Fear of the Walking Dead.

Sunday 01 July 2018 – Xelardo, Lliria, Valencia, Spain.

Acting innocent, trying to blend, look like a local or a regular visitor, someone possibly walking, in my case, an imaginary dog, I wait for the lone car to pass down this quiet, dusty road. As soon as it is out of sight, with pounding heart and sweat pouring (it is Spain and really hot) I scramble through the hole in the fence and into a scene from The Walking Dead.

Welcome to Camping Aguas de Lliria. Contentiously and rapidly abandoned in 2009, the site is a ghostly reminder of what was a large campground with some permanent residents. I am not sure how long it was open but this website suggests it was running for at least 15 years before the council at, very short notice, closed it down for supposedly not having a permit when it was originally built, locking residents and holiday makers out.

On reading the website I was shocked to see the place had been closed for so long. There is lots of rubbish and some vandalism, but nothing that says almost 10 years have passed. Perhaps its isolation and the dry weather has allowed for some level of preservation? We will see.

Before venturing to the campground I wanted to check the abandoned house I visited last year. There was an old stuffed chair in one of its three rooms and I hoped it was still lurking, lumpen, in the corner. I approached cautiously again, a little nervous. I didn’t want to run into the owner. I now know this is private property and being semi-rural the likelihood is no one speaks English. My Spanish is worse than poor, even the words I do know come out sounding mangled, dulled by my flat New Zealand accent. Unintelligible.

Approaching, I saw a stuffed chair outside the front door, someone had tried to burn it, stuffing had been ripped, but it had been resilient to their attempts. I was pleased, this was not the end I wanted for my chair. I wanted a long slow gradual decay, perhaps to be found by future generations, still lurking, lumpen in its corner.

Passing inside the door, over broken glass and other detritus I discovered the outside chair must have been the twin of mine, for there mine was still lurking, still lumpy and tatty; but mostly complete. Unburnt, unmoved, still dignified. Still in the corner where I first found it.

People have been here since I last came, there is more damage to the interior, more rubbish on the ground, dead fires, empty and smashed bottles. Signs of small parties, youthful nights, exuberance and stupidity. Sometimes I miss those days.

I start to head in the direction of the campsite, discovering I am not too far from a road, and a house. A car comes down the road and stops. I am standing on the edge of a ploughed field, sort of behind a small scrubby tree, a man gets out of the car, though just walks to, and then in to, the driveway of the house. Phew. I beat a hasty retreat, back over the slight ridge, past the house and up a small rocky trail to some old gates that I know, from last year, lead to land that is open and used by locals to walk their dogs.

I feel more certain of my legitimacy and stop to take some photos of the grass and these weird little plants that I like the look of, but have no idea what they are called.

Soon I am walking down the road, along the fence line of the campsite, looking for entry points; maybe rapid exit points if needed later. I find a way in, a gap big enough to get through quickly. Just as I approach, a car comes down the road. I start to walk purposefully, innocently, waving to the driver as he passes, slowing immediately he is gone. I wait till the car is out of sight, then turn back and quickly enter into the campground, into a scene from The Walking Dead, thankfully without the flesh eating zombies.

It immediately feels strange, as if crossing through that chain link fence has crossed me into another less joyful dimension. It ‘feels’ quiet, deserted. Both are good things, hopefully reality will match the feeling and I will not come across anyone or anything that presents a danger.

I get the camera out of my bag, I have bought the old 5d with a 50mm lens, nothing fancy, no big heavy lenses and nothing that would get caught on the fence if I have to make a hurried exit. There is a surprisingly large amount of stuff, the result of the rapid departure of the people who lived here.

There has been some vandalism, though I am surprised at the condition after nine or so years of desertion, there are even some windows that have not been smashed. Though there is a ton of rubbish strewn about.

I can see people have dossed/camped or hidden away here over the years, small fire pits are scattered here and there. I am guessing the council or the original owners used to sweep through here in the early days. Numerous holes in the fence have been repaired, but more have been made and I spotted three or four as I walked down the road, keeping an eye on escape points.

I am still a bit nervous, I worry about wild dogs, and wilder people. The image of disturbed zombies does not leave my mind. I know these things do not exist, but…

I do not wander too far in, I am not that courageous. The place is massive, far bigger than it looks from outside, a large portion has been burnt down, though none of the fixed dwellings look fire damaged. There is some irony to be found.

After thirty minutes of quiet skulking I decide to leave. Heading back to the hole I came in, I walk up the road to the chained entrance. Stopping to take a photo through the gate. A final reminder that my fears a zombie apocalypse had occurred as I crossed dimensions were not entirely unfounded. It was good to be back in the real world again. I think.

Was this the best paella?

Tuesday July 3 2018 – Valencia, Spain.

This is my fourth, and Eleanor’s third visit to Valencia, staying with friends Paula and Paul in their holiday home on the edge of Lliria, a small town at the far end of one of the Metro lines. We are all here for three nights, with not a lot planned apart from lunch on Sunday with an old work mate. My idea for this trip was to relax, drink cheap lager and wine in and round the pool, eat some food and do some planning, photo editing and writing. I also wanted to make a sneaky visit to the abandoned camp ground nearby.

In hindsight I think the trip was pretty good, but in the immediate aftermath I considered it a bit of a failure. I didn’t really achieve any planning, photo editing or do much writing. That was probably good, I needed to make some time to relax. The reason for the lack of photo editing was the cable for the portable hard drive that contains all my photos disappeared somewhere between security at Stansted Airport and the arrival hall in Valencia. To say I was pissed off would be an understatement. It did remind me that I HAVE to do a backup of that drive when I get home and have a replacement cable…


Sunday we met ex-work-mate, Fran, for lunch. Fran is Valencian, returning from London earlier this year. He has long recommended Casa Carmela for the best paella in town and was keen to introduce us to it, and we were keen to accept the offer.

It is a scorcher of a day, 30 degrees plus, with the clearest sky and not a breath of breeze to speak of. A lot of Valencians were hitting the beach, and it was a very crowded tram ride from the station to the sea front; but so nice to travel by tram rather than car or foot.


We arrived early and took the opportunity to walk along the beach front, Casa Carmela being at the far end of the beach from the tram stop. The beach was very busy, I should have bought swimming gear with me, I cannot remember the last time I was in the sea, I miss it.



