22 December 2016

Coast, Cobblestone & Castles - Altafullo, Tarragona and Peniscola

Location: Peniscola, Castellón, Spain

Following the Mediterranean Coast South ... first FIVE nights

Follow our route by opening TRAVEL MAP 2016/2017 on the right sidebar ([view larger], zoom +/-, pan around). Click on any photo in this post and launch a slideshow gallery of all photos.
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Our driver Daniel, from Welcome Pickups, shuttled us, at 9 am, from the Leonardo Hotel in downtown Barcelona to the Barcelona Airport. ... ' Driving in Barcelona is really best left to the locals '.  

Thoughts about the driving ...

This is our rental Renault with a side-swipped fender ... most rentals look something like this and have damage in several locations around all body panels. Compared to North America, most private vehicles in Spain, are quite small to medium in size. The city and urban streets are usually very narrow, parking everywhere is limited and at a premium. Quite tight, fast,  & skillful driving manoeuvers are mandatory, road & highway intersections are often hidden, turns can be greater than 90 degrees. There is limited incomprehensible International signage and all driving regulations seem to be negotiable. BUT, and most importantly, emergency, service and delivery people drive really BIG trucks very quickly. As a driver ... the good news is that all of this is quite challenging and also UNBELIEVABLY exciting

From the airport, we picked up our rental car and drove Highway C31 to Altafulla, about 71 kilometres south.
 
Highway C31 follows a rugged coastline, it twists and turns and rises and falls. There are lots of cyclists ... they travel in big gangs and cover the roads' width; they own the highway and (seemingly), pay no attention to any vehicles (they wander, chat, race) @ maximum speeds of about  50 kph. There are tourist turnouts and photo-op locations but drivers have to manoeuvre quite quickly to enter and exit.

ALTAFULL& TARRAGONA, VALENCIA
We'll be at Hotel Oreneta, for 2 nights.

In SPAIN, on Sunday, most businesses are closed. Those that do open, won't until probably 1:00 pm and then, services for groceries and restaurant meals will be limited. 

In Altafulla and nearby Tarragona, on Monday, all the ancient Roman Ruin sites are closed to the public! It rained a lot the day we toured; we took a short drive anyway, wandered the streets and took pictures. 

Tarraco is the ancient name of the current city of Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain). It was the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula, founded during the Second Punic War by Scipio Calvus, and became capital of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior, and of Hispania Tarraconensis during the Roman Empire.

Some photos ... wet streets, outdoor cafes, painted facades, intricate cobblesone designs, a drinking fountain, cathedrals, ancient columns, a pointy tourist, narrow passageways,  historical masonry.



On our return drive to Altafulla, we got lost near the coastal waterfront in Tarragona and stumbled on a good restaurant for lunch, El Capitan

    

Atencion ,Atencion !... for my favourite, younger SIL Sue ... ' You would hate this place. '

Appetizer: fresh caught Atlantic shrimp in the shell, with wood-oven baked crusty buns and the local olive oil (floral & complimentary).

Entree: a vegetable Paella - arborio rice (mostly & traditionally), European field artichokes, wild mushrooms (fungii), asparagus, onion medley, mucho garlic, pepper medley, tomates and garnished with crispy artichoke frites.

Paella is a traditional dish of Spain. Its home is Valencia, but variations exist in the different Spanish provinces. Typically, a colorful mixture of saffron-flavored rice and various meats, paella's name comes from the paellera, the flat, round pan in which it is cooked.

Wine & Dessert: una botella de vino blanco seco. Our waitress chastised us for not eating enough (we took half the paella home with us) - so she brought us some Catalan sweet wine (in the carafe photo above) and 'the days' cookies (at no charge). We were told, traditionally sweet wine is drank directly from the decanter spout. We watched others drinking that way and wisely chose a coppa instead.  

The Next Day: Driving for 150 kilometres to ... 

PENISCOLA, VALENCIA
Our balcony and waterfront views for the next 3 nights, @ Avendida Papa Luna 10.


Peniscola, often called the Gibralter of Valencia and locally as "The City in the Sea", is a fortified seaport, with a lighthouse, built on a rocky headland about 220 feet (67 m) high, and joined to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land. 


The present castle here, was built by the Knights Templar between 1294 and 1307. In the fourteenth century it was garrisoned by the Knights of Montesa, and in 1420 it reverted to the Crown of Aragon. From 1415 to 1423 it was the home of the schismatic Avignon pope Benedict XIII.



Atencion ,Atencion !... for my bud Ger ... 'Game of Thrones' is filming here!

Film & Literature
El Cid was filmed here. Part of the Sixth Season of Game of Thrones was filmed here. For a creative take on history, a good read is The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry.


This is what the First Day of Winter looks and feels like in Peniscola ... sunny, some cloud, brisk wind, 17C. We walked the waterfront south to Pensicola Castle. The ancient town shares the castles' location on a prominent rock headland. The more modern zones of the town are along the harbourfront and at sea level; newer residential areas have been stacked on the steep mountain hillsides, inland from there. 

Today ... sandcastles at the beach, surfers & SUP'ers, narrow, cobblestone streets, ancient Christian history, a cruel Papa and a benevolant Papa, 8 foot thick castle walls, cautious cats, small yappy dogs, some street vendors, cafes & bodegas, seashell siding, patina, windows to the Atlantic, street whistling & singing, lunch was grilled anchovies & heart of palm/fresh caught tuna salad ... 


The Peniscola Headland, early evening ... a stroll along the promenade


There are a couple of walking options heading northerly, from the main townsite. Following the ocean-side promenade takes walkers between more higher-end, condominium apartment complexes on the left and Peniscolas' windy, coastline on the right. Alternately, a more relaxed walk with less wind, a few 100 metres inland, winds its way through an adjacent wetland and canal system. 

A couple of birds ...
Canary Island Stonechat (top tier right)
? Siberian Blue Robin/Vireo/Nightingale (2nd tier right)

At this time of year, the majority of condo developements are literally 'abandoned'; tenants have moved out, there are only a few rentals occupied, workers and contractors move in to clean-up, garden, maintain, refurbish, repair and rebuild.  

I met Ivan
That's him in the photo; he's a Palm Tree Groomer ... he climbs and cuts off this past years dead palm fronds. His job is quite physical and he's in great shape; it's usually low stress but can be challenging. Ivan and his workmate Orlando are both very friendly. They get to meet people from all over the world and they each speak several languages (but, neither of them well).

It's a great time to be here as a tourist; the weather may be a little cooler (only 17C today) and a number of tourist-related operations close up for a couple of months. But, it's a lot quieter, if you don't need or want the crowds!

Tomorrow, we drive to CALP, VALENCIA
We'll arrive late in the day and leave early the following day, so it's only an overnight stop on our way to Roquetas de Mar

Crusty & Wry ... eating too much!


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TEAM: LOAF, Crummy, Wry & Crusty