A Palace and Hiking

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a week since I last posted, but we have been busy!

On Tuesday morning we left France via the pretty village of Ainhoa. It would be nice to write that it was a smooth journey but with many miles of road like a washboard and a lesson in why the fridge door should always be locked when moving, it wasn’t! Luckily we didn’t end up with scambled eggs all over the floor and some gaffer tape has temporarily fixed the fridge door.

We stopped at the quaint town of Olite, having read in a guide book about a fairy tale castle that sounded worth visiting. It certainly was. For a bargain €3.50 we got to wander around the Royal Palace of Olite. And not just a few rooms like in most historic buildings, but the whole place, every tower, turret, nook and cranny. The building was started in the 13th century, was in use in to the 16th century but was burnt down and left in ruins from 1813. In 1937 restoration and rebuilding work lasting 30 years was started leaving us with this impressive building. If you are in the area it’s well worth a visit, as is the town. We would have stayed longer in the free aire but were keen to continue our journey south. We ended up stopping for the night in Arguedas, a town that was quiet and felt deserted, certainly unloved.

The next morning we were soon back on the road, keen to see the sun and find somewhere we felt we could stay for a few days and plan the next stages of our trip. We’d read some good reviews about a campsite in El Palomar and although it meant driving most of the day we thought it was worth the journey. This time we remembered to lock the fridge, and a good job we did too. A combination of the fuel light coming on and a bit of my OCD meant we had to find fuel in Valencia and that involved a fair bit of heavy traffic, fast bends in the road and some crazy Spanish driving. Luckily we survived. Refuelled, we drove the short distance to El Palomar and found the campsite. With it’s privet hedges and gravel pitches it wasn’t what either of us would call ideal as we prefer open plan camping, but we did feel we could relax there for a few days.

On Thursday we went for stroll in the surrounding area. It wasn’t the prettiest of walks, but it was nice to wander past orange trees. The smell of the blossom was so intense and a couple of oranges we picked tasted unlike any I’d had before, they were the best! We passed through the town of Albaida with its impressive 14th century church and after seeing just a couple of people wondered where everyone was. Apart from Valencia the towns we’ve seen have been so quiet.

That evening we managed to get together more of a hit list of places we wanted to stop at, so on Friday morning we headed south to the Sierra Espuña mountains. By the early afternoon we were just outside our destination, but we didn’t stop. Lisa saw my jaw drop and I explained that from the road I’d seen that the motorhomes were packed in like sardines – no thank you! Luckily we had an alternative campsite a few miles away. Those few miles were mostly uphill, but through increasingly stunning scenery, so we knew we were on to a winner! We arrived at Camping Sierra Espuña and soon found a spot we liked with a view over the village of El Berro. Late afternoon we went for a walk around the village and found the few shops closed and just the bars open, not that anyone was in them.

El Berro

Saturday was a day for hiking. We had read the area was good for it and had seen on the Viewranger app that there were plenty of trails. We popped in to the village for some bread and anything else we would need for the weekend. We also bought what we thought was a savoury pastry. It was in fact sweet and tasted like leftovers swept off the floor and then cooked.

As we left the campsite we took a photo of the main map of the area and after a quick discussion at the first signpost promptly headed off in the wrong direction! We soon realised and turned back. The walk up to the highest point was at a fairly steady gradient, nothing too taxing and most of the time there was the pleasant smell of pine resin in the air. At one point we rounded a corner to be rewarded with a spectacular view. We’d only just had lunch but wished we’d waited and stopped there. Further up the trail we found the ice houses we’d read about. For several hundred years until the 19th century compacted snow was stored in these deep buildings and transported down the mountain and sold to the wealthy. Soon after we reached the highest point of the walk and then descended down a steep, narrow and rocky path. It would have definitely been easier to go up rather than down.

We were out for over 6 hours and walked over 12 miles. It was our first hike for a month and it felt like it.

Now it’s Sunday, a day of rest. It’s late afternoon, 22 degrees and sunny – perfect..


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