The walk along the promenade is nice, too hot to be thoroughly enjoyable. Being able to stop for a very cold San Miguel at the far end was a fine reward and made walking in the heat almost bearable. Stupidly (or arrogantly) I did not put any sun screen on my face before we left and I could feel my skin tightening and burning as we walked. There was not a lot of shade till the beach bar. Lesson possibly learned.




Lunch at Casa Carmela was everything I had been led to believe. We had an extraordinary local white wine and the bbqed squid was just exceptional, I have never had squid that nice, nor expect to again, unless we come back. However, we were there for the paella, not the squid nor the wine, and we were not let down. The seafood paella was massive, unbelievably we all ate till bursting, yet there was still some left at the end. It was as good as Fran had said.


There was a tiny, tiny space left after the paella, even the dessert stomach had been used up. Fran suggested a cafe bombon to wrap up the perfect Valencian meal. Cafe Bombon originated in Valencia and is a European version of coffee found all over SE Asia, a shot of espresso mixed with sweetened condensed milk. I absolutely loved this drink on my travels in Asia and did not know existed in Europe. It was perfect and a fine end to a very enjoyable feasting experience.


After lunch we piled into Fran’s car and he took us to a  nearby horcheta bar, horcheta is a non-alcoholic drink made from tiger nut and is a regional speciality. I have had it before and it is very nice, like a mildly sweet milk shake, and over ice was very welcome on such a hot day. The bar had the TV on and a good crowd there for the Spain v Russia world cup game, the other reason for going there. Surprisingly, and sadly Spain lost, so it was a quiet crowd that left after the game.

Late that afternoon I went on a small tour of discovery in the abandoned campground I came across last time we visited. Camping Aguas De Lliria was shut down by the council in 2009 and my next post I will explore it and the nearby fields more closely.


The following day we did not do much, lots of reading, some eating, swimming, lounging etc.


Perhaps some watching of football on the telly. The sunset was verging, on but was not quite, spectacular.




I have seen spectacular here before, and good as this sunset was, it was not up to that standard.

Tuesday was all about packing, cleaning, waiting for a delayed flight back to London and then home.

The answer was yes, that was the best paella….

Exploring the ruins of Lliria and Xelardo

Monday 01 and Tuesday 02 May 2017 – Lliria, Spain.

We arrived back in Lliria around mid-day and were met at the station by Paula and Paul. We decided to do a walking tour of the centre of Lliria as El and I had not seen much of the town in daylight. We have visited various cafes and restaurants in the evenings, but have not seen the old town in daylight. I was pleasantly surprised!

I have always like Spanish domestic architecture, the plastered and painted homes, and the colour contrasts between neighbours and sky. No long rows of red brick terraces here.

I was surprised to find that Lliria is an ancient town, the old centre on the hill in middle of town was first occupied by the Iberians and was sacked by the Romans in 76BC. There is a small historical trail and a modern museum with artefacts from the Roman period. As it was a public holiday, and a Monday, most of it was closed.

The 17th century Church of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion was our first stop, the doors were open so went inside for a look around, only to discover that it was actually closed and the workmen were just moving things outside. We were gently shoo-ed out, but I did get a photo. It would be worth going back for a better look another time.

At the top of the hill was the museum, which we discovered was closed when we got there, it is a short, though nice walk through what I think is a typical hillside Spanish streetscape of narrow lanes and predominantly white houses. There are a few signs of Roman occupation outside the museum.

Just down from the museum is the Church of the Blood, the first Christian church to be built in Lliria in 1238. Like a lot of other churches in this and the southern region of Spain it was built on the site of a Moorish Mosque. There is not a lot to be read about the Moorish occupation of the region, something I am going to have do some research on before I return.

This building is from the 15th century and was an old furnace, it is part of the old walls of the town. I do love it when an ancient home is still being used, buildings that are older than the European occupation of New Zealand.

Walking back down to the station we passed the old station, and interestingly a sign on the old station house with the name of Liria – with only one l. When and why did it change?

After a bit of a rest back at the house in Xelardo I decided to go for a walk into the nearby orange groves. Paula and Paul’s house is the last house before some orange and olive orchards, though there is some scrubland next door. Even though it was still quite sunny, and only very early in the evening I took my camera and went for a stroll. I wanted some harsh light, cactus has to be photographed with a blue sky and bright sun.

The area of scrubland was a lot bigger than I expected, I was not sure if it was private or not, so I took a tentative walk up a dirt path into it. I found out late that the area is open land and everyone walks through. Next time I will not be so circumspect. I walked up the path as far as these old stuck open gates, they led into the neighbouring orange grove, but I suspect no one has been through them for a while.

Returning back to the road I strolled along until the road ran out at what appeared to be the entrance to someone’s house, so I turned round and walked back the way I came. Stopping to take a photo of the weeds growing up the side of an old shed.

I spotted what appeared to be an abandoned house between the scrubland and the orange trees, I could not see anyone around, so took a slow and innocent looking walk up the old track to the house. Ready to run if I heard a dog, or shrug my shoulders and explain that I did not speak Spanish if someone stopped me. I didn’t see anyone on the approach.

I had a good look around, and inside the building. There was this fabulous old stuffed chair in there, I wish I had the big camera and my tripod. Next time. (Next time seems to be quite a regular refrain in my blog posts these days, hopefully there will be some next times).

When I was approaching the house I had seen the roof of what appeared to be more dereliction beyond. I was going to sneak over there next, but heard voices and then could some kids there. This was obviously private land, so I snuck back to the road and walked on home to find El and Paula sitting by the pool enjoying the last of the sun. It was far too cold to go swimming!

I told Paula and Paul about my walk and the abandoned building I had seen, they told that it was a derelict campsite that had closed a few years ago. This really piqued my interest and I was quite keen to go out and find it. Paul offered to come with me and show me the way. I cannot find out anything on the campsite or why it is closed, I am guessing due to financial reasons, as it is a massive site, and miles from anywhere.

