It’s a glorious time of year to be in Spain. We arrived last August so we missed the spring and early summer which every guide book in the land will assert is one of the best times to enjoy this country. Every week the temperatures creep up, and although we have had some high winds and some showers, we can feel the change in the air. The house is pleasantly warm all day and night and the long trousers have been put away for a few months.
El Puig continues to impress us with a variety of festivities, including fiestas and firework displays, and we have been invited to a street party for all of the neighbours at the end of the month.
Recently the bull running activities reappeared, specifically for our part of town, and they took place on two consecutive Saturdays. Huge metal gates began to appear in various streets nearby, and every house around us erected metal barriers at their front doors. Thankfully we had a protective door of our own (albeit wooden) which a neighbour assisted in fitting. Our local square was provided with a layer of sand and all cars were required to be moved elsewhere in preparation for the bull running.
We had to make sure that we returned home in good time on the first Saturday, otherwise the streets would have been closed and we would have been unable to reach the front door. As the bulls would be running through our street we decided to observe the action from our front terrace. Regardless of our views concerning the ethical issues raised by such activities, we are ultimately immersed in Spanish village life, and it is a huge part of the culture here, so we watched with interest from our safe vantage point.
It was a real party atmosphere which lasted all day and night, and several bulls were individually released to run through the streets around us. They were taunted by a proportion of the males attending and the poor creatures were confused and frightened which left us feeling sad but, as a spectacle, and witnessing ‘real’ Spanish living it was an experience.
We decided to leave El Puig for the following weekend so that we could avoid the repeat bull running fiesta. We took ourselves to Albarracin which is almost two hours away in the mountains near the ski resorts of Teruel. It often features in lists of Spain’s most beautiful or picturesque towns and it certainly won us over instantly.
We spent the day enjoying a beautiful riverside walk around the perimeter of the town followed by ascending the hill by the city walls to reveal incredible views over the rooftops. In the evening we ate at a gorgeous little restaurant that was tucked away in one of the many narrow streets near the cathedral and had a superb meal. It was incredible value at 35euros for the three of us including drinks at La Taba Restaurant
Our accommodation was a small place just outside the main town which was perfect for the three of us. After breakfast we drove to the adjacent national park, ‘Pinares de Rodeno’ where we enjoyed more breathtaking views and walking. It’s a forest that features cave paintings and is a favourite with those into ‘bouldering’, so we really enjoyed clambering around on the rocks and taking a picnic in such beautiful surroundings.
This weekend we enjoyed more walking and exploring, this time closer to home, in our local mountain range The Sierra Calderona, which sits behind El Puig. There is an instantly recognisable mountain within this mountain range called La Mola which we have wanted to climb since arriving. It can be easily identified because of its flat summit (giving it the appearance of a molar tooth) and is clearly visible from various roads around here.
We drove to a mountain village called Segart and made our way along the dusty track which eventually became a steep scramble through the pine trees towards the summit. Lizzy, being a fairly experience mountain walker already, was determined to manage alone and get to the top first, and she did incredibly well, being rewarded with a picnic at the top. As we expected the views were amazing, across to our most local peak, Monte Picayo, and out to sea, along with the city of Valencia to the south and further mountain ranges to the north. The trip back down was much more problematic, being steep and stony, and Lizzy took a couple of falls and had to be carried some of the way. Back at Segart we retired to the local bar for well deserved refreshments and her grazes were soon forgotten.
We are feeling genuinely grateful for our lifestyle here, being able to spend so much time outside and explore the fantastic surroundings. Now there are only five weeks of term left before Selena and Lizzy can enjoy the freedom of summer.