So we leave the Coll De Rates in Parcent leaving a spectacular sunrise. Guess someone organised that farewell for us. Very nice thanks.
Headed by train for Barcelona. Our hotel is at the Paca de Catalunya end of La Ramba.
A short “orientation walk before dark around the plaza, then turn right from hotel door and down the tourist magnet of La Ramba. A seething mass of tourists, restaurant touts, vendors (legal and not so) periodically divided by police vehicles weaving through the hordes on the plaza you should see the fake brands peddlers lift their goods and move to where the cops have just come from. Its a game. They drop their sheet like bags with strings from each corner for quick regather when the law arrives. They sell what they can in few short minutes then are usually spooked off, by the next wave of cops, to the spot they left about 5 minutes earlier.
Did I mention the parking ticket? Long story, sorry but has to be told, it really does spell Spain.
Been to Valencia, picked up the ills, heading back to Parcent, diverted to small town of Gandia for a break. Found a candidate carpark, checked there were no “prohibido aparcar” signs and that other vehicles were also parked in same area. Returned in due course to find a pink slip under rear wiper blade just below the rental car sticker. Rechecked all previous assumptions, no reason to believe we couldn’t park there especially as there was a white lined parking space. Me thinks this is a case of quota achievement and a cop who can’t believe his luck, a tourist & rental car prospect!
The ticket is helpfully in 2 languages – Spanish & Catalans. Helpful, like hell.
Decide to keep moving and get a translation in due course. Turns out there’s a 50% reduction on the 100 euro fine if [aid within 20 days. There’s a list of banks for payment, but I can’t see any direction to appeal. So, next day off to local bank, after 5 minutos on computer the teller advised, not his bank. So traveling on, next bigger city, Valencia must be able to pay here, into one of named banks, same outcome. So the days tick by, eventually try another back in another town. 10 minutos on computer and all’s looking good, takes my 50 e’s, wont’t take credit card though I thought worth a try. What a relief I hand over a hard eared 50 E note and am asked for my numero de identidad de extranjero (NIE). Whaaaaat!
Try to explain, but no, must have before she can accept my payment. Got the car number, the ticket number, my license number, God knows every number under the sun but I don’t have an NIE. Suggests I apply for a temporary one. Really, where? Gandia. By now things are looking like I’ll be watching my back as I leave Spain. But in charges a white knight in the form of Anne who’s been silently standing and observing. Using a tone and look normally only reserved for me she eyeballs this poor teller and says”can’t- you -phone -someone- and -sort -it -out?” The teller, as I always do, shudders with fear, relents and picks up the phone. 10 minutos later she takes the money and gives a receipt. Hola! Gracias! Lets get out of here! The fact we shouldn’t have even had the damned fine will be a fight for another day. Can see myself winning that one too – not -especially as it turns out I need to argue my case at the Gandia Adjuntament.
The ticket duly receipt stamped by bank, thanks to Anne’s demand.
Back to Barcelona – La Rambla is not for me. Head to the side streets as soon as practical. The deeper we go the lighter the tourists, the darker the streets, the more “Spanish” the feel and the better the restaurants. These streets we’ll frequent mostly for our nights here, eating, observing and photographing, not really for enough time. Really great places for the experiences and gritty scenes.
We spend a day and half on those tourist bus things, getting an overview, then having hit some of the key points, museums, Gaudi buildings, Sagrada Familia etc we start walking.
Sagrada Familia still under construct some 130 + years on, 3 cranes working on the top and some detail shots from the mighty minor basilica.
What a city. I get a real buzz doing this. Seeing and clicking from ground level the places and things that go on in a city. Barcelona sure didn’t let me down on this count. We encounter the gothic area, a swag more churches, bascilica’s, historic buildings and some great (and not so) cafes and street scenes.
Some more from Gaudi;
One of the highlights has to be the visit to Palau de la Musica Catalonia, a UNESCO Heritage site, building that is centre for the musical arts in the city. Built in modernist style commencing 1905 this turned out to be a must see.
Architectural detail is of course everywhere;
Next day on train to Beziers, France en-route to our new home/base for 6 weeks in Corneilhan. A small village of about 1500 people, not, I don’t think, on the tourist loop at all but that’s good. Handy to many very scenic areas and Mediterranean beaches so we have a lot to look forward to.