I was expecting a campground for tents, but there were loads of chalets, caravans and other buildings. It is all fenced off, and with Paul reluctant to go in I held off, quickly sneaking in to take a couple of photos via a hole in the fence. It must have closed very suddenly as there were so many personal effects lying around. There has been some damage, but not as much as I would have expected. Next time……

Nearby there is a completely bonkers house, the Mansion San Jorge, it too looks deserted. I think it was built as a guest house or small hotel, but it is totally mad. I loved it. All these Gaudi-an towers, and the mouldy paint just added to its madness. Wonderful.

Back at the house it was time to pack up ready to leave tomorrow morning, then dinner, followed by the final episode of series two of ‘Fear the walking dead’ which we have been watching each evening. I took one last photo, and the first colourful sunset we have had, over the hills of the Sierra Calderonas, where we walked on Friday.

We did not have a madly early start on Tuesday, but the alarm was set for 7:00 so we could get to the airport in time. I loved how Ryan Air gets the passengers all excited by starting the boarding process, only to have everyone queue outside.

We left it so we were almost the last people to board so we didn’t have to stand in the sun for too long. This turned out to be quite fortunate as there was a technical issue and the flight was delayed. After some indecision we were eventually all trooped back into the departure lounge.We were delayed by an hour and a half, so our plan to be home by mid-afternoon was completely thwarted and we arrived back in London for rush hour : )

It was a brilliant trip again. I really do like hanging out in Spain!

A night in Valencia

Sunday 30 April and Monday 1 May 2017 – Valencia, Spain.

Today is NLD day. For those not in the know, this is the North London Derby; a football match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur that occurs twice each season and a rivalry that has been going since 1913 when The Arsenal moved from south London to the north. No forgiveness given by the Spurs fans. 

El is a long term and ’passionate’ Spurs fan and I have supported The Arsenal since I was a nipper. We watch a lot of football in our house, but the NLD is not a game we watch together.

Before leaving London we had booked a room in the Excelsior Hotel in Valencia for tonight, the plan was to find a pub in town, break house rules and watch the game together then enjoy an evening in this lovely city. This morning we decided it was best to stick with house rules and not watch the game. Just in case. It was a stunner of a day, so no point in ruining it with sporting results!

We caught the Metro from Lliria into Valencia, I have done this journey a couple of times and am familiar with getting from the train into the centre of the old town where the hotel was located. One of the main streets near the hotel was closed to traffic when we arrived in the middle of the afternoon. I was not sure why, it is the May Day holiday on Monday, and I thought there must be something happening then, but the road was open again on Monday morning. We did find a small parade late in the afternoon, though I am not convinced it was for that. The more roads closed the better in my book!

It was a glorious day today, so we dumped our bag in the hotel room and headed straight out for a walk.

We decided to walk to the Science and Arts Centre; though we had visited last February, it is a lovely stroll down an old river bed; with a pond below one of the ancient entry points in to the city.

I really like this walk, it is shaded and cool, and today the light was playing in the wind blown trees, there were loads of people, but it a big wide area and it was never too crowded, just nicely busy.

The ultra modern sci-fi buildings that make up the Science and Arts Centre are just stunning. Last week’s episode of Dr Who was filmed here. I am going to come back here on my own one evening and spend some time taking photos. I could wander all day, though it was very warm and bright.

We arrived back in the centre of town just as the NLD finished, we had managed to avoid the game and checking progress on our phones. Sadly Arsenal lost, a result I was expecting. At least one of us was happy! It was time to find a bar for a celebratory/commiseratory glass of wine.

On the road up from our hotel we came across this parade forming outside the church of Saint Martin. There were a lot of kids and adults dressed in traditional clothing. Though I am still not sure what the parade was about.

We found an open air bar in the Place de Lope de Vega and decided to sit and relax for a while over a glass of Rose. We were not sitting long when the parade came through the square, we had front row seats!

As the parade passed, unseen by us, one of the paraders set off a of string of very loud fire crackers on the far side of the small square, at the back of Santa Catalina church. It gave us (and most other people) one hell of a fright! I went to investigate afterwards and saw this little sculpture embedded in the stone work on the church. Very cool.

Finishing our glasses we set off again, this time to find somewhere to eat. Lunch, at the science museum had been a disappointment, we had had such good food in LLiria so we didn’t want touristy downtown Valencia to let us down. It was much busier out than I thought it would be; it was still quite early by Spanish standards, but it was a nice evening to stroll and we were not in any rush and we did find a place and did really enjoy the food.

I love the small winding alleys and streets in this section of Valencia, and that it is all a little dishevelled. I could easily live in this town. If I spoke Spanish or the Valencian variation. Bodega de la Sarieta was a nice spot to people watch and the food was great.

With very full bellies; the food was too good :), we sauntered around the cathedral area for a short while before waddling back to the hotel for the night.

There was even a little bit of street art to keep my urban soul happy.

I didn’t have a brilliant sleep, the very small room was either too warm with the air con off, or too noisy with the air con on, I suspect the full belly didn’t help much either… We were in no particular rush on Monday morning, we did have a room with a balcony, though there was no great view or anything; it was still nice to be outside relative peace in the city.

I loved the stairwell in our hotel!

After a late breakfast we were back on the train to Lliria. The mission to watch the NLD in a bar, a complete, yet welcome failure.

I really like the centre of Valencia, it is small, very touristy, very friendly, attractive and fun. One of my favourite cities.

Walks and wine in Spain.

Thursday 27 to Saturday 29 April 2017 – Lliria, Valencia, Spain.

Two days after getting back from our trip to Cornwall we were off to Spain for a few days with friend Paul and Paula. We have stayed with Paul and Paula at their holiday house in Xelardo, which is an ‘urbanisation’ on the outskirts of Lliria, itself on the outskirts of Valencia. We were really looking forward to the trip, though not to the getting up at 4:00am to go to Stansted Airport bit. Some sacrifices had to be made!

We arrived late morning, and were greeted by a gentle shower of rain. The forecast for the next couple of days is not brilliant, but it does get better over time and is really good on Tuesday – the day we leave. The shower did not last long and was clear by the time we left the super market with a very full trolley and arrived at Casa la Adams.

We had no real plans for the time away, except El and I had booked a room on Sunday in a central Valencia hotel, so after unpacking and eating lunch we decided to take a late afternoon walk through the orange groves to the nearby village of Marines. I took a few photos, but don’t seem to have any of the orange groves. I have a lot of derelict buildings under moody cloudy skies….

