Heading out for a ‘potter’… right?

We sat in the Velosol cafe in Xaló, Jalon, being bike shamed by the ‘smart road bike’ brigade in their lycra, but enjoying a rewarding drink all the same. Being of the mountain bike variety, we were clearly funny to the groups of touring clubs, many of which we’d passed on what seemed to be a Tour de France training mountain. Nick has said it was a ‘potter’ but hadn’t actually looked at the gradient when he said that, but anyway, we hauled ourselves and our c. 27kg of bikes up to the top (620m) and down the other side. Bet the lycra clad skinnies on their 5kg carbons couldn’t haul that huh?! It was however a great ride and the views were just gorgeous, and we were pretty taken by the Jalon Valley that’s for sure. Benidorm is far enough away to make this area quiet and tranquil with lots of outdoor ways to pass the time. The following day was a tad more gentle around the villages in the lower valley but as usual, when it’s easy, I fall off on rocks, not ‘the’ rocks before any of you say it! Our new Emerald Isle friends helped me feel better with a rather craic’ing evening (sorry for that, had to be done!)

Heading North past Valencia we stopped off at la Vall d’Uixó and a visit to the St Jospeh Caves, we are doing a lot of caves this trip! It involves a gondola style ride through the flooded caves, being careful not to bang your head (in the UK we’d have been forced to wear hard hats as we are children after all!) They didn’t bother to ask if anyone didn’t speak Spanish, do we even look Spanish? So we just took it all in, ‘no photo’s’ being barked out though, is a universal idioma (Spanish for language 🙂 ) Anyway, couple of pics below, when permitted! The following day was very different, pictures galore!

Fanzana is a tiny village in the mountains, 50km north of Valencia, home to c. 300 people who like spray paint it seems. Transforming itself from a dying village to to the street art capital of Spain, it’s wonderful. An annual fiesta brings top artists from all over the world and the village has become a huge open air gallery. The nicely cat referenced MIAU (Unfinished Museum of Urban Art) started the movement in the town, which as a pre requisite, must involve the community in the creative process. This built the trust of the aging residents and the star was born. So many pictures, you’d be bored, but we had a fabulous few hours wandering the streets and marvelling at the talent. Our own contribution was a pastry and coffee at the one cafe in town, and a fresh bread!

Peñíscola was a recommendation from friends and new full timers Dave and Lesley, and it was a good one. Being careful with my pronunciation (thanks for setting that in my mind Lesley!) we spent time wandering the old town, very much centred around the Castle, enjoying the coolness of the sun sheltered, narrow white streets and some grilled veggies for late lunch. Vegetarians come from the planet Jamón as far as the locals were concerned, evident as we watched the trawlers dock and unload a bountiful catch. No Brexidiots in sight moaning about fishing rights! North of Peñíscola was a swathe of holiday hotels, scarring the sea front beaches as far as the eye could see. We didn’t bother heading that way, ‘Maureen’s English Breakfast Bap’ for €5 on a sign put us off immediately…

The South is a different proposition entirely. Most likely in part because it is a rocky environment so hasn’t really been built on, plus, it’s now protected, it makes for a fabulous ride. Parc Natural Sierra d’Irta follows the coastline, dipping in and out of sandy, isolated coves from pine forested tracks. Even though I quite like the idea of seeing the ‘Tall One’ in lycra, this wasn’t the terrain for those namby pamby road bike folks, so we were in our element. Nor did I fall off, he gave me a quick cycling proficiency test before we left 🙂

