Seem to have been packing the car for ages ready for the off. I said to G I know space is limited but this is ridiculous. He replies in a rather sarcastic manner that we could always send everything in a shipping container and seemed to find this very funny. Anyway, have got round it be sneaking things in when he is not looking. Got a bit worried when he said he was going to empty it and re-pack. Luckily, that never happened.
The journey to Peniscola was brill. Hotel, which included breakfast and evening meal was a bargain. The evening meal was a fab buffet and I got so excited I ran in. There was no need to really as we were the first in at 8 o’clock. The Spanish don’t eat till 10. Filled our faces nicely and didn’t over indulge.
Journey to Begur was a different matter, rain, rain, rain. We went through a toll booth and I dropped the change and got peeped at by the man behind. Very stressed at this point so went to sleep.
The sat nav didn’t recognise the hotel in Begur, so we blundered round and passed the same tramp three times, in fact he waved at us.Then the hotel was there suddenly in front of us. I ran down in the rain and a cleaner let me in and shouted “Mercedes, No Inglese.”
I said we haven’t got a Mercedes, but she was telling me her name and saying she didn’t speak English. I told her my name, in Spanish and said I spoke a little Spanish. She told me, again, she didn’t speak English which was a bit much as I thought I had been speaking Spanish. G turned up from parking the car and Mercedes understood every word he said.
Hotel just lovely, very old with stone walls and domed ceilings and a lovely bedroom. Shame we can’t explore the town, but hopefully tomorrow I can spend the change I dropped.
No evening meal, so banana sandwiches with squashed bread.
I know this is a short piece, but it’s raining outside, we’re prevented from doing what we want to do and we’re both grumpy.
We were sitting on a rather nice bench, looking out across the sea towards the majestic castle at Peniscola when a woman walking an elderly collie dog appears. They’ve both evidently decided it’s still January as they’re both wrapped up as if in readiness for the next Ice Age.
‘She’ll be English,’ I say, gloomily, ‘what’s the betting she wants to sit here?’
‘And talk,’ contributes Marigold.
Thirty seconds later, we’re both proved right. It’s not a big bench and there are several others in sight, but it’s ‘our’ bench she chooses to rest upon.
Our bench sharer starts by asking us, in woeful Spanish, if we’ve seen a woman wearing a red hat go by. We haven’t and I, foolishly, say so, in English.
‘Ooh, more Brits, that’s good. So many here now, used to be all French, but that Game of Thingies brought a lot more Brits here.’
Game of Thrones is, indeed, filmed here, the castle being an important setting for the narrative. Peniscola becomes the city of Meeren, for the purposes of television at least, and I imagine the people living in the five hundred or so houses that surround the castle will have strong opinions, for or against, the excitement and disruption that a major film crew brings. I imagine the many hotels will be happy though.
‘We’re just here for the day,’ Marigold says and the woman and her dog adopt the same sad expression at this news.
‘Are you comfy, Brucie?’
The woman sitting next to us abandoned conversation for a bout of fussing over her dog’s outerwear as the sad looking collie is wearing the canine version of a Christmas jumper, a sort of onesie with four leg holes which no self respecting dog would want to wear, even if it was a present.
‘I’m Joyce and this little chap is Brucie,’ the woman said. ‘I named him after Bruce Forsyth because his nose is so long and pointed.’
I somehow refrained from pointing out the late Mister Forsyth was best remembered for having a long, pointed chin, not a nose with the same attributes. Brucie, the collie, didn’t seem to mind what his name was.
‘Me and my dog both suffer from the same complaint,’ she said. ‘Have a guess. Go on.’
I didn’t say ‘distemper,’ but I wanted to. As our new friend’s attention was focussed on the dog, Marigold whispered ‘I was going to say a wet nose but that’s healthy, isn’t it?’
‘For dogs, it is,’ I whispered back, ‘maybe not so desirable in humans.’
We guessed arthritis, cataracts and another one I’ve forgotten, all to no avail.
‘Brontophobia,’ she announced, with some pride. We looked blankly back at her.
‘Some people call it astrapophobia.’
Deep in the dark and dusty corners of my brain a faint spark ignited. ‘Is that the same as astraphobia, the fear of thunder and lightning?’
The woman’s annoyance was evident. Obviously she wanted to prolong this game of twenty questions a little longer.
‘Yes,’ she reluctantly admitted, ‘ we’re both in therapy.’
Marigold nudged me, quite hard, in the ribs.
‘Yes, only I have the normal type and Brucie has the doggy kind.’
‘A canine therapist?’
‘Yes and he charges me more for Brucie than my therapist charges for me.’
‘Is it working?’ Asked Marigold, her face the embodiment of serious concern, even though the faint tremor of suppressed laughter was certainly evident to me.
Joyce looked at her askance. ‘We won’t know until we get a thunderstorm, will we?’
‘I’ve dreaded them all my life and now I’m waiting for one to happen. Funny, isn’t it?’
We agreed it was indeed funny and she toddled off with Brucie trotting alongside.
Peñíscola gets it name from the Romans who named it Pene Iscola – almost an island – as it is connected to the shore by only a tiny sliver of land. The castle that sits atop the ‘almost an island’ was built on the orders of the Knights Templar in 1294 and until Game of Thrones came calling is best remembered for being the Papal seat of Pope Benedict X111 for twelve years.
In 1411, Cardinal Luna succeeded the first Pope of Avignon, Clement the Seventh and claimed the Papacy. Eager to restore some order to the succession, Rome denied his claim and, no doubt, more than a little miffed by this, the claimant and many cardinals arrived in Peñíscola making the castle the third papal seat in history after Rome and Avignon, thus prolonging what we now call the Western Schism that divided the Roman Catholic Church for many years.
Born Pedro Martinez de Luna the new Pope was mainly known by his family name and the main road through the town is called Papa de Luna. El Papa Luna made the town famous, or for a period infamous and the Luna name is found wherever you turn together with his family crest, a crescent moon.
We stayed the night in neighbouring Benicarlo, mostly famous for growing artichokes. Both towns share a splendid beach but today is not a day for beaches. We set out for a walk, twice, in bright sunshine only to be driven back indoors by sudden squalls.
We had been planning on staying in Begur, as the Costa Brava is delightful and Begur is a great base for touring the area. The glorious bays of Sa Tuna and Aqua Blava, the sheer luxury of Empuriabrava, all will be denied to us.
We used to come to this area for days out back when we lived just across the border in France and we stayed a few times in a glorious waterfront villa in Empuriabrava where there are over fifteen miles of navigable waterways which make it the largest residential marina in Europe. It’s very posh, very luxurious and a reminder of times gone by when we had rich friends! Sadly, that particular friend sold up, moved to Florida and died within a week of his arrival.
Once again, forward planning is revealed to be a flawed concept as the weather is vile. We’re not used to this, we wail, and it’s true, we’ve not seen rain of any significance for many months. Well, it’s here now and Begur is not only storm lashed but shrouded in thick mist. Our hotel is superb though and we rest our grumpy bodies in armchairs, reading our Kindles and looking in vain for a ray of sunshine. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.