And one not so derelict building, where I enjoyed the contrasts of colours and lines.

I really enjoyed the walk, it was down a very rough dirt road, we were passed by a couple of cars, but it was mainly quiet apart from the barking of very aggressive dogs, fortunately from behind high fences and gates. We stopped for a drink in a small cafe/bar in Marines, before having a brief look around the square.

One of the things I like about this part of Spain is that the flora is a mix of things we see in the UK, like daisies, lavender, gorse and thistle and things you expect to see in the desert like cacti.

Friday was another quiet day, I cannot remember what we did in the morning, but in the afternoon we drove to another small and nearby village; Olocau, where we took a walk up to Puntal dels Llops, or Wolf Point. A small hill on the edge of the Sierra Calderonas. On the top of the hill lie the ruins of an Iberian fort which was built in the 4th century BC and destroyed during the Second Punic Wars of the 2nd century BC. A walk up a hill, in the country, to visit an ancient ruin. There is not much that makes me happier. I was not let down!

It was a great short walk, like yesterday the fauna was quite interesting, totally different to the UK, very Spartan, and I really liked the contrast between the red soil and varieties of greens and yellows in the trees and shrubs.

I have also never seen this in a fur before, this was quite a common site on the walk, though this was the largest bushy outgrowth I saw, quite remarkable.

The walk to the top took about 40 minutes, and was well worth it, the ruins are quite cool and there is plenty of signage around the place, with a mix of Spanish and English writing. 

The fort was a place of refuge from invaders or troublemakers passing through the nearby villages, and was not a major permanent settlement.

I got a bit sidetracked on the walk back down, I had sort of planned in my head when we went away that I would not spend lots of time faffing with photos, I would take a couple here and there and not hold people up, but I did get a bit a carried away here. Visually it is a stunning location, with plenty of colour and interesting lines and layers.

Being spring the broom was in full and glorious flower and I just loved that yellow, and took rather too many photos of it and its contrasting neighbours.

Paul had booked us into a wine tasting late on Saturday morning at the Vera De Estanas winery about an hour away by car near Utiel. I enjoyed the drive in the country, though did have a brief moment of car sickness after spending time gawping at the news on my phone. Lesson learnt.

I am sure the tour was really interesting, sadly it was all in Spanish and I have none at all. It was also a bit wet outside so I was glad I had my coat..

Here are some barrels that contained wine,

some dusty wine bottles, that contained wine,

and some people that also now contain wine. Though not a lot as Paula was driving.

I really liked the building and the grounds, and I am sure I would have enjoyed the tour more if I could have understood any of it. The tile floor was lovely!

Actually the wine was pretty good too, especially their premium red at a whole 10pounds a bottle…

Castillo de Sagunto.

Sunday 28 February 2016 – Valencia, Spain.

With the room nicely pre-warmed last night, along with a late night, red wine and whisky, most of us slept in quite late this morning. Paul managed to sneak out and go to one of the local markets well before anyone else emerged. It was a much warmer morning than yesterday, the wind had dropped and there were hints of a sun peaking through the clouds.

Paul returned soon after we had breakfast and we all set out rather late for today’s adventure. A trip up the coast to the small town of Sagunto and its wonderful old ruined castle.

Sagunto is a port town and the castle sits on a low bluff overlooking the sea and a wide valley. We knew the castle closed at 14:00 on a Sunday and it was after 13:00 when we arrived in town. We drove around for what seemed like ages trying to find the entrance, the first attempt led us completely to the wrong side of the bluff. I had resigned myself (quietly) that this would be as close as I would get to visiting this massive old structure.


We finally found the way in to the right side of town, but found absolutely no where to park. Paul volunteered to drive off and find a park, so Paula, El and I jumped out the car and went looking for the road up to the gates.

We were dropped off outside The Church of Saint Maria, so I stopped for a quick photo of its magnificent doors. The church was started in 1334 and finally completed in 1730, a rather long build – a bit like the restoration of the escalators at Walthamstow Central! As was common at the time, it was built on the site of the main mosque in Sagunto soon after the Christians under Aragon 1 wrestled rule of the town from the Moors. It was finally finished in what has become the Valencian Gothic style of architecture.



Just outside the church there was a small road train that took visitors up the hill to the castle itself, for expediencies sake we jumped on the train and took the lazy way up the hill. Outside the main castle is an old amphitheatre, recently renovated and still used as a theatre.


I was very excited on the final walk up to the entrance, hoping we would be allowed in so late, I am a little boy at heart when it comes to castles and ruins, cannot help it ! Even the outside walls, especially with the un-British sight of cacti growing below had me bouncing…


We arrived at the gate at 13:30, were allowed in but advised we had 30 minutes. I am going to have to go back and visit another day, it is a big place and worthy of a couple of hours! We did make it in, I was very happy.

There has been a settlement on the bluff for hundreds of years. The Roman settlement was under siege by Hannibal way back in 219 BC, this event was the start of the Punic War, one of the most significant periods of warfare in ancient times, Hannibal’s army was finally stopped just outside the gates of Rome. Any further and the world would be a different place !

In 214 BC the town was retaken by Rome and as you would expect what followed for the next few hundred years was long periods of settlement interspersed with the odd invasion, change of ruler, change of religion when the Muslim Moors ruled this part of Spain for 500 (ish) years, with a brief change in the middle. It was in 1238 when Aragon conquered the area that things pretty much settled down for a while.

All this time the castle on the hill was expanded, modified, knocked down a bit, built up some more, but was never really destroyed. You can see influences from all the different groups who have occupied this vast site.

There is little information about the actual interior of the castle, there are a few signs inside that describe some of the sections, but they were not overly verbose and they were in Spanish so not much use in the short time we had. We only managed to see one side – the far end is over a kilometre away.

The Temple of Diana is pretty much the first thing you see once you are through the gate. There is a lot of renovation work going on, numerous sections are fenced off, and you can tell there is a monumentally large and long project going on to explore and renovate the interior. If it is all done as well as the already completed sections then it will be a fabulous place to visit in the future. There are photos of this building from 1923 and it was looking very similar to what it is like now. It must have been maintained for a very long time.


