Now with less than two weeks left, Alicia and I embarked on our time alone phase – my favorite time.
We continued to enjoy Valencia and the now familiar restaurants, churches, plazas and good wine. We also embarked upon several one-day side trips outside the city.
Costa Blanco – Sun, Sea and Sand
We headed southeast to the Costa Blanco area of Spain along Hwy 337. We discovered Playa de Bellreguard, a small beach town with soft, clean sand and only a few sun worshipers. A relaxing stop for lunch – 10€ for salad, fish, cheesecake and drink (too bad I was driving, as beer or wine was also offered in the price).
Then we drove along some amazing cliff views and overhanging restaurants with beautiful views near Xiena. Continuing south, we searched out more coastal roads hugging the Mediterranean. Saw a mixture of simple homes, super expensive homes, beaches, marinas, and beautiful shorelines.
Head North for Wine
A few days later, we headed to Chera, about an hour drive towards Madrid. Earlier, I met a gentleman and his wife in a pharmacy who helped me ask a question in Spanish. He mentioned they spent weekends in Chera, where his wife was born. He said it is beautiful and he rented his home for 160€ per month.
What he didn’t say was it’s in a large valley of wine estates and olive groves. Chera is indeed beautiful, but the real find was the surrounding areas and towns.
The day was perfect, in the 70s and blue sky. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and the wineries were closed for tours and tasting. So we decided to take back roads towards Utiel, 15 miles away, and well-known for its wineries. A beautiful castle-like estate caused us to stop. Wandering around the closed grounds, we interrupted the estate owner’s outside lunch with his family. Although we were not asked to join, we were able to ask several questions of the obviously proud owner.
The Castle of Sagunto
For our last all-day journey, we chose the remains of the Roman city of Saguntum in Sagunto.
Sagunto has much to see and is only a 45-minute drive towards Barcelona. We followed the signs to Old Town and tried to drive up to the main church. With typical European old, narrow streets, we ultimately decided to park and walk.
Beautiful views as we climbed the 4-6% grade. At Ermita de Santisimo Cristo, a small church, we walked the Stations of the Cross in the outside courtyard and enjoyed several other depictions of Jesus’s life before climbing the stone path towards the Castle of Sagunto.
Continuing to explore, we found a charming outdoor restaurant for lunch, Le fou, where I discovered it’s best to ask “what kind of fish?” but also learned a sardine appetizer is not as bad as it sounds.
After lunch, we continued up to the castle. This took us to the Teatro – an old Amphitheater converted into an outdoor music venue – where we were treated to the orchestra’s prep for the evening’s show. We encountered more spectacular views of the city and its blue-domed churches.