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!

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…

Three relaxing days in Valencia

Wednesday 20 July 2016 – Valencia, Spain.

Arriving home from my trip to Orford Ness early on Saturday evening it was a quick hello to El and then I was upstairs packing and organising myself for a three day trip to Valencia. I had to be at Gatwick Airport at 7:00 am on Sunday, and it is almost an hour long drive. I was not looking forward to getting up at 5:00 after the very late night and even earlier rise at Orford Ness. It was worth it all though.

Our Valencian house owning friends had invited us over to stay with them and some others for a few days, but El has work and as I am currently not working I decided to pop over for three nights – better than moping around the house during the day! El and I have a week booked in Devon this coming Friday so something for both of us to look forward to.

I arrived at Valencia Airport at mid-day after a pretty good flight on EasyJet. The sky in Valencia was a heck of a lot bluer than the sky in London was. One of the reasons for going was to see some nice blue sky!

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I was picked up by Paul and Andy and driven back to the house in Lliria. Paul and Paula, have another couple staying along with various kids and their friends, though the ‘kids’ are all 16 and above, there was seven young ‘uns. Luckily it is a big place!

My plan for the three days was to do not much, fit in with everyone else’s plans and very little else, eat some food and drink some cold Spanish lager in the sun. Unwind now I am not working and, hopefully, before I start another job. For the first two days I very much achieved that – it was very enjoyable, I took no photos and did not write one word in my notebook. I did read a lot.

On Tuesday we went into Valencia for a few hours. I left the group once we got off the metro and just went wandering on my own for a while. I have seen the main sites and was quite keen to get lost in the back streets of the old town again and just lose myself for a while. I surprised myself by not really enjoying it, not Valencia’s fault, I was just not feeling it today. Maybe I have gotten too used to spending time on my own in more remote places than the back alleys of small cities. Not that there were a lot of people off the main Valencian thoroughfares. I did see one piece of street art I liked, that I am not sure I saw last time we were here.

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I did take a few photos, just not anywhere near as as many as I expected. Valencia is very photogenic, even feeling off and unenthused about taking photos the city compelled me to get the camera out. Maybe after the fun of Orford Ness and using the big old DSLR having the pocket camera was not inspiring enough ?

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Eventually I found myself at Torres de Serranos, one of two remaining 14th century gates into the town of Valencia. Originally there were 12 gates. It was the main entrance into the town so was designed to be more ornamental than the other gates, along with its main purpose of being part of a solid defensive wall. The city walls were pulled down in 1865, though this and the Cuart Towers were left behind as they were being used as prisons after the town prison burnt down.

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When we were here back in March the front of the gates was covered in scaffolding so we didn’t have a really good look around. Now it was all clear I decided to head to the top and have a look. There is a 2 Euro fee to get in. Worth it! Just before I went inside I ran into some of the young ‘uns who I am staying with and was informed that this was a meeting point for the rest of the group in a few minutes. Good timing !

There are a lot of steps in the building, they made for some interesting shapes and I started taking a few more photos. I like the cleanliness and symmetry of the lines inside the building, with very little ornamentation left inside the structure itself is allowed to show off.

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I made my way up to the roof, and the view was worth the effort of the walk, there were some other folk really struggling to get up to the top, it was fairly warm and fairly humid inside the walls and well there are some unfit people about! The view north east and out of the old centre of Valencia.

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I have been developing a ‘thing’ for roofs and sky line images, I quite like the mix of line and shape and colour, a counter to the clean and tidy lines inside the gate towers.

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Coming down from the towers I met the rest of the group and we split up again  after agreeing to meet later on at a horchateria for a horchata. I was quite keen to go and see inside the cathedral after talking to those who had been earlier in the day.

I set off on a roundabout walk back towards the cathedral, passing this cool little bike shop on the way.

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The back of the cathedral had some interesting things, some of the detail on the building was really good, even after seeing so much of this ancient carving on the outside of forts and religious buildings all over the world I am still struck by the level of skill that was required to get that detail. I also like how it has faded over the centuries.

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The front of the cathedral is interesting, not a traditional tower with massive doors, but definitely expressing its wealth and power. I liked it a lot.

