The past week has, again, been one of contrasts. We arrived on the Mediterranean coast on Wednesday 14th September 2016 ready for a restful few days. The first job was to get ‘Spain’ stuck on our map of Europe. It’s taken us nearly four months to reach a new country!
We kicked back and relaxed at one of the aires on The Parc Naturel del Delta de l’Ebre for three nights enjoying some flat cycling every day, a spot of birdwatching and free wifi. The area was designated as a Natural Parc in 1983 and is one of the largest wetland areas in the Western Mediterranean. It is home to around 95 species of breeding birds and also serves as a stopover point for a huge number of migratory birds. Not unlike ourselves really! It’s the first time I think we’ve seen wild flamingos at close quarters. Being a wetland area it attracts its fair share of mosquitos but also hundreds of dragonflies in every different colour imaginable.
We spent three nights there before taking a foray inland to the medieval fortified town of Morella. We didn’t know if it was worth the ninety minute detour inland after having finally reached the coast but it turned out to be a real hightlight for us.
We stayed at the free aire 1km outside the town giving us a marvellous view of the town, especially when lit up at night.
It reminded me a bit of a pavlova or of this egg sandwich we made at our first Helpx!
The castle above the town is over 1000m above sea level with a ring of ancient walls defending the lower reaches.
We did one of the signed walks around the outskirts of the town which gave us fantastic views over the surrounding plains and a view of the castle and walls from a different perspective.
We also paid a very reasonable €3.50 each to visit the castle. The views from the top down over the town and across the surrounding countryside were exceptional and well worth the climb up.
What we really also enjoyed about this area was the landscape.
It’s a mixture of isolated farms amongst rugged terrain, rocky hilltops, woods and ravines. Hundreds of dry stone terraces and walls adorn the hillsides giving an insight into the hard graft and labour it took to farm successfully in this area in days gone by.
Having spent two nights at Morella we drove eastwards to Valderrobres, another medieval town with a fortified castle and 14th Century Gothic church.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the old town before deciding to head back down to Peñiscola on the coast. Peñiscola is a fortified promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean made famous by the filming here of El Cid in 1960.
It’s also been used recently for the sixth series of Game of Thrones.
It was built by the Knights Templar on the remains of an old Moorish citadel in the 13th Century. Within the walls lie many narrow, windy, cobble stoned streets lined with restaurants and tourist shops.
It is buzzing with mainly Spanish tourists. We stayed on an aire a couple of miles away and enjoyed a leisurely cycle in along a purpose built cyclepath taking us to the ‘city in the sea’ as Peñiscola is known.
It’s very touristy but has a very lively, family friendly, air about it and we enjoyed whiling away a couple of hours exploring. We continued our cycle west along the coast for several miles which revealed much quieter coves with significantly less people!
Today we headed east along the coast on the bikes taking a pitstop for an hour to have a look round the market in Benicarlò.
I went for my first swim in the ‘Med’ this evening but shot out of the water when my legs suddenly started stinging. I think I’ve been stung by a jellyfish although I didn’t see any but, looking at the rash I have, I can’t think of anything else it might be. That’s put me right off a second swim now!
Tomorrow we’re moving on again but, to where, I’m not sure. Best get the maps out and have a look!