I’m writing this a couple of weeks prior to moving onto our 45 foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey yacht, which as you probably know from reading our previous blogs, will be our home for the foreseeable future. Up until very recently
I’ve been a Landlubber, which Dictionary.com nicely defines as “an unseasoned sailor or someone unfamiliar with the sea”.
Yup, that about sums me up. I’m less unseasoned since Baz and I learned to sail in Gibraltar in February, but talk to me in a few months and it will be a different story: we’ll be as seasoned as fish and chips from any decent English chippy. Our future blogs will be peppered with accounts of our life as live-aboards. But for now, I want to spend a bit of time reviewing Javea on the Costa Blanca in Spain, which has been our beautiful land based home, thanks to Barry’s generous brother Phil, who is allowing us to stay in his holiday apartment here.
An overview of Javea
In “Barry’s Blog #21 – Words are all I have”, Baz has outlined in excellent detail Javea’s history, which I won’t repeat here. Suffice it to say that Javea is an affluent town situated on the sparkling azure water of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a blend of very old and new and has a picturesque charm that you would expect of a Spanish sea side town.
There is the old harbour where privileged members of the Club Nautico moor their yachts, and where the fishing boats rest nightly between daily trips to catch another haul. Beyond the harbour wall are a handful of mooring buoys, which attract visiting yachts for a night or two.
Close to the harbour is a tapas bar – Bar Cantina Lonja – where the fishermen go for breakfast. Baz and I discovered it one day and went in to the rustic cafe bar where the fishermen were enjoying a rowdy and lively conversation. They spotted the ‘dead cat’ on Barry’s camera mic and we roughly translated their jovial Spanish to mean that they were wondering what that big furry thing was! Barry and I enjoyed tapas and a caña of draft beer and Baz fell in love with Boquerones – marinated white anchovies, which he now lovingly calls “little white fish”. We always have a container of those in the fridge for tapas moments.
To the right of the harbour is the curving beach lined with smooth round white pebbles, where I’ve had the pleasure of discovering small pieces of tumbled beach glass that will one day be additions to jewellery that I’ll be able to craft once we’re on the yacht. The beach is overlooked by delightful bars and restaurants along the wide paved walkway and, when I’ve been up for a 3.2km walk have arrived at the neighbouring town of El Arenal, which is a more touristy side of this area. Along the way, there is evidence of a Roman-era industry; the making of a prized fish sauce which was fermented in large chambers carved out of the rock and fed with sea water through two excavated channels. These chambers and channels can easily be seen and you could be forgiven in thinking that you’re looking at an old quarry. If you’re interested, you can read more about this here.
Perched atop the hill behind Javea are the Molins (windmills), and further along the promontory is the Lighthouse at Cap de San Antoni, which flashes at night and reminds us how close we are to the sea. We loved visiting these old structures and you can have a tour around them in our video ‘Sightseeing around Javea Spain - Sailing A B Sea (Ep.005)’.
While fashion buffs may be disappointed at the lack of Versace, Calvin Klein, Armani or Dolce & Gabbana stores, there are still plenty of boutiques sporting designer clothes to keep the best dressed happy. At the other end of the shopping spectrum, Javea also has a couple of ‘bazaars’ selling the ubiquitous Chinese mass produced bargains for when you can’t find what you’re looking for in the hardware or electrical stores. We bought a cork screw from one of these and it has a quirk of not actually lifting the cork until it has already screwed through all of it. The result is usually cork pieces floating in the first glass of wine, but hey, what’s a little bit of cork in a cheap but tasty drop of local wine?
That’s one thing that I do appreciate here; fewer additives in the wine, a great choice of varietals and at very reasonable prices too. Probably not the best environment for an alcoholic, but if you like a glass or two with your dinner (lunch, or evening snack), then - great! There are also home decorating stores that make me wish I was buying a house rather than a boat, because there are so many beautiful things I could add to my home ... And then there are the tourist shops, which in Javea, are filled with the kinds of beautiful presents I’d like to buy for my girlfriends.
Barry and I are using a Westpac global currency card and the outlet in Spain which allows withdrawals with no bank charges is Deutsche Bank. That’s in El Arenal, so there are occasions when we do have to walk the 6.4km round trip, to withdraw cash. It was after one of these hikes that I had to seek out a chiropractor, who to my relief is in the centre of town, is reasonable and most important of all, knows what he is doing.
We’ve used two different car hire companies in Javea and both have been great experiences with new, well kept cars at less than extortionate prices, and with good service. One car company which is situated on the outskirts of the town is kind enough to collect us from our apartment to collect the car and drop us back when we return the car.
Supermarkets and Pharmacies
The larger ones with better choices are further than walking distance and we’ve gorged ourselves on their produce when we’ve had hire cars! For daily shopping – it has to be daily otherwise the walk back laden with bags is too heavy – we shop at a local Masymas which has a decent range of goods and a great array of cured meats, cheeses and fresh fish.
Unlike supermarkets in Australia, you can purchase alcohol here, but any regular toiletry products with a hint of a chemical in them need to be purchased at a pharmacy. For instance zinc powder for ‘diaper’ rash is not available at a supermarket. You have to go to the pharmacy for that if you don’t want to settle for talcum powder.
Pharmacies here though are a constant source of delight for me, because not only do they sell the products with chemicals in them (like zinc oxide), but on the two occasions I’ve gone in with an ailment, I’ve been offered products made with all natural ingredients (a cough syrup made with honey, lemon, and thyme) and they’ve gone on to recommend the vitamins I could take that would enhance my immune system!
