Travel is as much about people as places

When we think of travelling we often focus on the places we visit, the sights we see or the views we take in, however we have found that travel is often much more than that.   As I sit and reflect on the last few weeks it’s been far less about the places we’ve visited and much more about the people we have spent time with. Of course we have still been enjoying stunning sea views, the outstanding beauty of the mountains and crazy Spanish fiestas, but these places and events have been made even more memorable by the people we have met up with along the way.

Our journey has taken us inland above the City of Murcia to the Banos De Fortuna originally a Roman thermal Spa, now though it’s a commercial enterprise with both indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pools, jacuzzi’s and a spa. There is an adjoining campsite  (Camping La Fuente GPS 38.205588 -1.107757)  which has a quirky little feature of offering individual private bathrooms on some pitches. The site cost just 15 Euros a night with our ACSI card and the pools are only 5 euros each per day. With the weather in the mid 20’s we spent a glorious couple of days making the most of the facilities and enjoying a long leisurely menu del dia at the on site restaurant with our friends from the UK Mags and Nigel who had arrived in Vera Playa the previous day. As our connection was through work it was good to catch up on old times and hear all the latest gossip and news from our past working world. A brief reflection on whether we miss it was met by a resounding “NO” from both of us, for now we have got more than enough travelling to do to keep us occupied for the foreseeable future.

Mags & Nigel paid us a visit at the Bonos De Fortuna

In danger of beginning to look like wrinkled prunes after 3 days at Fortuna we made our way across country to the Valley De Ricote, (also known as Valle Morisco or Moorish Valley) due to the fact that this was the last redoubt of the Moors in Spain. The free aire at Ricote (GPS 38.150565 -1.367104) is surrounded by mountains providing a 360 degree view. With the river Segura making the land lush and fertile every corner is covered by lemon groves, almond or palm trees. Arriving mid morning we got a picnic together and headed out on our bikes to take in the scenery first hand. The best views of course were going to be from the top so with batteries fully charged on our electric bikes we tackled the steep hills head on.  Around 6 kms into our 16 km ride though Paul encountered a problem with his motor, although it was still whirring all be it more of a groan it certainly wasn’t powering his bike. With several big hills still ahead of us he ploughed on in manual mode periodically stopping when his legs would take him no further and pushing it up instead! Eventually panting heavily he reached the top and was grateful to be freewheeling back down the other side. With rain forecast we put the picnic on hold and raced straight back to Boris. After taking a video of his bike it was confirmed by the manufacturer Cyclotricity that the motor had stopped working, their customer service was incredible, so much so that we have written a separate review of their product which you can read here https://followourmotorhome.co.uk/category/product-reviews/

The Ricote valley and the aire after the rain!

The promised rain started not long after we got back and carried on through the night. With the aire becoming a mud bath we moved on the following morning making our way back toward the coast to La Marina where we would spend a couple of nights before heading to the hills above Alicante to visit Dave and Paula fellow motorhomers  who we’d met at La Linea earlier this year. Having retired early, 3 years ago they moved to Spain buying a country villa above the village of Agost. Situated just 18 kms from Alicante the village has not been affected by the mass tourism of the coast and has maintained its local character. Originally the towns income was from pottery and the remains of this once booming industry can still be seen in the surrounding area. Their villa is in a beautiful  tranquil location surrounded by mountains with an abundance of Olive and Almond trees on their doorstep. Dave and Paula have thrown themselves into the Spanish way of life, getting to know the locals, learning the language and joining in the regular fiestas that are a huge part of Spanish life. We got to experience a small taste of this when we joined them and their friends for a lunchtime menu del dia at Palacio restaurant. A huge meal which included bread and salad plus 3 courses and drinks all for only 9 euros. As it was also “housewives day” in the village where the entire local women folk seem to meet up for a meal and celebration the restaurant was full of people and atmosphere and gave us a real taste of village life.

The following day after a morning dog walk at the top of the mountain to experience the stunning vista which takes in Alicante Castle and the coast beyond, the girls headed down to the village for the weekly market. I never tire of the traditional food markets here in Spain with their array of local fresh produce so tempting with its colours and smells.

The boys though had work to do, having purchased an inverter when back in the UK we had recently realised through talking to fellow travellers that it would only work properly if we were to hard wire it in, having previously fitted one in his own motorhome Dave had kindly offered to help Paul install ours. A trip out to several ferraterias (DIY stores) and a caravan supplies shop they eventually got the bits and pieces they needed to complete the job. So their afternoon was mapped out, with both of them at times squeezing into the small space under one of the seats where the inverter was being sited. With the temperatures around 28 degrees, the girls stayed out of the way and spent a relaxing afternoon soaking up some rays around the pool. We even attempted a quick dip, but after loud gasps (or were they girlie screams) we quickly jumped out again!  Paula and Dave not only showed us a taste of real village life they gave us such a warm welcome and wonderful hospitality.

