Van Repairs & Valencia

7 – 9 June 2017

Following another late night with Peter & Alison we did NOT want to get up early but somehow managed to get off at 8.10am, only 10 minutes later than target time. Impressive.

Headed for Caravanas Cruz at Elche for our gas repair, using the fast roads, got there by 10.30 and with some relief and translation issues handed over our van. As they had an accessories shop it appeared rude not to visit it so that occupied half an hour or so and by 1.20pm we were given the good news that it apparently wasn’t contaminated gas but a faulty regulator  – €187 with fitting and tax. Felt a lot happier that it wasn’t contaminated fuel.

After a quick lunch in the van we decided we had time to make it to the Valencia site if we went across country using toll roads which is what we did. On our arrival we were shown to potential sites with the caveat they had no shaded ones left although being from North West England shade was the last thing on our minds and happily accepted. Little did we realise that it was right next to a small 5 a side pitch much used by the site children, and also to a major road – NOISE !! A disturbed night’s sleep ensued.

Next day we cycled into Valencia on a very impressive cycle track system. Initially travelling along the beach that runs all the way to the docks, then on really good dedicated cycle tracks which led straight to the city centre and had dedicated cycle traffic lights which made navigating huge roundabouts safe and gave us confidence, thought we still have a lot to learn, including remembering to put our cycle helmets on!

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We locked up the bikes and started our visit by walking to Catedral de Valencia where we paid €2 each to climb the 207 steps to the top of the bell tower, the Torre de Micalet. Left our legs screaming but the views were superb.

After that the Mercado Central, built in 1928 and featuring lots of glass, lovely tile-work and iron girders. After the tower it was blissfully level.

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The produce on offer was fascinating, everything you could imagine and lots more besides. Sheeps heads appeared to be a favourite and pigs trotters, along with whole stalls dedicated to Jamon with huge legs of the air-dried ham hanging in neat rows.

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The fish-market part was spectacular. Whole monkfish, octopus both whole and in bits, squid and cuttlefish in a variety of sizes, and the best selection of shrimps, prawns and crayfish we have ever seen, as well as decorative sea-snails, mussels and various clams. The fish ranged from tiny to huge and wished we knew more about them. It’s a good job we didn’t have a cool bag or carrying capacity or we could have spent a fortune, but as it was we left empty-handed.

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After a mediocre lunch we took the ‘historic’ (rather than the maritime) open-top-bus tour as they are usually such great value. The traffic was heavy and the audio not properly synchronised for the first part of the tour. And there didn’t appear to be much ‘historic’ to see, apart from one-and-a-half sets of old city gates, part of a wall, the Cathedral and the large plaza with the post office and local government buildings. Disappointing compared to others we have been on.

Headed home along the cycle path – part of which runs through a lovely park which has been created in the old riverbed, the river having been diverted to prevent the damage and disruption that floods caused. Past the oceanographic centre with its own aquarium (the only thing that might lure us back) and via a huge Carrefour for supplies. By the time we got back it was time for dinner, a catch up on the news  and a decision – one more night only!

Our reason for staying another day on the noisy, uncomfortable site was Albufera nature reserve and its surrounding area which is reputed to be the ‘best paella in Spain’. So early next morning, after checking out the general election results, we set off on our bikes with binoculars, a bottle of water, boiled eggs for breakfast and lunch pre-booked for 1pm.

We followed cycle paths and more dubious trails, taking in the beach and the beautiful zone behind the beach including the Mallades. In 1960’s-70’s there was development that almost ruined the natural landscape here – they filled in lagoons, removed 10m dunes, planted eucalyptus and build a large hotel and high-rise apartments in the middle of what was a unique environment of dunes, scrub, and ‘Mallades’ which are areas behind the dunes which flood at high tides. They are a special and endangered environment. In the 1990’s the government started an extensive project of reversing the harm that had been done. Allowing dunes to regenerate, digging the in-fill out the ‘Mallades’ and removing the eucalyptus. They have also replanted native species and degraded the roads into narrow rough tracks.

On the edge of a lake we sat for a happy hour and watched little and common terns diving for fish, and spent a good half-hour identifying a Kentish Plover, a new one on us. Luckily it let us get really close on foot. We continued on through the paths and cycle ways of the mallades area where we tracked the calls of Turtle Dove and Hoopoe to get views of them, and then continued slightly inland to the village of El Palmar, a small village on the edge of a huge lagoon which has been eaten into by extensive rice paddies – for paella rice. We stopped in the village for coffee then went on to explore the outer reaches of the lagoon where we saw glossy ibis, herons, little & cattle egrets and, another first for us, several gull- billed terns.

We then cycled the alleged 2 km – turned out to be 5 km – uphill to El Pelleronet at double-speed to make our lunch appointment. El Pelleronet was billed as THE authentic Valencian Paella location and Blayet restaurant as providing some of the best paella in Spain. We went for the shellfish variety which was good but salty adorned with excellent prawns.

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When we got back to the site having completed 25 miles we dived into the camp swimming pool (best bit of the site) to cool ourselves. Bliss. Just in time to discover the ‘hung parliament and Mrs May’s suggestion of a deal with the DUP – memories of John Major and the “B*******s” sprang to mind. Good to be afar.