Sun 03/04/16: Valencia beach and a paella planned. We headed off to the playa with a plan to cycle along the prom beforehand and work up an appetite. However, when we asked the very helpful girl at the camp reception how to get to the beach, could we cycle all the way there or perhaps into main Valencia and then along the city cycle routes. I’m not entirely sure whether she thought fitness wise we might make it (about 16k’s) or she had it in for us, but she told us to take the metro to a certain point and then the tram to the beach. Ok, we thought perhaps not quite the long cycle we wanted but there was still the beach prom we could do a few k’s. Unfortunately for us and what she never told us or perhaps knew herself was that there was a huge kite flying extravaganza on the beach that day and as we got nearer to the beach so the tram got fuller and fuller with our 2 bikes taking up valuable room and people giving me that well known look often adopted by me on trains at home ‘it’s a bike why can’t you cycle it’. There seemed to be more than one beach stop and we decided to get off at the first as more people were squeezing on. With many perdona’s and a bit of shoving we got ourselves and bikes off and then into the crowds streaming along the beach prom. There really was no hope of a good cycle there at all, so we opted to chain them up and walk along with all the many other families and friends enjoying a day at the beach watching and flying their kites. But of course it goes without reason – the more people the busier the restaurants and although there was a lovely long parade of them they were all busy or reserved. Dam we though another good idea going to pass, so we walked and found a very trendy beach bar and walked into there and managed to blag a seat watching the kites, beach activities and all the young and old just taking in the nice weather and the day. We gave it a little while in a hope that the ‘first sitters’ would have moved off and there might be a chance for us, we made our choice and swooped in and onto a table. The whole beach front of restaurants were offering paella in all varieties- fish, mixed, Valencia, vegetarian and more besides all made with local rice. We decided on the Valencian and we were told by the waitress that it would take about half an hour, which sounded perfectly acceptable, paella has to be cooked to order. We had a couple of starters of prawns and anchovies to wet our appetite and they were lovely. We watched all the other fellow eaters munching on their paella and we were happy that most of them were Spanish. For some reason it still sticks with me that paella is a tourist dish and of course in many places it is. Ours arrived in a ‘just right’ size dish, not huge but enough to keep the 2 of us happy. Did it match up to expectations- very, very much so, a mix of rabbit, chicken and the Spanish winkle like things (that making it the Valencian version) the bottom having the required crust and crunch to it. A delight and not bad value at €14 each, which we had noticed seemed to be the going price. Of course not the same as Willy’s paella cooked for us back in Vejer but that had the added ingredients of family and friends- 2 ingredients you can’t always capture!
Mon 04/04/16: We left Valencia campervan park which was a lovely stop and very convenient for the actual city and headed down the coast hugging the coastal road as much as we could. Unfortunately the weather turned on us again and gradually the day worsened. Not much to do really but just have a bank holiday Monday drive, just like home – wet and just to make it authentic we drove slowly so as to add in a bit of a tail back. Not entirely true, but on this road they have traffic lights that make you stop and slow down every so often which we obviously obey, but we aren’t entirely sure that the Spanish do as well, so we did have a few cars being patient behind us. We decided on the sausage casserole leftovers but just need to pad it out a bit and found a small local supermarket store that was open even though Bank Holiday. (The supermarkets do follow opening hours here, you won’t find them open on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday) The veg selection wasn’t brilliant or vast so we opted for some potatoes and courgette. Plus some Skittles, 2 very small packets of the different varieties and with absolute precision divided these treats up immediately outside on the street. It was only afterwards we realised how dubious it might have looked 2 people huddled counting out small coloured ‘tablets’ still we seemed to have got away with it without the local guarda civil screeching to a halt by us. The vegetables worked well with the leftovers and it suited the weather as by then the rain was teeming down and the skies grey. So what could be finer than mashing all your dinner up adding mint sauce for the potatoes as you went. (I was never allowed to ‘mush’ up my food when a child, but that’s one of the joys of getting older- I can)
