under the track to join the river. Back alongside the rocks we were now above the river level walking along the track when a wide expanse opened in front of us. Huge boulders on the riverside, flat slabs of rock next to the water and there before us was a massive high wall of rock, over which cascaded a 60 meter waterfall. It dropped into natural pools which are a favourite with locals for swimming and picnics, and there is an old tradition for couples to jump from one side of the river to the other to prove virility and gain fertility.

20171109_093159

Behind the campsite is the Via Verde, (part of the same one behind Benicássim), transformed from old railway track into a lovely walking and cycling route, covering over 160km from Teruel to Castellón on the Valencian coast. We walked a small section in warm sunshine, with colourful gorse, huge thistle like plants over 8 feet tall and prickly pear with its purple fruits.

 

 

We went under some bridges and through a couple of tunnels, complete with electric lighting and switches at either end for travellers, very welcome as it was pitch black and echoed eerily. A large reservoir spread out before us with a huge wall damming the river below, this reservoir was extremely low as we could see from the edges being many feet below the level line indicated on the shoreline.

20171108_114557Many birds flitted around the pine trees and surrounding scrub as we walked, in places picnic benches had been placed under trees and I spotted a crested tit, a bird I have always wanted to see but never thought I would as I think they are only found in Scotland in the UK, which is a very long way from home. There were some disused stone buildings along the route, remnants from a previous era, and I loved this graffiti on the end of a building, it summed up the wonderful facility of the Via Verde.

20171108_132648

After a walk of 4 miles we arrived in a village called Jerica with its own impressive church and tower, visible from miles around being the highest building in the area. The octagonal tower was very ornately built with lots of fancy brickwork, it housed 5 bells and was topped with a green tiled dome. The village had a smart town hall with arches beneath and a clock tower on one end, some character houses, many flowers and decorative street lamps. Our return journey was taken by train, very convenient that!

20171108_134824.jpg

20171112_091429-COLLAGE

We had a day out to Sagunt, we went by train, 40 minutes each way for €10.60 return for both of us, (approx £10), it was on time, smooth and enabled us time to watch the scenery as we trundled passed. Soon arriving at our destination, we walked up to the old town with lovely central plaza overlooked by a castle fortress that occupies most of the hilltop – it is 1 kilometer from end to end! Its history is over 2,000 years old with Iberian, Roman and Medieval remains. The area is divided up into Plazas and the bits of wall that are still visible are remains of a Muslim Citadel. The surrounding walls are mainly Islamic in origin, but we’re strengthened during later history. Although the castle fortress itself is a ruin, nevertheless, it is very impressive just from its sheer size.

20171111_193331-COLLAGE

As we entered there was a building that had been partially renovated with tall columns supporting a roof. The old broken bases were by it and you could see the difference in size, the newer ones with steel incorporated inside the columns did not need to be as big as the original ones. A Roman entrance gate was being worked on, partially restoring the broken down sections to show how it once looked from drawings and old photographs from the late 1800s. Information boards showed before and after with detailed sections on materials and techniques. The whole section behind the gate was closed off due to the renovations.

20171109_123652.jpg

At the highest point of the whole fortress there were panoramic 360 degree views over the surrounding flat land all the way to the sea and Port de Sagunt. It was made a National Monument in 1931.

20171112_103120-COLLAGE

Walking back downhill we could see into a Roman amphitheatre and went to have a look. This too has been partially renovated, leaving sections to show the old building materials and structures. It is used for productions and has large stage and very cold marble seating, you would definitely need a cushion to sit there for any length of time. We wondered around the town and had some tapas and a beer in a small bar before catching the train back to our campsite.

20171109_135335.jpg

Posted in Spain

5th November, A Day in Castellón

Slightly out of date order but Castellón deserved a blog of its own. From the campsite in Varajas we travelled by bus and after 45 minutes arrived in the town.

20171105_210435

Following a quick picnic lunch we set off to explore and soon spotted a marching band playing various instruments as they turned into the Plaza Mayor (Main Square). We couldn’t find out what the occasion was but enjoyed their brief appearance before turning our attention to the surroundings. The plaza had a large water fountain and I had fun with photographing it and trying to ‘freeze’ the action of water droplets.