As we did not have a lot of time, I left El and Paula to it and nipped off here and there, taking photos where I saw something interesting, there are parts of the castle that can be explored and clambered on, and I am always up for that. I imagine as things become more formally renovated then the clambering will stop, I am not against that of course, but will take the opportunity to explore where I want when I can. Obviously I take as much care as I can, and do not risk either myself or the place I am exploring.




We explored the eastern end of the castle, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, as you can see the western end is quite a long way away.


Paula took a photo of me taking the photo….

Paulas photo

I walked around a small section of the perimeter, there were great views down on to the rooftops of the houses below. I really like a good view of rooftops, especially the higgledy piggledy view over a town built on a hillside. Sagunto looks great from up here and the Church really stands out when viewed from this angle, from the ground it is all bunched up in the narrow cobbled streets and much harder to feel the scale of the building.



The walls are really imposing, and I could see why so much is still standing after such a long time. I also have a thing about walls and trees…






With time running out I headed quickly back over to the centre of the castle, to try and get a good look at the far end, from a distance it looks even more imposing than where I had just been. I really must come back here and explore again more fully. There is a whole castle up on that hill!


The walls show building materials and styles from most of the various occupiers of the site, from the Romans, the Moors and the later Spanish.



There were some great details, in some cases, literally lying on the ground.




All too quickly it was 14:00 and the gates were going to close, so I reluctantly bade adios to Castillo de Sagunto and walked outside to meet El and Paula.


We headed back down the hill, through some of the streets and past houses that I saw from the top of the hill. Looking back at this trip, and back further to my time in southern Spain in 2012, these small hillside, ‘white house’ villages are some of my favourite places to wander around. I love the randomness of the streets, the twisting and turning, the ones that end in steps, or just go nowhere, the fact there are few people about and almost no visible cars. Perfect!


By pure co-incidence at the end of one of the streets we wandered down we found Paul sitting outside Mason el Castillo, a roadside cafe, drinking a beer and waiting for us to turn up. We ordered some food and drinks all round and relaxed there for a while, enjoying the atmosphere and some really nice tapas (again)!


I went for a quick walk around the area, up and down a few more streets, this part of town is really lovely.



It was not a bad day so we decided to head back to the car and drive down to sea and hopefully find an ice cream. On the way back we passed this building which looked like it had an old Roman era pillar holding up one corner of a mezzanine. Wonderful.


On the way to the car, parked in another free train station car park, we passed a real estate agent and was surprised to see that you could by a one bedroom flat in town for 26000 Euros… It probably wasn’t very nice, but that is much less than a car park in parts of London.

We drove down to El Puig, a small beach side town. Sadly, like so many other places in Spain El Puig has its share of failed building ventures and we parked right outside one of them. Liberally covered in graffiti, and broken walls visible through the gaps where doors and windows would have been, this place was a reminder of the failed fortunes of Spain and other places in Mediterranean Europe.


The beach was still nice, and there was plenty of other far more successful businesses along the strip of beach and the marina nearby. We walked down to the end of the marina and then back again, stopping for an ice cream – just as it started to get cold, before heading back to Lliria and Paul and Paula’s house.

I lit the fire inside, while Paul set up the fire in the outside stove, where he eventually baked a wonderful fresh salmon which we had for tea. It was another evening of wine and The Walking Dead and another quite late one. But we did almost finish season two!

We had another good sleep, before getting up quite early on Monday morning as El and I were flying back to London. Paula dropped us off at Lliria station and we caught what must have been a late rush hour train back into Valencia. It was reasonably full by the time we got in to the centre, though we crossed over to another line for the almost deserted train out to the airport.


And that was the end of our trip to Valencia. We had a great time, Paul and Paula’s place is fantastic, Paul and Paula are great hosts, Valencia is an awesome city and we are both really looking forward to going back again.

Disappointingly there were no egg cups.

Saturday February 27 – Valencia, Spain.

We were well warned before we left London that Valencia can be surprisingly cold in the night, and we were surprisingly cold at night. We had to use the heater in our room to get it warm for sleeping, but we did have a good night’s sleep. It was needed after such an early start to the day.

We were up by 9:00 and it was cold in the morning too, in fact it remained cold all day and I was slightly under-prepared for the wind and ended up being quite cold all day.

El and I were disappointed that there were no egg cups* so we had toast and coffee for breakfast, keeping it light as we were planning on trying a highly recommended restaurant for a paella lunch later in the day. Eating a lot was definitely on the cards.

The house is about 5 kms from the station in Lliria, and I am pretty sure I would have no idea how to get between them if asked! It is on the edge of the town, has very few neighbours and a nice view over orchard land. It is two stories high, both floors are stand alone, and has a nice pool and garden area. Paula and Paul are doing some renovations and the contents of a new bathroom for downstairs is in the lounge. It does not ‘need’ anything doing mind! Casa de Adams from the street.


We drove into Lliria with the intention of getting the train into Valencia, but once we got to Lliria the train was only running as far as the next major town. We carried on driving to Perata so we could catch the train from there. At least parking a car in a station car park is free! It was really cold on the platform and I was very glad when the train arrived and we could get in from the cold.

I acted as a guide and we walked from the same station we used yesterday to the central market. We passed a couple of quite nice bits of street art on the way. I will do a separate street art of Valencia post at some stage, once I have had a chance to try and work out who some of the artists are.IMG_3307

The central market was built in 1914 and definitely shows some Moorish design, especially in the use of tiles. I was quite surprised it was not much much older. There are around 400 stall holders in the market and in the main it sells food. I saw more than a couple of people walking around shopping with glasses of wine in their hands, which seemed so civilised to me. Paula, El and I left Paul to his browsing while we went off hunting coffee and a snack.



We reconvened with Paul and headed off right across town towards the old Turia River bed park, on our walk we passed a couple of quite nice post war buildings. I really like the mix of architecture in Valencia, a very nice balance of old, older and really old.



As it is Saturday town was a lot busier than it was yesterday, and the area we passed through in the south and east seemed to be the more touristed area with the more expensive luxury brands on sale. One of us stopped for a wee shop, no names will be mentioned, but it was not me!

The old Turia River bed has been turned into a long garden path, bizarrely I cannot find out when this happened! But anyway, the park runs for a few kilometres, under bridges, around ponds and through trees. There a sports fields, cycling and running paths and all sorts of things that make this a wonderful place to walk.



