One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to shop at the local stores. It says so much in terms of how people live and what is important to them. In search of a reasonably priced GPS, I found that the European version of a superstore, Carrefour and one could be found near our place in Albir. Thirty minutes later after several false attempts, we arrived. The store looks a lot like Sam’s Club but without the need for membership cards and individual rather than large quantities of items. My first stop was the book section. I love to look for books in Europe because the stores often have English versions of their local authors and the newest publications from European authors. Sure enough, I acquired a Spanish novel and the latest from Cecilia Ahern. We found a Garmin that was two-thirds as much as the last one purchased in the U.S. From there we proceeded to the food section. First up was an icy display of fresh fish. Some were being scaled as we watched. An entire eel lay before me ready to be purchased and prepared. Leaving Mike to get some video of the process, I went on to the important stuff – pastries, cookies, and candy. I am always amazed at how many of these items can be found in European stores but how few really overweight people we see. They must know how to achieve a balance that eludes me. Meats are important in Spain, especially pork so there was a large charcuterie or delicatessen, decorated with whole hams that included a foot. Perhaps to give you a peek at what the animal looked like?? Among our more unique finds were ham-flavored Pringles and Coke-flavored Jell-O. I guess my best buy had to be Spanish hot chocolate. Resembling pudding that comes already made in a carton. Heated up with some whipped cream it is almost a spiritual moment (that is if you like chocolate.)
The next trip took place with Garmin firmly planted on the front window. The destination was Xativa (pronounced Sha-ti-va). We arrived with no problems in a medieval town with one-lane, one-way streets. Miss Garmin was misinformed on this information so we were on our own again to locate the Castile. Mike was given an opportunity to show off his driving skills as we went up and back down the wandering (or as the travel book said, “higgledy-piggledy”) “ maze that is the historic district finally lucking up on the path to the Castile. After parking, the rest of the afternoon was spent mostly climbing up. Spanish castles (maybe others, I am not an authority) are situated at the top of mountains. We climbed the smaller one first and found out that Hannibal had stayed there. His wife even had her own room where she gave birth to a child. It is truly emotional to realize that you are standing on history. More so for me, when it comes off the beaten path and not a touristy area like the Coliseum for example. Unfortunately, he left no elephants behind. They would have proven useful for further walking. But it was worth it. The panoramic views were inspiring and left us with a renewed appreciation for the land and life in castles.
We completed our day trips to the Costa Blanca region with a trip to Alcoi. Up windy roads, for about sixty minutes we arrived at a rather large city situated among the mountains. Known for its sugared almonds and tiled buildings, we saw neither. A few pictures and a dang good gelato later, we decided to give it up and head on back. The loveliness of this city missed us or we just couldn’t find it. Travel books can only do so much.
Onward tomorrow to the province of Roman ruins.