We went out and about during September and October.
Darren and Bri went go-karting at Team Sport in Brighton https://www.team-sport.co.uk/brighton/ while my Mum and I watched in comfort from the balcony with a cup of coffee. They had a great time and came away covered in bruises as a memento!
We bought a membership to RHS Wisley https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley/garden-highlights which we’d never had before. We subsequently enjoyed many visits there during our year’s subscription.
We also bought membership to the National Trust so we had lots of beautiful properties to visit at weekends, one of them, Leith Hill Place, made very tasty cakes which we sat and ate with a cup of tea sitting in the shade of a tree overlooking the surrounding hills, very relaxing.
The travel bug hasn’t left us yet, despite our lovely long trip we still have the urge to go and explore again. We started taking Spanish lessons in case we do another tour around Spain at some point and we practiced what we had learned during a long weekend in Valencia with Darren’s sister which we had intended visiting on our tour. I mentioned the change of plan on our page ’21st November. Valencia’ http://hartfree-bright.co.uk/21st-november-valencia-spain/ where the closest we got to Valencia was a stay in the campsite La Marina https://areaparkingcarlamarina.es.tl/INICIO.htm which would have been a short cycle ride away from the city.
The three of us thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Valencia, it was a beautiful city. I’d found an apartment which was a short walk across a bridge into the city. We arrived there at 9 p.m. and immediately left the apartment to go and find some food. Our first stop as we got to the shops was the ice cream shop, how lucky to find one of those nearby.
The following day we traipsed into town for breakfast. We’d been hoping to go to a recommended cafe but it was full when we arrived so we went into a workers cafe opposite where I had my favourite, tostada con tomate, and a very good cup of coffee for 3 Euros. As we walked through the city a bit later we heard a huge crowd of people singing “Y Viva Espana” and suddenly we were engulfed by a friendly procession of people waving flags and singing (even the police were smiling and singing along), we were told it was a protest march for Spanish unity because the following day the Catalan Independence Referendum was due to be signed.
During the year we had come across a TV programme called Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi, she visited Valencia and went to see the rice fields. We had no idea they grew rice just outside Valencia and decided we had to go and see it. That afternoon we took a trip out to the lake in the Parque Natural de la Albufera which was 10 km from the city. As the coach drove towards the Parque we were extremely surprised to discover that we’d actually driven our van on the very same road on our way to our campsite the previous November and it ran between the rice fields, we had assumed they were just grassy fields.
The area was beautiful but I’m very glad we hadn’t driven our van down to the lake, it was a twisty, turny sort of road and very narrow in places (particularly over the tiny bridge). The coach driver handled it all very calmly even we met quite other coaches on our way there and back, which caused a lot of reversing and manoeuvring!
The lake was HUGE. We were taken out in a small boat on to the lake which then weaved its way through some little channels. Amongst the reeds, down one of the channels, we saw a heron on one bank and a wedding party outside a hotel on the other.
Alex Polizzi had also visited Horchateria Santa Catalina in Valencia https://www.horchateriasantacatalina.com/en/ where she’d tried their traditional cold sweet drink, horchata, which is made from tiger nuts and often eaten with a long doughnut type cake called a farton. When the coach returned us to Valencia we headed straight to the cafe to try both of these, it was nice to try but it’s possibly an acquired taste.
We had even more excitement on our second day, Valencia is definitely the city that keeps on giving. As we made our way into town we came across a procession and play where people were dressed up in historical costumes from throughout the ages, we assumed they were depicting the people who had conquered them over the centuries from the time it was founded as a Roman colony but we’ll never know for sure.
From there we wandered around the city where we saw a photo shoot of people in traditional costume and what appeared to be a ‘battle’ of two marching bands. I wanted to see the building that I’d seen last year that looked like a breaching blue whale so we caught the bus out to Oceanografic. The building in that area were amazing and from there we caught the bus to the beach. We found a nice cafe to sit and have a bite to eat then wandered down to the beach and watched some people expertly flying colourful multi-tiered kites. Valencia is superb, there are so many different things to see and do and we had so little time to explore it properly.
We had a late flight out on our last day so we made the most of the day. We walked down to the park at the end of lane where our apartment was situated, we found a cafe where we sat under a sunshade and had coffee, it turns out they did breakfast too it was slightly disappointing to find somewhere so close for breakfast after we’d had quite a trek to the recommended cafe earlier that morning, however we had at least managed to eat there this time and the meal was well worth the walk. We sauntered round the park when we’d finished our coffee and discovered a large aviary where we sat and watched the birds for a while.
We would have liked to have gone into the museum that we saw in the park too but unfortunately it was closed. We did a lot of walking during the day then made our way back to our apartment to collect our luggage, as we had some time to kill we sat on a shady bench in the other lovely park that was opposite our apartment. The park had been made on the river bed of the diverted Turia River. It was a very popular area for joggers and cyclists so we sat for a while and people watched.
Once we’d collected our cases we set off to the underground station, it looked straight forward but pulling a wheelie case on dusty, stony paths was hard work, especially in the heat of the day. With hindsight we should have booked a taxi as we had on our way to the apartment. Nevertheless we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Valencia.