We had a 468 KM drive to the south west coast of Spain to our friends town Los Areneles del Sol, that is just south of the port city of Alicante. We pressed for 5 hours on the highway and made it in good time. We had pretty good weather and the temperature warmed up to 26 at the coast.
We had met João (joam) and Ania on our boat when we were in the Galapagos for 2 weeks in 2014 and then again later the same month in Mancora Peru. They were so nice to ask us to come stay at the beach. We spent the first evening recounting to each other the stories of our trips in south America. They had traveled by bus, but eventually bought a car in Chile and did the Ruta 40 and Carretera Austral like we did. It was great to share stores and some good Spanish wine. Dan still managed to get up for the sun rise.
João planned a full day for us of sightseeing.
We stated with a visit to Xixona, which is a picturesque village on the hills near Alicante. We walked up to the church on the top and enjoyed a drink in the square.
We then drove further up into the hills on what would be a great motorcycle rode to the village of El Castell de Guadalest, which was where one the site of one of the last captured castles in the Arab conquest of Spain.
“After the disappearance of the Caliphate at the beginning of the 11 th century, the Muslim Hispanic faced a fragmentation into small independent kingdoms. There are remains of the palaces or citadels (Arabian al-qasaba or fortified citadel), belonging to the monarchs. The building of the Castle of saint Joseph was started in the 11 th century. During the 13 th century and especially in its second third the Christian kingdoms started to conquer the Muslim territory. The area of Alicante was turned into the crossroads of the Reconquest since the neighboring rival kingdoms of Valencia and Murcia both wanted the lands for their crowns of Aragon and Castlie. In 1644 a large boulder was torn off the castle in an earthquake. In 1708 during the Spanish war of Succession a mine explosion destroyed the western aisle. In 1848 the walls surrounding the castle were knocked down. “
We continued up to the small village of Benimantell to the popular Venta de Montagne restaurant to enjoy a local specialty of “aroz al Horno” or baked rice. It is sort of a rendition of paella.
Then it was drove back to the city for a tour of the old barrios of Alicante and a Mojito at Ania’s favorite dive bar. Parking in this city is insane!
Today we need to book it north as we need to be in Milan in 6 days time to meet the King and Queen of Sweden!! We took a slightly less direct, but more scenic route to Ainsa near the french border after 657 km. The first bit is a back track towards Madrid, but we started north at Almansa.
The route from here is on secondary road.
There are several sections of narrow winding mountain crossings and several long tunnels. It varied from 9 to 22 degrees celcius. The road is highway from South of Zargosa until Huesca. The last 90 km is on a very narrow winding road along a river to the small town on Ainsa which sits between two rivers. So the Dos Rios hotel it is!
Getting up in the morning we have a 5 hours drive to Carcassonne, but we want to arrive there early enough to take in the medieval city. The day started out sunny in Spain, but only 6 degrees and so a bit brisk. Then it warmed up to 9 about an hour later. Todays ride was again on small windy roads. We took the secondary route thru Foix.
The road comes to a tunnel on the Spain side that says Francia 1 km, the tunnel is one way when there are campers and trucks, and the tunnel is open 24 hours. That all sounds good. We managed to time it perfectly for going in our direction. It was 6 degrees in the tunnel, but only 1 degree when we came out on the cold cloudy French side. The road was a bit damp and thus scary at that temperature. As well there was snow at the side of the road and we were essentially in the clouds.
Visibility improved enough to see that a huge transport truck was bearing down on us even on the tight switchbacks. He was driving the thing like a Ferrari and once we were down the pass we let him by us. Nice guy though as he gave us the big wave when we ran into him at a round about an hour later. His “faster route” was not I guess.
There was a certain lack of petrol stations on our route and we arrived to the hotel with 7 km left.
After a quick change we were off to see the ancient Cite of Carcassone. This is a walled medieval town on a hilltop. There streets are cobbled and lined with shops selling postcards, lavender, and other typical French items. We had a lunch of Duck cassoulet and crepes.
“Hilltop Carcassonne, in southern France’s Languedoc region, is a medieval citadel famous for its 53 watchtowers and double-walled fortifications. The first walls of the upper town, Le Cité, were built in Gallo-Roman times; major additions were made in the 13th and 14th centuries. Château Comtal, a 12th-century fortress within Le Cité, offers archaeological exhibits and a tour of the inner ramparts.”
Walking on the bridge “in the blue hour” Dan got some great shots of the city at night.