[Pronounced “Sha-tee-va”, as near as damn it.]
In search of some entertainment on what was billed to be an essentially cloudy day, we decided to take a run up the road to a town called Xàtiva. It’s a 90km run north-west that would take almost 90 minutes. As we approached Gandia, where we would turn and head inland, our cloud had begun looking more like a sea mist – very odd looking weather conditions in this part of Spain. We arrived at about 11:30 and found a shopping area with plenty of parking space, then took to Shanks’s pony for the short walk into town itself.
Why was I here? Well, largely because Francine said so. Xàtiva has an old town but towering above it atop an imposing hill is an imposing castle, a Borja castle. That name may look more familiar in the English spelling of Borgia, as in Lucrezia Borgia. This and the old town were Francine’s main targets. Well, we had to do something so why not this?
I don’t quite get Spanish towns or, at least, much of the architecture. Most of the buildings look a bit slab-like; rather utilitarian. There was much destruction caused by Franco and the civil war but I doubt that would account for everything. Maybe it’s just the way Spain builds things. Xàtiva was no different but there is an old town area beneath the castle. The old town area seemed even weirder in that much of it seemed abandoned and in a state of disrepair, though there were still businesses – we found a small local bar/restaurant for a coffee.
The coffee came after Francine had been working her photographic impressionist skills on a sizable abandoned restaurant called the Borgias Época. It had clearly once been a handsome building. It sat on a small square with a couple of trees and benches which seemed to be a pleasant location offering some shade in the summer. This building’s falling into disuse felt very sad. The trees against the red walls was what had attracted Francine’s attention.
Here’s a couple more examples of shabby chic in the old town that could cause raised eyebrows. Clearly, fish hadn’t been popular, which is unusual for Spain.
We made our way up to the castle. There is a tourist road train that would ferry you up and save you the climb up a twisting road with about half a dozen hairpin bends. We, of course, walked, after I declared that I wasn’t going to go up. Actually, I found that for those on foot most of the hairpin bends could be short cut by scrambling up tracks worn straight up the steep-sided hill. For those on foot? Yes, just to make one feel really self-righteous, having clambered up I was faced by free roadside parking at the top. Well done us! As pensionistas [old gits], our entrance fee was a mere 1.25€ each. Still, it is just a pile of old stones. Here’s a view of them.
Descending was much more enjoyable. We got back down to the old town and found a bar/restaurant open in the same square as the abandoned fish shop. There were customers outside, which was a good sign, and a chirpy barkeep inside. A chalk board advertised a 2-course menú del día. We could’ve had paella con habas [paella with beans] followed by calamar a la romana [deep fried squid], with a glass of wine and coffee for a princely 8€ each. How do they do it? I doubt this is why the businesses failed but it makes you think? One glass of wine would cost that [about £7] in the UK. Not wanting that much food at lunchtime, we opted for a couple of tapas instead – boquerones con aceitunas [anchovies with olives] and ensalada rusa [Russian salad]. It cost a little more than the menu but we did have two drinks each.