Tues 05/04/16: Still raining and very heavy with the forecast saying no let up and so we continued our drive down the coast looking at various seaside spots that might suit for friends coming over in June. The rain was so bad that it really made it impossible to even get out and walk and look for a restaurant to eat in- everything looked bleak, plus we were getting pass the point of the lunch time session and so we decided on a first- to cook in 2 days in row!! We saw a Consum which is one of our preferred supermarkets here and it was one of the bigger ones and oddly it carried a lot of English brands. It was then we realised how close we were to the English costa’s, still fairly uncommercial but beginning to get there. Still we got our ingredients and decided on spaghetti bolognaise. We just needed to find a site to park and we continued on our way stopping at Denia eventually as tempers were beginning to get fraught. We found a camp site but when we pulled in it was bleak and completely rain sodden and as quickly as we could we pulled back out, so where to go now for our dinner and night stop. David consulted the web and his many park up apps and we pulled up by the marina along the sea prom, apparently an allowed park spot, but there were no other motorhomes there and by now it was 5, so many would be parking up. We decided to brave the rain and get out and have a walk but after 5 mins of the rain falling from our raincoats onto our trousers we beat the retreat into a bar, which had a lovely spot overlooking the sea. After a walk in Denia as well there still were no vans parked with us, but we decided to take the chance and say there for the night, and so the spag bol was started with one eye out for the local police as well. No sure what the added ingredients were, but it was one of my better spag bols and we spent an uneventful night parked within feet of the sea.
Wed 06/04/16: Thankfully the day started off cloudy but dry and we quickly pulled away from our room with a view and hit the road back past Valencia and inland to our next stop. We took one of the ‘N’ roads to begin with which was a fast easy flowing road with lots of traffic all hopping off at various points for whatever their reasons. When we had passed the previous day we had noticed a few orange sellers along this road with bundles and strings of oranges all hanging up the roadside next door to the many orange groves, but it was wet and we were not at a stoppable speed so on our return we kept a look out for the vendors so as to buy some local oranges for David’s morning juice. With keen eyes or in fact more just luck we spotted a vendor with produce laid out on either side of the road and a pull in section for the van. As we slowed and pulled over we saw a young girl sat in her chair by the roadside. We stopped and got out, but the girl never came along. “ there’s the lady David, off you go and ask her how much”. David didn’t, so we hoovered a bit and looked at her expectantly. “ Come on David we haven’t got all day, just go and ask what she charges and don’t be ripped off” David still hesitated and said “ I don’t think it’s her” “Of course it is, why else would she be sat there, she’s just a bit tired I expect, go and ask”. David refused and we opted to just give up and get back in the van, we had some oranges in stock anyway. With that a more mature lady came out from the house opposite and diced with the traffic carrying a new sack of oranges in her hand. Obviously the main negotiator I thought to myself and we paid the princely sum of €5 for 5 kilo’s. We pulled out back on the road and as we drove we saw more young girls all dressed very seductively for orange sellers along the road, some in pairs chatting and watching the traffic keenly. Like a flash (!!!!) we realised that they weren’t selling oranges at all, but were grateful for the lucky escape of David asking what they charged. A sadness that fortunately we haven’t witnessed elsewhere thus far on the roads here. We made it to our next lovely inland mountain stop at a place called Navajas and after settling in and putting our prized oranges away we headed off to the camp restaurant for a menu of the dia. Here for the first time we had the rice noodles fideos which were the starter for David but again a huge potion and delightful. Weird little things that stand up, almost maggot like really but with the stock and seafood really tasty and I might say a little bit lighter than rice.
