Gandia, Spain - June 21 - July 5We were so sorry to be leaving France. Our house was so wonderful. Very beautiful and secluded but all things come to an end and off to Spain on our next leg.The drive from Aubais to Gandia is about 800 km so we made an early start at 07.30. Packed with a tall extra passenger, John, and his luggage (small case) we were a bit like sardines. However the journey was very straightforward and uneventful as most was driving on excellent motorways. You have to get used to tolls and the total tolls for this journey was about 60 Euro (NZ$ 125) and diesel of about E40 (NZ$ 85). Expensive, but there's no cheaper way around that. Our Citroen C3 with a 1.6 turbo-diesel goes very well and is so economical. As fuel is much cheaper in Spain we elected to have our first food/refuel in Spain and we had a good brunch and refuel about 10.00. An occasional slowing on the motorways around big cities but still a quick journey. When you can travel at 130 Km/hr, you can reallygobble up the distance. As we were travelling through Spain, the trip took us inland a fair way and the temperature started to rise as the day went on and at 11 o'clock the car thermometer, which is very accurate, was reading 37C! However, as we got closer to the sea, again it dropped to 30, which is where it has remained, each day. We got to Gandia and elected to go to a supermarket as most shops shut on a Sunday, even the big supermarkets. Only little bakers, bars, restaurants and gas stations are open on Sunday.After a little hiccup we found our new abode for the next two weeks. The house, Casa Bella is a decent enough place, set in a new housing development on a hillside, looking out to mountains and olive and citrus trees. The house is very well appointed with a pool, decks, BBQ and comfy beds but it lacks the character and tranquillity of the last place. The French house will spoil you forever but we just have to be happy with the excellent place that it is. Again, the local small town is a maze of tiny streets, as I found out, looking for a bakers on Sunday morning. We drove into Gandia and went down to the beach. The area by the beach is a mass of high-rise apartments/hotels - not pretty. The beach is huge and flat, at least 200 metres from road to water with everyone crowded around the water's edge. The Med only has a very small tidal range so no one has to move. What you get here in Spain is sun and sand, aplenty, and that's what most people come here for. Most of thepeople were Spanish with only a few visitors from abroad. I suppose that might change as the summer holidays get closer. We decided to visit a small town called Oliva, 10 Km down the road as the house owners has said it was their preference as a beach. The beach was indeed quieter and a bit more contoured so that looked a much better place to visit. I may be getting old but my eyesight is still like a hawk, especially as I noticed a bunch of shapely young ladies wearing only skimpy thongs. Ros decided we should go for lunch, doh! Incidentally, several of the women got up to go for a swim and put their tops on. Just couldn't see the logic on that one. The Spanish eat late. Dinner starts at 21.00, at the earliest and lunch is 13.30 to 15.00 but on a Sunday, that's really 14.30, onwards. We got there early, as usual, feeling hungry by 13.30. We checked out a few places and decided on looked to be the place. They always have a set menu with a starter, main and dessert but we only wanted one course. And cold beer! We got a jug of beer and some tapas for starter. Olives, salsa and a sort of pickled vegetable which we couldn't place. After a bit of analysis we decided it must be fennel root.Ros and I had eggplant gratinee and John had a main of lamb chops and potatoes. Both meals were really delicious. The bill was only E27, that was for 2 jugs of beer, 2 starters,1 main, 1 sweet and 2 large coffees (Americano) - fantastic value, especially as all the meals were great. The waitress was excellent and her English was near perfect.That bodes well for Spanish food.We have been following the Euro 2008 football with some great games. The French were stocking up on grog and food before each game and the Spanish were no different. The game between Italy and Spain was absolute rubbish. So different from the previous night's game. Everything was so sterile and boring - shame someone had to win. Being in Spain, we wanted Spain to win and at least that happened. There was so much histrionics from the Italians - touch them and they looked like there leg had been amputated with a blunt chain saw. Even one of the Spanish players, Torres, who plays for Liverpool and is so talented, looked very ordinary and threw himself to the ground on a regular basis. He'd be booed off the pitch at Anfield for a game like that. Spain won, eventually and that's good. We have seen some games where the second best, by a long shot, on paper, just never knew that and won important games - that's what makes for excitement.25/6/08We have done a bit more touring around and have come to the conclusion that Spain has definitely lost the plot on coastal development. We have found some less developed places but even those spots are still ugly. The weather is hotter than usual, we have been told getting up to about 32C. The house has air conditioning but we don't bother with it but last night was a bit sticky and we got a fan going, just to move a bit of air. We went to the port area of Gandia and had a great lunch - I had squid and JT, grilled sardines. My squid was awesome! We had a prawn paella for next and Ros continued her search for Europe's best Tiramisu. All in all, an awesome meal with great service. We are not on Spanish time, when it comes to eating, as they seem to eat so late. We had our lunch along with beer and wine and came home for our siesta at 16.00.The town we were in today, Denia, was a sizable place and we went to the tourist info spot and found it had just closed at 13.30 and reopens at 16.30!!! A succession of Brits turned up, while we looked at the closed building and wondered just how the hell they could close for so long. When in Spain.... They certainly know how to lunch.
