Thursday, 25 September 2014

Autumn on the Costa

The season has turned. Thunderstorms are forecast along the Costa del Sol for the foreseeable future. We sailed south from Valencia yesterday under scudding heavy cloud, with Alex zipped up in Gortex, and Claudia happy to spend most of the trip down below reading. By evening we were tied up  in Calpe, a fishing town turned low-rent tourist resort which may once have had some charm but on a wet and cheerless autumn evening was stripped of anything to justify the high season prices charged by the yacht club.

Looking south from Capo San Antonio towards Calpe

Penon de Ifach looms over the entrance to Calpe harbour

Enki's spot, opposite the fishing fleet

Such good mussels at Calpe - and the swordfish was the freshest  ever

It's cool now in the mornings, and pitch black at 7 am. Summer time, like summer fruit, is on quick fade. You can only take so much disappointment, and in Palma the peaches gave us the message. Move on. We have already -  persimmons and figs are the new favourites in our breakfast bowl of muesli (let's not talk about Spanish yoghurt, please. Greece has our lifelong allegiance on that score alone).

Autumn fruit bowl (and while we're talking food, tapas below)

Grilled octopus on potatoes

Fresh tuna and fresh Valencia tomatoes (the town doesn't just do oranges)

Alex has been saying for a few weeks now that we need to get moving, that it was getting late if we wanted to get out of the Med and down to the Canaries. But it was hard to take his anxiety seriously with temperatures over 30 degrees during the day. It was still hot when we arrived in Valenica from Palma a week ago. That was a longer, and more difficult overnight passage than we'd anticipated. Wind on the nose, sea on the nose, current on the nose, passing traffic on the nose - everything on the nose, for hour after hour.

Wet decks, and a bit of a lean

The mainstay team

The sidekick

After that pounding, the allure of city life was powerful. Valencia kept us for six days, not least because we found Marina Real Joan Carlos I, where the America's Cup challenges of 2007 and 2010 were held, to our liking and even more so when our Australian friends from Marmaris days, Kevin and Mei on Whisper HR, sailed in from Barcelona. That was a treat.

Mei always knows her stuff

Kevin is a gourmand - tapas and beer in Grau, the marina neighbourhood

We felt we had a link to Valencia - albeit at several removes. Of course there was the Cup (which NZ didn't bring home though the shed with the Emirates Team NZ logo is still standing), but also Madi came here a few years back on student exchange, and Sam followed to visit.  Claudia roamed Razuffa, a funky neighbourhood recommended by Madi. Alex and I did what we like to do - mix up old and new. We found a lot to enjoy in this city, especially its relaxed pace and its lovely spaces.

The grandeur and elegance of the old town were a surprise. How many regional European towns have we said that about? Today's also-ran city was more than likely yesterday's centre of power, and though the money moves on, it leaves a trail because they built differently back then (well, until the 20th century). In Valencia, along with the city walls and the churches and so on (all the usual impressive stuff), there's the over-the-top Palace of the Marques de Dos Aguas, built as a private "home" by an 18th century dandy with money to burn, and a huge need to make that fact known. Those guys didn't go away - they' re in Moscow, in Los Angeles, in London and on the Med in their super yachts - but will they leave such a gloriously joyous trace as this marques? Check the detail on his front door.

The Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas

Go to the front door

Two carriages in the garage (well, on display)

The upper storeys of the palace house a vast collection of Valencia ceramics

For the record - because Alex too leaves a wonderful trail - here is Valencia on the street, and in the market, at the beach, all our favourite haunts in other words.

Playa de las Arenas, on the north side of the marina

Wishful commerce

Valencia streetscapes (and below)

Valencia is known as the city which invented paella

The central market, built in 1928

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