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The interior of the cathedral was OK, it was not the most amazing one I have visited, and it certainly had its highlights. I particularly liked the 14th century Holy Chalice Chapel and spent a bit of time relaxing in the coolness and semi dark. I also left my hat here 😦

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I wandered around the interior until it was almost time to meet everybody else and walked out just as they were passing – great timing!

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After a bit of misplacement we eventually found the horchateria and settled inside for a cool drink. The building is lovely inside, tiled and cool and relaxing. Horchata is a milk made from tiger nuts and is a speciality of Valencia. It was quite nice too!

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After the sit down and drink we all headed back to the train and on to Lliria, for a cold cold lager and another pleasant evening of chatting in the garden.

The following morning (Wednesday) it was back to Valencia Airport for the flight home to Gatwick.

I really enjoyed my little break in Valencia, it was good to hang out with friends, chat, eat and drink sitting in the sun – with the occasional dip in the pool. Thanks Paul, Paula, Andy and Caroline for having me.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Paula took a photo of me taking the photo….

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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)!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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….

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

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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.

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Vincent of Saragossa is the patron saint of Valencia.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

Siete Lagunas

Day 216, Tuesday 07 August 2012 – Trevelez

Noisy night in Trevelez, I think Spain must be the noisiest country I have visited ! I am staying on the first floor of La Fragua, a one star hotel that is better than half the three stars I have stayed in, but I am street side. The people down and along were still going at 6:00, just chatting, but in these narrow streets noise travels. The hotel owner started at 6:30 – so noise all night. I did have a solid sleep for an hour until 8:00 though !

I was not rushing again today, breakfast was not being served until 8:30 and I had a big walk planned so wanted to eat well, and what a breakfast. Cereal, toast, ham, cheese, yogurt – best free breakie in Europe so far, I couldn’t finish it either.

My plan for the day was to walk to the Siete Lagunas (Seven Lakes) a glacial lake 600 metres below Mulhacen, the high point of the Sierra Nevada range. As you can see, it is only 8km away but with 1400m of vertical gain the walk up is not going to be dead easy – and nor will the run down. I decided not to take my camera today and just used the cell phone for piccies.

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The first km was pretty much all up hill, quite steep in places and very rocky, definitely a walk and not a climb, but a steep walk. I passed a small herd of a goats on the way, I could hear them tinkling away for ages before I saw them – sadly straight into the sun.

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The view back down to Trevelez

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Yay – flat bits, well flatish !

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I had been wondering what sort of pace I was making, the walk is supposed to take between 6 and 8 hours – a long time for a mere 6km, I know, but I was expecting to take about 5, which conveniently had me back in town for lunch at 2:00 ! I had kinda guessed I was doing between 3 and 4 km an hour and arrived at this sign almost exactly on one hour.

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I reached my first rest stop at the refuge at La Campinuela after almost 2 hours and stopped for a muesli bar and sun block session, there was a group of walkers leaving as I arrived and I would pass them fairly quickly – they were damn slow. I saw a few people on the walk, I had been a little concerned about mountain walking on my own, but there were enough people around to not be worried once I was on the trail.

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This really pisses me off !!!! I mean it was ok to carry it when it was full and weighed 1.5 kilos, now it is empty and weighs nothing it is a hassle !!! Grrrrrrrr. But no, I didnt pick it up either, there is no bottle carrier on my Camelbak and I wasnt going to carry it.

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The view to the top.

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The last 100 metres were really steep and the surface was really loose, I hate this stuff, I seriously considered turning round and not going all the way up, but fought my vertigo and took it slowly, stopping to get my bearings along the way. I am really glad I did as the top was really nice, well  it is not really the top, the top is up there, were the patch of ice is ! but the lake and the cows of Sieta Lagunas were pretty cool.

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I had a wee snack and realised I was close to running out of water, before making my way to the edge and heading back, slowly, down the shale bank. The three black dots in the middle are people coming up, they had walking poles and finally they made sense !

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Soon enough I was back on single track and just ran for a while. Loved it !!

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Though I had a bit of trouble with my walking shorts being too lose and ended up running for a while holding them up – the price you pay for losing weight – a happy price of course 🙂
I ran most of the way back down, but some of the sections were really sketchy and I was not in any rush, just enjoying myself. I was very cautious, with what I have planned in 6 weeks I could not afford to injure myself now, and to be honest breaking an ankle at 2500m in the mountains of southern Spain was probably not going to be a good idea anyway !

