(Israel, si estás leyendo esto, por favor envíenos un correo electrónico !!! Nos gustaría estar en contacto contigo!)
The Paper Chase leads us to Alcoy, a big town (or little city) in a lush valley. We find a great parking place next to Parque Romeral, just below an enchanted looking dilapidated house. Frank goes off to find the cigarette papers and I use the time and quiet to write and to practice the bandoneon. It is great to have got back to a regular rhythm of practicing about 2 hours per day.
About lunchtime a young man, Ernesto, knocks on our door. It is unusual for people to contact us – generally we are the ones that open a conversation. Having been alerted by his friend Israel about us parking up by Parque Romeral, he has come to see our van. It is his dream to one day have a van like this and go travelling, once he has finished his studies in design.
We get chatting to them both, and one thing leading to another, we arrange to meet in the evening to be taken to a Fiesta in town.
When they come to pick us up we are quite a group; Israel has brought his 5 year old nephew Alex with him, and Ernesto’s girlfriend Minerva is there too. Along the way we stop off a few more times to chat with people we meet, and one of them joins us for the fiesta.
We flow along with the pace of these people, unhurriedly strolling through town and taking in the sights. The central square has many tables out where young and old people alike are drinking and chatting. We join that crowd for a while before going up the hill to a place to eat but find it is closed, so back down to somewhere else that has benches out in the middle of the street. We leisurely share a dozen Tapas and Frank and I strain our ears to keep up with the conversation (there is a dialect here, Valenciano, which apparently is similar to Catalan, which in turn has many elements of French in it). Eventually we arrive at the Fiesta well after they have started, it’s almost midnight. Little Alex, who’s been running around us all evening like an excited puppy, is finally flagging and falling asleep in my arms. We walk down to the river and then take a taxi back home.
The next day, they knock on the van at 10 am to take us on a walk. Alex greets us with a big bear hug – it feels like we have known each other for many years. We wait for Ernesto who turns up with his pet white rat (!) and then we set off down towards the river. For 6km we follow a beautiful winding path through the woods along the river, accompanied by the sound of nightingales. Along the way, Alex is hunting for flowers (we successfully persuade him to leave the orchids), running before us, then behind, then by the side… he must cover about three times the distance to us adults! The rat gets passed from person to person, and our gentle stroll is accompanied by gentle conversation. It really doesn’t feel like we only just met. There is no trying to find out about each other, there is just being with each other, as if we’re longstanding friends.
Before we know it, the 6km have passed and we come to a series of waterfalls, creating pools on various levels. While we chill out there, a marathon passes us – over 1000 people running 48km in this heat (it is over 30degrees)!!!
After an hour or so of watching fish, paddling in the water, sharing some food and climbing up the waterfall, we set off home along a different way, joining the Via Verde, a 50km long railway track running between Alcoy and Gandia, built in the 1960s but never used as a railway. What a waste of public money – all those tunnels and bridges! But nice that it has been reopened for cyclists and walkers as a green pathway.
Later in the evening, we have all of them round for dinner. It’s our first big candle-lit dinner! We take the big table outside the van, Frank cooks a lovely chicken and we make two kinds of salad. Israel comes with two children, Alex and his 7 year old sister Africa. Ernesto contributes a Russian potato salad, and they bring along another friend called Carlotta. We have such a nice time with all of them. Africa is a hoot – she obviously tells very funny stories – we don’t always get the punch line, but the other adults fall about laughing. Alex is very cuddly, hopping from one lap to the next. At midnight, Frank and I fall into bed after a lovely day of food, fun and friendship – not to mention a 12 km hike!
We’ve been intrigued by the house next to where we are parked, wanting to see it from inside. The next day, Israel introduces us to one of his friends, Gonzalo, whose family owns the house. Like many houses in Spain, it has an inheritance dispute hanging over it, so no-one lives in it and it’s gradually falling down. But the garden is well tended by Gonzalo’s uncle and aunt. We arrange to see it in the afternoon.
We expect the people to be a bit surprised and distant that their nephew has brought along some travelling folk to see the garden, but they are incredibly welcoming and proudly show us the walled garden with its many vegetables, fruits and herbs. It also has a greenhouse for snails!!! Looking inside it reminds me of our garden in Totnes on a wet summer morning – everything is full of snails! We leave with armfuls of vegetables and herbs and an invite to come for dinner if we return to Alcoy one day.
Maybe we should return another year towards the end of April, to join the Fiesta of ‘The Moors and the Christians’, by all accounts a very colourful event. Here is a photo from one of their brochures:
That night, after a heart-rending good bye from Alex and Israel, we set off towards Valencia.
for more photos, go to Flikr
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