The journey here was quite something. We started off in grey skies in rush-hour Bilbao in the Basque country. It’s always slightly nerve-wracking leaving the ferry and this time even more so as we hadn’t planned the next part of the journey whatsoever! No Google Maps or road atlas prep – and no rough idea of how to get to our destination other than an address which didn’t even register in Doris, our faithful GPS who was busy “searching for satellites”.
Now, this goes quite against the grain for me, for my PeopleMaps personality report extract hits it on the head “I’m well-organised and like to take control”! But this section of the trip was under Martin’s lead and he’d elected to abdicate it mostly to fate…
Doris got it together pretty soon, and off we set under ominous, pregnant dark grey clouds. Passing through Rioja country – the vineyards laid out in orderly procession across rich burnt orange earth – the predominant wildlife, undetermined birds of prey.
The scrubland looks like its made from the same materials used to construct model railways through the neighbouring region of Nevarra. At mid-day, it’s only 18 Celcius, but there’s a residual heat here in this land of earth which is a deep yellow ochre, with silver broom and giant wind turbines in the aqua blue sky with long, flat cirrus clouds. The Nevarra mountains our constant companion, as are the birds of prey.
And onwards, into the badlands of Aragon, we detour past Zaragoza – a huge metropolis in the midst of a desert, not stopping to enquire about the mega Casino project underway, even when Doris loses track of all the new developments and we set off determinedly in the wrong direction along the AP2 motorway (accompanied by her cries of protestation to take the N232, through the mountains).
After an hour or so, and a conversation with a local at a service station we give in to Doris and head back towards Alcaniz, expecting Cowboys and Indians to appear at anytime. Slowly and uncertainly we make our way along the N232 in 24 Celcius afternoon sunshine, the toffees and caramels of this land combined with the dark green punctuations of cactus clinging tenaciously on precarious root systems reminding us of ever more of a wild west panorama. Tumbleweed rolls across the road to add to the effect.
Next to come are the El Maestrazgo mountains, a steel grey sky and heavy rain. Spectacular views, despite the weather and we know we’ve probably added at least 3 hours onto our journey (perhaps the motorway was the quickest way after all) but oh, it is worth it – tiny villages cling on to the mountainous terraces, tiny flashes of white in an ocean of green tree-tops. It’s quite chilly now and the rain is lashing down when we come upon the magnificence of the medieval fortress town of Morella. We don’t stop to visit the town, topped by its impenetrable Castle where the regions of Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia meet. It’s late, we’re tired and it’s very, very wet.
Another couple of hours and we’ve made it to this holiday town of apartments upon apartments, lots of beach and the welcome of Carmen, her sister and mother. Elegant ladies from Bilbao, they give us the key to our 8th house-swap apartment and after a quick supermarket shop (there ain’t no organic specialties here) we retire gratefully to our new beds. Our home and place of respite for one week. Sun? Check. Sea? Check. Tapas? Check.
Wish you were here …
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