20171105_205429

The Cathedral of Santa Maria first built in the 13th century, was rebuilt again having been destroyed by fire in 14th century and then demolished in 1936. Luckily three Gothic doors were saved along with a number of decorative pieces and it was rebuilt again with honey coloured stone, the main entrance door was flanked by two smaller doors, each with arches above. On a second tier two arched windows stood either side, separated from the central flower shaped window by two columns, and finally three arches which looked like a walkway. Although there was a service going on inside, we quietly walked around the back of the pews to marvel at the interior which was simple, yet beautiful with a wonderful ceiling, red brick with cream arches and decorative supports. Around the altar it was so light, white walls showed off the colourful stained glass, looking particularly special with the sun streaming through them.

20171105_125911

At the other end of the Plaza Mayor is the 18th century City Hall, built in classical Italian style, it’s Tuscany style facade with an arcade having 7 arches.

20171105_130113

If that isn’t enough on another side of the Plaza is the Central Market, selling fish, meat and vegetables, it was remodelled in 1985 to include an underground carpark.

20171105_125421.jpg

 

El Fadrí Bell Tower completes the buildings around the Plaza and it is a real landmark of the city. Built in the mid 15th century, this freestanding, octagonal tower is 60 meters tall and divided into 4 sections for the clock, the bells, the bell ringers home and the clergies room.

20171105_125021.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short distance away is the small Plaza Santa Clara, once the original market place. In the centre is a fantastic stone carved Foundational Monument which represents the founding of the town by King James I of Aragon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The architecture in Castellón is so varied, old and modern, simple and ornate, plain and colourful, but all of it so interesting to look at.  The Post Office is built in the modernist style in 1932 and is quite spectacular for an administrative building. With rounded corners, fancy brickwork and stonework brought together in a decorative manner, with coloured tiling above the various arch styled features, it really is a work of art.

20171105_132233.jpg

Some of the buildings have coloured tiling which I think makes them look so attractive, highly coloured paintwork, wrought ironwork, columns, fancy artwork or shutters, the details seem endless.

20171112_145728

Also street lamps are varied and some are quite elaborate.

20171105_212320.jpg

Also I have noticed over the weeks all the statues in various locations as we have travelled around. Castellón has many different ones, some just fun, others remembering someone or a moment in time and of course religious ones. I loved the fun of them and collected a few photos along the way.

20171105_205830

Another historic building with a very detailed exterior is the Casino Antigua, which was remodelled in 1922 having been moved from the previous location. With a creamy honey colour exterior, some windows have balconies, lovely plasterwork and friezes above them. A small tower on one corner has arched windows with a smaller tier on top, rather like a wedding cake and on the long side of the building, a carved balustrade has faces and figures interspersed with carved columns.

20171105_210929

The Principal Theatre originally opened in 1894 and is a grand building to look at, with its Neo-Classical exterior in a dark terracotta and cream livery, there is an enormous sculpture of a musical instrument outside, and àlthough we didn’t see them, there are magnificent ceiling paintings inside.

20171105_142040

The Caixa Bank occupies a corner position and looks so beautiful with cream coloured façades contrasting with ornate black lamps, balustrades, clock face and two tier tower. Add to that the tall columns topped with scrolls and detailed plasterwork, it really is a masterpiece and my favourite ‘old building’ in Castellón. However, I also like modern designs too, and while the Santander Bank building a little further round is nothing special, to me, I love the reflections you can find in the mirrored glass of that building and also one I spotted on a street corner.

20171105_211910

20171112_210421Parks are special places in Spain and very well used especially at lunchtimes by people working in the city and at the weekends by families. We found the Ribalta Park which was constructed in 1868 originally only as a promenade and named after the artist Ribalta. Over the intervening years it has been extended and transformed into a wonderful area for relaxation and walking. Pathways radiate from a central open area complete with a monument, tall trees and many tiled benches, the bandstand has a domed roof, columns and soft terracotta paintwork and many species of trees, roses and oleander.

20171105_210119
It was a really great day out and one I can recommend without hesitation.

 

Posted in Spain

28th Oct – 6th Nov, Benicàssim

20171028_131501

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.

20171103_211423-COLLAGE

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.

20171029_173430

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.

20171103_214331-COLLAGE

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.

20171107_204213

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.

20171109_200505-COLLAGE

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.

20171109_194020-COLLAGE

 

Posted in Spain

25th – 28th October, Among the Hills

20171025_170256
Leaving the coast behind we retraced our steps slightly back towards to the mountains, travelling the smaller roads to see the countryside. As we entered one of the many ‘Parcs’ we saw huge rock faces standing alongside the road, after passing by two we finally stopped at the third and read that they were a tribute to the ancestors. Very impressive.