A taste of Spanish life visiting Paul & Dave

 

With a quick 2 day stop off at Camping Marjal  to get Boris’ annual habitation check completed, our next meeting was in Moraira  on the Costa Blanca coast where we were getting together with some friends of my Aunts & Uncles Sandra & Terry. Having lived in Spain previously they had decided to get away from the British winter and return to their former home town for a few months. After a somewhat fraught journey where a malfunction on our sat nav  had us doing a 3 point turn on a tight mountain road 1 ½ hours away from our destination we finally made it to Moraira.  The villa Sandra and Terry had rented for their stay had a large enough drive to accommodate Boris so after we’d parked up we spent a relaxing afternoon outdoors by their pool catching up. The weather though was set to change overnight and so as we tried to sleep the thunder and torrential downpour made the inside of the motorhome sound like we were trapped inside a drum! The rain still hadn’t abated by morning so we headed out to an indoor shopping centre for some retail therapy, after which we stopped off for a leisurely menu del dia. It was great to catch up, and could only have been made better if my Aunty Jan and Uncle Ric had been with us too!

A warm welcome at Sandra & Terry’s Casa

It was time to move again though the following day as we made our way to Denia and camping Los Pinos (GPS 38.828964 0.147912) where we were once again meeting Myles and Karen (www.motoroaming.com) to celebrate Pauls birthday and experience yet another Spanish fiesta – Las Fallas (more about that shortly). These two have quickly become good friends and it feels so natural when we are in their company. After the afternoon and evening of catching up, plans were put in place for Paul’s birthday the following day. Myles had the job of getting Paul out of the way for a few minutes whilst Karen and I decorated the motorhome with banners and set up the candles on his cake, after which we planned to head out for a lunchtime meal. After mooching around for a while we settled on a restaurant in Denia port called Republic. At 21 euros the menu del dia was a little more pricey than others in the area, but it was a special occasion (and by UK standards still very inexpensive). The food though was a gastronomic delight in both flavour and presentation and outstanding value for money. This has to be the best meal we have had on our travels so far, highly recommended if you’re ever in the area.

Pauls Birthday Celebrations

So on to our main reason for visiting Denia at this time of year, the Fallas fiesta which takes place in towns across Valencia region from 15th to the 19th of March every year is undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy fiestas in Spain.   San José (Saint Joseph), the patron saint of carpenters, is the official focus for the festival. It all started back in the Middle Ages when carpenters used to hang up planks of wood called ‘parots’ in the winter to support their candles when they were working. At the onset of spring these pieces of wood would be burned as a way of celebrating the end of dark, winter working days. After a while they began to put clothing on the ‘parot’ and then started to try to make it identifiable with a well-known local personality. These became the forerunners of the contemporary ‘ninots’, the figures of today, although previously constructed of wood and then paper machete they are now made from polystyrene making the actual burning a little uncomfortable due to the thick toxic smoke .

Some of the amazing effigies 

Nowadays, each neighbourhood has an organising committee, who raise the necessary finances for constructing the ‘ninots’. The groups of workers and designers spend months creating all the incredible towering tableaux at a huge cost – some as much as 20,000 Euros!  The ‘ninots’, which are placed at key places throughout the town, are often cruel satirical lampoons of well-known Spanish and international celebrities or politicians.

More incredible ninots

If you decide to go to the Fallas festival prepare for early starts and late finishes. Each day begins with a startling wake-up call known as ‘La Despertà’ at the ridiculous time of 8am (we never made this).  Brass bands march down the streets accompanied by preposterously loud firecrackers; which themselves are loud enough to activate car and shop alarms .

Parade of the various districts all dressed in colourful costumes

All day, you’ll see processions and hear explosions and then at 2pm ‘La Mascletà’ begins when there is an organised pyrotechnical explosion, visually this event isn’t that spectacular, it’s the noise that awakes the senses. However loud you think this is going to be you’ll be wrong. There is no way of beginning to describe the amount of noise generated. Be prepared to feel the ground shake beneath your feet and physically feel the noise vibrate inside your chest. This is an adrenaline rush with few equals and a completely unique experience.

Enjoying the sights and sounds of Las Fallas Denia

The event culminates with la Cremà  on the night of the 19th which is when all the ‘ninots’ are burnt. The grandest fires don’t get underway until after midnight. Positioned in plazas all around the town, right in front of shops and next to apartment buildings the effigies are stuffed full with fireworks, then street lights are switched off and the firemen are in position when the 20 to 30 foot models, which took months of painstaking construction, are razed to the ground. It’s almost heart breaking as a spectator to watch all that artistic effort go up in smoke and I have to admit to feeling a little underwhelmed by the grand finale. Our photos of the event will give you some idea what the effigies are like but they cannot portray the atmosphere of the town during this crazy fiesta.

The incredible nintos being burned

Thanks to you all for an incredible month.

See you again somewhere

Love Andi & Paul x

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