Sunday, March 8, 2015

Driving the Coast of Spain







Rich:

"Got our motor running, heading on the highway, looking for adventure, and whatever comes our way"... The Cult classic captures such a great feeling.  After 16 months of somewhat structured travel itineraries (minus the unexpected Prize or Cruise), we have taken off the auto pilot and just seeing where and who the road leads us to.  It is still Jan-Feb here in Spain and it can be cold, so we think the coast road (Costa Blanca) will be warmer.  After a 3 day visit to Valencia, (a really beautiful city), we eat some iconic Paella, wash the few clothes we own, and off we go.  We sometimes drive an hour, sometimes 3 hours.  Each night we ask, "Do we stay or do we go?"...Usually it is go, and hopeful to discover/meet the next cool thing. We were not "Born to Be Wild", but we were Born to Travel.






We only drove 45 minutes the first day, we had seen some cliffs off the Cruise Ship and went looking for them...Ended up in a funky little town and a hotel where the owner turned out to be a huge Springsteen fan, quotes and posters on the wall, a concert memory case, a place you imagine in Bruce's song  Rosalita. We also met Andrew...









Andrew (middle) is inspirational, a person who will someday have a book/movie made about him.  After several near death experiences and overcoming severe health issues, Andrew has the zeal and belief of Apostle Paul taking on the Greeks.  A person we will be seeing more of in the years to come.  The other gentleman is Hero, the owner of the wonderful "Restaurante Hero"where we are dining in Els Poblets, Alicante.













Wanda:

We docked back in Barcelona, said our goodbyes to this magnificent city and headed south to Valencia on a 3 1/2 hour train ride....




...First things first, since we are here for only a few days - we must check out the markets and taste the local delicacies ....(what's a few more days before we start the serious diet)


We head into the historic Mercado Central...


Walking in your senses are surrounded by the vibrant colors, noises, and smells...


...We find beautiful fruits and vegetables - and giant radishes!!!


A clever and tasty way to eat fresh sardines...hmmmmm!







...And of course, we must find a restaurant that serves the paella Valencia is famous for, and the Sangria (the locals actually drink!) - that would be Palace Fesol (since 1909).   We have Javier explaining the Valencian Paella -  the chicken, (we opted out of the rabbit) vegetables, lima beans, lots of rosemary, and crispy carmelized rice in the bottom of the pan.... and the lovely Imma with her secret Sangria recipe that I will now share shhhh!!.....   


White Spanish Vermouth, Red Spanish Vermouth, Rum, Red Wine, Fanta orange and lemon soda, sugar, and let's not forget the cut up fruit.....We were very happy the rest of the day!


Now we can take a view of this city:




We always try to exercise after eating a big meal, so we climbed to the top of The Miquelet or the Belltower of the Valencia Cathedral to get the best views of the city  (a later post on the Cathedral itself)....




The Dumbbell at the top... no, I am not talking about Rich - who is just resting after climbing the 207 steps (I think he is wishing he stayed for another pitcher of Sangria)...



View from the bell tower...Valencia is Spain's 3rd largest city after Madrid and Barcelona, and it looks like it - the view from atop looks like it is all buildings, but there are plenty of picturesque squares as The Queen Square (bottom left) found throughout the city...





Valencia was founded as a Roman Colony in 138 BC.  Today even the Old City has been restored to look new...walking aimlessly and taking buses through the city, you experience so many styles of architecture from Romanesque to Moderniste.   For a large city, Valencia is clean and vibrant.


After 3 days in Valencia we rented a car and drove down the coast.  We stopped in a little town Els Poblets, and met Andrew.  (Rich is pictured with him above)  Sometimes special people come into your life (as the poem of an unknown author says) for a reason, a season, or a lifetime...

Back in the car we continued down the coast and I was so surprised to see the number of high-rise condos and apartments that littered the coastline - not a very pretty sight.  So on we drive, stopping at a few places that were not memorable....



...Interesting note on another "not so pretty sight",  While driving through Almeria - there must have been miles and miles of plastic green houses all along the road...I guess it's a way to grow food in the driest places of Spain.  I had to Google this to find out more - you can do the same, I won't bore you with what I learned.


Cartagena is a stop worth talking about since it has 3,000 years of history and claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world.  (I counted the 60th oldest city in Europe - but I could be wrong)



Las Murallas (the old walls) partially surrounds the old city of Cartagena and were built in the 16th century






The Cartagena Roman Theater dates from the 5 -1 Century BC, but was not discovered until the late 1980's underneath poor and deteriorated housing  built over it.  The Roman Theater Museum is a must see!






The Funeral Crypt from the 16th century St Joseph Monastery found in the small 
Museo Nacional de Arqueologia



The 3 days we spent in Cartagena we walked and walked (what else is new, we still have Christmas and Cruise weight that must come off)... and there are wonderful statues scattered all over.  Bottom is  "El Zulo",  a heart wrenching (2 ton) bronze statue dedicated to the victims of the 3/11 terrorist attack in Madrid, 2004.




We always take a coffee break in the afternoons, the owner of the Cafeteria Restaurante Teatromano located in the town square told us we must have an "Asiatico" coffee.  It is known only in Cartagena!...  Of course we loved it - and asked for a 2nd cup and the recipe.....No wonder why we loved it, little did we know it was the Licor 43  made in Cartagena that made it so special!

Simple recipe I must put down here just so I remember:  Shot of expresso, Licor 43, Conac, condensed milk, Lemon and orange twist, cinnamon, and cream.  This was indeed a treat and made walking the city much easier!


 Off to Nerja...





Nerja is a beautiful town 3 hours south of Cartagena.  Nerja is famous for its prehistoric caves and caverns -  where Stalactites meet Stalagmites.  The beautiful "Speleothems" are jaw dropping and the vast and extensive caverns have  a "Do Not Miss" label. 
 No photos (especially mine) or postcards we saw could do it justice.






Adios!! 
Time to leave the bat cave and head to the Carnival in Cadiz!.....

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