It took me under half the time to get back down to Trevelez and the whole trip to took 4 hours 15. It was a blast too. Beautiful mountain scenery and great walking.

Back in my room I spent ten minutes lying on the floor next to the open balcony doors enjoying a cool breeze before showering and washing clothes and then heading back to last nights restaurant for lunch. I had the Spanish big breakfast and it was big and awesome : )

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After lunch I read for a while in the cafe over a glass of red and then retired to the hotel for the rest of the day, dinner was a pack of biscuits and another red or three. I had eaten enough today and couldn’t be bothered going out again. Finally some good track and field on TV as well.

The highlight post lunch was working out how to connect my Windows 7 laptop to an unsecured wireless network – internet yes !!!!

Trevelez

Day 215, Monday 06 August 2012 – Trevelez

I had a great sleep last night and was awake early enough to eat one of the muesli bars I bought yesterday and get out the door by 8:00 to go run the 7.1km loop I walked yesterday. Though there was no need to rush as the bus to Trevelez is not till 12:30, I wanted to get the whole way around while the valley was in shade , partly to stay cool and partly for the challenge of beating the sun round.

Today I broke my number 1 rule of trail running, NEVER RUN ALONE. Especially in a strange land, in different conditions to what I used to, no first aid kit, apart from a couple of band aids and no other emergency equipment. Plus no one would miss me for days either… Oh well – fingers crossed.

The first part of the loop is quite steep and rocky, probably climbing close to a hundred metres, so it was basically a walk : ) it was surprisingly cool, if I wasn’t doing exercise I would possibly have had a light jersey on – nah, I would have been relishing it….

Once at the top of the climb the first half of the run went pretty fast, some nice flowy bits of single track and a long downhill on an unsealed road to the bridge across the Poqueira at La Cebadilla. I saw no people until I got to the abandoned town where there were some farmers loading cattle into a truck, but I did see loads of rabbits, a couple of deer and heard the bells around the necks of goats tinkling on the other side of the valley.

There was a steep, but not so nasty climb back up from the river and I ran all of it to get to the lovely section of single track that went almost all the way back to the bridge below Capileira. I opened up the legs and really enjoyed running some sweet Spanish single track. I made it to the bridge in under fifty minutes and just before the sun came down, very happy. I walked the first section out of the valley as it is steep and rocky and then ran the last few hundred metres into town.

It was a great run and took me about an hour. I was pleased with that as I felt good and hadn’t pushed the pace at all – nor had I had my morning coffee.

After a quick shower I popped down to the cafe to get my coffee and toast and read the news on my phone – a contented man.

It was then time for a read before packing and getting ready to get the bus as at 12:30 to my next destination, Trevelez, about an hour away. Trevelez is the highest town in the Sierra Nevadas. I chose to stay at La Fragua, a hotel that apparently gets frequently booked out by English walking tours, with the hope that there may be some English speaking people staying and I can find someone to talk to!

I checked out from the hotel at 12:00 and went and hung it in the shade near the bus stop for the 12:25 bus. While I was waiting two tour buses arrived and discharged their mainly middle aged tourists on the streets of Capileira. I was horrified !! I have been quietly planning my next few months and plan D (esperate) is to join a European tour. Plan D only comes into effect if I cannot land myself a job in the UK in a reasonable amount of time. I cannot to live here without a job and at the moment I cannot face another long road trip on my own – and neither can I afford a long trip either. While a tour is not the cheapest way at least I will get to see the main sights plus have some form of company. Anyway – not time to think about that just yet – though it is approaching that time.

The bus arrived pretty much dead on time and the forty five minute ride to Trevelez cost me an entire 1.69 Euros (2.55 NZ), amazingly cheap for such a stunning ride through the Sierra Nevadas.

I found the hotel and checked in, fantastic view out into the hills ! I went for a walk around town in search of an ATM as I was almost out of cash. Trevelez is on quite a steep hillside and the walk from the top, where I am staying to the bottom, where the ATM is, took about ten minutes – and was significantly harder on the return. I had a sandwich and a beer at the bottom as well as a walk around as I won’t be heading back down unless I have too !

