Sleepy Senija (population 661)

I came to be in Senija through a house exchange. 

Did I say? 

I got the opportunity through the Charlton Parkside Community Hub ( all residents groups should have a Hub. Consultancy available on request. ) I’ve swopped homes with the mother of a woman who lives in my road. She wanted to spend August in London, I wanted a holiday. Sweet. Sorted. Getting your house ready for other people to live in is jolly hard work but very worthwhile in the end.

I quote Wikipedia “Senija is a village in the province of Alicante and autonomous community of Valencia, Spain. The municipality covers an area of 4.8 square kilometres (1.9 sq mi) and as of 2011 had a population of 661 people.[1]”

It’s an attractive, unspoiled village and is a great base for exploring. There are 5 bar restaurants and the local speciality is liver and onions. YUM!

You can get to anywhere on the coast between Dénia and Benidorm within about 35 minutes in a car. There is a coach service to Valencia/Alicante and the major towns in between from Benissa. You can also explore the beautiful Jalón and Orba valleys if you go inland. Beaches, watersports, attractive towns, mountain villages, tennis, golf, horse riding it’s all here waiting. You can even hop to Ibiza/Mallorca on a ferry from Dénia. 

In the village even the bins have a great view…

I really love all the locals. Just say “Holá , Buenos Dias” to them and they respond with a smile and reciprocate ( often in Catalan. Bon Dia, anyone? ) I love them and they love me. Two days after I arrived they even threw a concert for me in the square outside my front door. Well that was how I interpreted the situation 😀  They even offered a glass of wine and a slice of cake at the end. 


To listen to the music ( local, traditional ) there are a couple of videos in the photo album. 

I’m seriously chilled now people.



On the road to hell…

Apologies for the ‘radio’ silence. DHG came to stay so I haven’t had a minute to marshal my thoughts since his arrival a week ago ( 1. Only joking by the way, he’s not D at all. Waiting for his review on Trip Advisor with trepidation even so. 2. So, marshal in this context only has one l, thanks spell check! #learningallthetime )

So to Alcoy we travelled. DHG was going back to Barcelona by train and I suggested that he start from Alcoy rather than Gandia as the ride across to Xátiva looked interesting. Let’s enjoy the scenic cross mountain route to get there and do an overnight I proposed. He agreed. Subsequently I was tipped the wink by SW ( Shoeburyness Woman ) that Guadelest was on the way to Alcoy and is well worth visiting  ( it sure is )

All well and good. FAB ride there, we check in to a super 1* hotel, have a walk around the town ( yes the restaurant we were looking for was closed but the walk there and back  was worth it), eat a great tapas supper at the side of the Town Hall and so to bed.

Morning breaks and I deposit DHG at the station at 08.15.

I’ve loads of time to get to Jávea for tennis at 12.00 so I have a quick squizz at Google Maps for a route.

I’ve looked at the proper map before and know there are 2 motorways from Alicante to Valencia. I’ve got a degree in Geography FFS! I presume the quicker routes are motorway all the way, I’ve driven Alicante to Jávea before so I head north to go that way round. 

Beautiful day, great views, radio on, I’m on a roll. Then a road sign appears , take this exit for Gandia. So I presume this is the A ( non motorway ) road connection and carry on. Valencia 68km.. This is good . Valencia 48km..I’m concerned. Valencia 35km…something has obviously gone wrong. OK, I decide to carry on at turn back when the two Alicante to Valencia motorways converge. I have loads of time. And on we go..and on.


Valencia centro or port?  What do i know. It cannot be port. Still no signs for Alicante via Gandia. I press on but know I am going in the wrong direction. The clock is ticking . I’m now in the outskirts of Valencia driving along a major boulevard. I pull in to switch Google Maps satnav on…and over my shoulder I see the sign Alicante !  U-turn it is, sat nav on, can I get to Jávea for 12 ? 

Enrique ( sat nav man voice, the woman is Carmencita FYI ) tells me to power on for 8km. But this is back the way I’ve come from and there was no junction between the two destination Alicante motorways on the way into Valencia ( Trust me I was looking. I CAN’T have missed it. I can’t  have.. ). What do you do ? I have to believe him, but I don’t ….

