Valencia to Granada
Heading down the coast is the pathway to all the beach areas so famous especially in northern Europe where sun lovers flock to be burnt to a crisp.And they are all there - deeply tanned Germans, Dutch, French and Scandinavians along with the paler/redder Brits.The coastal areas are a string of high rise buildings fronting the beaches, now mostly deserted with the off season, and with the cafes and shops also shut, there is a general air of desolation.Not pretty at all, but no doubt it's all buzzing in summer.
Heading away from the depressing coastal sights we cut inland.A chance sign pointing to an ancient monument and a fortuitous parking spot meant we got to see an old monastery complex now being restored and open to the public.This being a weekend it was full of visitors, all of them locals. The Real Monasterio de Santa Maria de la Valldigna is a big collection of buildings some in a dreadful state and others with massive restoration surrounded by olive trees and citrus orchards within its high walls.
But who could resist having a look at Benidorm, famed as the Spanish outpost of the holidaying Brit.It's a bigger place than we expected but much more lively than the coastal areas we had previously seen, with crowds (rarely one under 65 and wrinkled)all walking the streets or along the promenade.Apparently this place has the most skyscrapers of anywhere except New York.I can believe it.But behind Benidorm is a little village called Guadalest perched on some rocky outcrops. The village has no cars so there are huge parking lots on the outskirts (for the Benidorm crowd when they need to do something different for a day).The village itself is entered through a natural tunnel in the rock.There is only one street and a square, but you can also climb tot rocky peak to the remains of the old castle and see right to the coast.
There was nothing enticing enough to keep us on the coast so our next night was spent in a remote village called El Berro in the beautiful Sierra de Espuna and reached by a series of scary hairpin bends.This area is a nature reserve and was where snow was brought to the coast to make ice creams in decades past. We would have liked to stay longer but on we pressed with the aim of the day being the Cueva de Las Leteros, where we hoped to see prehistoric cave paintings.With no signs at all on the roads and with only the vaguest idea of where it was on the map, we eventually found the turnoff and parked near the entrance sign which assured us the climb was only 700m up, with steps for only the last 100m and that it was open till 1630.We trudged up the mountain side, up the well-made but steep steps to find... a locked gate.No-one in sight of course, no way around the gate, and as well a pretty feeble attempt at a cave anyway.It was just a rock overhang and nowhere though the bars of the high steel fence could we discern any rock paintings at all! A picture at the gate was all we got.
With that disaster behind us, we made for Granada, our next big stop. Off motorway again, we drove through the northern part of the Sierra Nevada, Spain's highest mountain range and Europe's most southerly ski fields.More windy twisty roads but we had them to ourselves for the most part and were rewarded with stunning scenery of deep gorges, high peaks and lakes.With the higher ground and colder air here the trees were showing autumn colours again.The poplars especially with the sun behind the leaves looked like sunshine themselves such was their hue.
At the edge of these mountains there is a village called Purullena and here the houses were simply a facade and built into the mountains.It is called the area of the Troglodytes.Can't think why...