Heading to our medical in Montpellier we thought it would make a good impression if we rode in, the doctors would be impressed at our fitness levels etc… In reality it could have been a doctor of a different kind given the lunatic French drivers who maybe knew we were of Brexitland descent? Anyway, we made it, and pledged a different route back. Firstly an X ray to tell us we didn’t have TB at the ‘Je ne sais pas’ clinic (lived up to the stereotype big time) and then a long wait for a very pleasant 5 minute chat with two doctors meant we’d cleared the medical hurdle and our Visa’s were fully legit. Free as birds, we set off to explore Montpellier. Feeling very old, the average age there is 25 (students!) we cycled around enjoying the buzz that students bring to a city and the shabby chic architecture that is France (old town areas anyway) In direct contrast, the new properties riverside, in the Port Marianne area were really great. Modern apartment blocks but each one unique and interesting and with riverside walks and cycleways they’ve done a fantastic job. The laguna’s further towards the coast are a haven for birds, lots of Flamingo at the moment. The beaches clearly get summer busy but for now, a great spot to sit and watch the waves and do shell art!

Slightly inland we found an aire near the 1st Century Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard. One of the ‘things the Romans did for us’, it’s triple arch design spanning the River Gardon is a sight to behold, such a vast scale. It’s the tallest surviving, and one of the best preserved. It was 50km long in its day, is 160ft off the valley floor and so worthy of its UNESCO site status. . We did agree that some people think they are so clever these days, tech and all that, but look what they were doing over 2000 years ago, and by hand! Can you imagine it if the Romans had designed the internet or street side e-bike chargers?! Anyhow, another site to behold was the couple in the water being filmed. There will need to be some serious goosebump editing we reckon! The whole area around Remoulins was really lovely, a quiet, sedate part of France at this time of year and only one school group in sight, taking selfies at the edge of the bridge… Roman indications everywhere, and the unusual, Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem with its ‘comb’ bell tower.

Next stop, Mausaane des Alpilles and caves, of a very different kind…. watch this space!

The Jigsaw Spot

Jigsaw 1 – Mice 0 So far on this whole trip she’s been lacking on the mousing stakes. She said it’s due to the places we have parked up in, typical young’un, always someone else’s fault. Missing Bronwyn, Kelly and William at ‘The Ranch’ she spent time watching another horse being put through its paces, Spain style (i.e. no safety in mind whatsoever) before going face to face with a dog, twenty times her size, she’s no mouse! (We were glad for the chain fence!) She did spot another cat in a van so did some show off ‘arctic foxing’ but it ignored her so she went off in a huff into the long grass. While mooching around, she also managed to nose some oil (we think) so any tips for getting that off will be gratefully received or her model days are over! The tall one said that she’d told him she was done with all the teencat chasing of furries and that she planned to settle down into middlecatness for a while, little does she know! As the feeder one, I continue with my duties in the hope that one day she’ll sit on my knee. Anyway, that’s unlikely as I’ve just booked her in at the dentist so all I’m going to be seeing is teeth! And it won’t be a smile I can tell you!

Edit: We were so taken by the Palomas that when writing the last blog we completely forgot, Elche, goodness knows, it was fascinating! It’s been a city through the ancient Greeks, the Arabs, the Moors… to present day. It’s C19th boom being driven for its shoe trade, the ‘espadrille’. There were over 1000 factories. Hence numerous grand buildings and bridges through the city. It’s fame however, and earning its UNESCO badge is that it is the only Palm Grove in Europe and one of the biggest in the World. Palms everywhere basically but the highlights are Parque Municipal el Palmera, with a copy of the ‘Lady of Elche’ at its entrance (the original, C4th BC is in the Nat Museum) and Huerto del Cura with every imaginable Palm and Cactus within the grounds. We loved the name of one, Ferocactus Horridus and the Imperial Palm, 176 years old, was incredible. Also some beautiful birds. Around the edge of the main centre are numerous palm and cactus growers, amazing to see what a few thousand euro can get you! Quite an arresting sight to be riding past. A really interesting and gorgeous place to wander, sorry we forgot you Elche!

2 thoughts on “Heading out for a ‘potter’… right?”

  1. Caves, cactus and cats. Another great blog team, lots of highlights. But I particularly liked the mad cat art in Fanzana.
    Have you tried a careful application of fairy? It gets the bike oil off my hands.


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