And after 8km the motorways do split and I’m ON MY WAY SOUTH. Yay!  Will I make it ? I’m hammering along at 120km something I don’t like doing in small borrowed car. I’m twitchy. Surely I will get there by 12.15

I come off the motorway to pay my toll and so it begins. The car in front is having some sort of dialogue with the people who work there. On it goes. Directions are being given . My feet are tapping.

And so I arrive on court at 12.20 and my coach has pissed off. Fair enough. FAILED!

I drive home, have a bread and cheese lunch with a bottle of rosé and collapse on the bed. I snore for 5 hours. Exhausted. Gutted even. All that drama for nothing. 

When I wake up I look at the road maps and all becomes clear ( Spanish road signs are seriously crap, trust me  )

As you can see, there is no interchange where the north west to south east motorway crosses the north east to south west one  ( exactly where you see AP-7 printed on the map ),  you have to do that dog leg which involves coming off the motorway. And is there a sign on the A-7 saying come of the motorway here to get onto the Gandia bound motorway ( that’s the road where the map says 1hr 7mins )

Dear reader, I leave you to draw your own conclusion in this matter.



Letter from Girona

Just enjoying a siesta at my centrally-located hotel. Woken from my slumbers by Mr Chas on tour latest – a plain man’s guide to European travel. Will keep for next person who says it’s all too difficult.

The temperature here is 34 in the shade this afternoon. No wonder there are defibrilators in the streets.

This morning I left the hotel just after 8, thinking I would have a leisurely breakfast on my way to the centro touristico (or whatever that is in spanish). Stupido. Apparently, nothing happens before 10am in this country (in contrast to France, where patisseries and cafes are open at the crack of dawn). So I wandered about taking the odd photo, saying “buenos dias” to baffled looking Germans and generally passing the time till I finally found a little bakery that sold me a chocolate croissant and a delicious cup of coffee at about 9.30. Nothing like walking to find your way about, though, is there?

At the witching hour, a transformation took place. Doors sprang open, tables appeared, tourists emerged from their hotels and business was under way. I went first to the museum of jewish history, then the arab baths (sadly no longer operating as such), then a quick in and out of the cathedral before finishing up at the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants (sadly no longer, etc). A good three hours’ worth of anyone’s time, covering all aspects of local culture – well, some at least. Followed by lunch at a riverside bar and back here for a couple of hours.

And I learned how to pronounce Girona. In spanish – hard h; in catalan – soft g. Almost everyone around here uses the latter.

Later this afternoon/evening (tardes), I’m going for a walk along the medieval wall. Probably a defibrilator-free area, so I hope the temperature drops a bit. How on earth do you play tennis in this climate?

Hasta pronto,

Catholics know this (I didn’t)

I’m not religious , I don’t do God, but if I did it would have to be Catholicism. Bells, smells, dressing up in robes, bling. What’s not to like? I guess the alternative option would be to become a drag queen. ( Woolwich ) Dockyard Christopher, anyone ?

15th August is Assumption Day and a Bank Holiday in many Catholic countries. Assumption is? Me neither, so I looked it up ( as your esteemed writer always does = Google addiction ). Big village and town fiestas, free paella ( on the council! ) , special Mass, parades, party frocks/fancy dress, you get the picture. These dos go on for Days. The Spanish know how to party in the street.

Here is a photo album of the day


For full details on Ascension versus Assumption read this article from ‘Catholic Bridge’ 

10 Hail Mary’s taken s read 😉

Question: What is the difference between the “Ascension” and the “Assumption”? (I.C.)

Answer: The Ascension refers to our Lord’s bodily entrance into Heaven on the fortieth day after Easter. It is described in Acts i: 1-14, and is mentioned briefly in Mark xvi: 19-20 and in Luke xxiv: 50-53. Although the Scripture uses the words “He was lifted up,” we use the word “ascension,” which suggests something done under one’s own power, for Jesus Christ is God and is all-powerful.
The Assumption refers to the taking up, body and soul, of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end of her earthly life. In this case the word indicates that she was taken to heaven by a power apart from herself. The Assumption is not recorded in Sacred Scripture, but there are several extant writings including one by St. Melito of Sardis, who died in the second century (see “Apropos”). Sometimes called the “Dormition,” or “falling asleep” of our Lady, the doctrine has been acknowledged by the faithful both in the east and in the west since the earliest times. It has been the subject of many of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, gives its name to numerous churches in their dedication, and is celebrated liturgically on August 15th. On 1 November, A.D. 1950, Pope Pius XII declared:

“We pronounce, define, and declare it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”1

Readers may be interested in reading the entirety of Pope Pius’ Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, which is reasonable in length and reviews the history of the doctrine.


1. Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November, 1950, #44.  

Fast and slow to La Marina Alta

There’s a wonderful website I found a few years ago and bookmarked. Long distance scenic railways in France. Inspired by the narrative, my intention is that next year I will be flashpacking and blogging In France, criss crossing the Massif Central from Clermont Ferrand to several towns on the 

Mediterranean coast. Up down, down up, up down. I digress. It was on this site that I was made aware of Le train Jaune and as result  I decided that on my way to Spain I would travel on the ‘little yellow train’ and go over the Pyrenees to Barcelona rather than round the edge of them. It starts from a walled town called Villefranche-de-Conflent ( think of a mini Carcassone ).  

I’ll not go into all the trouble I had with the fact that the station for Villefranche-de-Conflent is actually called Villefranche-Vernet-les-Bains and is only 500m down the road. It’s a gorgeous town btw. Je reviens.

Point of order. If you want to go to Spain by train you can get to the Costa Brava / Barcelona / Sitges ( possibly Salou ) in one day from St Pancras International. If you want to go further afield to Madrid / Seville / Malaga / Alicante / Valencia you must do an overnight stay in either Paris or Barcelona.

I wasn’t rushing, so I did two overnights on the way, in two great hotels. One positively medieval and one Hyper modern.

Enjoy the images. What you can see from the train is truly amazing ( From Valence to Nîmes in France you have the Alps on one side and Le Massif Central on the other ) and you can wander to the café/bistro whenever you want to stretch your legs, buy wine and maybe meet some of your fellow travellers. Please note that I did travel 1st class ( upstairs ) on the double decker TGV Paris-Barcelona train ( I alighted at Perpignan for my connection ) 

Eat you heart out Sleazyjet. 


And so to book rail tickets to Spain (or Italy, or France, or….)

It’s a doddle now, booking train tickets to European destinations innit. No more need for Portillo’s much loved Bradshaw ( would love to receive one for my birthday btw. 1 July for those who don’t know the date ). We have T’internet, we are in the EU, English is most people’s second language. Perfecto. 

In other words, travel agents are out and do it yourself online is in. Print at home tickets! We have the amazing Seat 61 train travel guide for comprehensive information, we can cross border book through many websites such as Loco2: Europe by train made easy and Voyages-SNCF European train tickets , there are apps galore to help you when are you en route. And for the serious traveller you can buy the old school timetables IN A BOOK! Marvellous. Country maps too ( died and gone to heaven ) European Rail Timetable 

Train delayed ? Click on the relevant app and look for alternatives. SNCF-TER is excellent for this in France. Learn what Cercanias are in Spain ( important! ) . I’ll give a plug to EE here. Whilst there is a lot of free WiFi in European stations  being able to go online on your phone when it needs to be NOW can be a godsend. I get 500mb from EE for £3 a day. Sorted. Good deal. 

So there we are, plan your route, go online, book it, print your tickets at home. Done & dusted. Sadly no. Eurostar tickets can be booked 120-180 days in advance. SNCF 90-120 days, RENFE (Spain) 62-90 days ( or when they feel like it. Mañana… ). Almost always, the earlier you book the better fare you get quoted. So to get the cheapest Eurostar ticket to Paris, you must book long before you can book Paris-Barcelona, and likewise Barcelona-Alicante. These websites do offer booking alerts by email which are useful. However, it will take you MONTHS to book every leg of the journey ( the longer your holiday, the longer the process will take ). Not only will you struggle to book the outbound leg on one day, you probably won’t even be able to start on the return leg. Part of the fun, right?  A point of view some would say.

Isn’t this the sort of thing the EU should have sorted out long ago ?  PAGING HERMAN VAN ROMPUY. Common booking windows, anyone?

Do me favour. EU. Piss up. Brewery.

#brexit #sortityourself

Stress levels went through the roof but finally I had booked my itinerary.

OUT:London – Paris – Villefranche-Vernet-les-Bains – Latour de Carol – Barcelona – Valencia

RETURN:Alicante – Barcelona – Paris – London

Like to join me on the outbound journey?  Well, just wait patiently for the next post 😀

A bientôt people.

