Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Travel day and Staying in a castle

Of course we slept in a little this morning since we had planned to get on the road early.  We haven’t been setting any alarms and today we could have used one.  Finished packing, quick breakfast, took the left over groceries to leave outside Margaret’s apartment, checked with each other about 10 times that we had everything as we were locking the keys inside the apartment.  Closed the door, I loaded up the elevator with everything, and Wendy took the stairs with the last garbage run.  I opened the elevator, and Wendy is not saying the best words, we forgot that the door to get outside was locked and you need a key to get out of the apartment building.  Oops, so back up to Margaret’s Wendy went hoping that she was home.  It was 8:00AM, so not too early, and lucky for us Margaret was home and we were able to get out.  We have no idea how long we would have been “stuck” in the stairway had she not been home.  

We decided to take the toll highway up to Valencia to save some time on driving, we had already been these back roads and we planned on driving about 4 hours today.  The toll highway traffic was very light, but once we got off  to the local highways it was very busy with truck traffic, so we got off the local highways and hit the local back roads.  Everyone should get to do this at least once,  We saw so few cars, went through lots of farmland, and mountains, very quiet little towns.  I have no idea what would have happened if we got into any trouble, we certainly didn’t see many gas stations, or police around, it was a great day, something we know Wendy’s Dad would have loved to do at one time.

A few turns going up the mountain

Lots of poppies along the side of the road in this region
We did stop for a bathroom break at a gas station right before hitting the back roads, when we got back on the road the GPS tried to tell us we were going the wrong way, so we turned around, then it tried to send us back the other way again, enough of the GPS, time for a map.  We had picked up a rural map somewhere along our travels, good thing as our other maps did not show all these country roads.

We drove by some towns that would have been really fun to explore, but we were pressed for time.  One town was Morella, the views here were beautiful. We stopped at a couple of viewpoints, wish we could have had more time to explore.  You could see the towers, Churches, castle, an old aqueduct and a great wall around the city. 
Wished we had more time

Actually viewpoints at this town really got us off track.   We pulled off at what we thought was a last view point, and we thought the road would join back up with the one we were originally on, but it went on and on and on.  We ended up going over and around this beautiful mountain and ended up coming across this little church called Virgin de la Fuente that dates back to the 1400’s we think.  I say we think because there was no information in English, and we didn’t take the Spanish page with us.  We had travelled for about an hour on the back roads by this time and this was the first information sign we saw so we decided to stop and go look.  We were lucky that the woman there spoke a little English, and she was so happy to see us.  I don’t think she gets many visitors.  She gave us some maps of the area around, told us some things we should see and then unlocked the church for us to visit.  She didn’t have any receipts/tickets, but charged us 1 Euro each to get in, wonder where that money will go.  The ceiling in this church was all wood carving, pretty amazing work.  A lot of it had been refurbished, but there was one section that looked like it had never been touched. 

Amazing details in the ceiling woodwork

Wendy outside Virgin de la Fuente church

From here Wendy wanted to go and see this canyon that she had seen pictures of.  It was about 15 minutes to the town, but of course the tourist info was closed when we got there.  Seems like everything is open here from 10-2PM, that’s it, so you better be organized and get out early or you are out of luck.  But lunch starts at 2:30 and goes on and on, so you are fine to spend the rest of the day eating and drinking wine.  There was a map pinned on the door of the tourist info booth so we took a picture and off we went.  It was 3KM down this narrow lane that if you met a car someone would have to back up, this was to the free parking.  Then another 3.5 KM on a smaller lane that was a little scarier to the paid parking.  We could not believe it when we got there, there were about 15 cars in the little parking lot, and the sign said parking max was 120 cars, I have no idea how they would have all fit here, plus someone would have had to do traffic control on that tiny road.  No one there to pay for parking, so off we went for a short walk.  We had no idea where this picture was from that we had seen, but the walk was beautiful.  We were down at the bottom of a canyon, lots of beautiful trees, and we found a sign for some primitive paintings.  We found the paintings, and were also lucky enough to see some goats, this is one of the last places in Spain where there are still wild goat.  We did not find the gorge that we had read about, no idea how much further we would have had to walk, oh well maybe another time.

Wild goats

Very old drawings on the side of a rock cliff

Next stop is the Parador in Alcaniz where we are staying for the night.  This is a castle from the 14th century that is now a hotel with 37 rooms, a bar, and a beautiful dining room.  There is also a church attached to it in the back, but it was not open when we got here, and doesn’t open until 10AM tomorrow morning, so not sure if we will get to see the inside or not.
We checked in and decided it was time to get something to eat.  It was now 3:30 and the fruit we had brought along for snacks was long gone.  We ate a very light lunch in the little courtyard at the hotel along with some red wine.  Nice to be done and out of the car for the night.
We have walked into town, but we missed the big event held earlier here today, dragon vs horse fight.  We saw evidence the horses had been in the street, but that was it.  None of the churches were open, tourist office closed at 2PM, stores were all closed, a couple of bars were open and that was it.  Maybe a holiday, I don’t know but pretty much a ghost town except for the rock band that has been playing in the park since 5PM as part of this dragon vs horse fest that we hope is nearly done. 
We have a beautiful view of the valley from our window, but have had to close the window because of the noise, it is now 8:15 and haven’t heard anything for about 15 minutes so we’re hoping they are not on break but indeed done for the night.  We will be off to supper shortly. I think we will just stay here at the castle for a nice meal.  Oh no, we just heard test test test in a mic, it will be a good time to leave for supper before band number 4 starts.    

Are you sure this is the best way to go to the castle, Wendy asked.

Checking in at the castle


Castle in Alcaniz where we stayed

One for Joey`s boys

View from our room

View from main entrance

We had a lovely dinner in the dining room at the castle We did the local cuisine special menu.  It was much more than we were used to pay in Javea, but if you want to be king and queen of the castle, you have to pay the price.  It was more like Canadians prices. There was a small appetizer of picked fish on top of a potato cake.  Wendy had salad and I had sautéed sorrel mushroom on top of a frittata. I had lamb for my main course served on some very rich beans/ bacon hash.  Wendy had Sea Bream served on top of a vegetable mixture.  The menu said served with baby eels.  Wendy said to the waiter, I have none of those.  The sea bream was topped with them.  When they say baby eels, they means tiny itsy bitsy little thing.  They looked like angels hair pasta about 3 inches long, with one side being black and the other side being white.  I inherited them.  She came close to trying them but put her small forkful of them back on my plate.  I did not like my dessert but Wendy liked her rice pudding.  I should have asked for ice cream instead.  Back at the room, the music had stopped.  We went to back shortly after supper.  We slept with the Window open for fresh air. 

Where we had dinner

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