The Old Town
This is the gem of Javea. Its maze of narrow streets with old painted Tosca sandstone buildings, wooden shuttered windows and bright flowers in pots on window ledges never becomes tiring. The weather-worn 13th century church of San Bartoleme in the centre of the town bears the signs of combat from pirates and marauders through the centuries. It is still a place of worship today and most Saturday evenings hosts a concert or performance. We can hear the bells peeling for mass as the sound travels down the hill to our apartment. I’m not sure which I prefer, distant church bells or the chirping of caged canaries that brightly sing their trill tunes as I walk by. I don’t like birds to be caged, but I have to say these canaries sound happy.
There is a myriad of bars and restaurants around the Old Town and prices tend to be more reasonable there than down on the front. I suppose you pay for sea views. But in Old Javea, I love the atmosphere, the quaintness and the fun of discovering what appear to be homes, but turn out to be small restaurants.
One in particular, the Cajita Azul (or Little Blue Box) is a definite must to visit if you’re in the area. It’s run by Miguel from Andalucía, who shops each morning for fresh produce and creates a menu from what he’s bought. Each day the menu is different and written on a blackboard, that he shows you when you sit down. It’s amazing how Miguel plus one assistant is able to produce an amazing range of tapas in the tiniest of kitchens for 80 covers. It is always busy as we found to our disappointment twice, and only got in on our third attempt after we booked a week in advance. And reasonable! We went there with Phil when he came over for a week, and the menu for the three of us plus at least three bottles of very good red wine, only came to 71 Euros!
Cafes, bars and restaurants in general
Whether in Old Town or by the harbour, we have never been disappointed with the food. The service is consistently good (except for one bad experience in El Arenal where we were pointedly ignored but were not sure why, so we left), and the food and drink is cheaper for its equivalent in Australia. Coffee is usually made with UHT milk so there’s a bit of a taste bud adjustment to be made there, but it is usually slightly less expensive than in Oz. For instance, I have had a flat white for 2.8 Euros (AUD4.50), a cappuccino for 1.75 Euros (2.80 AUD) and last but not least, a coffee I’ve taken to as my ‘usual’ in Spain, a cortado (which is a shot of espresso with the equivalent in warm milk) again for 1.75 Euros. I like the cortado as it is smooth, creamy, and I get the coffee shot but without too much milk.
There is a market in Javea Old Town every Thursday which is one of those delights to discover, walk around and buy from. The market is situated in about three locations and sells everything from ‘flea market wares’, along with fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables, dried fruits and spices, cheeses, cured meats and olives. While we've been here, we've been eating Valencia oranges and I have to say they are the juiciest, sweetest, most flavoursome oranges I've ever had!
There is also a permanent market building near the church in Old Town where I have discovered a man who makes the best marinated olives I’ve tasted in Spain so far! I’ve always got a container of them in the fridge (alongside the boquerones) and even Baz has been converted to sort of liking olives after tasting them!
And after shopping at the markets, we have a choice of bars where we can watch the world go by.
Contact with Javea’s ancient people?
All in all, our stay in Javea has been charming. From Phil’s place which is an apartment in a converted finca (a country estate), to the relaxing expanse of the sea only 10 minutes walk in one direction, to the quaint historic Old Town which is a 15 minute walk in the other direction from where we’re staying. I can honestly recommend Javea as a place worth a long visit if you are travelling to Spain.
I couldn’t finish this blog post though, without sharing a dream that I had early on in our stay here. However since I spent most of my last blog outlining how dreams helped me identify our yacht and find our lost passports, and I’m not really sure how interesting you would find another detailed account of my inner visions, I’ll keep this account brief.
I found myself talking to the female shaman of a group of ancient people who lived in caves behind Javea, and who took me to one cave to show me their paintings – pictures of star patterns in red, on a cream background...
Following the dream of the cave people and paintings, I checked in with Auntie Google and she took me to a website where I was amazed to find a site about the Cova de Barranc del Migdia. The website outlined the cave’s fascinating, accidental and relatively recent discovery in 1989 by some cavers. Here's an excerpt:
“The random cavers who discovered the cave walked into what is now referred to by scientists as the Chamber of Paintings. Inside of this chamber are over 100 wall paintings that have been dated back to during the Neolithic period between the years of 3000 and 2000 BC. The cave walls are covered with three different types of paintings making the area even more interesting to study...
“...The second set of paintings are made with a crudely fashioned brush but are painted in red instead of black. The paintings are simple and feature three diamonds that are joined together over and over. It is unknown what this may have symbolised to the ancient natives.”
This excited me (not only because it seemed #relatable to my dream, but because I love ancient sites). Baz and I looked at visiting the site, but concluded that it may be a tad difficult to get to, because even though they are situated in Montgo, the mountain directly behind Javea, we read that we’d have to climb 40 metres up a steep rock face, or use a lower entrance with an accessible ladder, as the tinier opening to the cave is too small to be a viable entrance. I was quite disappointed, but Barry and I ended up visiting another cave at nearby Benidoleig, which was amazing, and we made a video that included it called ‘Cars, Marinas, Yachts and Parties - Sailing A B Sea (Ep.006)’.
In 2012 an exhibition called ‘Art and Death in the Montgo, the cave in the Migdia ravine’ was opened in the Town Hall in Javea. We’re going back to the Old Town this week, so we’ll see if the exhibition is still there. Anyhow, if you’re curious about the cave paintings at Barranc el Migdia, you can visit http://javealife.com which has photos and also a video.
Looking at the clock, I see its lunch time, and writing about boquerones and olives has me hankering for tapas. So before I head off to the kitchen to rustle up a tasty lunch, I’ll bid you hasta luego – see you soon - until next time.