Two Backpacks

Sunrise over Casa Falconera

Chapter 28 - Viva España !

            It’s late afternoon. Tina and her husband, Les, show us to our spacious bedroom with windows that look out over the valley.

            As we’re unpacking, a loud meow comes from behind our door. Biggles, a small three-year-old tabby, has decided to investigate the new arrivals.

            Pulling the door open, I watch, amused, as he saunters across the tiled floor, effortlessly jumps onto our bed and inquisitively sniffs our bags. Content we pose no threat, he exits the room.

            ‘So that’s Biggles,’ remarks Ron, taking the last of his clothes from his pack.

            We make our way out onto the shaded terrace that runs the length of the villa. Tina has graciously prepared an evening meal for us all, accompanied by one of the local wines.

            As the sun sets over the hills, I can think of no other place I’d rather be. Birds begin to nestle in the treetops, and a stillness descends over the orange groves.

            I sip my musky, red Syrah wine and listen as Tina and Les explain how water reaches the villa.

            ‘There’s no piped water supply in the valley,’ Les tells us. ‘We get our drinking water from a local font up in the hills; we’ll show you the way tomorrow morning. You can stock up for the next week using our bottles.’

            ‘The water for washing, cleaning, filling the pool and watering the plants comes from a reservoir. There’s plenty in the water tank for now, but you’ll need to top up in about three weeks,’ Tina advises. ‘I’ve left you the telephone number and address for our friends, John and Barbara, they live five minutes away. I’m sure John will drop by to introduce himself in the next few days.’

            ‘So how do we get the reservoir water?’ asks Ron.

            ‘It’s sluiced here.’ Tina tells us. ‘The system has been in place for over a hundred years. There are sluice gates throughout the valley. The water man opens some gates and shuts others, guiding the water to its destination. It’s fascinating, worth getting up early to watch,’ Tina adds.

            Satisfied that we know how to obtain our water, Les continues to tell us about the running of the villa before turning his attention to the care of Biggles.

            On cue, Biggles meows and jumps onto Tina’s lap.

            ‘As you can see, he’s part of our family,’ Tina says, tickling the tabby behind his ears. ‘He’s been a bit poorly, so he needs to see the vet once a week just to make sure he’s on the mend. The vet’s details are in the information pack we’ve left you.’

            Biggles jumps from Tina’s lap and walks sedately, tail in the air, towards the couch further along the veranda.

            We sit in silence for a while, listening to the night’s song of the cicadas; the air still warm after a glorious summer’s day.

            ‘There’s one more thing we need to tell you about,’ says Les after topping up our wine glasses.

            ‘We put our property on the market a few weeks ago. We’ve not had much interest so far, but with the summer season beginning, the agents might want to show the property.’ Les pauses and looks first at Ron and then at me.

            ‘It won’t be a problem, will it?’ he asks.

            ‘Of course not! Do we get a commission if we help to sell it?’ jokes Ron.

            Les and Tina look relieved.

            ‘Don’t worry; it’ll be fine. We’ll make sure the place is neat and tidy for potential buyers,’ I add.

            ‘Well, that’s settled. Let’s make an early start tomorrow. There are a few places we want to show you before we leave,’ comments Tina.

            Peace descends on the villa as Tina turns the lights out, and we all make our way inside.


            We’re all up early. We all breakfast on the terrace and then set off with Les and Tina, leaving our car, Matilda, for a well-earned rest after her exertions crossing the Pyrenees.

            Our first stop is at the font at La Drova, which provides clean drinking water to the surrounding villages. We pack empty, five-litre water bottles into the boot of our hosts’ car and set off through the orange groves.

            Once on the main road, the incline becomes steeper the higher we climb. Hairpin bends make progress even slower. Ten minutes after leaving the villa, we pull into a large layby.

            ‘This is it,’ states Les, exiting the car.

            We grab four water bottles each and follow Les to where a tap protrudes from a crack in the slate-grey rockface.

            ‘This is the purest water you’ll find around here. Come on, let’s fill up, and then we’ll take you into the village where we do our shopping,’ suggests Tina.

            It doesn’t take long before we’re on our way down the hillside again, continuing past the turning for the villa and following the signposts for the town of Ador.

            ‘I’ll show you where my favourite bakery is and where you can get some wonderful cheese at the local deli, Sandi. Come on; we’ll leave the men to find a café and join them once we’ve done our shopping.’ Tina takes my arm, walking along the narrow, shaded streets towards the town’s square.

            ‘It’s beautiful!’ I exclaim once we walk from the narrow lane onto the cobbled square. ‘I adore Ador!’

            A lovely old church stands proudly on one side. Around the square’s periphery, beneath the shade of jacaranda trees, wrought-iron tables stand covered with colourful chequered cloths, where tourists and locals alike take advantage of the shade for a welcome cup of coffee and pastry.

            ‘The deli is just down the lane over there,’ Tina says, pointing to the road at the far side of the square. ‘And that’s our favourite café.’ Tina nods towards tables bordering the walkway, each with a tiny vase of rose buds. ‘We’ll meet them there once we’ve done our shopping.’

            Twenty minutes later, we’re back in the square, our bags brimming with fresh produce, pat and cheese, plus the inevitable bottles of red wine.

            Seated with Les and Ron, we order our coffee.

            ‘You should experience the Moors and Christians festival; it’s terrific,’ suggests Tina, sipping her cappuccino. ‘It’s been celebrated throughout the Valencia region since the 16th century and commemorates the Reconquista (reconquest) when the Christians took Spain from the Moors in the 13th century.’

