Monday, Day 18– We’ve had some sad news in the past week. Two ladies that had played a significant part in M’s life and early memories, have passed away. We got a phone call from Pat Coyle’s daughter to say that her mum, aged 90, had passed away peacefully in her sleep a few weeks after suffering a stroke. Margaret Purdy, the lady who’d been trip ‘Mum’ when taking handicapped children to Lourdes each year as part of HCCPT trips also passed on Sunday. I won’t replicate M’s gentle and well-written words about them here, but did want to acknowledge both of these lovely people, who gave him encouragement in becoming the person we know and cherish today.
None of our plans for Monday materialized.
Driving round Valencia city in a small car, and more importantly getting parked up, must be pretty miserable. Attempting this in a 21’ van is utterly impossible. After an hour and a half of:
“red light, crawl forward, big ramp, crawl forward, big ramp, busy junction, red light…”
and we gave up. I’m sure that Valencia is lovely, and one day we’ll hopefully return. Which, of course, meant where to next?
Guests had pointed us towards Xativer, which we duly visited. It’s a very pretty, small but bustling town, equidistant between Valencia and Alicante, on some good roads and then lots of picturesque ones with hairpin bends snaking like a cattle trails up and down hill sides. It also boasts a prodigious number of tiny crowded streets and more road ramps, red lights, heavy traffic. Driving through, we acknowledged the pretty parks and the tiny compacted parking spaces. But in the absence of anywhere to stop, we moved on once more.
Beginning to feel like we’d never find somewhere to rest, we headed back up into to hills.
Finally, in the middle of nowhere, near the tiniest settlement called Bellus, was a campervan stop, with 3 types of water, beautifully kept, nestled below the dam wall of the reservoir. There’s not much to tell you, except that it was clean, and that in 1788 (that’s not a typo, it was 1788) there were a set of baths that were ranked as one of the best spa facilities in the whole of Valencia. Sadly, these now reside under said reservoir, but hey – good to know none-the-less!
Tuesday, Day 19– Bellus is a great place to sleep, it’s not a bad place for a run. It’s one café is probably a lovely place to eat come April when it re-opens.
We packed up…
“Where are we going?” I asked
“Not telling,” was the answer “Surprise.”
Which it definitely was. Looking up at the snow-dusted mountains around us, I mused on how chilly they looked as we started to drive. A short time later I mused on how they seemed to be getting closer. No, really, they were a lot closer.
I looked at M.
“Where are we going?”
“Honestly,” he said “I can’t remember what I typed in the sat nav, but it looked great on the reviews.”
I put the map book down, noting instead how I could see the crevices in the snow now…
An hour up and then down the mountainside and we arrived at “El Castille de Guadaleste”, a tiny but thriving village, beside a LOT OF ROCK. Like Morella, it too has an impressive set of turrets perched implausibly on a tiny outcrop of mountain, along with three churches and medieval settlements up there too.
This “blink and you’ll miss it’ dot on the map also gets to crow about some seriously good eateries and a bar, run by Mac and his (only now, after 10 years) fiancé. The bar is very popular in winter with the locals, not least because the “European directive against smoking in public places” mysteriously doesn’t apply within its walls. We didn’t much care about the smoking, the wood burner was blazing, the chat and the wine were good, as were the tapas and the Nachos Picante.
As I gave the dog a walk later, I was sure I saw climbing bolts on various parts of the rock wall, glinting in the street lighting…