The last full day of any trip for me always seems to be the most frantic. I spend half the time mentally noting things I must do, places I must see before the end of the trip, then suddenly it is the end of the trip and the mental checklist remains.
And so the last full day begins in a state of minor turmoil, weighing up the importance of all the things I intended to see and do, against the alternative of – in the case of this particular trip – spending a final full day doing very little, in and by the swimming pool. After all, the sights will keep – they’ll still be there next week, next year, whenever I come back, and it’s likely little will have changed. I’ve taken hundreds of photographs this week already, more than enough to keep me busy editing for quite some time. And I’m unlikely to have access to a private swimming pool under a warm, cloudless sky once I’m back in London…
It doesn’t matter where I go – it could be local, could be the other side of the world – the dilemma I face on the last full day is always the same. The decision this time was made for me, by the arrival of two gardeners who’d come to mow the extensive rear lawn and trim the hedges. Peace and privacy gone, I set off in the car armed with the usual: camera gear, a TomTom iPhone app, several bottles of water and energy snacks, and absolutely no preparation whatsoever.
First stop, La Plana, the long ridge separating the towns of Xàbia and Dénia. Driving in to Xàbia from Cumbre del Sol, La Plana forms a backdrop to the town and I couldn’t help noticing while heading in on Wednesday that there were a number of small towers along the ridge, like turrets. They were surprisingly easy to navigate to, without knowing what or where they were, and fairly quickly I arrived at a small, empty (as always?) car park close to at least four of these turret-like structures. The title of a tourist information board gave the game away: Els Molins, the windmills. They were built between the 14th and 18th centuries in prominent positions along the ridge, and the sides of the ridge itself were terraced for agriculture. All that remains today are a few of the windmill towers, most of which are privately owned, and evidence of the terracing.
At this location, there were at least five windmills close by, one of which was easily accessible. There’s not a great deal to look at – just towers – and they themselves have been so thoroughly restored recently that they look almost new, at least from the outside (the windmill in the photo above has an opening around the far side, allowing you to wander in and peer up at the sky). More interesting is the view, as from here you can see across the whole town of Xàbia and along the Mediterranean coast, for some considerable distance on a clear day like today.
Getting there from Cumbre del Sol by car is easy: drive to Xàbia, then follow signs for the main road to Dénia, which winds up and over the La Plana ridge. Pretty much at the crest of the ridge is a right turn signposted for the Cap de Sant Antoni, which is the promontory at the Mediterranean end of the ridge. Follow this road for a few minutes, until you see a large tourist information map on the right hand side, at a junction with a small lane (this area is part of the Montgó Natural Park which surrounds the nearby mountain of the same name, and there are hiking trails and relevant maps throughout). Take a right turn here and follow the lane right to the end, where there’s a small car park – the windmills are right there. Take care when driving along the narrow lane as you pass a number of private residences and are quite likely to meet other drivers coming the other way, and/or pedestrians.
Following my simple rule, “I’m nearby, so I may as well”, I returned to the car and headed on to the Cap de Sant Antoni, at the end of the La Plana ridge. Once again there was plenty of free parking space, and, being a promontory towering high above and sticking out into the Mediterranean, a lighthouse. Awesome.
The lighthouse itself is of course on private property, but the rest of the promontory (and the sea immediately around it) is a nature reserve. I wandered initially towards the north side of the cape – to get a better look at the lighthouse – clambering slightly downhill over rocky terrain interspersed with small shrubs, until I came almost face-to-edge with the cliffs. As at Cumbre del Sol, and the Sierra Helada, the coastline here is one long meandering cliff face, towering some 150 m above the Mediterranean, pretty much without any barrier to prevent you from losing yourself over the edge. There’s a single rope, pictured above, along one section only, but you’re left to your own judgment anywhere else. Most sane people will of course keep their distance from the edge, but I’d advise against wandering around here on a windy day (or at night!). Fortunately, the lack of barrier does mean that the view of the Mediterranean from here on a good day, like today, is absolutely spectacular.
Back across the road, the terrain on the southern side of the Cape is somewhat less dramatic, sloping (steeply) down to Xàbia bay. There’s a lookout platform just off the road, from where you can admire a panoramic view of the entire bay, the town itself stretched along the shoreline and the almost elephantine lump that is the Montgó mountain looming behind. Panoramic photos taken, I noticed a trail a short way below the lookout, heading off to the right, descending slowly while following the ins and outs of the hillside for quite a way until it rounded a bend and disappeared, in the direction of Xàbia. You can just make it out on the above photo. I decided to follow it.
