Travel Review: Walking in Spain
- Credit: Archant
HIGH in the hills there is the occasional distant glimpse of hilltop villages, sprawling coastal towns and the sparkling Mediterranean.
The walk has begun about 10.30am after a mini-bus ride from our base at Parcent in Valencia and now members of the party are sitting on rocks while they enjoy their picnic lunch.
In the warm spring sunshine we later descend to the bottom of a ravine and then up the 1,000 steps of a steep, ancient path once used by Arab traders and their mules.
The area in which we walk is only an hour’s drive from Alicante Airport but a world away from the ugly villa and apartment developments of Benidorm and the rest of the Costa Blanca.
As we travel around the coastal belt the sight of inappropriate hill and cliff top development is never far away but the hilltop village of Parcent, our base, has escaped the horror, partly due to the election of a “green” mayor.
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Parcent has a population of 1,100 people, less than half of them Spanish. There is a beautiful church, a large social club with a stage and walls of beautiful tiles, a small supermarket, two bakeries, a couple of restaurants, a pharmacy and five women’s hairdressing salons!
Down the valley there are vineyards and orchards of olives, oranges and almonds, the latter still in bloom.
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A few hundred yards from our small hotel is a bodega where we taste the local wines before buying a bottle each to take home.
Our hosts at Casa Casacarrascal, a reburbished town house in one of Parcent’s narrow streets, are David and Sue Eaton.
This hard-working, energetic couple not only lead the daily walks in the surrounding region they also cook and serve the meals which fortify their guests at both ends of the day.
It is a highly organised operation with breakfast served promptly at 9 am and transport to the starting points of walks setting off an hour later.
By mid or late afternoon guests have completed their day’s walk of between seven and ten miles and are happily ensconced in a bar.
Early evening sees David and Sue in the kitchen of the town house they have turned into a small hotel, focussed on providing delicious three-course meals, with wine included.
Casa Casacarrascal is the base for a holiday called Vistas of Valencia which is one of a series in Europe and elsewhere offered by the Headwater company.
The accommodation is of a traditional style, the six rooms and top floor flat having thick walls and relatively small windows aimed at keeping out the fierce heat of the Spanish summer.
There is a first floor courtyard terrace and we have lunch there on arrival from Alicante Airport where David was waiting with a mini-bus.
Apart from myself there are eight other guests, including three couples and everyone has breakfast and dinner around the same table, which makes for a very social “house party” atmosphere.
The walks through majestic mountains and along the coast provide panoramic views at every turn and we pass ruined villages and deserted dwellings. It being spring, there are many wild flowers to see, including several varieties of orchid.
It is Sue who has the “orchid eyes”, searching out the flowers amidst the other vegetation and identifying them - when we might have just walked by oblivious.
For the walks are not route marches. While some climbs are strenuous, everyone has the freedom to stop and admire the wildlife and the views.
There are also regular stops to take on water and, of course, to enjoy a picnic lunch, also provided by David and Sue.
Of the six walks in the week’s programme my favourite started from the outskirts of the town of Moraira. The route took us down a ravine to a tiny cove once used by smugglers and then up the hillside and along the coast under towering limestone cliffs.
Our “day off” was supposed to be a trip to the regional capital, the city of Valencia. But it is the day of a big fiesta and David and Sue advise that it would be uncomfortably crowded.
So we are taken instead to the coastal town of Denia where the fiesta - featuring a parade of costumed inhabitants, giant Disney-style sculptures and the letting off of thousands of firecrackers - is on a relatively smaller scale.
Vistas of Valencia was a marvellous holiday, extremely well organised and very social as everyone in the party got on well together.