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Friday, 5 October 2012

The Secrets of Valencia Province: Walking and Historic heaven

This week has been a Camino free week, because my mother was visiting from the UK and although very patient, the dear dogs have not had as much attention as usual.  Today therefore I decided to explore another walk I had read about in Navarrés which is only a few km drive from the house in Chella.  This walk is easy to find, parking is good and it's superb for dogs.  For those who like mountain biking, there is also a cycle route which diverts from the walker's track where it becomes impassable for bikes.  It's not a walk for the unfit as the first part is up, up and up some more!  But the views from the top are stunning.  The walk is called Cruz de la Ceja and it is circular - perfect.  I only did part of it this morning but set out on the walker's route and returned by the cyclist's route, but I will in the next weeks do the round trip.  Perfect for an early start, followed by a bocadillo, cold beer and cafe con leche in a local bar on the return!

View over Navarrés on the way up the Cruz de la Ceja 
The route is considered "medium" difficulty and runs for 15.54km.  At the top it indicated there was another approximate 2 hours or so to walk - the total being (according to the map) 4 hours and 5 minutes!  I would guess this is about right but of course, stopping to admire the view is not included.  The route is marked with the yellow arrows and yellow and white markers of the PV route that it is - the number is PV CV and it also intersects with the GR route GR237.  The information centre and some of the bars in town have the route map - and it really is easy to follow and well marked so I do not feel any additional map should be needed - but you can also download the route from the following link:  Although the tourist info is in Spanish - this will not hinder you from following the map although of course knowing some of the language always helps in understanding the information boards and points of interest along the route.

The lovely winding path of the walk
One of the bars where you can find the information and which is also a Casa Rural where you can stay if you are walking in the area, is La Jara.  It is open evenings although these do change from winter to summer - in winter the opening times are 18.00 until 21.00 Thursday to Sunday.  Meals for more than one can be booked in advance but Navarrés is full of busy little bars and there is never a problem to find somewhere to go.

La Jara -
C/Mayor, 28 - Navarrés
Georgina or Amparo: 962 266 455, 617 065 348 and 609 618 868
English and Spanish spoken

Akina on the walk - the colour of the dogs was stunning against the earth, rocks and natural vegetation and the route markers on the Cruz de la Ceja walk.  Below is the dam - you will see a walk we did with the dogs at the dam on an earlier blog.  It's more of a fun run for the dogs, swimming and playing and not a hike.  We could not see the dam wall from the other side of course - and it's quite impressive!

During the time with my mother we did some further exploring of the area and it gave me the chance to be a "tourist" for a week.  This was a fabulous opportunity to explore the area a little more and also it meant that I could gather more information for guests who might stay at the Casita here at Casa Bayer.

Accommodation at Casa Bayer - Chella:  Perfect for hikers, cyclists and those interested in history... plus, dog friendly.

Here at the place we are house sitting, there is a casita available for holiday rental.  It has one double room and one twin room with a dining area and an open plan sitting/kitchen area.  There is a pool, shared with the main house, for guests and we are dog friendly for those who might wish to bring one friendly/well socialised dog on holiday with them to explore the wonderful local walks! 

Casita at Casa Bayer - Chella

Dogs at Casa Bayer:  We do like to do a walk with newly arrived dogs so that our three and the new dog can meet outside the home territory and we can give more information on booking.  The cottage is self-catering and linen and towels etc are provided.  We can also do a little shop for you if you provide a list before your arrival.  There is also a large dog bed available in the cottage, plus a bowl.  Please do bring your own dog foods etc and poo picking bags!  Dogs are welcome to go into the pool so if you have a pool obsessed dog, don't worry!  We also run little workshops and fun mornings for those who might like to do them on dog psychology, games and "who we need to be" as owners for our dogs.  For those who might be thinking of getting a first dog or adopting one - these are a great way to access more information and to play with our dogs.  We also can introduce you to one of the local rescue groups we help out and there is the opportunity to spend some time with one of the organisers - meeting more dogs, grooming and so on.  Let us know if you are interested in any of these activities and we will give you more information.  Although we don't have our own website running yet, you can get a good idea about what we can offer by looking at the previous website from when we were living in RSA and which my colleague there is now running:

View of Casita from the main house
Contact me on

A morning in Anna: not to be missed!
One of the secrets of the area we discovered is the palace in Anna!  What a marvelous find and Anna itself is a beautiful little village and it is worth taking a stroll through the cool back streets, along the little canals and maybe visiting the Monday market.  The streets are narrow, built by the Moors in a design to keep the sun from penetrating the villages and thus keeping the heat of the day out of the centre of the town.  It still works perfectly but it can be a bit nerve wracking driving such streets.  Parking can be tight and you never know if a fiesta or market might be taking place, so park on the outskirts of the town and walk in - it's an easy walk. 