Jávea : from one Cap to the other

I went back to Jávea to look at the (working) port & marina which is situated at the foot of Cap de Sant Antoni. Next week I intend to go back again and see the daily fish auction taking place. I may even try to buy a turbot ( rodaballo ). Yum.

Wikipedia informs us that …

Xàbia or Jávea is a coastal town in the comarca of Marina Alta, in the province of Alicante, Valencia, Spain, by the Mediterranean Sea. Situated on the back side of the Montgó, behind a wide bay and sheltered between two rocky headlands, the town has become a very popular small seaside resort and market town. Half of its resident population and over two thirds of its annual visitors are foreigners. 

Well, what I can tell you is that you can’t get a Guardian in the town for love nor money and trust me I’ve tried! Fortunately I have their excellent app in my phone so all is well. I need to keep an eye on Polly Toynbee in absentia 😀

So, after coffee and people watching ( why do most Brits wear so much beige? ), I drove up  the steep windy roads to Cap Sant Antoni ( brown trouser job when on your own! I find singing loudly helps…) and from there  I proceeded right to the other end of the bay and up past Portixol ( Footballers’ wives villas ) to Cap de la Nau for lunch. Turbot was involved.

The views of the town from Cap de Sant Antoni are magnificent. I struggled to take the photos standing up as I have strong urges to hurl myself down the cliffside when faced with a sheer drop. Think Tosca and the battlements. Similar.



It’s all gone tits up!

So there I was earlier, beavering away writing my previous post when one glass of white was followed by another of rosé ( on an empty stomach tbh ) and then I decided I wanted to buy ( by download ) Spain’s  ‘This Summer’s Greatest Hits’  album. It’s a tradition. I buy the current year’s pop compilation ( in Spanish ) every time I have a Summer holiday here.

I don’t quite know what happened and the next thing I knew I was staring at a blank screen. OH SHIT! And they say you can’t get malware on a MacBook. Okay okay. Stay calm. Just reboot. Three reboots later and it’s still the same . I take the battery out. Still no joy.

OK, factory reset it is then but I cannot remember how to do it. I get on to Mr Apple to learn that I can only do it with the boot disk….which is back in London in a drawer. Aargh!

So do I go to Gandia tomorrow to buy a new MacBook Air ? Can I afford it ? Well, my credit card can no problem. Do I need a new laptop ? Well, yes I genuinely do. Those of you who read my earlier posts will have realised that the machine I have been using ( from 2007 ) really isn’t up to the job and is on its last legs. 

OR do I use my iPhone?  At least it’s fast. So here we are having a test drive on writing a blog post on the phone. So far so good.

I’ll sleep on the big decision if this post is OK.

Why on earth did I download whatever it was? 


Guilt trip Wednesday

Is it Wednesday ? I had to think really hard about this earlier. It actually made my head hurt. Isn’t that one of the great things about being on holiday ? You just lose track. Oh by the way I’ve got brown feet too ( always a sign of the tan being up to scratch ).

In other news i’m really tired today. I ache. A LOT.  It’s actually OK as i’ve had 9 gruelling tennis lessons in the last 11 days! He runs me ragged ( we are practising long rallies ). I’ve got a drive backhand now too. Whoo hoo!

Screenshot 2016-08-17 12.11.45.png

Padel tennis

So i’m sitting here gazing at the hills in the distance, uploading my photos and writing this post. Busy busy. And yet…..

There’s this voice in my head nagging me. You can’t sit inside all day Christopher. ( Middle class guilt is definitely a woman….) That’s a waste of precious time. Get out there and DO something. It’s middle class guilt rearing its ugly head. Go and learn to sail, do a five mile walk, just do SOMETHING outdoors. In fairness I do try to visit somewhere new every day.

On the other paw ( geddit? ) i’m here in La Marina Alta for 7 weeks ffs.


Cut me a bit of slack will you?  AND I am genuinely busy. The brain is working. Creativity central is rocking.


So here you are. Here is my walking tour of Benissa for your delectation and delight.

Benissa is a small town in Spain in the province of Alicante, 275 m above sea level, and one of the oldest towns on the Costa Blanca. The municipality of Benissa has 4 km of coastline linking the towns of Moraira and Calp.

Visit the  Discover Benissa Website here.

AND YES I KNOW IT’S ONLY 11.45 but I have poured myself a glass of chilled white wine.