20171027_135736-COLLAGE

20171027_135902-COLLAGE

We reached the ‘Parc Natural Els Ports’, found the tiny village called Arnés and just outside it was the campsite. It was located in a picturesque valley studded with olive trees, interspersed with smaller areas of almond and hazelnut orchards and fields cultivated ready for another crop in the spring.

It was very well kept with excellent facilities and a swimming pool open until 30th September, so we missed that unfortunately! The views were amazing with bare, rocky mountainous outcrops, high hills with trees and scrub covering them which surrounded the fertile valleys below. There were only two other couples occupying the campsite so we could choose which pitch we wanted, and being British we orientated ourselves to take full advantage of the sun! Within 30 minutes we were blocking the sun out with towels hung from the canopy so we could sit outside for lunch in some shade as it was so hot, around 26C.

Staying put for the hottest part of the day in cooler shade, we eventually walked for 20 minutes into the tiny village, it looked deserted, everything closed and shuttered, no shops open or even any evidence of any shops! We found a small school that was closed, a large Town Hall and church, both also closed, and 2 bars – closed too. In fact it was a ghost town with a few cars abandoned haphazardly on any street space available. We decided to try again next day and walked back.

 

The couple behind us we so friendly we invited them for drinks after our evening meal. Steve’s German and Nellie’s French, 77 and 70 respectively and camping in their Renault Scenic, bed in the back, everything they needed in there too, somewhere; and all cooking done outside! They had walked 80 km over the last 5 days, that is around 10 miles a day.  Both had excellent spoken English, and we spent a lovely couple of hours chatting about holidays and countries we had travelled to while supping a bottle of red wine together in the comfort of Bessie.

Retracing our steps back to the village next day, we carried on walking along a rough road on a route into the hills. The path was stony and uneven in places, fields on either side typically planted with olives and almonds, ahead were pine trees looking beautiful against the blue sky.

20171027_141246-COLLAGE

20171027_140848-COLLAGEWe didn’t see many birds or indeed hear many either, however we did see 9 griffin vultures circling high on the thermals before finding the right air current to set off across the landscape to disappear from our view. After a couple of hours we stopped under some pines for our picnic lunch and a black redstart hopped around not far way. Making our way back to camp was quicker as it was down hill and after a total of 3.5 hours during the midday heat we arrived back at Bessie for a beer and a rest. The sunset was beautiful and we spent another lovely evening with Steve and Nellie, this time as their guests, having tapas and wine under the stars until around 8.30pm when it got chilly. Getting back into Bessie I was so cold I made up the beds and was snuggled up in my quilt by 8.45pm!

After nearly 10 hours sleep we were ready for our very short drive of 7.5 miles to Valderrobres next morning. We had visited this town in March when it was grey and really cold, so returning on a wonderfully warm and sunny day made it look so much more inviting. Having been unable to visit the castle last time, we had returned to look at it and we not disappointed.

20171030_210349-COLLAGE

Entering the old walled town over the ancient Medieval bridge we walked uphill to the fortress which was constructed around the natural rock about the 12 century. The King of Aragon donated Valderrobres to the Bishop of Zaragoza in 1175 and in the documentation it stated a castle must be built. Later phases of construction added a tower, low walls near the church, first and second floors and subsequently in 1390 the Archbishop García Fernández de Heredia turned it into The Bishop’s Palace. However, he was later murdered and work stopped until another Archbishop finished the Palace. Eventually it fell into disuse but was re-inhabited in 1656 by yet another Archbishop. From the 19th century it again fell into disrepair for over a century and restoration finally started in 1980s, it is now being used for cultural events and tourism. There was a large art exhibition by Salvador Dali and a few other artists in the Fireplace Hall.

 

20171027_135546-COLLAGE20171027_135601-COLLAGE

 

20171027_114414.jpg
Álvaro Pradera Chaves 1929 – 1985

We paid only 5 Euros each to see the castle with many rooms, hall of fireplaces, servants quarters, lovely views and a lot of information.

20171027_112308

20171030_210448-COLLAGE
Top Row:    Hall of Fireplaces.    High Chambers Gallery.    Bottom Row:   The Lions Hall.    The Patio Courtyard with original rock around which the castle was built.