The park led us to one of our destinations for the day, though sadly after the walk, and with more walking yet to do, we didn’t have time to linger. I would love to come back here for a sunset or a sunrise, as I have seen some spectacular photos of this site.

The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – City of Science and Art, is a magnificent, futuristic precinct of theatres and museums and looks amazing, even in the daylight. It was started in 1995 with the last building being finished in 2005. Walking past was brilliant enough but we would have loved to have had the time to explore inside as well. I loved the clouds and the light here.








We still had almost two miles to go to our lunch date at La Pepica restaurant near the beach. t was a cold and rather dull walk through some inauspicious suburban streets and we were glad when we arrived. Even better was that it was open, they had a table and if we had been ten minutes later we would have been too late, whew ! La Pepica was first opened in 1898, and in the current site in 1923. It has always served traditional Spanish food and we were there for their famous paella. We had one of the fish and one of the meat. I should have taken a photo of the massive paella pans they had there, I would guess over a metre wide.

After an excessively large lunch and a shared ‘champagne’ bottle of cider, we wobbled out for a walk along the beach front. The clouds were still really interesting and I took a few photos of them over the beach.





And this very cool sand castle, the builder creates two a year and maintains them for as long as possible – asking a small fee for a photo.


We caught a tram back from the beach to one of the train stations and then the train back out to Perata. We were all pretty knackered, we had knocked off another 10 miles walking around today and after a big lunch, we ready for an afternoon nap.

We could see the sun setting while we were on the train, but the sky went absolutely mad on the drive back to Lliria. I have rarely seen a sunset like it, virtually the whole sky was on ablaze with orange and red, it was utterly spectacular. I snapped a few photos from the car as we sped towards home.




We stopped at a local Lidl (they are everywhere) and El and I took a couple of final images as the sun finally disappeared well below the horizon.


There was no room for dinner ! but there is always room for cheese, bread and wine, so after getting a really good fire going we sat down in front of the TV, feet up and watched three episodes of series 2 of The Walking Dead… Paul is slowly indoctrinating us into the series.

The fire place has an ingenious systems of pipes in the ceiling, driven by a fan, that blows warm air into the various bedrooms. Once the fan and fire is going, the air blowing into the bedroom is really hot, and it was a nice and toasty night in bed.

Another fabulous day !

*The no egg cup reference was made because Paula and Paul are going to rent their house out in summer, and had been looking at some other rental properties. Someone had commented on one of the houses that they were disappointed there was no egg cups.

Hola de España !

Friday February 26 2016 – Valencia, Spain.

Last summer, good friends of ours bought a home in the town of Lliria, 40 minutes away from the centre of Valencia and El and I are joining on a long weekend visit. We have been really looking forward to this trip.

Valencia began as a Roman colony back in 138 BC, located on island in, and on the banks of the River Turia, it was settled by the Roman army after a battle with Iberians. It was under the control of the Germanic Visigoths for a 150 or so years from the 6th century before being taken over by the Moors in 714. The city remained under the control of the Moors until 1094 when it was taken by the Castilian nobleman El Cid. The city returned to Moorish control in 1109 and remained so until it was conquered by King James of Aragon in 1238.

The city went through a boom period for a couple of hundred years up until the early 1500s when the discovery of America moved commerce and trade from the Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic. It was during this period that most of the remaining ‘historic’ buildings were built – obviously they were not historic at the time 🙂 The city entered a prolonged period of decline, resulting in riots, massacres, overthrows and all sorts of unpleasantness under a range of rulers. English soldiers even ruled the city for a short period in 1706 before losing out to the Spanish. After a period of French rule in the 19th century the city finally sort of settled down for a while and many of the mid-period buildings were built. The city went through another period of upheaval and destruction when the republican government moved there from Madrid early in the civil war. The city was bombed, shelled and otherwise treated poorly until it finally surrendered to the nationalists in 1939. There are a number of really nice post-war, semi-art deco buildings from this period. The city centre is quite attractive in its way, a mix of a range of architectural styles and design details make it at least interesting.

Under Franco’s rule the city was left to fend for itself through times of extreme hardship. In 1957 the River Turia flooded into the city killing at least 87 people. In 1961 a massive project was started that saw the river redirected away from the city, this was completed in 1973, and the old riverbed was a wasteland until recent times when it was turned into a park – we will visit the park tomorrow.

It has had a tempestuous life!

Getting to Valencia from north east London pretty much means flying from Stanstead, which means flying Ryan Air, which means getting up ridiculously early – like 3:30 am, or in my case 4:00. I hate Ryan Air and I hate Stanstead. The only bright side was we are going with friends Paula and Paul, who we are staying with, and they drive to the airport, so not having to face speaking to a taxi driver was quite a bonus.

We arrived at Stanstead soon after 5:00, it was crowded and chaotic already, with few places to sit. Most of the departure area has been turned in to retail outlets – the only good thing about that was being able to buy coffee.


Ryan Air is the most budget of budget airlines, you do not get anything on the flight for free, passengers are crammed in, there are not even pockets on the back of the seat in front,  but it is cheap.


The dawn was not too bad as it broke over the runway at Stanstead.


The flight was not too bad, it was uncomfortable, but it was short, and it landed on time in Valencia at 10:30, which was a bonus. As we only had cabin baggage we were off the plane and out into the terminal reasonably quickly. Paul and Paula were going directly out to their house in Llliria so they took our bags, leaving us to head into town on the Metro for a day of exploring. One of the great things about the Metro was being able to buy a 10 ride ticket that we could share, a lot cheaper than getting tickets each. The Metro was pretty good, clean, bright trains, though they seemed to be as efficiently run as the London Overground – i.e. not very. The timetable was aspirational.

Having said that the trains between airport and city seemed to be frequent. We grabbed city maps from the airport and had a bit of a plan to try and see as much of the old city as possible today. It is easily doable on foot (we walked close to 12 miles though !). We left the Metro at Angel Guimera and headed south towards the coliseum. Well it looked like a coliseum on the map, but it turned out to be a modern bull fighting ring. I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting Roman era ruins, and thought that maybe all of the old city would turn out to be not that old after all.