Our new home is comfortable enough, certainly wouldn’t pass Anne’s design school test but it does have some interesting features. Like 1st thing she does (or was it 2nd?) on arrival is head to wash her hands. Well these old pipes want you to know they are in use and erupt with a booming clattering wailing sound that is less harmonious, more frightening and every bit as loud as dad’s early morning bathroom call, if you know what I mean! I’m sure that won’t be the only strange encounter we experience, rustic goes some way to describe it.
there’s been some interest in the car left by our host. It’s a little ripper. I call it the blue streak (successor to the Blue Bird), due to; 1. its colour, 2. its mobility. Malcolm Campbell would have been proud of it!! Though yesterday, got pulled over by the cops down in Sete. Turns out the French equivalent of our WOF is required 2 yearly. Our one hadn’t been renewed since 2009!
She rattles along, a real hot little number, no aircon, each change of gear (5) I spend a moment or two finding the location, they seem to shift around in the gear box, cornering is a delight, no power steering & my shoulders ache, pretty secure though the front passenger door is permanently locked, although a swift and deliberate knock near the keyhole did help open it once, I said secure didn’t I, when getting out all doors have to be individually locked, all 5 of ’em, and then of course the walk around is required to unlock them. Citroen hadn’t heard of central locking when this little beauty was built about 25 years ago. oh, like the the Blue Bird speed isn’t an issue, no speedometer.
It’s really good though. You should see the vineyards around here. You probably have, so you’ll know what I mean.They are endless. France may run out of water one day, but never wine.
Travel broadens the mind, or so they say. It seems it also frustrates one with the differences you need to embrace while in foreign countries.
Time seems irrelevant to the Spanish.
How often the restaurant bill takes up 20 minuto to arrive, shops are always closed when you need them, restaurant owners just shut the doors and go on holiday, en-mass, and so it goes. We are though in the country that invented siestas and liberally use “manana” to brush off urgency. This is Spain. There is something good about it all though, especially the siesta bit.
Then there’s the traffic stop lights that hold you up at ped crossings for several minutes while NO pedestrians can be seen within miles. Haven’t got to the demand driven processes we take for granted yet.
Almond grove just out of Parcent. Pity we are not here in spring. These trees are just covered with intense pink blossom.
Its been all action round here over last couple of days. Bush wildfires have broken out in at least 2 places on other side of hills around us. Helicopters ferrying water buckets are a constant over our villa. Today water trucks have been heading over the Coll De Rates to a fire we are told is near Tarbena. A place we have visited a couple of times.
Smoke in the sky. Yesterday evening we became enveloped in smoke. Mostly cleared today but the firefighting goes on adding to our Spanish experiences.
A couple of nights in Alicante and days on the streets viewing their tremendous harbour/marina and home to Volvo Round the World Museum was well worth the visit.
As is Castell of Santa Barbara, quite an imposing structure atop high point in the city, guarded below by the steel archer sculpture. Architecture along the Explanada offers some interesting photo opportunities as these buildings illuminated by sun-flare. The Explanada itself is comprised 6.6mil mosaic tiles, a very popular place during the day, market stalls, palm trees for a bit of shade and the restaurants, at night it really comes to life with entertainers and people en-mass just enjoying themselves. The city bull ring is in the mid of the view of city from Santa Barbara Castell and then there’s the “even in Spain”(Restaurante China) shot from an Alicante street, and marina.
An amazing structure, log cabin style Russian Orthodox Church just out of Altea, has this 15+ metre high mosaic. More impressive in reality, than on my phone!
Probably a place to avoid, but we wanted to see for ourselves – Benidorm.
Known for having more Poms per meter than the UK the place is set up for mass tourism. The beach though really is a beaut. Long, white sand, calm turquoise water. Across the promenade the road is lined with the bars and cafes loved by the tourists that frequent these places. Yuk, really. And swags of apartment blocks like these fill the landscape for visitors.
And some of the sights – like the 80+ yr old’s sunburned to colour of overcooked steak, wearing bikini barely worth putting on and riding the footpath in mobility scooters. I kid you not, there’s a swarm of them. Bill G, just what you’ve been looking for!!
Then there what I initially thought was a moving desert. Massive, broad, all moving parts seemed to be headed in different directions, tell you what, at a glance you’d swear it was naked, then I did spot a tiny excuse for a bikini. Felt real sorry for that bikini. Most hidden within the moving mass.
In couple of days we leave our home in this some dry yet fertile area known as Vall de Pop headed for a few days in Barcelona and then Corneilhan near Beziers in south west France.