Gandia, Spain - June 21 - July 5 Had a great day today (Thursday 26). Went to Xativa (pronounced Chativa, in the local accent), about 40 Km away, inland. Anyway, we went straight to the castle, on top of a big hill and as usual we arrived as most Spaniards were leaving to avoid the heat. The history of the place is phenomenal, being built a couple of hundred years BC by the Moors. Hannibal lived here for a while and had children. He was chased out by the Roman general, Scipio. Over the years, the castle was re-invaded by the Moors and then Spanish, French and a large list of VIPs and other dignitaries had the pleasure of being detained in the dungeons of the "Boss of the Day".There are some modern cannons, well 15th century, and some modern loos and some rooms with a view. This is a genuinely historic castle. Every hilltop has a castle of some sort and as you look from the top of Xativa's, you can see about another 6. The local town has a new-looking bullring.By the time we'd finished our castle visit we were gasping for a beer and we went into town. Xativa is a really pretty, old Spanish town, the sort we had expected to see but hadn't, so far. We had a truly great lunch - not cheap but really excellent food and service. There seems to be a bit of an economic downturn in Spain, right now, as many of the cafes were empty. Back to the Carrefour supermarket in Gandia for essentials such as wine and beer. There are some excellent local wines but not the choice of the French shops nor the choice of pates and cheeses but still enough to ensure whatever weight gain were have achieved, so far, is consolidated. The Euro 2008 game of Spain v Russia was on so we thought a visit to a local bar would be good, however they were empty. The locals probably party with friends as we hear fireworks going off whenever Spain got a goal and a well deserved win.The weather has been hot every day but today, especially so, with us getting to 34C, so we used the AC for a while to cool the house down before our late afternoon siesta. It is so beautifully warm of an evening, so good to sit outside with a strong breeze and 27C and pleasant sleeping conditions. It must be a local weather pattern but around 22-23.00, a really strong wind blows up for several hours. It's warm and very pleasant and strong enough to keep any mozzie safely tucked up in bed.Sunday lunch in Oliva, a little cafe called La Canadiense, run, not surprisingly, by a French Canadian woman. She's a dynamo being a great cook, host and waitress. The food is not Spanish, more French but very good and reasonably priced.We went home and had a swim, then our siesta before going out to a local bar to watch the football final between Spain and Germany. The cafe was crowded with all nationalities and everyone was cheering the Spanish. During the last minute of the game everyone started sing "Viva Espagne" - really corny but a great laugh. The latest Scouse messiah, Torres, fittingly got the winning goal as Spain were easy winners, even though it was only 1-0. As we left to go home, the locals were letting off fireworks like crazy. Some of the bangs sounded more like industrial strength dynamite than regular stuff and big clouds of smoke drifted across the town.It was karma to be in the right country at the right time and we were happy to be there.