Thurs 07/04/16: A lovely start to the morning with the sun rising over the nearby hill and so we cycled off to the nearby village to see what wares they had at the weekly market. David needed more shorts to replace the 2 pairs for €15 he had brought at another market that had shrunk, faded and didn’t fit quite as well in crucial places as they might. Thankfully nothing caught our eyes and our wallets were saved so we opted to cycle further along the nearby Via Verde to another town. It was about 9k’s so not too bad and when we arrived the village seemed to be in full sun after recent bad weather. So we tethered up the bikes and looked around for some food options. A quiet village with a few bars and one or two menu’s but nothing that attracted us as much as our own on site restaurant. So we re-hydrated ourselves in a small bar and David googled it on the internet- it had good reviews for food but we could see no menu’s,the kitchen was tiny and only one man on service. We decided to wait until we got back but David was a little peckish and after reading the reviews again headed in and in excellent Spanish said “menu” which was quickly produced. It would appear given the reviews and also the posters on the wall of varieties of mushrooms that they were a locally picked speciality and so we ordered a portion along with a couple of other bits. The mushrooms arrived, a fair plateful and were of perhaps 4 to 5 different specimens, served hot cooked in oil, lots of garlic, spring onions and I think a bit of soy sauce. They were just amazing and David nearly missed out completely as he was on the phone- a close call as I attempted to slow down my eating of them or as I was more hoping we could have another plateful. A real find, fresh, locally picked and wonderfully cooked.
Fri 08/04/16: We opted for a walk today and the area has many well mapped ones to be done. In the local village we did a bit of shopping in the carniceria- some salami, bread and a small round local cheese. We packed them all in our lovely and very useful picnic rucksack and headed off into the hills stopping at the local dam for our picnic. I do like a simple picnic, bread, meat and cheese that’s all you need really. The cheese in all honestly could have been out of the fridge a little bit longer and even though a cows cheese had that delightful chalkiness of a goats.
Sat 09/04/16: An odd day with a couple of very good finds. We left the lovely camp of Navarjos and we had decided to continue our mid Spain exploration and so we headed off on main route, thankfully not seeing any more ‘orange sellers’ and watched the temperature drop and drop on the display. We had our now norm second coffee at a service area and as we got out of NiKi so the wind whipped around our legs. We both fell silent and had our coffee with my mind whirling that I really didn’t want 10 degrees when we had just got back up to the near 20’s, but we couldn’t keep being beach bunnies, the inland we had seen was amazing. I think it was the running back to the van that prompted us to get the map back out and look where else we could go that wasn’t at altitude. The obvious options being back to the coast. We decided to go north of Valencia and look at that beach area, it is after all on the list so we might as well do it now. But rather than head back down the same motorway and then hit another one we found a ‘yellow’ route across the country and headed down that. After a close call and change of drivers in a very small village we headed out into wonderful pine enclosed bendy roads with 2 dams, rivers, streams etc on the way. It was magical and we stopped in a clearing and David flew (and crashed) the drone. It was everything really you could want from a drive with small villages dotting the route as we went. Only down side was nowhere to eat and so as we approached 4pm and our stomachs began to groan we decided to just pull over where we could and have the rest of the cheese and chorizo, plus some crackers until we settled and could eat that evening. We eventually saw a NiKi sized stop place and pulled over both of us aware at the same time that there was an old building on the other side of the road that seemed to have many cars parked there. We both looked at each other hopefully and raced across the road to see what it was all about. It was an old church and buildings that was now a restaurant and so we thought we can at least have a drink and who know perhaps some tapas. Our luck was in when we went inside they were still serving and the tables all with local Spanish were eating what looked like the most amazing paella’s. Given it was now past 4 we weren’t hopefully of paella and we were right but they did have David’s favourite of rabbo de torro and a highly recommended fish dish. Our luck really was in, the building was old and historic, the food was wonderful and the place was packed with locals. David’s rabbo was up there as one of his best and my fish which looked very much like sword fish but wasn’t was fresh and simply grilled and came with grilled aubergine of 2 types it seemed- the normal mauve ones and then a very pale green variety that were lovely and tastier than the normal ones. So all in all a day of changes but also of discovery.
Good old Spain…………………