From orange groves to mountain passes.

Trip Start May 30, 2013
Trip End Nov 25, 2013

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Central Spain.

Flag of Spain  , Castile-La Mancha,
Saturday, June 22, 2013

3 score years and 10 are worth celebrating , so it was off to another World Heritage site, for Garry to escape his BIG birthday. Our 3 day weekend began with a journey by car with friends Richard & Vivienne, driving south ,to just north of  Valencia, before turning inland and starting what was to become an ‘inland circle’ road tour of central Spain, reaching almost as far as Madrid. The route  was what seemed to me, a “soft” part of Spain -  heading South with the green of Orange trees on both sides of  the road for as far as we could see.. We are told it is Spanish custom, that anyone may stop and pick 3 oranges only, each day, from any orchard for their own consumption….this seems like a good custom to us.
The travelling was most enjoyable,  with rolling countryside,  lots of cropping, olive groves, wheat fields freshly planted, and fields of young sunflowers (what a sight they will be in bloom) .Wind farms on the peaks and lots of solar panels on rooftops of many of the little villages .
The drive took nearly 4 hours to  Cuenca and it is another World Heritage site….
.A spectacular spot with its fame being due to the famous Casas  Colgadas ( Hanging Houses) . Arriving later in the day we walked through the newer part (where we were staying ) to the river that runs around the base and access to hilltop medieval Cuenca - sounds like QWENKA.Walking up the ‘oneway vehicle access’ hillside, we only had to look up and see the houses and balconies hanging out into the void above. Taking in the wonderful buildings and sheer age of the surroundings, we were glad to be able to return the next morning - getting there early (before the tourists), by taking the vehicle right up through the old village and parking at the top, then wandering slowly down through the little lanes till we reached the Cathedral and square. The original fortress was built by the Arabs in 7th century , but Napoleon was responsible for its complete destruction. (stupid man!!)
We had been told not to miss another site 35 miles North East of Cuenca , known as the Enchanted City, (or La Cuidad Encantada) so set off after our  wonderful morning to explore another one of the world’s wonders - right up in the hills , amongst a pine forest, lies a field of what looks like “Giants marbles”….this national site is of interest due to its huge rock formations  , that over time have been sculptured by water, ice and wind and taken on shapes we recognise in other forms- e.g. 2 babies kissing, a Rastafarian , a submarine out of water, an elephants foot, and the largest, a battle taking place between an elephants trunk and an alligator….of course one needs to use “one’s imagination” too, but YES they ARE all there and just huge!!!!….BUT boy what a walk . For the whole 3 days we never encountered another English voice,  nor any instructions about anything in English- This is fairly common in the centre of Spain - as the English speaking tourists stick mainly to the coast and no visitor information is ever in English.......and so it was after a 2 hour wander, in the hottest part of the day, that we eventually found our way back to the road and welcome shade 
Each evening we sat in the small Piazza , in the shade of the large oak trees (sun still  high in the sky at 8pm)  either eating an icecream or a cold drink, taking in the ‘people’ and listening to the wandering musicians - always with their hat out, for a few euros, but really adding to the atmosphere
Our last morning and we headed South East towards Teruel .,stopping at “The devils window” along the journey, to contemplate the drop and depth of the river Jucars  ravine more than 200 metres below, located in the Southern Aragon region. After travelling through little settlements  and beautiful countryside, we entered a town through the most amazing gorge - looking back we could not even see where the road was, and looked up to see another village hanging from rocks, with the Medieval, fortified walls marching up in both directions to either side of the ravine (one with a huge castle- we were in Albarracin…. The year 1165 tells of  its beginnings.    (those with  the time, could google it, as our pics do not give the overall majesty of the village).      According to travel writers , it is the least known and most breathtaking place in Spain-   very narrow streets dribbled on the hillside, with its 4 and 5 storied buildings leaning inwards till they almost touch - there is very little light coming in from the sky, creating very dark alleyways leading to private doorways. We would have loved to stay longer, but still had an hours drive to Teruel. So exited through a long  tunnel barely wide enough for the car, cut through the rock and ravine underneath this village of Albarracin
Teruel…another fortified  old Spanish city, but with a more modern look,. Having been flattened by Franco  during the Spanish unrest. 140,000 lives were lost in a 2 month period from December 37 till February 1938, when Franco and his troops battled for control of  the town  ,and its inhabitants and destroyed many beautiful buildings . The original viaduct and aqua duct that fed water to the  town, is amazingly, still intact. Muslim and Jewish communities with their Mudejar towers built by Moorish craftsmen over 3 centuries from 1171 still stand in the centre of town as does the majestic church. The viaduct and aqua duct came much later (16th century)….
A 2 hour drive back down to the coast  , passing under a field of  wind farms on the final stand of mountain ranges (all looking like giant children  waving their arms in the wind),  to home …..  finally arriving back in Alcoceber ( our base) in the sunshine at 9pm , after another 3 days full of amazing sights, leaving lasting  memories .
To celebrate Garry turning 70!!!! We joined with friends on Tuesday at a seaside café and enjoyed a ‘menu del dia’ (meal of the day) for 12 Euros each- 4 courses and wine:
  great value !!!!!  the lovely Spanish owner even providing a bottle of bubbles as he came out with the “celebratory” burning 2 candles “70”…..a 3 hour lovely Spanish luncheon.......
     7 ‘Anglo saxons’ and 1 KIWI  (me)   - unfortunately socialising with the Spanish people is out of the question with the language barrier…..they do try to converse, but apart from picking out the odd word in ‘written word‘, it is simply impossible to understand them. I searched in vain on a few occasions for anyone whom I thought may speak English over the past 3 days, when we were struggling with directions - when you think maybe you have a possibility , “any Englaise? I ask… ……….”” they launch into a fountain of Spanish and you are left shaking your head in vain- till you can stop them. Apparently the 2nd most noisiest race on the planet - and we believe it!!!!
Next blog, see you from Nice France. G & J.
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glenna gray on

Happy Birthday!!! I celebrated the big 70 earlier this month. Congratulations on a life well lived. May we all have many more. We have so many exciting places left to see. :-)

Katie Carter on

LOVES!!! Miss you xoxox

Ken & Jackie on

Happy 70th Gary, lovely to get your news and look forward to more from you. Hope your next 10 years will be as happy as mine were! The big 80 comes at the end of next week! Love to you both.

Peter & Barbara on

Happy 70th Birthday Garry! Have a great day!

Lots of love, Peter & Barbara xx

Lynda on

Hi Jan & Garry.great to get all of your news on the 'blog'. Wish I had been at your birthday party Garry it looked like a wonderfulspot.
I have been 'olive picking' in the south island and once again had a great time. Bloody cold but beautiful. We even got snow around the house in Bannockburn and Queenstown is picture perfect. Take care - looking forward to your next update................cheers

Jo Hodgart on

Happy Birthday Gary ! Thanks for amazing pics,glad you had great time,roll on france !love Jo X

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