 

 

20171027_115748
Can you see Bessie in the car park? (To the right of the river by the large trees)

The cost included entrance to the church of Santa Maria and the museum. The church had a magnificent entrance door with elaborate stone work arches over it, statues on either side, detailed carved stone friezes and a large rose window above. Once inside the simple vaulted roof was huge and well lit by the windows on either side. The semi circular apse also had the ribbed vaulting, below which the main altar stood, and on the north transept a carved stone screen looked down on the Nave and metal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

20171027_121537

20171027_121437

20171027_121753

 

The museum was really well laid out with large models of 18th century galleons made by a local man, detailed panels about the castles, churches and ecology of the area. On the second floor was a photographic display of the town of Valderrobres with images dating as far back as 1890. Each photo had a recent photograph alongside taken from the same point which made it so interesting as we compared each one, how it was then and how it is now, we then walked around the town spotting the locations later on.

 

Up early the following day to do something completely different. I drove Bessie to a small trading estate and parked, we walked to a small cafe to meet a Spanish guy call José Ramón Moragrega and got into his dusty old workhorse of a car, full of boots, a coat, sandwich box etc. He drove us for around a mile up a well worn, hard-core track and eventually stopped as the track petered out and trees began. We were met by his wife who led us and 6 others uphill through the woods for 10 minutes eventually coming to a building high on the hillside. Inside were bench seats and a massive window overlooking a bare area of dirt, stones, bushes and rocks all surrounded by trees. There was a pair of huge solid gates and José was on the other side of it with a wheelbarrow! Looking up the sky was filling with massive griffin vultures, circling around and gradually loosing height, a few landed in the tall pine trees surrounding the area.

Suddenly the huge gates opened and José pushed his barrow into the vulture feeding station he created 25 years ago as we watched from his purpose built observatory. He was engulfed in these massive birds, all beaks and talons, as he tried to run with his barrow load of rabbit meat.  He breeds rabbits for the purpose of the conservation of these endangered vultures. Tipping the contents onto the floor, he turns quickly to race off out of the way of the feeding frenzy in front of us, the noise of the birds squabbling and squawking over the meat was amazing. There were approximately 400 vultures and about 8 barrow loads to help sustain them, and this scene is repeated every day at around 9am!

They are imposing birds with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet or 3 meters and weighing between 19-25 lbs or 9-11 kgs. The pale head and tawny coloured eye miss nothing, with a massively powerful beak and snake-like necks covered in pale down ending in a ruff at the base. The huge sandy brown body, dark wings with pale leading edge, ending in the outstretched ‘fingers’ so visible when in flight, and a short dark tail. Living in the mountainous areas they are often seen riding the thermals gaining height, soaring on outstretched wings effortlessly coving vast areas searching for carcasses and doing a valuable job of cleaning up and preventing the spread of disease of rotting remains. It was a wonderfully different and unexpected thing to do in valderrobres, we then started on our way to the coast for the next night.

 

Posted in Spain

18th- 24th October, To the Coast

After studying the map for our next destination, we liked the idea of Lake Caspie, alongside a dammed section of the a River Ebro that created huge lakes referred to as an ‘inland sea’. The drive was lovely through a northern section of Spanish countryside, huge rock formations, barren empty fields, trees dotted about the landscape and vast empty roads. Covering the miles at a very sedate, leisurely and relaxing pace, the skies were darkening and the light was wonderful on the hills in front of us. We stopped after an hour and a half of driving for a relaxing coffee in Bessie, it got dark quite quickly and then the wind got up too, suddenly huge spots of rain started to bash on the roof. It became a thunderous roar as the heavens opened full bore, rain and hail bouncing off the roof and windscreen. We were parked up on a hard-core lay bay which quickly became awash with small streams of rainfall rushing off into the bushes. Blacker by the minute, lorries starting pulling over to wait it out, others carried on by very slowly with headlights on and wipers splashing. By now we could hardly see across the first few meters of countryside in front of us, then the first cracking of thunder rolled, swiftly followed by lightening and more thunder This carried on for 30 minutes, during which a small tree right in front of Bessie was suddenly smashed and now was without one of its trunks, which now lay on the floor in a deepening large puddle. Thankfully I would never park under trees preferring to see the view, so glad I wasn’t any closer to that tree. Gradually the coffee and the rain disappeared, leaving dark clouds, still raining but now safe to start driving again. As we passed theseveral signs, we always shoutility ‘moose’ – our little joke for anything with horns/antlers.

