Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A change of scenery

The week following my last blog post was one of lower overall running mileage as one of my running days involved a hill endurance training session which, although not long, was intensive. The little road that goes up to the Col de Peguere features for the first time on the Tour de France route this year and has been dubbed 'the wall'. It is short but steep! The steepest section is the lower 1km which is at about 18% - I strode up it as a warm up. The following 1.2kms has an average gradient of 11.5%.  This was to be my hill endurance interval training section. I ran up it, slowly admittedly, but non-stop all the same, keeping my heart rate at a steady level. At the turnaround point, reached after just under 11 minutes, I jogged gently back down to the corner and repeated the hill another 2 times. I never thought I would be able to do it once, let alone three times! Great training.

Last Saturday, we decided to get away for a week, maybe two, for a change of scenery. Instead of heading away in Sadie, we have treated ourselves to some self-catering accommodation on the Spanish coast. Now, I had heard of the Costa Daurada and the Costa Blanca, but the Costa del Azahar? Nope! But what a surprise it is. .... a wonderfully unspoilt section of coastline in Valencia Province, between Tarragona and Valencia, where mass tourism has somehow been avoided. It is an area of olive groves, citrus groves and almond trees. The latter are bursting into blossom at this very moment, producing a heady scent which is quite distinctive. This is an area of natural beauty. From our base at Alcossebre, the Parc Natural de Serra d'Irta is like a magnet. I shall let the photos do the talking!

In addition to exploring the coastal path, we also headed up on to the ridge which looks down onto the village and which is dominated by an old hermitage.

 The hermitage up on the hill
 View down onto Alcossebre from the hermitage
On the run from the hermitage, we had a close encounter with one of the locals, a horseshoe whip snake, fortunately one of the non-venomous snakes of the area. It was actually quite a treat to see it as its numbers are apparently on the decline due to threats to its habitat.
This wasn't the only snake that we encountered. On yesterday's walk up to yet another hermitage, this time above Peniscola at the other end of the Parc Natural.....
..... I nearly walked into another bigger snake. It turned out to be a mature ladder snake, over a metre long, fortunately also non-venomous
I am going to have to be very careful if I am going to do any more runs on the small paths that meander through the scrubby undergrowth as snakes are very prevalent in this area!

The hermitage of Saint Antoni has been recently restored and is no doubt loaded with history that I have not yet looked in to.

At the back, there are two conical-shaped structures, inside of which stone-built seating lines the walls. I wonder what the purpose of these structures was?
There is a way-marked path which heads off from near the hermitage and up onto the ridge of the Parc Natural - so many paths and tracks to explore!
More to come......soon


Kalba Meadows said...

Yes, I know this is an old post, but I'd really love to have the details of the apartment you rented in Alcossebre - this fellow Ariège blogger is planning a trip down that way for some out of season walking and birding, and it sounds just what we're looking for! You can contact me via my blog.

penny said...

Hi Kalba - great to hear from you. The place we stayed at was this one;

If you're into birding, I'd also highly recommend Dena's place here;

Have a great trip!

Kalba Meadows said...

Thanks Penny! That second link looks veerrrry interesting ....

Kalba Meadows said...

Hi Penny - thanks again for a great recommendation - we've now booked Dena's place and it looks fab! I owe you one!