Valencia and beyond!

Well, what a fabulous weekend. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages. It was always going to be great to see Kimberly again, but I had no idea quite what a fantastic weekend it would turn out to be.

The weather finally started to make a turn for the better on Saturday: no more rain, clear blue skies, and that sunshine that had been ever present throughout the early months of my stay, back again. I’d been promising myself for several days that I would go and sit in the park and write, and on Saturday afternoon, I did. Well, I went to the park, anyway. I may have got slightly distracted by taking photographs but hey – it was a glorious day. And I was already looking forward to the next.

Blue skies over Parque Central

I went home that evening and started baking. I was intending to bake a cake for Kimberly’s birthday (and did) but I also ended up baking some cupcakes for my flatmates. As Christiana was away for the weekend, that left 5 of us. I baked 8 cakes. Within about half an hour, they were all gone. And, if I do say so myself, they were gooood.

So, somehow I got distracted from going for a run on Saturday evening and ended up watching Argo instead. I finally got to bed at about 2am, knowing I needed to be up at about 8 the next morning. But that was ok, I’d set my alarm for 7.50 on Saturday morning as I needed to get up for my English class. I’d just leave it alone and it would go off again the next day.

Oh no, it didn’t.

So, I woke up at about 9.00 and Kimberly and James were arriving at 9.55. (It could have been worse!) I quickly leapt up and showered, ate my breakfast, washed up and shoved some bits and pieces into my backpack ready for my stay in Gandía. Then I grabbed a jumper (always handy when sitting in the shade!) and my bag and headed to the station. Amazingly, I got there bang on time.

We spent the day in a whirl: we visited the Central Market (unfortunately closed on a Sunday so we just admired it from the outside), went into la Lonja de la Seda (the old Silk Exchange), peeked into the cathedral, had a very quick go on a Segway, visited the Plaza de la Virgen and the Almoina, climbed the Torres de Serranos and then had lunch in a seafood restaurant near the centre of town before wandering through the Turia Gardens (el Río) to the City of Arts and Sciences, stopping off at Gulliver on the way. What a day! 

Me, Kimberly and James in Valencia

I think all our legs were glad of a rest by the time we made it onto the train – as were Kimberly’s feet as she’d done the whole thing in flip flops! (That didn’t stop us staying up late, chatting and sharing a bottle of cava, though!)

On Monday, we took the car up into the hills and then down into Simat where there’s a monastery. It’s usually open to the public but that day it was closed for maintenance. Oh well. We took some photos, front and back, then headed off along some rather too narrow roads, back to Gandía and to the beach for an ice cream. Somehow, we still managed to walk more than 8 ½ kilometres. (Or perhaps I danced some of it in the evening – and we didn’t even go out!)

The monastery at Simat de la Valldigna

We’d seen a castle on top of a hill from the train line, and when we looked it up, it turned out also to be a monastery. It looked well worth a visit, so the next day we headed there. We tried to find our way up the hill, but just as we’d decided which way we needed to go, James announced that it shut for lunch at 1.00pm. It was now 12.50. Never mind, we thought. We’d just have a walk along the beach, have some lunch and then maybe take the country footpath to get up there for 5.30, when it opened again.

The seafront at Cullera

Well, the beach walk was good. The lunch turned out to be good when we eventually got there – unfortunately, there were no restaurants open at the far end of the beach, so we had to walk all the way back to the beginning to find somewhere to eat! We’d seen the country footpath on our wanders and decided it looked a little too long and strenuous, so we headed up through the old town and along a paved footpath (which I have to say was quite strenuous enough in the heat of the day). We arrived at the top, puffed out but delighted by the views, at just after 5.00pm and settled down to wait for the ticket office to open.

The views from Cullera Castle

At 5.40, a lady eventually came out, settled herself into the little hut by the entrance and, after some banging and clattering, finally opened the window. The French man in front of us went up to buy tickets for his party, but no!

‘C’est fermé,’ she said, then switching to Spanish, ‘hay un cartel en el portal.’ And it was true. There was a sign on a tiny piece of paper, no bigger than A4 and probably quite a bit smaller, pinned up next to the front door, explaining that the castle was closed for holidays until 12thMay. Now, bearing in mind the sheer size of the door, a tiny scrap of paper printed out in a teeny tiny font wasn’t quite what you’d expect!

We never did figure out why she was sitting there in the hut with her money tin. When I tried checking that it really was closed, she was adamant. ‘Hay un cartel.’ I didn’t point out that it might have been more helpful if it had been on the ticket office. Not to her, anyway. 

So off we went back down the hill again, then looked for somewhere to have a well-deserved drink. 

It was about 8.00pm by the time Kimberly and James deposited me at the station and saw me onto the train back to Valencia. Somehow, I managed to keep my eyes open on the train but I crashed out when I got home. 

Three days, 43.83km, 58062 steps. And lots and lots of laughs. 

What a fabulous way to spend a long weekend!

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