Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Les Cases D'Alcanar, Spain: In Between Cataluña, Valencia, and Aragón

Synopsis: Ainhoa has been telling me about her parent's beach house that is on the Costa Dorada, in the province of Tarragona, right on the edge of Cataluña and Valencia, and near to many natural sites, including beaches, mountains, and the Delta del Ebro. Although we've invited a few others to go with us, no one else can make it, so we will venture out on our own. 

You gotta look at the castle from a different point of view

Day 1: We arrived super early this morning after driving through kilometers of intense fog, yet, no sleeping in for us! The weather is sunny and we head south into Valencia, to our first stop, Vinaroz. It's a quaint town and quiet during the day. We walk along the boardwalk and pier, venture through the city a bit, before heading back to the car.

Next stop is Peñíscola (yeah, I know, haha), known for it's well-protected castle, connected only by a small strip of land, and also known for its annual comedy film festival. We tour around the historic castle area and the adjacent beaches before picking a restaurant and having dinner. Funny, I randomly run into one of my students, a doctor and avid sailor, who is vacationing nearby. They say Pamplona es un pañuelo (Pamplona is a handkerchief), but it seems it's a small world after all.

I know I'm treading on eggshells here, but Valencian and Catalan are quite similar. Thanks to my background in French and my foreground in Spanish (it's a joke, don't worry if you don't get it), I am able to understand a bit of the two languages written. 

Of course I had to do a handstand in Vinaroz. I love the spiraled columns, common in the area.

A castle floating in the ocean in Peñíscola.

Day 2: After a hearty breakfast, we head north to the Delta del Ebro, a large delta and wildlife reserve. There are so many birds and so many different kinds. We first stop at part of the wildlife reserve near Riumar and walk around. We have clear skies and great views of the sea and the delta. We planned to take a river cruise but the place we stopped at was closed for the day.

Later, we head back to Deltebre and walk along a very cool bridge that connects to Sant Jaume d'Enveja, and has several signs with the history and culture surrounding the Ebro river. And, then we see other river cruise operators running cruises. We picked the wrong one!

We continue through the Delta del Ebro to El Trabucador, but before arriving, we stop at a bird watching outpost to check out flamingos and other birds whose names I can't remember. When we arrive at El Trabucador, it's a giant strip of land, all sand, that separates the freshwater of the delta and the salt water of the sea. We brought food and set up a picnic as we watch the sunset.

As night falls it begins to get chilly, so we pack up and head back to the house. The night is still young, so we whip out Rummikub and have a fun and intense battle (it was very one-sided and she had no mercy on me).

These rock statues were all over the region, with different faces or animals

Stretching on top of the bridge

All the little white dots are birds. There are so many birds. 

What better advertising is there?

No, I didn't eat the whole cake. Just like 90%

Day 3: I promised Ainhoa I would go against my better judgement, and run with her in the morning. I had an extra hour of sleep thanks to daylight savings time, so I should have the energy, right? After the longest 7km ever, we find a nice peninsula with a perfect area for a workout. I get to test out my new jump rope while listening to the sea breeze and waves. 

We grab lunch and then head inland to the region of Aragón (that makes three in one trip: Cataluña, Valencia, and Aragón). Our first stop is Valderrobres, which looks painstakingly like Estella... There is a large castle/fortress/museum on top of the hill, but once you've seen four hundred and thirty-two thousand six hundred and eighteen castle/church/fortress/museums, you've seen em' all, so we don't go in.

Next stop is Calaceite, a no-stoplight town, yet full of twisting and turning alleys and interesting architecture. Today is Halloween, and I didn't realize that it was celebrated in Spain, as we see pumpkin patches and kids dressed up, walking with their parents to the festivities. 

We continue on to Morella, the fortified city well known for how amazing it looks at night with its castle walls lit up. We arrive just before sunset and walk around - or rather up and down - the sloped city streets. There is a park outside the castle walls and we see a giant wooden slide that looks like it's going to be awesome... breath held and now dying - it was not awesome, it was slow and not awesome. We were going to go into the castle but it will close within 30 minutes and we won't be able to see and do everything, so we decide not to go in. As night falls, it gets chilly again and we prepare to leave so that we can admire the city from afar. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to set the clock back on the automatic lights, and they never came on while we were still able to the see the city. So, we drive away with only darkness behind us.

We do make a quick stop in Vinaroz again to pick up some honey that Ainhoa's parents like and to try Rocas de Vinaroz, a local pastry that is quite popular and consists of egg whites, almonds, sugar, and honey. They are a bit crunchy and break very easily. They are worth trying but I didn't buy any extras to take home.

Kettlebells, jump rope, TRX, and me: My portable gymnasium

Valderrobres bridge separating the historic center from the non historic outer parts.

It's all about the symmetry... sort of

Running down the hill and jumping was probably not the smartest move

The views and sunset were just breathtaking

Day 4: The long weekend is over and it's time to head home. We see so much more of the countryside now in the daytime than we did coming due to it being night and foggy. We make a quick stop in Xerta to buy some mandarinas (tangerines), since the whole time driving around the area, all we've seen is mandarinos (tangerine tree). We make another quick stop in some-town-I-can't-remember the-name-of to eat a snack and look out on the "sea" of Aragón. (update: the town is called Caspe).

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this trip. Ainhoa planned everything since she spent many holidays in the area and knew what was good to see. Of course, we'll have to go back and see Morella at night and do a few other things that we didn't get a chance to do. 

Location: 43569 Les Cases d'Alcanar, Tarragona, Spain


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