The Vall de Pop grows citrus, olives, almonds and grapes much on the valley/hill sides supported by dry stone retaining walls some dating back to the Romans, 2,000 years.
Leaves are falling from the almond trees, grapes (very nice they are too, but don’t ask how I know) are about to be picked for wine and sultanas.
Stuff all wildlife, though we will be leaving some of these little fellas that inhabit the villa and grounds.
And its amazing what you see on the roads! Actually the significant roads are fantastic.
Like the one that leaves Parcent in the valley and heads over the Coll De rates mountains. Fantastic, winding and reaches about 700 metres above sl. Used mainly by cyclists and motorcyclists. This area is a paradise for these dudes as they move in swarms through the winding mountain roads. The highways we’d die for. Guess Spain can thank the EU for that.
Trying to hide something! Anyone recognise this guy?
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as Gabriel Miro famous Spanish author of late 19th early 20th century called Parcent.
And then there’s the narrow village streets, such fun to drive around, the historic architecture, and churches, the way many places have more than one way to spell their names, the Bones Festes, and the funny cappuccinos. Guess this is Spain.
Gas bottle delivery truck negotiating the narrow streets and even more difficult corners doing a multi-point turn.
A trip to the coast, the Costa Blanca and some of the picturesque villages and resorts makes for a colourful outing.
First stop about 40 mins away, Calp, reasonable sized town and home to this sign and the largest rock in the Mediterranean on the edge of the town, behind a cool marina.
Great restaurants waterfront activities, beaches and very touristy things, but well worth visit.
From Calp one can head up or down the coast taking in the amazing Mediterranean views, resort towns and tourist hotpots.
Altea, picturesque old buildings in its back streets. the waterfront comprises a very touristy promenade lined on one side with bars and restaurants and the other with the hordes covered sunbathing visitors.
Vilajoiosa, famous for its brightly painted houses is an historic fishing village. Lovely spot, and well worth the drive to visit. We misjudged the sun and the faces of waterfront buildings were all in shade. Drat, but we’ll return.
Closer to home are the plethora pueblos or villages each with it’s own distinctive feel and charm. Only 5 minutes down the road is Alcalali. These are a few of the street and building scene here. We had a coffee in the little square, bought a few supplies from local mini- supermercado and followed the postie around as he pushed his pike up and down the hilly streets delivering letters and chatting with locals. we had to do that as Anne wanted to post some cards and while he was busy doing this his PO was closed.
Went out to another town for dinner. Orba, about 10 minute away. Again, sat in square while our orders were delivered along with many other diners. What an atmosphere. Balmy evening in the Plaza de Espana surrounded by the old church and buildings like these taken from our seat, till about 10.30 when we headed home.
Incredible terraced valley between two ranges, another interesting town or two, and the castle on a rock.
The other side of the Coll de Rates mountains takes us through the windiest road I’ve ever driven as we descend into the Vall de Tarbena then back up the other side. Both sides are terraced extensively as this photo tries to show.An amazing drive.
When we get to Tarbena and its square with a couple of cafes and the ever present church its time for a coffee and dry toasted baguette with olive oil. That’s morning tea in the amazing cafe Casa Pinet cafe, museum like, totally packed with paraphernalia and picture from civil war era.
Any mode of transport works here. The John Deere parked in Tarbena square outside the church of Santa Barbara I’m guessing, while a local farmers drops into one of the adjacent cafes.
Guadalest bell tower built on a rock, alongside a small town comprising a wonderful old home, now a museum that was the original family’s here. Now a tourist magnet with a number of funny little “museums” and a ton of souvenir shops selling tons of Chinese tack. Great to visit for its history.
Markets were the order of the day, Saturday last. First there was the massive Xalo market then only a few metres down the road, the Lliber night markets.
Dancing in the streets;
In Alcalali (just 5 mins from us) we stumbled into their Bones Festes (don’t ask what that means, except they all seem to have one hell of a time). We had caught the last night of the event in Parcent the first night here when watermelon seemed to be the theme for some unexplained reason.
Then a day and uncomfortable night in Valencia. After checking into our hotel found the aircon didn’t work. Well, that’s an understatement, it pumped luke warm air into an already 30 c + environment. I hear you saying, so what, get it fixed. tried that, no joy. Went out hoping all would be restored by our return. Uh uh, no. They still couldn’t fix it. Thier recommendation – open you window. Did that, then could’t sleep too well, from the clatter and traffic from below.Add to that the rock hard bed – what a night, and now they want me to do a trip advisor recommendation! The joys of travel.