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Trevelez’s claim to fame, prior to it becoming a tourist mecca, was Jamone (ham) – and there is still a lot for sale.

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As in Capileira the water runs fresh through town, though this is the best water fountain I have seen so far

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The houses here are not as cute as the ones in Capileira, I think some are a bit newer and hence bigger. the older houses had quite low doorways and the ground floor was used to house animals and barrels of food/wine/olive oil etc.

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This guy has the answer to travel in town…

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My legs were tight on the walk back up and I was feeling quite tired – hopefully this will remedy itself overnight as I have a big walk planned for tomorrow.

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing what I always do, hibernate in my room, listen to music, read and write. This time I had Spanish Olympic coverage on as well. Synchronised swimming, gymnastics and shooting – yawn…. Finally got around to watching another couple of episodes of series one of “The Wire”, it has been a while since I started the series and today it finally got a hook in, Ian has 5 series on DVD so I think I will be spending some quality time in front of the TV this weekend as I am dog sitting for 3 days, sans car so I wont be doing a heck of a lot.

At the reasonable Spanish hour of 9:00 I wandered round the corner to the restaurant linked to the hotel I am in. As usual I ate alone, which was a damn shame as the food was excellent , they even had vegetarian food and the eggplant lasagne was fantastic, so good I even had a dessert – first one in a while! And a coffee and brandy – I have had a couple (by this I actually mean 2 !) of brandies since being in Spain and I must say they are quite nice, they won’t replace whisky but as an after dinner snifter, hmmmm tempting.

No English speaking tourists so far, damnit !

For some weird reason my laptop will not connect to the hotel wifi, though my phone does, so no blog post today.

Tomorrows target!

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A wee stroll in the Sierra Nevada

Day 214, Sunday 05 August 2012 – Capileira

It was a noisy night in Capileira, with the partying not stopping on the street until 6:00 am, naturally i choose to stay in my room all night and watched Thor on my laptop, and I wonder why I don’t meet people. Though the main tourists here appear to be Spanish – and I will say, not particularly young either.

I woke with incredibly sore eyes, I haven’t suffered from this for months and forgot how painful opening them can be, I am wandering if it was due to the air con on the bus yesterday and the lack of water I consumed – I won’t blame the whisky as my head was fine! Hopefully they will be better tomorrow, but they are feeling very dry now.

At 7:30 I got up to take a photo of the sun rising on the hills and I really wanted to get going on my walk.

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However, the hotel restaurant was yet to open and I was not going to go walking without breakfast inside me as I had no other food source. I managed to get some food about 8:45, bread and jam – but the all important coffee was had.

I finally left about 9:30, I wasn’t really in a rush, the loop I was doing was supposed to take three hours thirty, but I wanted to get some of the walk in before the sun was shining on the side of the Poqueira River valley I was walking. It was quite warm with a strong wind gusting around as well.

The start was quite steep, there is about 400 metres climb in the 7.1km walk and the first 100 was getting out of the village, from there it flattened out for the next 3 or so kilometres to the abandoned village of La Cebadilla. I had a feeling I was being watched…

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There were very few people on the walk, I saw families at the start and end and a runner came towards me at the midpoint – I was a bit jealous of him and may well run the loop tomorrow morning.

The aqueduct bringing the fresh water into the town makes an appearance every now and then along the side of the path. For most first half of the walk the path was 4WD track opening up to road for a kilometre or so, the second half was pretty much all single track. P1150097

I took an artsy type shot of the track, I love the grasses here, and yes the out of focus was deliberate!

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The few houses and church at La Cebadilla were built for the workers who built the hydroelectric power station that opened in 1956, the settlement was abandoned soon after.

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It only took an hour to get to the half way point which was a bit of a worry as I wanted to fill a bit more of the day than just two hours. I decided to walk a further six km to the refuge on the mountain.

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However further up the road I saw a map of the walks and there was almost 1100 metres of climbing to the Refugio and as I had no food and only a litre of water I decided to flag it. I walked up to the top of the first, steep climb and took a photo.

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The track crossed the Rio Poqueira here and continued back to Puente Abuchite, a bridge below Capiliera. The walk was interesting, lots of abandoned house and farm buildings on the way.