            ‘I went to one years ago when I was last in Spain. It was near Alicante,’ comments Ron. ‘The only problem was that I got there way too early; by the time the procession started, I’d already got through five bottles of beer. I slept through most of the parade!’

            ‘Perhaps celebrate after the parade this time, then,’ suggests Les, smiling at Ron.

            While Ron and Les continue their conversation, Tina turns to me.

            ‘I have two Spanish ladies I help with their English. I wondered whether you’d like to continue teaching them while I’m away. Their English isn’t bad, and they’d love to meet you. Isabel and Carla are both married with young children; they’re happy to come to the villa for their lessons, plus they’re a great source for local information.’

            ‘I’d love that. Maybe it will help me improve my Spanish too,’ I add, knowing full well that it will take more than a few hours with Isabel and Carla to progress further than the basics with my limited knowledge of Spanish.

            We finish our coffees and head back to the villa. Les and Tina are due to leave that evening.

            Ron and I prepare an early supper for us all. Once we’ve finished our meal and, after checking that we’re confident in the instructions they’ve left, Tina and Les wave us farewell and set off on their journey back to England.

            Biggles twists his way through my legs and rolls over for a tummy tickle when I bend to stroke him.  

            ‘We’ll be fine, won’t we, puss?’ I murmur before joining Ron on the veranda.

            The early June sunset that evening is magnificent – as if the universe is welcoming us to our new home for the next few months.


            The first few weeks at the villa fly by as we explore the nearby countryside, locate nearby supermarkets, keep Biggles’ appointments with the vet and make frequent trips to the font at La Drova.

            John and his wife, Barbara, visit during our second week. A little older than Ron and I, they’re happy to take us under their wings and show us some of the local restaurants and haunts. They also take us inland one Sunday to a café in a tiny village in the hills where we breakfast on homemade sausages and traditional Spanish black pudding, each portion wedged between two halves of warm, fresh, crusty bread rolls.

            Isabel and Carla are wonderful acquaintances, suggesting various towns to visit, including Xatavia, a charming old town with an impressive castle perched high on the hillside.

Isabel also invites us to Ador for the Moors and Christians festival, arranging to meet us in the town an hour before the parade, which is due to start at eight o’clock.

            We arrive early, wanting to take in the atmosphere, but already roads are blocked off, and parking spaces are difficult to find.

             After ten minutes of driving a circuitous route around the periphery of the town, I spot a space.

            ‘Over there, Ron! Quick!’ I point to the spot, willing Ron to speed up before anyone else grabs it.

            The space is just big enough to manoeuvre Matilda into. Once parked, we set off to the square where Isabel and I had agreed to meet.

            ‘I can’t believe so many people are here!’ I say, grabbing Ron’s hand, not wanting to get separated. ‘Isabel said she’d be near the church. Come on; I think it’s this way.’

            The crowded walkways are difficult to navigate, but eventually, we reach the square and find Isabel and her family. The spot Isabel has chosen is ideal, near the walkway and with seats set out for us and her family.

            As the time nears for the parade to begin, the crowds grow around the square and along the route the procession will take through the town.

            Young children sit on the curbside, while behind them, folding chairs are set out for the older family members and friends. Those less fortunate have to make do standing in whatever space is available.       

            Isabel welcomes us with hugs and smiles and then introduces us to her family before ushering us to two seats near the curb. We’ve got ringside seats, and as we settle in, I can hear the beat of drums reverberating along the narrow streets.

            ‘The parade is about to start,’ Isabel tells me, having to raise her voice above the chatter around us. ‘You wait. You have not seen anything like our parade,’ she adds with pride.

            As the procession approaches, music fills the air. Anticipation builds; everyone is watching, waiting for the first performers to appear.

            Cheers go up, and a line of identically dressed warriors turns the corner into the square. Six abreast, they march, their armour glistening beneath the street lights.

            Two hours later, after watching performing horses, marching soldiers, dancing groups and numerous bands, the parade draws to an end.

            ‘That was amazing! The costumes were so detailed, so professional, Isabel!’ I state, getting from my chair and stretching.

            ‘It was really something!’ comments Ron, usually unimpressed by such events. ‘Thanks for inviting us, Isabel, and letting us share the experience with your family.’ 


            Our time in Marxequera is nearing an end. We’ve explored the countryside and harvested the grapes, assisted by Biggles, who wanted to inspect every bag we used. We’ve experienced water delivery via the sluices (with John’s invaluable help), caught up with my brother and his family holidaying on the Mediterranean, two hours away and unbelievably, we’ve helped find a purchaser for the villa!

            Most importantly, we’ve relaxed and enjoyed the tranquillity of life in the valley, a welcome interlude after travelling through Southeast Asia for a year.

            Tomorrow Tina and Les return, and we begin our journey back to the UK.

            ‘I don’t want to leave. Life here’s so easy, so simple. Do you think we should try and find a place here, settle down in the valley?’ I ask, snuggling up to him.

            ‘It has been fantastic, but we’ve got a whole new continent to explore. Maybe we’ll come back once we finish our trip. You never know what the future holds,’ he whispers, pulling me from the couch and turning off the lights as we make our way to bed.

            As we settle down for the night, Biggles decides to join us and curls up at the foot of the bed. For one last time, I fall asleep to his rhythmical purring and the night noises that surround our villa.