A few years ago, my husband Bill and I, along with several other bloggers, were invited by the Land of Valencia Tourist office on a trip to experience the Valenciana area of Spain and the FIB Music Festival, held for the past 17 years in Benicassim.
Although we have traveled to Europe more than 40 times, this was our first trip to Spain. We were delighted with the invitation, and we decided to add an extra week to our trip so we could visit Barcelona. We are so glad we made this trip. Spain is so different from the other places we have been to in Europe, that we were constantly surprised by the unique architecture, the abundance of fresh produce and seafood and the exceptionally friendly people.
Benicassim, which is located on the Costa del Azahar north of Valencia, is a resort town that is a favorite of the British. The FIB (Festival Internacional de Benicassim) Music Festival draws thousands every year, mostly from England. This year the Festival was held July 15 -18 with Kasabian, Vampire Weekend, The Prodigy and Gorillaz as headliners. But there were scores more bands performing on the three stages over the four nights. The weather, though hot during the day was glorious for this outdoor, nighttime venue.
Our days were spent touring this gorgeous part of Spain and in partaking in long, delicious lunches of tapas and fine wine. One day we drove to the Medieval, walled city of Morella. The drive to Morella was memorable in itself. We drove on some one-lane roads up and down the El Maestrat region’s mountains. The mountains were terraced centuries ago and are still used for agriculture today. There are several viewpoints along the way, where you can get a postcard view of the majestic Morella sitting atop a high outcrop. We finished the day with a visit to Peniscola, a fortified town built on a narrow peninsula on the Mediterranean. This area of Spain, the Castellon, is where the Knights of the Templar lived and fought.
One evening we took a hike on the hills above Benicassim to the ruins of a castle that was once the fortress of the legendary El Cid. It was a 5k hike that was led by a young historian, which made the hike all the more interesting and fun. The memory of watching the dramatic sunset from the castle grounds still stays with me.
Although Valencia itself was not on the agenda, we found two days to visit this fantastic, yet overlooked city. It was truly my favorite city on this trip. Just three hours south of Barcelona by fast train, Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, is so beautiful, it takes my breath away. The buildings have a Moorish influence that distinguishes it from Barcelona and other cities to the north. And the City of Arts and Sciences, set just outside the old town, is spectacular. Designed by Valencia born architect Santiago Calatrava, the City of Arts and Sciences is a large-scale urban recreation center for culture and science which also incorporates L’Oceanogràfic, an underwater city designed by the late Felix Candela.
We then spent five memorable days in Barcelona, enjoying the Ramblas, the sea, the museums, and the legacy of Gaudi. The days were quite hot, but walking under the arching plane trees on the Ramblas, with the intermittent breeze from the Mediterranean, made it more tolerable. The hot days gave way to wonderfully comfortable nights which is when this city comes alive. We can’t wait to go back!
Written By Terri Fogarty and photos by Bill Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com