With little shade, we awoke at our dam relatively early, and after a quick breakfast steering down at the remarkable structure, we hit the road, heading back towards the coast after what felt like an eternity (it was two nights). We were heading towards a bunch of random spots along the coast based on equidistant locations as we tried to split the drive up back towards France and Italy. This, combined with some previous suggestions and pins added to our Google Maps from people we had met along the way, took us on a unique path up the coast.
Our first stop would be a small coastal village called La Azohia, followed by some pink salt lakes, before finally arriving in Valencia.
We pulled up at what we could best describe as a lovely little oasis. Initially we headed to this town based on another suggestion from park4night here, but as we turned up, there were few campers and to be honest it looked like a pretty average spot. As we had driven past much some much better beaches on the way in, and with what appeared to be some great places to park up, we ended up parking here instead.
Predictably, we headed straight to the sea for a few hours. The water was warm and clear. The beach was actually sand and not small rocks (something we found increasingly common and annoying in Europe). This location was also great in that it featured fresh water to wash your feet (which we would use with soap to wash our whole bodies). Furthermore there was a SPAR mini-market only 20meters away, and a bunch of nice restaurants and bars along the waterfront. One in which we watched the Spain v Morocco football world cup drama unfold (Spain would top the group after some last minute goals in the final concurrent pool games), and another which served good coffee and provided a place for other morning rituals.
Pink Salt Lakes
The next morning, following a run and a feed of bacon and eggs, we left our oasis towards Valenica, but with a small pitstop at a random lake pinned on our maps by Larry, an American Spanish dude we met in Porto.
We saw it from a distance well before we arrived; the giant pink salt lake glimmering in the sizzling Spanish sun. Given it's surround by industry, it's sheer size, and that our pinned location was simply the middle of the lake, it was not immediately obvious how we could get a closer look. Eventually following a quick examination of the shoreline, Dan found a spot.
When we arrived, there was several cars full of people in their toggs (or swimmers / boardshorts for you non-Kiwis). We initially assumed they were on their way to / from the local beaches. Then it dawned on us that they were heading to, or returning from, the pink salt lake itself. Needless to say we immediately grabbed the GoPro and rushed towards what would be our first ever "so salty you float" swim. Check out the video below:
Quite simply this is one of the strangest sensations ever. Especially for Dan, who is quite the opposite in water, sinking like a brick. After bobbing around for about 20minutes, we then headed back to Gary. The feeling of being covered in such salty water was very unique, almost slimy. Needless to say, this was another case where utilising Gary's sink tap as a shower was absolutely brilliant, and essential if we were to continue our drive towards Valencia in any comfort at all. If you are driving through this area, we'd definitely recommend checking the salt lake out as it's such an usual experience on many of your senses.
Refreshed, albeit extremely dehydrated, we put Gary's pedal to the floor to max out at our whopping 90km/h top speed, and made haste towards a small coastal area here, right on the beach, to park up for the night.
After a great nights sleep, Dan headed down the long beach for a barefoot run, and Bidi engaged in some "burpies" (an attempt from both of us to counteract the increasing amount of food and beer being consumed). We then headed directly into Valencia, and after negotiating their super confusing six-lane roundabouts with traffic lights, found our way to the paid parking at the train station, right in the middle of the city.
TIP: While convenient and safe, the parking lot was much more expensive than we had read on park4night. As it had cost almost €18 for just under four hours, there would definitely be better alternatives.
As we arrived around lunch time, we headed immediately towards an Eixample, one of the many areas Larry had pinned on our google maps to visit in Valencia. There was a great selection of restaurants among vibrant, non-touristy streets. Getting away from the tourist traps is exactly what we look for.
Funnily enough we actually ended up at a vegetarian joint called Restaurante Copenhagen (needless to say Brigid heavily influenced this decision) and had an amazingly fresh and creative three course set menu for only €13 each. If you're a vege, this place is a no brainer.
2. Parque Central
Next we headed east towards part of the huge Parque Central, which was once the main river route through Valencia, before being diverted and then converted into a massive green space with various biking paths, walkways, bars, playgrounds and peaceful resting areas.
Parque Central is also a great way to get around the city, and even though we initially entered here, we used it to casually wander down towards the modern opera buildings and then back towards the old town later in the day (see below).
3. Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia
While not originally on our to do list, we spotted the edge of the alien-looking buildings from a distance, when wandering around the central park. We were naturally drawn towards the area. It's hard to describe the buildings, but this area is one of the most ultra-modern, spacey, strange and quite simply "cool" areas we have see in any public spaces throughout Europe.
Almost like they challenged the architects to try and create a series of buildings all more unique than the Sydney Opera House. Initially we arrived at Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, but then realised we had stumbled upon a whole new world. It's quite hard to explain. In fact, rather than listen to our rambling, check out the photos above.
4. Old Town
Next we headed up towards Torres de Serranos; one of the original entry points into Valencia, the Gothic towers are one of the few remaining parts of the old city walls. This provided the perfect way to start our wanderings through the original Valencia. However, as we headed deeper in, we were immediately overwhelmed by an insane amount of tourists. Whilst the original buildings are beautiful, they are nothing on Seville, and similar to many other cities we had visited. As it was getting late in the day, and we didn't really feel any strong attraction to visit yet another church, or play "tourist", we headed back to Gary in order to get out of there and find a quiet spot to park up before nightfall.
Furthermore, Dan had ripped yet another pair of shorts whilst star-jumping for a photo (look closely above - that kid really should stop star-jumping), so rather than walk around with undies on show, it was time to continue our journey northeast.
Brigid had found a great little spot on park4night in a town called "Peniscola" (hehehe), where we managed to park up right next to the ocean. Sitting back, relaxing, and watching the moon rise over the water was a perfect way to end another day of adventures. The next day, we would arrive in the very northeast tip of Spain, in what would be one of our favourite areas in Europe so far... stay tuned.
Bidi & Dan :)