We looked out of our windows on the sixth morning here straight into mist. The opposite side of the valley was completely invisible. It wasn’t raining but it was socked in. A reasonable rule of thumb is that, when the valley is socked in, head for the coast where it is often clearer. There’s an old fort at Dénia, which we visit less frequently, so we decided to make that our destination.
In fact, the weather wasn’t much clearer at Dénia but we were 700 feet lower so the mist was now above us. It’s off season and parking was a doddle. Abandoning our rental car in a suitable spot, we set off in search of the entrance to the fort. On our approach, we came across a tunnel under the fort where, apparently, people used to take shelter from bombing during the Spanish civil war. [As Franco, I feel a little uncomfortable mentioning the Spanish civil war but what can you do?] Even to an artistic numbskull such as myself, the lighting and metal structures in the tunnel looked very appealing and Francine managed to capture it, even sin tripod. Brava!
A little more wandering along some narrow streets up the hillside got us to the fort’s entrance where we stumped up our 3€ each entrance. Look, let’s face it, it’s a pile of old stones. Actually, the stones appear to vary widely in age starting from about 1208 and stretching up to siglo [century] XVIII, according to the label on some walls. I am not the world’s greatest admirer of old stones but it was quite pleasant, though the views across the rooftops of Dénia could’ve been a tad more inspiring, I thought. More interesting to me was seeing a seagull plucking what was clearly a freshly butchered dove for its lunch. Peace on earth, I guess. I couldn’t see any discarded olive branch but a little olive oil would’ve made it slip down more readily, I think.
The main shopping street in Dénia provided a little entertainment as we wandered back towards our abandoned car. In much the same way as I can take or leave piles of old stones, I can take or leave children. Here, however, were some well behaved youngsters being shepherded in some sort of folk dance thingy in a street strewn with autumnal leaves. If this is as high-key as Christmas gets in Spain , I’ll be happy.
Now to the title. Soon after leaving the car, we had seen a restaurant displaying a chalk board outside declaring “Hay Erizos”. Hmmm, must be something noteworthy, we mused; something a little special. Whipping out my phone with its handy-dandy translation app, I discovered that the restaurant seemed to be declaring, “there are hedgehogs”. Well, hold me back! After all, I’ve heard of hedgehogs baked in clay, the clay plucking the spines off when you open it up. [No, I couldn’t do it, they are far too cute and far too endangered.] It seems a bit like a very dirty salt crust technique. Wait. A little further down the entry there was an alternative possibility. Given their full title this sign may have been referring to erizos de mar, in which case the restaurant was saying, “there are sea urchins”. That made more sense, Dénia being a fishing port, ‘n’ all. Like Dénia’s fish, I was hooked. We had missed out on sampling percebes [goose barnacles] which we discovered on a fishmonger’s counter in the stunning market at Valencia, just because we had no good way to keep them fresh on the way back home. Not wanting to miss out on another interesting gastronomic first, though we had no clue about how to tackle the beasts, we went in for a quick half dozen hoping we could bluff it. Fortunately, the way they were presented, opened and accompanied by small spoons, gave us a clue. They were slightly sweet in a fishy kind of way and delicious – definitely worth repeating should the opportunity arise.
Now, if I could just find some more percebes.