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At the bridge.

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There was a further kilometre of up hill from the bridge back to town, I just knocked it off at a fast pace. I had completed the walk, including my small detour plus taking photos in two and half hours, now what !

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As it was only barely twelve I went for a lie down before heading out for a big lunch – and bought some muesli bars for next time…

The problem with these sorts of towns is there is basically nothing to do once the walk is done, I could drink all afternoon but there is little point in that, leave me nothing to do in the evenings then! The internet pretty much doesn’t work in my room so I could not get a lot of work on the next phase of my plan done so I read a bit until I got bored around 6:00. I decided to walk down to Bubion – the village below as I had seen a path yesterday and it is only a kilometre away by road. I walked back down to the bottom of the village, there are lots of dogs around and dog pooh is everywhere, really need to keep your eyes peeled when walking ! i found the track and started walking down, I must have gone a hundred vertical metres before the trail just sort of stopped, so I ended up turning round and walking back up again, it was a warm walk, much hotter than this morning.

I went back to my room and read some more before heading down to the bar for a beer and a blog posting.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BBfybCPkjA

 

 

 

Capileira

Day 213, Saturday 04 August 2012 – Capileira

I did not rush out of bed this morning, my day has me checking out at some time after ten and then catching a bus to the bus station for my next stop, Capileira. Once up I finally found what I have been looking for for days – breakfast. I had some great bacon and eggs and a pretty good coffee, all for 6 euros as well. Shame it had to be last day !

With the great breakfast under (soon to be hanging over ) my belt fortune was obviously smiling on me as the local bus arrived as soon as I got to the bus stop near the hotel. The bus took a very round about route to the bus station, but I was so early I did not mind. Even though it is after 10 am on a Saturday morning so much of Granada appears to be closed. I was again lucky at the bus station as I easily managed to work out how to use the ticket machine and it is a cheap ride to Capileira, 2.5 hours and 5.59 Euros ! Awesome.

Capiliera is a small village in the Sierra Nevadas, it is a tourist town with summer walking and winter ski-ing. The village is ancient, and has seen people living here for many centuries, Goths (not my sort obviously – too hot for all that black) , then Moors until 1528 when the Catholic Spanish took over. I am going there to do a bit of walking and see some of Andalucia’s famous white villages.

Once off the highway the road up to the villages is narrow and twisty and goes up and up, Capiliera itself is at 1500 metres. The bus stopped at numerous small towns – all unrelentingly gorgeous and I could not wait to get to my destination for a look see.

The town of Pampeneira, just down the hill from Capileira.

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The bus delivered me at 2:30 and I found my wee hotel by a stroke of good fortune – I saw a van with its name parked outside:) Unlike the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia that are significantly cooler than the coast, the Sierra Nevada’s are hotter than the coast, I had read it but wow, quite a difference, even from Granada – I was glad I found my room quickly – not that there is air con or a fan, but there is a window and a good bar downstairs and it was cooler than the street.

For lunch I finally, finally, managed to get Paella ! I have been wanting one since arriving in Spain, but always seem to be at the wrong time, or the wrong day, or as I found last night in Granada – one person short of the two minimum. It was great, the calamari was delicious and ate all the mussels and everything else – very unusual as I am not a big seafood eater. I ate lunch sitting on a street side table jealously watching as loads of mountain bikers went past after coming off the mountain, I was hoping to get a bike tour but there is nothing in this town, I perhaps should have gone to one of the bigger centres. But still great to see such a fantastic sport is well patronised here.

After lunch and a wee lie down, I went for a walk around the village and snapped a few photos – and as I said above, just unrelentingly gorgeous !

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The flat roof houses are known as Terroos and are one of three distinct types of house style.

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Naturally the museum was closed…

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as was the church.

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Capileira is blessed with a fresh water spring that flows through the town – possibly why it is here ? but there are water fountains all over – the water from this was surprisingly cold.

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As the sun was dropping behind the opposing ridge I went for a wee look above the town, up the trail I would be walking in the morning.

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According to Spanish TV, there is only one country competing in the Olympics ! Though it appears i am missing some of the events I wanted to see…

I have to get used to the Spanish not using i before e, it is hard to change a life times spelling !