Orchards and prostitutes.
We drove to Alqueríes and took the train to Almenara. The walk back, once again, was through orange groves. There were few distant views because we were surrounded by trees most of the time. Later in the walk, there was some more open land with derelict orchards and winter fields, yet to be planted. Occasionally we climbed out of the trees to cross the railway or autopista. These bridges gave us a good view of the otherwise very flat land. There were mountains in the distance.
We had become accustomed to meeting orange pickers and exchanging "Bon Dia" greetings. At one junction we saw in the distance two unusually smart female orange pickers. As we got nearer, their appearance became more an more incongruous. First the glossy leather trousers became obvious. Then six inch stiletto heels loomed into view. The other girl had high platform shoes. Not ideal orange picking footwear. The sign daubed on a concrete structure confirmed our suspicions. It read "Puta SIDA".
The lack of rest days and the impossibility of writing up each day as it comes because of long transfer times, has made this walk a bit like the stereotypical American tour of European cities. I was in Florence with Val preparing a teaching practice exchange for our 3rd year education students. We were having breakfast in a delightful American-run little hotel right next to the Ponte Vecchio. How we could afford it I don't know. It was remarkably cheap and when I looked it up a couple of years later, prices had gone through the roof. Perhaps it was because it didn't have en suite facilities (add sometime on suite with Marie?) The hotel was also being used by an American tour group and one of their party joined us at our table.
“And how do you like Venice?” asked me. “Well, I said, “I quite liked it but it was many years since I had been there.”
“Oh my Gaad!, aren't we there now?”
“Er, no. This is Florence.”
“Oh, my Gaad!” Perhaps there is there some truth in stereotypes after all. Preparing another Erasmus programme, we were supposed to meet in the lobby at a certain time. The Austrians arrived first, followed swiftly by the East and West Germans. Then I turned up and last of all, came the Portuguese. None of us was late but that was our arrival order and it remained the same throughout the preparation long weekend.
So, to make sure I get our legs right, I am having to look at the train timetable to remind me which legs were done when. Mostly in my notes, I have just put Day 1, Day 2 etc.
We drive to Alquerias del Niño Perdido. We don't know who the lost boy is. While waiting on the platform we see a woman approach. She has a large trolley with a huge canvas bag on it. Reading the words on the bag it transpires that she is a fencer so it presumably contains her épées and protective clothing. This reminds me of the fencing club at Felixstowe of which I was fortunately not a member. The girls who were, however, told us about the fencing teacher's insistence on calling certain parts of the protective clothing "those bosomy things". Perhaps we should be grateful she did not also coach in cricket at a boys' school.
My nose is still streaming but I have a huge supply of toilet paper and a rolling programme of transfer of dry tissue in the left-hand pocket to wet in the right to the bin whenever we pass one.
I have looked up runes and fems (add reference to this to the right page eventually). Runes does not feature in my little Catalan-French dictionary (bought in Barcelona on a preparation meeting for a Comenius project) I couldn't find one for Catalan English and normally this doesn't matter as my French vocabulary is adequate. However, I was flummoxed by the word purins. Now at home, I have looked this up in my almost 2000 page long French dictionary and it appears that purin is slurry. We had thought tirar runes i purins had the French sense of tirer meaning shoot. In fact it must be tirar in the Spanish sense of not throwing down something as in tirar basuras. I have still not succeeded in finding out what runes are. The only meaning in the Spanish, Catalan and French dictionaries is rune. I must try and get in touch with Dolors or Elena to try and sort this out.
We saw scabious, a very lovely sage-leaf marrow, a big ajuga and white and yellow cabbage plants. White cabbage is the main plant at this time of the year. In Moncofa we buy some almond tarts. These have short crust pastry rather than filou and have a layer of rice paper on the bottom. We wonder if these would be OK for Mini as a present. The others deteriorated hugely if you didn't have them immediately. This proved to be the case but we failed to find any more like it during the rest of our stay.
We see PUTA SIDA written up on a wall as we pass through some agricultural country. We wonder what made some rural activist decide to paint this up. Then we see some ladies very similar to those who had populated our street in the red light district of Alacant. It was somehow more surprising on a quiet lane among orange pickers. But obviously they have their needs and these girls are willing to oblige. One wonders where they go as there are no buildings for miles around and it is chilly in the orchards themselves. We never discover. Along this stretch we continue to intersect with the Via Augusta from time to time.
The Via Augusta, according to Wikipedia, was a road built by the Romans and renovated between 8BC and 2BC on the orders of the emperor Augustus. It crosses the whole of Spain from Cádiz to the Coll de Panissars. It then crosses the Pyrenees close to the Mediterranean and joins the Via Domitia. It follows roughly the modern routes of the N340 and the A7. This means we may well meat up with it again. It used to be mainly a trade route and from the number of lorries on the N340 and the A7 is still being used for the same purpose.
Alquería means a farmhouse. According to Wikipedia, the name comes from the picture of Our Lady of the Lost Boy which the monks of Caudiel put up in the Oratory of Bonretorn in 1693. I haven't seen this painting but assume it relates to the time when Jesus, at the age of 12, stayed behind in the temple at Jerusalem when his parents had already set off for home.