Our short stay in the city was otherwise very enjoyable with the Hills and Jordans.
The Valencia Cathedral entrance beyond the long shadows of the gate.
On our return to Vila Joyosa we made it on to the city port. Actually only a fishermans port but very interesting. Fishermen drying and mending their nets and some of the little boats they venture out in raise questions not just of safety, but also economics. How an they make a living from these wee tubs?
And this red one wasn’t the smallest or the least seaworthy.
After a few very enjoyable day we returned the Hills to Valencia to continue their cruising.
A visit to the arts and science district is a must. Never got inside any of the spectacular buildings, too busy photographing the stunning white architectural exteriors. After about 3 hours we still missed as much. Be sure if you are in Valencia, allow plenty of time for this visit.
Then there’s the story that seems to typify the Spanish. Nothing happens here quickly. Planning something, allow double the time needed (AT LEAST) anywhere else. Picked up a parking ticket for parking in a white lined parking space. That is the lines seemed to us to mark the area within which parking was allowable. Funny, 100 euro fine on back windscreen on our return. No right to argue, no place to go and fight so left with only option – to pay up. Where do you do that? at a bank, where else? First bank, teller fiddles on his computer for 5 minutes then tells us wrong bank, points out name of correct one. Eventually find one of those some number of cities away, same story, can’t do it here either. So I still have the ticket, unpaid because after some searching time walking, driving on the lookout, the one we are now told can do it seems to not exist. Have to keep looking I guess. There’s a 50% discount if paid before 20 days. Espana !!!!
Trust all is well wherever you are, adios.
Not quite on the road so much off on another “expedition” and more for my library of photographic images plus these smartphone versions.
Buenos diaz, we’ve arrived at our home for month. It’s hot mid 20’s – 30’s c.
Flying low over Manises, Valencia we could clearly see the fruit fields below.
Mainly citrus. This I thought would be the the economic mainstay of the region. Once out of the airport we got our car and headed toward Parcent to meet Garry who is to take us to our digs.We drive, then off the highway, through orchards and olive groves.
The landscape here is hilly, most villages which are everywhere you look, often walking distance apart or only a couple of minutes drive set on hillsides or in the valleys there must be 30 or so of them from the vantage point of our home. Much dryer here. The orchards and groves don’t look as lush as the ones seen from the plane. After two nights in local restaurants I now know the main industries are poms and fruit/olive growing. The only Spanish voices heard in the establishments (one is even called Victoria) was from wait staff.
Our home is lovely, built way up a hill in what we know as Spanish style. Seems as villages grew and the poms arrived they have spread themselves through the hills around the traditional villages.
From NZ a stopover at Houston TX. An interesting city, our mistake was to stay out of it. The Galleria area would be great if the only thing you wanted to do was shop. Massive shopping center with all imaginable chain and department stores imaginable, but a good 20 mins from the action. That being the architecture, parks, walks etc on the Downtown or the Museum district with it scores of museums, galleries, the large Hermann Park.
Then if you camp down here you are that 20 mins closer to things like the Nasa Space Center, Galveston Island etc. If you ever want a reference for a Houston or NASA guide let me know. Elizabeth was excellent
With a couple of hours to spare before leaving, nothing to do around hotel hired a cab and headed for museum district. Oh well next time as we only have 1.something days this time.
Adam, our very cheery Ethiopian driver really tried to be helpful, unfortunately most closed for Sunday morning but he did make a suggestion we see the Menil gallery (shot from the gallery hallway) . So we humored him. Glad we did. This is worth the visit. Don’t miss it if you have any interest in art. Would also commend Adam for a driver, got his number too if you ever want it.
Flight from Houston to Frankfurt provided me with window seat, which I like, however row 69 and about 10 around them are all over a ginormous Airbus 380 wing. It’s like looking out at a white football field.
Great view of sky. Bugger! Nothing left to do but leap int the on-board entertainment system. seems good range but stuck on Chinese, can’t rest, ask hostess who responds “something like, oh well too bad not your day” and buggers off Disappointments come in 3’s don’t they? After the meal they bring around cognacs or Baileys, and what do they do? Distracted by the constant asking for extras by the Indian guy sitting next to Anne they offer them to everyone all around and totally miss our seats.
