En Route to Valencia
Our journey continues into Valenciana after one last Catalonian stop in St Jordi d’Alfama, an absolutely stunning yet desolate place. There is really nothing here, but some new roads as a foundation for a new seaside resort and wasteland as the resort was never built. What is here however, is a carpark near a small beach, some beautiful coves and a castle ruins. It’s a strange place but it is perfect for us (and about 20 other motorhomes and campers) as there are beautiful views across the sea and it’s quiet and peaceful.
The last two weeks seem to have flown by. It’s amazing how time seems to take on some quite surreal qualities as we travel. Our daily routines have slowly morphed into something more Spanish (but not quite Spanish enough), helped by the late-rising sun in the morning and the quiet afternoons when everything is shut. We get up later than we normally would and we have something resembling a siesta with long lunches, later than we usually would. The one thing we haven’t quite got to grips with is that the afternoon really only starts at 5pm, when it will soon be dark. Usually by dark (around 6pm) we’re safely tucked up in Rex, closed off from the outside world… We probably need to work on that…
So now we’re in Valenciana; the land of oranges; orange groves as far as the eye can see at times. It really is quite spectacular! December is the month of the oranges, when they get picked and you can’t go anywhere without being offered a 3kg bag for €1.50. The weather has got better and our travels are slowing down as we enjoy the sunshine. We spend a few days in the area of Benicarló and Peñiscola; we cycle around Peñiscola and enjoy exploring the old town. It’s a charming place! There are long beaches between the two towns; perfect for the popular seaside resort this clearly is in summer. The castle is perched on top of the hill at the top of the old town with its whitewashed houses along narrow streets. Just along from Peñiscola is the Serra d’Irta; a mountainous nature reserve great for walks and rides. We decide to go walking in the hills; it’s a breathtaking hike. The templars were very active in this area so there are many old castles and ruins which are part of the Templar history. The views across the landscape are stunning. It seems hunters are very active in this area and we encounter several who are hunting boar with dogs and guns. After all this, we stay one more night before heading a bit further south to Castellón de la Plana.
The Costa del Azahar ends at Castellón de la Plana, where more long stretches of beach can be found near big tourist resorts. The aires here are very busy, with many people staying for 3 weeks or more in their motorhomes. As there are 2 public holidays coming up, we’re looking to stay for a few days. Luckily there’s quite a lot to do in the area with both Benicàssim and Castellón de la Plana nearby. We visit Castellón de la Plana by bike. It’s quite a large and lively town with some events coming up to celebrate the public holidays, like a medieval market. The next day we cycle to Benicàssim, a popular tourist resort. It takes us a little while to find the actual town centre, but once we do it’s worth it. It’s not very big, but there are some nice little shops and café’s where we enjoy some coffee and cake. The next day, our friends Sarah & Andy from “Bare Necessities” arrive in the area which is a great opportunity to catch up. Even though none of us have been going out in the evenings, we make an exception and hit the town for the medieval market which, in true Spanish style, kicks off in the evening. We have a great evening out together and make some plans to meet up again further down the road. We decide to spend another day here as the weather is just too beautiful and the sea is calm; perfect for some paddle boarding action! We have a brilliant day on the water before we set off again.
We’ve read about some hot springs not too far from Castellón, in Montanejos and we simply have to go. It’s a long road into the mountains to Montanejos and there are very few places to stay the night so it turns into a day trip for us. When we get there, the water is the most gorgeous blue colour with the gorge providing a very dramatic backdrop. The hot springs are ‘only’ 25 degrees celsius. That sounds pretty good to us! We get in and swim through the gorge. It’s quite an experience, with the rock faces looming large around us, caves in the sides making us feel very small. Nature simply looking beautiful. We carry on to find a place to stay the night and we end up driving back to the coast to a town called Nules. There isn’t really anything there other than a camperstop by a mediocre restaurant. Still, it will do for the night. Tomorrow we travel on to Valencia!
Now, Valencia is a whole different kind of place altogether. We fall in love with this city, with its grand buildings and museums, its gorgeous park and the diversity of the place. There is the bustling, lively city centre busy as well as it’s centre for arts and sciences with some of the most amazing buildings you’ll ever see. Then there is the busy port and marina where the old formula 1 racetrack can still be seen. Just along from that is are some beautiful beaches, bustling again like the city itself. We travel as far as Port Saplaya (by bike, a puncture doesn’t put us off once it’s been fixed in town), a lovely little marina village with colourful buildings lining the water’s edge and again plenty of restaurants. We stay in El Saler, along the coast to the south of the city, in the L’Albufera national park. This is an area of wetlands where many different bird species make their home, as well as huge areas of rice paddies which produce a third of Spain’s rice.
This morning, we finally left Valencia to get to our next stop, inspired by our travel guide… Gandia, with a camperstop in Daimús. The camperstop is lovely, with all services and facilities you could want, including EHU (electric) and WiFi. We decide to do our laundry as it’s here and it’s cheap. We go for a little walk but there really isn’t much to see. Not many of our stops are ‘duds’ if you like, but this one and Nules are probably our least favourite places so far this trip… Still, with stops like Valencia, Castellón, Montanejos, we really can’t complain.
Onwards tomorrow in search of more interesting places!