We drove to Almenara and caught the train to Puçol. The walk back to Almenara took us through miles of orange groves. A scrumped mandarin, cold from the dawn frost, is a rare treat and far tastier than the
desecrated desiccated specimens on sale in UK supermarkets.
We passed castles at Sagunt and had a tasty tuna and tomato pasty from a shop open every day.
Google Earth is really useful for planning our routes to avoid main roads and obstructions. On this day, we made a 3.3km detour to get across the AP7 autopista. This was a rare occasion when the Google route was less efficient. We could have taken a more direct route because there was a bridge under the autopista that looked like a stream bed on Google Earth. We have saved many times that distance by planning the routes in advance.
When Mini is with us we do not walk on Christmas day but as the weather is going to be fine and there will be little traffic on the roads, we ascertain that there is a suitable train running, have a nice lie-in and then set of for Almenara. The route takes us past more orange groves. Hence Neil's decision to use oranges for his website banner, even though I would have liked egrets. The fact is we saw egrets in numbers on only at the start of the walk whereas oranges have been continuous and ubiquitous. Today we pass Sagunt, almost certainly a Roman town.
My nose is streaming. The amount of toilet roll I have brought is woefully insufficient. Luckily my fleece is absorbent and luckily the snot is just water. I feel OK, better than yesterday now it has come out properly.
Passing through Sagunto, we notice a bollería open. This surprises us on Christmas day. We go in and ask about tarts. The stock is pitifully small and reminds me a bit of stalls in Congo. On the shelves are a few bottles of drink a number of standard items , some bread and few tarts. There are no sweet ones left but there are two savoury tuna and tomato tarts left. We chat to the shopkeeper and say we are surprised that her shop is open. She says she is open every day. She has been running the shop for two years and needs to open to make money. We are about to leave and I say Feliz Nadal, which I have seen up in lights as part of the street decorations in several towns. Her face lights up. Are we Valencians, she says in a moment of enthusiasm. Even two words convince her that we must be! She now wants to continue the conversation. Her daughter is teaching her to use a computer. She says if you want to learn something, you can learn it. She is interested in our walk and wishes us well when we eventually leave. What a difference between this woman and the Madrileña. I know who is the happier although one wonders what tragedy made the Valenciana start running a shop for the first time at quite an advanced age. It is encounters like these which enrich our walk change our attitudes and reinforce our desire to continue – a very special Christmas gift.
We see scabious, bunny flowers and broom as we walk along the pecuarias. At lunch time, we reach our first truly wild area and climb off the track to have lunch on the stones surrounded by yellow and white rock roses, thyme, rosemary and one miserable centaury. As we approached, two people were climbing down from this area carrying sprigs of rosemary and thyme, no doubt for their Christmas lunch. I decide to collect some herbs to do the same. In the evening we have Christmas dinner. Chicken from Eroski, pasta from the cupboard, stuffing from my suitcase, ratatouille from local ingredients, wine from our carton and pineapple with ice cream for pudding. Not entirely conventional perhaps but delicious none the less.