Though I did like the main railway station building – Estacio del Nord. Built in 1917 it is hardly old.


The architecture in this part of town was a little disappointing really, as were the big wide streets and loads of cars, but this was the outer edge of the old town and inside was much more like my expectation.


Heading into the narrower streets of the old town, the things that caught my eye first were the small details on the buildings. These were a feature throughout the rest of our walk. With narrow streets and buildings that were all three of four stories high it was quite difficult to really see, or photograph some of the buildings.



We stopped for a light lunch of huevos rotos and coffee soon after we got into town, consulting the map we found a few things we wanted to see, but not having a guidebook, we were not really sure what to look for, or what we were looking at when found it.

Our first viewing stop was the Iglesia de San Juan de la Cruz. One of the first churches to be built in Valencia in the early 17th century. As seems to be fairly typical in this part of Europe the church was built on the site of an earlier mosque. I liked the doors Smile



We walked up an alley alongside the church, one of many we explore today, and found this lovely little square and I just had to take a photo of El.



I think the lovely building next door is a museum of statuary – I am not too sure. I sort of planned on making notes of things I saw when we got back to Paula and Paul’s house, but I never did….



Our next stop was the church of San Martin Obispo and San Antonio Abad, the only place we went inside during our stay.



It was glorious inside, a massive renovation project was complete in 2010 bring the interior back to its baroque beauty. One of the things I liked about the churches in Valencia is that from the outside they did not look like much.



Vincent of Saragossa is the patron saint of Valencia.


We continued to randomly walk the streets, coming across the main cathedral fronted by a square full of orange trees. Orange trees are to be found growing all around the city and are grown in export quantities in the surrounding countryside.


It seems that Valencia is covered in graffiti, it is just everywhere in the city, in the main it is just tagging and straight graffiti, but there are some more artistic works here and there. I used to hate tagged walls, but in the slightly run down parts of the city and narrow alleys it made much more sense and it almost made it all seem more alive. Almost…




We really liked The Plaza de la Virgen. If it had been a bit warmer it would have been a nice place to stop for a glass of wine and a plate of patatas bravas, though I suspect it would have been very expensive.




Love the little police car! I suspect a number of the coppers I see wobbling about London would not be able to fit behind the wheel…



One of the enjoyable things about visiting a walking town like Valencia in the winter time is that so many of the streets, alleys and squares seemed to be almost deserted.


We stopped near the Torres de Serranos for a glass of wine and a well deserved sit down. A glass of wine outside a small street side bar is one of life’s true pleasures. Like everywhere we stopped the wine was cheap and very nice. The Torres de Serranos were constructed at the end of the 14th century and were part of the ‘Christian Wall’ that surrounded the city until it was pulled down in 1857. Only this and one other gate survived. They are massive, but sadly covered in scaffolding at the moment.


After the wine we strolled around the back streets for an hour so, I loved this part of town and could easily have spent a few more hours just randomly walking down streets that took my fancy. I really liked the emptiness, the narrow streets and lack of cars as well as the old buildings and the gaps between them.







We finally started getting a bit tired so headed in the general direction of the Metro station, though there was still plenty to see on the way – we both liked the wig and moustache shop.



There is not a lot left of the Roman occupation of Valencia, though there are some, what I presume to be, Roman columns standing in the grounds of the medieval hospital.


Our final destination for the day was the other gate the Quart Towers, these were built after the Serranos Towers in the 15th century, and they were not covered in scaffolding either. They are quite magnificent, very tall and very solid looking, and clearly stand out from the surrounding buildings.




Due to some cunning planning we were very close to the Metro station, and gratefully took seats on the train for the forty minute ride out to Lliria. The train was due at 4:08 but as we sat there we watched the time board slowly move up by the minute until 4:13 when it suddenly jumped to announce our train arriving at 4:21. The train arrived soon after, on time at 4:08, before the train that was due before it.


The ride was interesting, underground for a short while and then out into the suburbs of Valencia, before heading up the long valley west of the city and through a string of orange groves.

Paul and Paula and have bought their holiday home just outside Lliria, we arrived late afternoon and they picked us up from the station. The station reminds me a saloon from an old western.


We went for a drive up to the hillside village of Olocau, there is an old Roman house, though it was closed when we arrived.


Olocau is situated on the edge of a national park, and the bluffs on the edge of the hills were fabulous, I am sure they must glow if the light is right. I would be quite keen to do one of the marked walks in the hills next time we are here.


As it was after 5:00 there was nothing open in Olocau, one of the things that frustrated me about Spain when I was staying here in 2012 was that everything closed at 5:00 for the siesta period, something I guess you get used to if you live here. We headed back down to Lliria and finally unloaded at Paul and Paula’s place.

The view from the first floor deck is fabulous…


We settled down for a coffee and a relax before heading back into Lliria for dinner at Tapes y Arros. It was one of the best meals I have had in a very long time, complemented by a couple of bottles of an excellent local red wine, La Tribu. It was a great night. Though after getting up so damn early we were grateful when we finally lay down in bed!

What an excellent day, and only day one. Really looking forward to tomorrow!

Adios Espana

Days 242- 48, Sunday – Saturday, 02 -08 September 2012 – Alcaucin

No surprises that Sunday was a quiet day, nothing much to do and not very inspired to do it anyway. Though it was cloudy again and by local standards was quite cool for most of the day, being only 22 degrees at mid-day. I spent most of the day reading with occasional bursts of housework, eating and looking up things on the internet – pricing up the things I will need for my run and Africa. It is my last week of working in Spain and last week in Spain.

Autumn pretty much arrived on the 1st September, almost on schedule the temperature dropped a few degrees from last week. It is still warm by my standards, getting up to 27/28 degrees at its peak, but 5-6 degrees cooler all the same. With the cooler weather and the darker mornings I was working 7.45 to 4:00 pm with a lunch break rather than knocking off at 2:00.

Painting Monday to Friday was pretty much it really, I mostly finished the house I was doing, it probably needs another two or three days – and someone more willing than me to stand on balustrades and lean backwards over space to paint more of the eves.


On Tuesday morning, with the aid of my son I finally managed to Skype my mum and had a great chat with her and both my boys who were around at her house for dinner.

