Spain Feb 2020

We were both keen to catch some winter sun and I had looked at Dénia in Spain before. It’s supposed to be one of the sunniest places in Europe. Covid had been developing in China, but not yet in Europe and we were totally unaware of how things would develop. Nevertheless I was keen to avoid any air travel, as we had also considered Cuba. So, we loaded up the tandem into the car and headed for Dover. I had pre-booked a few places to stay overnight on the way to Spain as we don’t like spending too long in the car each day.

We turned up early at Caudebec-en-Caux so went for a wander and found a bar that was open to kill an hour or so.
Back at the B&B I had a wander in the garden and made some friends.
Later we walked back into town, down to the river to find some food and on the way back passed this grand church.
Our next night was somewhere we have stayed before, the Le Mans Country Club. It’s changed a bit since we were there in 2008 and now has a very good and popular restaurant, as well as some accommodation blocks nearby. Luckily we were in the main building.

A couple more nights in France got us to the Pyrenees. I had been worried about snow on the way down, but the road was fine even if the weather wasn’t great.

Looking ahead towards Spain. There was snow on the peaks but we passed under it all in the five mile long tunnel to the sun.
And looking back, the way we’d come.
Once out of the mountains, the clouds thinned and we enjoyed some sunshine. Our satnav took us on a rather dubious route through this terrain – little more than a goat track at times, but then we joined this new road and progress was fast and smooth.
Our first night in Spain was in Zaragoza, next to the river and the Cathedral. We couldn’t have got more central, though getting the car into the underground car park was very tight.
In the late afternoon we went for a walk to explore a little, found a bar and had a couple of drinks before going back to the hotel for food.
The Cathedral overlooks a huge plaza, which is all traffic free. We sat in a bar, next to the window and watched the sun go down.
Looking along the plaza. Next morning we went for a walk after breakfast, along it to the far end before getting into the car and heading off.
Home for the next two weeks, the first floor flat behind our car on the left. One balcony had been converted into an enclosed sitting area and the other, with the awning, was great for drying clothes. The car park was only accessible with a security key.
Karon enjoys a brandy and coffee in the German bar next to our apartment complex that became a regular spot for evening meals.
13 Feb. Exploring Dénia. Our apartment was a few miles or so out of Dénia, but the ride in along the coast road was easy and not too busy. Along most stretches there was a reasonable margin or cycle path.
The first day was spent exploring the town and marina area.
The marina and old town is overlooked by the castle.
Later we rode, then walked up to the castle.
The port and ferries that run out to the Beleriac Islands seen from the ramparts of the castle.
14 Feb – Valentines Day ride.
The following day we met up with Tandem Club friends who were staying in one of the large hotels in the town. Quite a few cyclists take long stays at the hotel and go out riding together during the day. There’s a useful route sheet with lots of options for short runs to epic rides.
Colin and Rosie led us towards Mirador de la Nao, though we had to cut inland
Karon, with Saltaire shirt chats to Ros and I to Peter, a couple we often ride with at home, as part of the Thameswey Group of the Tandem Club. Peter and Ros have been visiting Dénia each Jan/Feb for about 16 years.
Karon chatting to Ros at Creu del Portitxol.
Isla del Portixol.
Cap de la Nau and the view up the rugged coastline.
Feb 15. Our trip into Dénia, to meet up with the others at their hotel, then out through the orange groves to sample the delights of the best Strudel in the area… this stretch of coast seems popular with the Germans and many of the bars and restaurants were run by, or catered for German tastes.
Feb 15, Rosie and Ros led us through the orange groves to the ‘Strudel Café’ at Setla while Peter and Colin went off on a long ride.
No pictures of strudels but we stopped in this little square nearby.
Karon makes a friend.

Feb 16 we had a day off the bike and drove towards Valencia and inland a little to Simat to see and paint the monastery there. Once again Google decided we would like to experience some narrow backroads on the way there!