The palace has been restored to a high standard.  Skilled artisans, specialising in the different skills needed to put the building back to its original glory were brought in to work on the building.  It's like a piece of Morocco or India has been picked up and dropped in Anna - taking the building to its original Moorish style.  Members of the community have donated different things to decorate the building - old farming implements and so on.  At one time it was the home of Isabel Borja, mother of the famous Rodrigo Borja later know as Alejandro VI "The Borgia Pope" who was born in Xàtiva.

To see the palace you need to take a tour as it is kept locked when it is not in use.  For tours in English and Dutch (although she also speaks Spanish but the Spanish tours are usually given by a local guide) contact Louisa van Beveren: 638 251 477 or e-mail on  Louisa also gives tours and longer trips by horse and carriage of the area and organises cycling tours covering many km's of the local routes.

The photographs below will give you an impression but to be honest, they simply do not do the place justice.  Definitely do yourselves a favour and visit the Palace and support the community of Anna by telling others to visit also - it is beautiful and it is a shame that more people do not know about it! 
Louisa giving the tour - explaining that these tiles are all
made locally in Anna and you can still have them made
for you.  They are all painted by hand.  This picture tells the
story of how olives are harvested and prepared.

Tower as you enter the palace

The baskets at the back are used to collect
olives and strung over the donkey's back.
The large flat mats at the front are used for
pressing the olives
The gardens are cool and beautiful
Restored bodega used as a museum of local
pieces, farm implements and so on
Restored window and

Detail of the carving on the walls
with Arabic script
Ceiling of one of the large rooms now used for weddings

The stunning reclining room

Monastery of San Jeroni
Another wonderful find is the Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba, not far from Gandia.  For visitors there is a video in Castillian, Valenciana and English and a guided tour in Spanish only.  You can gain enough from watching the video and then looking around yourself (as they encourage if you have only English) but if you understand enough Spanish it is well worth taking the tour.  We were adopted by a wonderful elderly gentleman who gave us a 2 hour personal tour in Spanish.  There were two other English ladies, walking the "Route of the Monasteries" and I became the translator.  Great practice for me and I think I got most of it - or at least the gist of it all especially with the gentleman giving us a few mimes of actions and then another lady and her husband who were visiting from Gandia.  There was much laughter and humour between us all and it never ceases to amaze me how warm and helpful the Spanish people are.  They are only too willing to share what they can with those interested in their culture and historic sites.  

There had been a huge storm the night before and the ferris wheel in Gandia had blown over.  The gardens were being cleaned at the monastery of fallen branches and we learned of how the ladies on their hike had been given a tray of candles because of power failures.  We actually later met the same two ladies at the airport (hello if you are reading this - I never did get your names!!)... and they also confirmed how they had been warmly welcomed on their journey and that the accommodations they stayed in were lovely.  Well worth knowing for those who also wish to walk the route of the monasteries.   The following is taken from Wikipedia:  

Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba
General view from Ròtova.
It is one of the most notable monastic constructions of the Valencian Community. In the village of Alfauir, some eight kilometres out of Gandia in the direction of Albaida is the monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba. The monastery has its origins in Xàbia, where in 1374 Pope Gregory XI authorised its foundation to some hermit monks. Originally commissioned by the Royal Duke of Gandia Alfonso of Aragon and Foix in 1388 to save the friars from attacks by Berber pirates which they had been suffering whilst they lived in Xàbia. The family and the two wives of the well-known Valencian medieval poetAusiàs March are buried in this monastery.
Afterwards, in 16th century, the monastery will have the protection of the Borgia family, being the Duchess of Gandia, Maria Enríquez de Luna, the one that realized works of extension in the monastery.
The popular legend tells that in one of the monastery's cloisters preached Saint Vincent Ferrer to the people.
Another personage of reference at the monastery is the Spanish Renaissance painter Nicolás Borrás. Upon entering the priesthood he was assigned to the Hieronymite Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba, where he enjoyed his stay so much that he asked for membership in the order has his only payment. He received the habit in 1575, and took the final vows the following year. He passed the rest of his life painting, leaving twelve altar pieces in the church alone. He also spent his own money in the employment of sculptors and builders for the embellishment of the monastery.

The monastery supposes the beginning of the Route of the Monasteries of Valencia (GR-236), a religious, cultural and tourist route that connects five monasteries located in central region of the Province of Valencia, (Valencian Community). The Route of the Monasteries of Valencia was inaugurated in the year 2008[1][2] and this monastery is the first stage of the route.

The monastery has a fascinating olive store with all the jars for oil built into kind of walls in the store room.  Once it became owned privately the farming then turned to almonds, fruits and vines.  It is a stunning building and the family still come to visit and often there are events put on there - the details can be found on their website along with detailed history about the place and there is a translate option on the Google search page:

Prices, e-mail and opening hours below (taken from the website) and although in Spanish, it is easy to work out even if you don't speak the language.  