That night I gave up on the whole idea of finding a job and booked myself on to an African tour starting at the end of the month in Cape Town, but I have already posted that ! I am very excited about it and the more I ponder on it and research it the more excited I get. Today (Saturday) I discovered there is some great diving to be had off of Zanzibar – something I wasn’t expecting when I booked !! I also have a Leonie, a friend from New Zealand meeting in Cape Town to do the tour as well. Leonie is a seasoned traveler and I spent a couple of days with her in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, way back in May.

On Thursday evening Ian and I went up to the village for a couple of beers and some dinner, and that was pretty much it for the working week.

I have slept really badly all week and am knackered as I sit here on Saturday morning writing this post. I had weird dreams most nights and I actually remembered Wednesday nights. Vicki – I am never letting you be a support driver as I run a ultra distance race, your driving was terrible !

One of the things I have really enjoyed over the past few weekends that I have been home alone in Alcaucin is the opportunity to cook for myself. I used to love cooking back in New Zealand and travelling of course means I just do not get a chance to do it. it is very simple fare only using local fresh vegetables – that is pretty much all there is – no imported stuff here, with the occasional piece of fresh chicken. So lots of pasta dishes with garlic, onion, tomato, peppers and zucchini based sauces. Just love it !

Saturday was cleanup and packing day, I also tossed out my paint spattered clothes and finally bade farewell to my faithful Keen sandals as they were falling apart again. I will buy another pay for Africa for sure. And damnit I loved those shorts too, bought em in Bangkok for $4.


I took a final walk up to the village, intending to go my most visited location, the supermarket, as I wanted buy some beer and chippies for tonight – but true to my Spanish experience, it and all the other shops were closed.




One week until I am running a 55.6km section of the South West Coast Path from Budleigh-Salterton in East Devon to West bay in Dorset!

So tomorrow morning I say adios to Spain and Hello to ole’ blighty. Looking forward to seeing my daughter again and getting things organised (read shopping) for my run and my trip to Africa.


The last training run

Day 241, Saturday 01 September – Alcaucin

Another month has just started and my fiftieth is drawing ever closer.

I really hated turning thirty, forty just happened and I was not bothered by that at all and now I am not sure how I feel about being fifty. Fifty is getting old! and I am not ready to be old yet, but then I don’t feel old so maybe it won’t be so bad, bah – who knows. Even though I planned on travelling away from home for my birthday, being unemployed, single and homeless as I roll the decade over is a situation I occasionally struggle to see the good in. Yes I am being overly dramatic ! To counter all that I am doing what I wanted to do, I am fit and healthy (though ache from this morning’s run), am not encumbered by anything and I can choose to do what I want – where I want to do it.

With two weeks to go until 50for50 this morning was my last longish training run and I was planning on getting into the hills for four hours. I was up at 7:00 and after walking the dogs and fueling I was on the road for 7:45. It was quite cool for a change, though very cloudy with heavy black clouds sitting over the hills, I pondered going back and getting a jacket in case it was wet up there, but decided against it – I am usually soaked in sweat anyway, so rain would be blessed relief.

The run to the top car park was hard, I even stopped to take a photo of where I was heading – up into that !

2012-09-01 08.11

The first couple of kilometres of every run I do is a bit of a shakeout, all my joints are stiff and the little aches and pains work their way around my legs and lower back and once everything is warmed up they go away. Today that didn’t happen, the niggles did move around, they just kept repeating with my hip being a constant nag.

I had decided to take a trail from the top car park up the other side of the steep valley I ran a couple of weeks ago. This fire road goes up and over another peak, though I was not intending to get to the peak today as it was too far. This trail was even marked ! when I entered the trail I expected this would be the last marker I saw but I was wrong, this was a well marked trail.

2012-09-01 08.35

Once again, I briefly questioned the wisdom of running alone in the hills, in a strange location where no one knows where I am. – and once again I carried on regardless. However, as I hit the cloud I did vow to stay on the fire road and turn round if it turned to single track.

2012-09-01 09.02

2012-09-01 09.06

2012-09-01 09.06

This all became moot as once I passed the tree line after an hour and half of running and walking up hill I knew I was not going to get much further, the niggles had not gone away and frankly, I was buggered. Out of the gloom a small peak appeared so I walked to the top and sat down for a snack, a drink and a rest.

2012-09-01 09.17

My trusty Saucony’s – maybe their last run 😦

2012-09-01 09.17

After ten minutes rest I started to head back down – and realised I could not see the trail at all, I did know where I was going and it was a only short distance, but I would have been stuffed if I was caught in this on the peak two weeks ago. I am glad I had decided to stick to fire roads. (the photos sort of makes the trail look more obvious than it was !)

2012-09-01 09.25

I decided to open up on the way down the fire road and run rather than jog back – a decision I am regretting now as my knees are very sore, but it was nice to feel the breeze. On the way down I met a Spanish trail runner who had turned around once he hit the thicker fog, he didn’t speak any English, but we ran together for a while, though he blew out on the small climb and flagged me on. I ran back the last few KM’s to the house in a bit of pain – the usual ankle, but I had sore feet. I think my shoes are worn out which is a real pain as I was not planning on buying new ones till after the 50kmer.

Tempreture wise it was the best day for running I have had in Spain, probably late teens in the hills and the fog was nice and damp with just a hint of a breeze. I would have loved it last week on the longer run when I was just pounding the unsealed road.

All up two and a half hours, not the four I wanted, but the body has had enough of all the running in the past five or six weeks. I just hope it is all enough training for 50for50, I will find out in fourteen days I guess.

I did not do much with the rest of the day, mooched, cooked, ate and drank until the early evening when I hit the internet and started looking more deeply in to an Africa tour. This is looking to be the more likely scenario than finding a job in the next two weeks, so a decision will need to be made fairly soon, at least there are spots on the tour.

I also emailed a car rental company to clarify if I will be able to rent a car in England without my drivers licence, which I lost way back in Laos. Hopefully my international permit will suffice, if not I will have to rethink my plans for my first week in England.

The BBC news had some graphic footage of the damaging forest fires yesterday that had devasted the hills along the Costa del Sol from Marbella almost to Malaga, which was a bit closer than I thought – though still far enough away for safety 🙂

Another fantastic sunset again this evening.