We sat for maybe a couple of hours but then Karon needed to get some lunch so we left the monastery grounds and found somewhere for lunch in the square beyond the entrance.
Lunch in Simat.
17 Feb ride. We rode back to towards Dénia with the others then left them to cut back to our apartment. Later we rode to the hotel for a couple of drinks with the others before finding a great little Tapas bar in a small square in the town. It became our favourite watering hole for the rest of our stay.
17 Feb we took another ride out through the orange groves, cutting inland through Ondara to Beniarbeig and met another group out on the road.
One of the older streets in Dénia.
Plaça Sant Antoni and the little Tapas Bar that became our favourite.
Restaurante Ca Tona.
18th Feb we decided to explore the coastal track beyond Dénia, then headed back into town for food and on, back to our apartment.
Chicken for me, salmon for Kaz.
It’s a shame it was shut.
19 Feb we rode out to some caves which we wandered through, then headed back into Dénia for a late lunch.
Feb 19. Karon makes another friend at the entrance to the caves near Benidoleig.
Deep inside the mountain.
Exploring the Cova de les Calaveres.
Back at the Tapas Bar
My pigeon was a little underdone.
Feb 20 we decided to really put the motor on the tandem to use and ride over what we called the lump, then returned around the backside.
The mount just inland from Dénia.
10:30am in February and Karon is too warm!!!
Halfway over the ‘lump’, looking back towards the town, castle and marina.
Over the lump, descending into Xabia, looking back at the route down. It was a 1,000 foot climb going over the top.
On the way back around the bottom of the lump (Montgó).
In the evening we found an Argentinian Beef Restaurant near the port. Being on a low-carb diet, Karon enjoys and relies on a lot of meat.
…and a decent serving of Spanish Brandy after.
21 Feb. We decided to explore up the coast. Not long after starting out Peter and Ros caught us up and we rode together for a while. Before they headed off, they pointed out a café, which we took advantage of.
Once again Google chooses a pretty unrideable route for us.
The coast North of Dénia, on the way to Oliva. We carried on to Oliva, which was a little disappointing.
On the way back from Oliva, we stopped at what is referred to as ‘The Depot’ , a place to eat which is in an industrial area, presumably catering mainly for the workers, but it resulted in our cheapest and best value meal in Spain… less than 8.50€ each for three courses AND a whole bottle of wine!

Then, lo and behold, Peter and Ros passed us while we were ‘digesting’. A short time after starting off we came across them roadside, having a break, so rode with them part the way back before leaving them to get back to our digs.
Montgo in the distance… the lump behind Dénia.
Some of the mountains inland. We would head into them a couple of days later.

Feb 22nd we spent the day in Dénia, starting at the marina, then exploring some of the town.

Karon and the Pino at the marina in Dénia.
Feb 23. Another foray inland, and into the mountains.
At Orba we stopped for a coffee and were captivated by a strange game the locals were playing. It looked like a cross between squash and volleyball. They were throwing a small ball up the street and it had to be caught before it bounced more than once. Like squash, they seemed to use the buildings to make it more difficult for the opposition.
The start of the big climbs… looking back up the Girona Valley with the town of Orba central. A team passed us on the climb, and a little while after, another team member who had obviously bonked, was being pushed along by a guy on a moped.
Eventually we turned off the main road and got into the hills proper. It was popular with very cyclists and we saw a several teams out training.
It was a spectacular, though there were some places where the narrow road was covered with gravel wash from the banks, so presumably they’d had heavy rain here not long ago.
We could have done this ride without the motor, but probably would have had to stop overnight somewhere. The climbs weren’t steep, just looooong!
Two cyclists on the road below, one coming, one going. We’d stopped for a coffee out of our flask at (almost) the top where a derelict small building and plot looked down over the road.
Over the top and the start of a fantastic descent with multiple hairpins. We even overtook a couple of cars on the way down.
24 Feb. Our last day in Dénia and we rode out to the Strudel Café for a replay.
Apart from a couple on a nearby table smoking, it was very pleasant. Tomorrow we had to leave, so it was back to the apartment for a tidy up and pack.

Next day we were away, heading for a hotel some 20kms or so from Zaragoza. It was on an old airfield, miles away from anywhere and the track to it was better suited to a 4×4, but the enthusiastic and friendly owners made us welcome and served up some local beer and great food in the evening. Our room was ‘subterranean’ – imagine Spanish Hobbit!

The hotel rooms were a little on the cool side, but in summer this would be a good thing.
Some unusual accessories…
…and a jacuzzi bath.
Our next hotel in Châtellerault was quite bohemian but unfortunately the restaurant wasn’t open, so we had to go find some food. After sitting in a local bar for a couple of drinks, we decided our best option was a nearby Sushi restaurant.
Breakfast – just us.
Our last stop before the ferry. Vieux-Villez, near the Seine. It had a wonderful restaurant in a separate building. We had a lovely meal in the evening and it made a fitting end to our month away.

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