HORARIOS DE VISITA (Particulares) 
INVIERNO: (Del 1 de septiembre al 30 de junio) 

Jueves y Sábados (excepto festivos)
  • 11'30 h. Visita guiada única. Particulares: no hace falta reservar.
VERANO: (Del 1 de julio al 31 de agosto)

Jueves y Sábados (excepto festivos)
  •  11'30 h. y 18'00 h. Dos visitas guiadas. Particulares: no hace falta reservar.
Fechas y horarios extraordinarios de visita
Puente de Octubre  2012: Sábado día 6, Domingo 7, Martes 9 y Jueves 11 y Sábado 13, visitas guiadas a las 11'30 h.Puente de Diciembre 2012: Jueves día 6, Viernes 7 y Sábado 8 visitas guiadas a  las 11'30 h.
Precio de las visitas guiadas
  • Particulares: Adultos 4 € / Menores de 18 años 3 €.
  • Grupos: Adultos 3,50 € / Menores de 18 años 2,50 €.
Información y reservas
Bridge over the lakes in the stunning gardens
  • Oficina de Recepción del Monasterio:                                                      Tel. 619 524 093
    Tel. 628 578 600
  • Horario de atención: Lunes a Sábados de 8'30 h a 21'30 h.

Left is part of the cloister, there was an upper and lower cloister that could be walked and in the middle there are many drinking and washing fountains, now sadly not working due to the corrosion of the iron pipes, but you get the impression of how it would have looked.  The water was brought to the monastery by an aquaduct which carries a canal of water, 13km from the mountain nearby at a gentle gradient all the way into the monastery storage tank - which is like a large lake itself.  Water was originally brought by the Moors and the architecture can be seen in the construction.  All the rocks were hewn from the mountain and brought to the construction site.  The original aquaduct is around a 1000 years old and it was developed and maintained through the centuries.  While walking down to view it my mother saw three wild boar run across out path!  We all missed them but it was most exciting to follow their tracks along the muddy path!

Historic Xàtiva - you can spend two or three days here easily! 
Although I have spent some time exploring Xàtiva, every time I visit the town there seems to be a new and unexplored area I discover.  On one trip in I discovered some historic sign boards, which show the Ecclesiastical walking route of the town (The Borja Route) and on following it, one discovers some of the oldest parts of the town with stunning buildings.  The route is easy walking, not too far and most people should manage it quite easily.  My mother and I walked it on a Sunday after lunch and we felt as though we had the whole town entirely to ourselves!  You will see what I mean by the photos below - wonderfully empty of people!  There are other routes - the castle route (difficult grade as it requires a very steep climb to the castle which is situated very high up on the cliffs above the town), the historical/art route, old Xàtiva and also the Fire Route which follows the armed forces route through the city from the war of succession.  It is so called because the French set fire to the city.  For information on these routes with a plan of where to walk and for general information on the town go to:
Church where Borjas were
Christened.  Callixtus III is the
statue on the left and Alejandro VI
(Rodrigo Borja) is on the right

A brief history for those who may have missed it on an earlier blog and taken from one of the overviews of Xàtiva I found when doing my research:

The Town, originally Roman, was founded because of it’s unlimited supply of fresh water, supplied by natural springs, you will see people filling their water bottles from one of the fountains. Xativa is as well called the town of the 1000 fontains.

The Via Augusta (the longest Roman road on the Iberian Peninsula) once passed Xàtiva, and Hannibal watered his elephants here, denoting the important position Xàtiva had centuries ago. A myth says, that one of Hannibal’s sons is born in the Xativa Castle. Xàtiva is conserved today for its own merits and is declared a "monumental town" par exellence. 

Xàtiva is the birthplace of two Popes of the Borja dynasty, the only Spanish popes the Catholic church ever had. The famous painter José de Ribera, known as "El Españoleto", is another of Xativas famous sons. 

In the XI century the first paper mill in Europe was built here, the paper being made with straw and rice, known today as "Xativí paper". 

The empty Sunday streets of Xàtiva - this road also houses
the art gallery open in the week and the convent (left of the
picture) can also be visited.  
Outside one of the 13th Century Convent
of St Francis, there is a fully working
and restored fountain from the same time period opposite

Looking back toward the fountain and convent
Almost everywhere you go, on peering
along the wonderful old narrow streets
a glimpse of the castle which dominates
the town from its clifftop position can be seen

Camino direction marker and tile
Old pharmacy with tiled panel.  These buildings are also
on the Camino Levante route and for anyone walking it
you should make some time to stop off and visit the town.
There is a pilgrim hostal just up from here and right near
the old hospital of the poor.  It's such an historic centre
and you can feel the steps of all those who have visited
before you.

The beautiful old hospital of the poor - now used as a public building, you can go inside during opening hours.
Apparently this 15th Century building still has clinics run inside it.

One of the Ruta 1 Sign boards - all are in English and Spanish
This one explains about the 15th century fountain
(show here also) which is said to be one of the oldest
fountains in the Valencia region.  The water is cool,
sweet and refreshing and we were most grateful for
its presence in this lovely little square.  

This is a marvelous and quirky little house - it's strange thin-ness and shape are because the building used to be a church and this tall thin end used to be the church tower which accounts for its strange aspect.  The history of it is on a signboard attached to its wall.

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