Barry's Blog # 21 – Words are all I have


Words are all I have

I really do try to refrain from being a spelling/grammar Nazi when it comes to reading the comments section on YouTube videos, various forums and Face Book pages... But there are two specific things which whenever I see them incorrectly used in written form, make my eyes bleed and cause brain fluid to begin flowing out of my nose and ears.

Apart = Something that is separated from something else.

i.e.; Please move those two tables apart.

A part = Something that is a 'part' of something bigger.

i.e.; I need to buy a part for my engine.

Don't even get me started on...

Your, you're.

There, their, they're.

Where, were, we're.

I feel like I'm in some sort of comedy routine writing this blog... And that's just the English language.

In this neck of the woods, the Sailing A B Sea temporary base of operations in Spain, there are literally two ways of spelling everything. The reason for that is because we are in the geographic area known as the Valencian Community and although now part of Spain, Valencia still likes to hold on to its own dialect. So for example in Spanish, the town we are staying is Jávea, but in Valencian it is Xàbia and all road signs carry both spellings. The same goes for other towns and cities in the area and it’s kind of cute in the beginning, but the shine soon wears off when you’re trying to drive to somewhere and when you look at a road sign you’re not sure if it’s the town you’re looking for with a Valencian spelling, another town with a similar sounding name or the actual town you want with a Spanish spelling.

Valencia road signs

All that aside, the history of this area is fascinating. The (now) city of Valencia, one of the oldest cities in Spain, has a history dating back 2,100 years when it was founded as a Roman colony under the name "Valentia Edetanorum" on the site of a former Iberian village. It’s been controlled on and off over the centuries by the Romans, the Visigoths, the Moors and the Christians up until the 16th century when the kingdoms of Spain were united to form Spain as we know it today.

The first references to Javea as a village date back to 1304, but the local area has an even older heritage. Although maybe not as civilised as the Valencia Roman colony, there is evidence of human habitation since prehistoric times, 30,000 years ago, by cave dwellers on Montgó mountain. Subsequent residents of Javea have included stone-age and bronze-age peoples, Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Visigoths, Germanic, Carthaginians and Moors. Today the population of Javea officially stands at 33,000 with half of this number being made up of none Spanish people. The annual influx of summer tourists temporarily increases this number to well over 100,000.

Roman fish salting pool with channel
Roman fish salting pool
Channel dug by Romans for flushing out fish salting pools

Fun fact: For a small town, Javea actually played a very important role in supplying the Roman Empire with a very popular food condiment called Garum. Like modern fish sauce, Roman Garum was also made from fermented fish, the fish guts specifically and salt. Romans cooked with it either as a straight flavoring or by combining it with other ingredients. And even today as we walk along the coast from Javea port to the Arenal we can still see where channels and pools were carved out of the Tosca Sandstone to be used in the Garum making process.

A typical street in Javea old town

So where am I taking you with all this fascinating history? I’m taking you to Javea old town. Just like the game of football, Javea is a town of two halves. There's the original old town site set back about 1.5 kilometres from the coast and there's new Javea which has grown up around the old town as the population increased and tourism blossomed.

Beautiful, picturesque, quaint, stunning, charming and pretty don't even begin to paint a picture of the old town. Strolling along the alleyways lined with very old two and three story buildings, it seems that every time a corner is turned there's something else that causes your eyes to widen and the word 'wow' to be uttered for the hundredth time. One particular favourite moment for me was turning a corner and looking up along the length of a gently sloped alley that was so very pleasing on the eye. It seemed that all of the residents had gone to great lengths to put lush flowering potted plants outside their front doors and hanging from every possible wall space and tiny window ledge.

The plant lined alleway in Javea old town

In its beginnings the old town used to be walled with just three main gates, these fortifications were to protect the inhabitants from marauding pirates that frequented this coast. There is still evidence of these fortifications and stone crosses now mark the locations of the three original gates.

The streets and alleyways are home to both residents and a variety of small shops and traditional Spanish tapas bars/restaurants. Some of the bars/restaurants could easily be missed by the unobservant, as the restaurant facade is really no different from that of the homes on either side of it. Generally the only clue to its difference will be a menu of some sort inside a small glass fronted wooden box mounted on the wall next to the door. One of these restaurants in particular is called La Cajita Azul and I first heard about it from my brother Phil, who told us it is a 'must visit' place because the food is fabulous and the low prices are almost embarrassing.

La Cajita Azul restaurante in Javea old town

You must book a table well in advance at this little restaurant as it is so popular and always packed every evening that it's open. In our naiveté Aannsha and I rocked up at 7:30 one Saturday evening in January asking for a table for two, only to be politely told by the owner/chef that there were 80 people booked in and it was only him and one waiter working that night. A couple of weeks la