Flying over Germany, France and Spain presented real interesting scenes below. Can’t get over the orderliness of the Teutonic landscape below.
Home for next month, Villa La Paz.
Now in Parcent Spain. Just arrived last night, after a small sleep headed into the village for a feed and to look around after dark.
Happened on a celebration the Bones Festes. Groups dressed up and yahooing, having a great old time in the streets of the village.
Another day, back down thru’ Parcent to Orbas. another of what must be about 30 villages that can be seen from our place. What a great little place, typically traditional Mediterranean. First stop, bar for a cappuccino at cost of only E1.20 each. Walk the streets, pick up some cookie things and pizza from a beaut little bakery joint.
Bar and street in Orba. Men supping their reds and espresso’s around mid morning.
Food, yep always important, & wine & coffee too. Some interesting experiences thus far. First in Houston Galleria all the usual suspects but decided once again to try Nordstrom restaurant to avoid American standard burgers and chips. Now here’s a tip. Always excellent food and service at Nordstrom. Better by far than the US normal places you find around places like malls or even on the street.
In Parcent last night we shot out to a place we’ve driven by a few times since being here. Looked ok by the signage. When we arrived noticed 3 courses, wine & water €12 but closed so down the road to Victoria’s. English fare, similar deal but €18. Running out of options so gave it a go. Well you could feed a small village on what we sent back. Not a quality problem, food was good. Just that they provided starters , bread + spreads with olives and a soup before the meal even started. No way a normal person could all this food justice. Well may except for you Gerald!! Ended up leaving without even getting to try the dessert. Looking forward to finding more tapas style places.
Quiet day today, but eventually headed to a supermarket village about 7 minutes away in Xalo. Walked the old streets for a while then stop in to a botega. Sign outside says 3 tapa + wine E9. Looks good. After the usual Hola, its ?habla ingles? then the language tryst commences. Fun. Tapas not of the style we are used to, but perfecto anyway, sometimes. Meat slices, bread and spread, potato salad and quiche. More than a meal. We keep learning.
Xalo form its outskirts.
Michael & Hannah and the two littlies arrive and provide more entertainment and reason to explore the narrow country roads and even narrower village streets. Again, great fun. A spot of sunbathing sounded like a good idea, so off the Grandella beach, about an hour away. For E28 you hire (actually Michael did, thanks) 2 deck chair things and an umbrella from those all set out out in rows
La Granadella is a small cove set between spectacular rock cliffs all round. the beach is stones and packed more tightly than a can of sardines. Off course when people are so close interesting events occur. Like I’m sitting on my deckchair minding y own business and become aware of something quite large around my left ear, gingerly turn my head to come face to face with some guys quite ample arse in the bright orange beach shorts I’ve ever seen. For a moment I thought the sun had dropped in. Couldn’t help worrying that he had full control of his bio-systems. It was close, but then after he had adjusted his arrangements his misses stood and revolved her over-ample butt into that same space, just mm’s away I’ll swear, now my worry was about her sense of balance. It’s all very close around these beaches, if you know what I mean!
People and shade silhouettes on the crowded beach of La Granadella.
It’s hunting season here and we are living in the Coll de Rates mountains. There’s the almost constant sounds of barking dogs and gunfire. Pretty hard to spot any wildlife, tho’ I did see a small squirrel scurrying along the power lines. He’d better be careful, we’re told they shoot anything that moves around here.
From our abode in the mountains
Just love driving around these little villages with their narrow roads, never knowing whats around the next right angle corner. The street scenes are quite picturesque, the people though are something else. The odd old lady with greet you with and hola, or buenos dias, in the main, no smiles, acknowledgements or even the cursory wave when you give way in the car. Strange.Found a couple of open churches today. Very austere exteriors and extremely ornate interiors, similar to Italian I suppose.
Interior and main alter inside Parcent Catholic church. Was originally a Mosque, but when the Muslims got done the last time the Christians took as their own. 17th Century I believe.
Hope you’ve been picking up the other images posted on Instragram too. Instagram address; briansphotography
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Looking for your tips…..
Yes, we are about to head for south Spain for a month of gathering new and exciting photographs. Will be not far from Valencia just out of small (I understand) town of Parcent. looking forward to firing new imagery of that part of the country to you for your viewing and comment. The life, the people,the architecture and scenes I am expecting a lot.
Following that we’ll move on to France to add to our library of images from that part of world.
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