By now I was very happy that I’d opted for going out rather than staying by the pool. It was a roasting hot day, I was exploring, taking photographs and was now even attempting a mini-hike. The walk itself was fairly uninteresting and even a little creepy, as the path stuck to the hillside and disappeared in and out of shady, wooded areas, affording very little in the way of a view. In one such area, at a 90 degree bend where the path turned to follow the hillside back out towards the sea, I stopped dead in my tracks. There was a snake on the ground, coiled up amongst dead leaves and branches, just a couple of metres away. I froze. I can’t remember ever encountering a snake in the wild before – what should I do? Once I’d pinpointed its head, we stared at each other, motionless, for what felt like 30 minutes but was probably only around 30 seconds, until I remembered the camera in my hand and slowly began to draw it up to my face.
At which point the snake disappeared in the blink of an eye, deeper into the undergrowth and out of sight. Clearly not a fan of photography. It was huge, maybe a couple of metres long and completely black. I’ve no idea whether or not they’re dangerous, I certainly didn’t stick around to find out. But it did make wonder if staying by the pool would’ve been a better idea…
On reaching the next bend, out in the open once more and overlooking the Mediterranean, I was at the furthest spot on the path that I’d been able to see from the viewing platform. Here, it was clear that the path did indeed head on to Xàbia, as I was standing almost directly above the end of the marina and could pick out all the spots visited just two days ago – the waterfront, the Arenal promenade behind the beach, the port and the little red lighthouse, and of course the wonderfully modern Our Lady of Loreto church (Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora de Loreto) – you can easily see its “spiky” roofline (waves, remember) on the right of the above photo, a few buildings behind the port and the one slightly taller-than-the-rest apartment block. There were plenty of boulders around to sit on, so I sat, snacking and watching, until I remembered the snake and charged very quickly back along the path, uphill, without hesitation until I reached the car.
I’d just heard that the gardeners had finished their work, so it was time to head back towards the villa. Back down through Xàbia, and this time sticking nearer to the coast rather than heading cross country directly to Cumbre del Sol. There was just one more lighthouse to see, at Cap de la Nao, the promontory at the other end of Xàbia bay.
On a map of Spain, the eastern (Mediterranean) coastline forms a distinct point midway between Valencia and Alicante, seemingly pointing towards the Balearic islands of Formentera, Ibiza, Majorca and Minorca. Cap de la Nao is the tip of that point. Ibiza is less than 80 km across the sea from here, and is – according to tourist information signs – visible on a clear day. Not today, too hazy. But with such a vast expanse of ocean in front of you, it’s easy to stare out and imagine just about anything out there on the horizon. It’s a great view.
Cap de la Nao is largely a residential neighbourhood, and there’s no need to spend a lot of time there once you’ve seen the lighthouse and the view. There are a couple of cliff top restaurants – at least one of which has an outside dining area – if you wish to linger longer, and another viewing platform, this time looking southwest along the coast towards Cumbre del Sol.
The Cap de la Nao viewing platform is a great spot from where to appreciate the seemingly endless cliffs along this stretch of coastline, even on today’s hazy afternoon. In the far distance, on the left of the above photograph, you can just make out Penyal d’Ifach, some 11 km from here. On the right, the villas of Cumbre del Sol are perched and clustered high along the cliff tops, and – if you know where to look – the beach local to the villa, la Playa del Moraig is also visible.
You can tell I was in full “last full day” mode by this point, as I then made one further stop on the way home just to see the beach, la Playa del Moraig. Not to visit it, per se, but to see it from a small cliff top lookout, a fabulous vantage point almost hidden away at the end of an otherwise ordinary street lined with villas. I came to this same spot last year and took some nearly interesting photos, so thought I’d try again. I rather like the one above. It was taken with a 75-300 mm zoom lens, at 300 mm, so you can see just how high up the cliff top lookout really is…
And then I was done. A hot and sweaty few hours of walking and photographing, followed very swiftly by a well-earned dip in the pool, which was now surrounded by an immaculate lawn and perfectly clipped hedges. I also managed to take a good few more shots of the villa itself, before the sun went down on the last full day.
The last evening at Casa Patricia was spent eating, backing up and editing photos and watching TV – not very rock ‘n roll, but hey. I was exhausted. Back to London tomorrow afternoon. But first, a close runner-up in the most-frantic-time-on-a-trip: the last morning!