Monday, 12 February 2018

Camping El Torres near La Vila Joiosa - Spain - Day 70 -74

Thursday 8th - Monday 12th February 2018

Our row on the campsite with
snow capped mountains in the background
Thursday was another moving day - but only about 40 miles down the road to Camping El Torres near the town of La Vila Joiosa.  And this proved to be another jam packed site, but luckily we'd had the fore site to book ahead, because even though we arrived quite early in the afternoon, they were already turning people away who just turned up on spec!  The reason we chose this place was because of it's proximity to Benidorm - we want to see the city but we also want to be able to escape from it's busy confines - and from the site we can either walk, catch the tram or bike in, but we're still far enough away to maintain an element of tranquillity!

Benidom at a Distance

However, Benidorm wasn't on today's agenda!  Once lunch was out of the way we walked the 100 metres or so to the sea front and then followed a mostly coastal path into La Vila Joiosa where we found the usual lovely prom which was lined with alfresco cafes, very colourful buildings and additionally the busy marina and fish harbour.  Apparently, it's said that the purpose of the houses being painted in such a colourful fashion is to guide fishermen back to their homes!

Our wanderings also took us past The Santa Marta Dry Dock which can trace it's history back to the 15th century for Royal Commissions, and this may have been related to it's more recent claim to fame  when in 1860ish  it became the second most important shipyard in Spain. Later still, during World War 1, because of the depth of water around it, it was responsible for a large number of schooners and pilot boats - some of which weighed more than 400 tons and thus needed deep water to be launched.  However, all we could find there today was this 'Yellow Submarine' tourist shuttle!

On Friday we decided we'd had enough of walking so we swapped two feet for two wheels and trundled off up into the snow capped hills aiming for (in a very round about way) a reservoir called Embalse de Amaddorio.  In doing so we passed by the magnificent Puig Campana Mountain which literally translates as Bell Hill, and it's tallest peak (there are 2)  stands 4,613 feet high.   However, strangely enough  there was no snow on it's summit although there was on some of the hill tops that it dwarfed.

Puig Campana with it's notched top
From there we chugged steadily up hill past the town of Finestrat (apparently there are two Finestrats - one up here and one down on the coast) which stands in the shadow of the mountain, and then onwards and upwards for another couple of miles until we passed over the brow of the hill and could see our target spread out below us.

We then toddled on to a picnic site at the side of the reservoir's barrage and had magnificent views of the waters below us and the hill that were surrounding us.

Really - Who'd pinch the backs off the benches?
But at least we'd got a post each to lean on!
It made a fabulous dining room, and after our meal was compete we even had the entertaining company of a Dutch gent who'd wild camped there in his motor home for the last couple of nights.  We compared travel notes and discussed all sorts of things, but like all good British we eventually got onto the weather - which for Spain at this time of year, despite the bright blue skies is unseasonably cold!  And this was noted even more as we zoomed back down towards the coast and passed through the convoluted shady streets of Vila Joiosa - it was a good job we'd taken an extra layer to put on because even when we sat on the prom in the sunshine to finish  our picnic it was shivery!

Once home all that was left was for us to cook our tea - and because it was Friday we decided to have fish!  Luckily we'd managed to convey to the Spanish fish monger that we wanted them beheading - but they were still so ginormous they hardly fit on our plates - however they were very delicious!

On Saturday we walked into Benidom, and quite surprisingly, what a lovely walk that turned out to be!  From the campsite it was only a short distance down to the sea shore, and then we quickly found ourselves on a very hilly coastal path that passed by numerous little coves and beaches where snorkeling is very popular, and the trail also took us right by one of five 16th century watchtowers.

This building along with 4 other watchtowers and 4 nearby castles formed part of coastal defences between 1500 and 1750.  One of it's main purposes was to watch for Berber pirate fleets and warn others (which they did with smoke signals) before they landed thus preventing them from kidnapping the local population who they would then either ransom or sell into slavery in the markets of Oran or Argel.  Apparently, a small artillery mortar was also kept in the tower to fire at the pirates landing in Villajoyosa or Benidorm.  As you would expect the tower stood right at the top of a hill and in it's vicinity we found a couple of picnic benches so it's strategic position also provided us with a lovely place to stop for our coffee break!

The Tallest of Benidorm's
And from there it was only a short scramble downhill until we were back into civilisation and entering the 2nd village of Finestrat which was hosting a colourful market.  However, we didn't really pause but continued on our way into the western end of Benidorm where our first task was to seek out somewhere for lunch!  We eventually settled for a beach front 'pub' and enjoyed a burger and chips while watching the world of Benidom passing by - but it really wasn't quite what I imagined it would be!  For a start, even though it was Saturday it was fairly quite, and despite the fact that  the massive hotels dominate your inland view, the promenade, sandy beaches and deep blue Med are a lovely site to see!  Historically, the town's history as a tourist resort started back in 1925 when it's first hotels were built, but the real 'boom' didn't occur until the 1950's, and since then it's continued to grow - mostly in an upwards direction.  Our wanderings also took us into the 'old town' which is located on a promontory between the two main beaches - Levante and Poniente, and here we found loads of shops many of which were selling tourist tat.  However, there were also a fair dusting of more up market establishments and this did allow me to complete a mission that I've been on for several days - I desperately needed new trainers because my trusty old comfy ones had holes in their soles!

By the time my purchases had been made it was nearly 4pm and time we were heading for home - so should we walk or catch the cheap and quick tram?  No competition really - as you would probably guess we did the latter - and quite astonishingly, on the way home we discussed how we'd quite enjoyed Benidorm and we've definitely promised ourselves a return visit sometime in the future.

Sunday, well that was another ride up into the hills, some of it being a repeat of Friday's outing, but we also managed to cover some new ground by continuing our uphill ride through Orxeta and on towards the town of Sella.  There seemed to be so much more to explore but for today we hadn't really got the energy of the inclination to go to much further- so instead we admired the views and then turned our bikes around and zoomed back down the hills to our lovely spot overlooking the  Embalse de Amaddorio for another picnic in the sunshine.

So that just leaves today - Monday - to tell you about!  And what can I say - rain 🌧🌧🌧 and more rain!  But it didn't start in earnest until lunch time, so before there was any  risk of getting a drenching we nipped out to have a look around the EX PATS shop that is just a short walk away from where we are.  Now, before going we'd read a big sign that indicated that it mostly sold household textiles and furniture - so we really weren't expecting what we found!

Easter Eggs!
It sold nearly every item imaginable of non perishable English foods, cleaning materials and toiletries  and also a lot of frozen goodies that are usually quite difficult to get over here!  We ended up with 4 carrier bags full of edibles and, as it's easy to get to, and has excellent parking for our big bus we will certainly be paying return visits on future trips over to Spain!  Only snag was the textile bit was next door and that's closed on Monday's - but never mind - it's a good excuse to go back tomorrow for another look - and maybe for John to pick up some of his favourite Newcastle Brown!

Anyway, that's all for now - so cheerio from rainy Spain - However the good news is the 🌞🌞🌞 will be back tomorrow 😙😙

Click here to see our Spanish camping spots