With a job now tucked away, I’m able to start making plans for the future here. I’m becoming aware of the need to start looking at logistics, such as finding an apartment in Barcelona, and when I get home, working out what I will and won’t bring with me. For now though, I’m enjoying my day in the sun.
I woke on a high this morning, a smile on my face and the words “I have a job…in BARCELONA!” buzzing around in my head, colliding noisily with the lining of my skull and echoing in my ears. I arrived in Valencia last night with only enough fuel to get me about 80km, which is the closest I’ve pushed it to empty for the entire trip. As much as 80km sounds like a lot, I am still driving the shitroen, so only half trust the gauge to be accurate; given how comfortable the car is to sit in and wait for help to come, the French may not have bothered with unimportant details such as accuracy in a fuel gauge. Anyway, the dwindling supply of fuel didn’t bother me any great deal, because I have a job!
I scored another pretty decent deal on the accommodation front, with a brand new three-star hotel near the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. Today, I got in the car and went for a day trip to Alicante, a seaside city with an impressive mountaintop castle on the beach. Driving down through many, many miles of orange grove, with crumbling castle ruins hanging off rocky precipices, I quickly found myself imagining a much lengthier drive through here in the years to come. There are orange groves back home, and they expand for miles, but the dramatic mountain ranges are miles away, and the crumbling castle ruins aren’t even worth looking for—they’re just not there.
The further south I went, the drier, and more rugged, the terrain became. Whilst I’ve never been to the Flinders Ranges back home, the hills around Alicante certainly make me think of them, or more specifically, the images I’ve seen of them. From a cursory glance at least, the city itself is as unremarkable as most mid-sized Spanish cities—lots of high-rise apartments crammed together. I went straight to the high point of the place (literally), the Castillo de Santa Barbara, perched on a high cliff above the beach.
For a day, I was able forget I was supposed to be tumbling into winter—it was in the mid-twenties (Celsius)—and there wasn’t a hint of a cloud or a puff of wind in the sky. On getting up into the Castillo, I looked out over the wall and wondered how anyone could’ve ever launched a successful raid on this place. From the south, a terraced staircase (no longer accessible) scaled the cliff-face from the beachside until close to the outer wall of the castle it disappeared into a subterranean tunnel; and on the southwest a longer, less steep version of the cliff face rose steadily from the city side. With the exception of besieging it until the occupants were starved out, there wasn’t a sane approach to the castle that wouldn’t involve scaling 50metres or more of cliff and castle wall.
It took the better part of two hours to fully explore the place, and as I wandered around the different sites, the sound of drums floated up to me from the beach. Thirty minutes after leaving the castillo, I was standing on the clean, white sand with the Mediterranean spread out in front of me. Already some weeks into the northern winter, it was like standing on the beach in Barcelona all those weeks earlier at the start of autumn, except here the crowds and tourists were absent, oh and did I mention it was winter? As I drove out of town (this time taking the N-340), magic hour arrived, and as it turned out, this road wound back and forth through beautiful desert mountains, and some of the most photogenic country I’d seen since Zaragoza.
Ultimately, the detour to Barcelona, and now a new detour back to Madrid, has meant my coastal drive is all but gone, but I’m glad I got to go to Alicante. My only regret is that I didn’t go to the cathedral. By the time I got to this part of the country, cathedrals were to me what mice are to a cat at the end of a mouse plague, so despite the brilliant blue domes on this one, I couldn’t bring myself to go into another. I guess I’ll take the time when I re-visit in the coming years, to take a closer look at this, and the orange groves south of Valencia, particularly with my camera.