20171018_132130

20171022_113727-COLLAGE

Arriving at Lake Caspe Campsite the pitches were under small trees to provide shade and I manoeuvred into position to make the most of the sun, when it finally came out. We walked down the site to explore and realised that the lakes were seriously depleted in water volume, they were at least 20-30 feet below the average marks on the lakeside margins. Few birds were in evidence, one grey heron, a couple of cormorants and half a dozen goldfinches and wagtails, even the flora was long past its best, so we made our way back to Bessie and a beer.

20171019_103723

After a nights sleep we decided to cut our losses and move on again. The plan now was to go directed to the coast at the Ebro Delta where there was another free Aire. Stopping off en-route at a huge Mercadona supermarket to stock on fresh provisions, we enjoyed all the differences between British supermarkets and the Spanish ones. We love the different foods, the fresh fish counter in particular and came away with a large bag of huge cooked prawns, plus cheap fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, dates, wine and beer. We arrived at the Aire having driven alongside miles of paddy fields, what a change the new area brought us.

20171022_113746-COLLAGE

The Ebro Delta is vast, a massive area almost exclusively growing rice, consequently water everywhere and a feast of birds too! The Aire was very well kept, gravelled parking and plenty of space for all, it was well frequented while we were there, as sure sign it was free. A small restaurant and bar, hire of bikes, bici-cars for 2 people, boats, even horses, and round the corner a small information place and shop.

We were soon out with our binoculars, walking around in the midday heat like ‘mad dogs and English men’. It was worth it though, soon adding to our bird list and admiring in particular lots of marsh harriers cruising over the reeds, a few purple gallinules, a large version of our moorhen with iridescent purple feathers, large red feet and beak. There were hundreds of little egrets, cattle egrets and a good number of grey herons and great white egrets, with their snowy white plumage, all varying sizes with dagger like beaks. Another beautiful bird is the glossy ibis with is long, down curved bill, iridescent black/green plumage with long legs stalking along the paddy fields in search of food.

20171022_113808-COLLAGE

Having once worked on a farm for several years, along time ago, I was intrigued by a very strange looking tractor. There were no tyres on the wheels; on the front were two solid metal discs and the rear had a very wide series of metal slatted cage wheels on each side. It became apparent how this was used when a driver came and manoeuvred it into the paddy field. Tyres would have been useless sinking into the bog-like conditions. The metal wheels were used to churn up the previously cut rice crop that had now started to regenerate, the smell reminded me of clearing out our old pond! The old rice plants were pushed under the surface of the mud and water, possibly making growth start again at the same time. All the time the tractor went up and down the field, masses of gulls, egrets and herons patrolled along behind catching up the frogs, fish and grubs turned over by the ‘wheels’.

20171022_113848-COLLAGE
20171020_135431

After our allotted 2 free nights on the Aire we moved on, driving all over the Delta and using Bessie as a hide. The small roads were deserted and we were contentedly bimbling along at 20 mph stopping every so often to see lapwing, ringed plover, little stint, flamingoes, the usual egrets, herons and ibis, kestrel and more marsh harriers. After driving around all morning we took Bessie to the beach, drove right onto the sand and parked up, while we had a quiet walk around the small pools, there was hardly a sole around.

20171022_113951-COLLAGESoon we headed for the north of the Delta, and booked in at a campsite at L’Ampollo, right by the sea with a paddy field behind our pitch, complete with more egrets! We got a great pitch looking out onto a grass area and literally 5 minutes walk to the beach. However, we walked 20 minutes into the small town passing a statue of a figure lying down and reading a book, it was enormous.

20171026_165337-COLLAGE

20171026_165421-COLLAGE20171022_122307We admired the harbour, read all the information boards concerning the area’s history, saw another statue of Pope Adrian us VI, Bishop of Tortosa, and spend a happy half hour with a beer in the sunshine, I was so hot as I had worn trousers and a light jumper as it was so windy.  Later on it was still very windy and not too good to sit on the beach, so we walked around a lagoon, got blown to bits, saw some old wooden boats, a cormorant and a couple of herons before returning to the shelter of the campsite for the evening and a bottle of ‘bubbly’.

20171023_191630
Before arriving in Spain we had decided that we were not going to race around like headless chickens seeing everything. For a few days we went for a walk in the mornings and then we relaxed improving our tans, I painted my nails but Chris left his natural, I spent time reading, he didn’t, and we did some people watching, which was difficult as it was a scarcely populated beach which was just what we needed.

20171026_165859-COLLAGE

20171024_192252