Monday, 20 February 2017

Oropesa to Benicassim - cycling the Via Verde

Me in front of the Mount Bovalar tunnel 
One of my favourite excursions during our stay in Oropesa was the day we decided to cycle from our Marina d'Or campsite to go and see the beautiful Victorian villas on Benicassim seafront. The two towns are separated by smallish mountains, but fortunately for us, a disused railway line that linked them has now been given a second lease of life as a Via Verde. The same idea as the Voies Vertes network in France, these green routes are only for pedestrians and cyclists and this one was perfect for our journey. It is only about five and a half kilometres long but the distance from the campsite easily doubled that so we ended up with over twenty kilometres cycled altogether.

La Corda or La Colomera 
The Via Verde passes the sixteenth century watchtowers of La Corda and La Colomera as well as going through pretty impressive deep cuttings and through the 570m Mount Bovalar tunnel. We had prepared for the tunnel by making sure our lights worked and carrying an extra head torch but this turned out to be overkill. It was helpful to be able to see other bike lights (and know that we too could be seen) as several groups were whizzing past, but the tunnel's own lighting was perfectly adequate to cycle by and the road surface was surprisingly smooth.

Villa Victoria 
Once in Benicassim, we slowly cycled along the seafront promenade, stopping frequently to read a number of information signs about the villas en route. Mostly built in the late 1800s and early 1900s and in an array of architectural styles, these villas were grouped into districts known as either Heaven or Hell depending on the type of parties that were held there! Several are now owned by Benicassim Town Hall and can be rented out for social functions. Other are still in private hands and it was good to see that only a couple looked in need of serious renovations. Tower blocks do stand between groups of villas which does somewhat ruin the overall effect, but it was still fun to imagine bright young things flocking to the town in its heyday. Our favourites were Villa Victoria which was built in 1911 and Villa Amparo where apparently Ernest Hemingway stayed for a while during the Civil War.

Villa Amparo 

Having seen a whole promenade's worth of gorgeous architecture, our thoughts turned to lunch! We chose to visit Torreon, a seafront restaurant with lots of outdoor tables in the sunshine. They do offer a menu del dia, but we just had burgers - the Chicago Burguer for Dave and a Veggie Burguer for me. Dave wasn't completely overwhelmed(!), but I enjoyed my tasty bean burger which had a slice of tofu in lieu of cheese and was served, saladed up, in a wholemeal bap and with nachos and guacamole.

I'm zooming ahead now! 
On the return cycle we paused to get a closer a look at one of the watchtowers. I can't remember now which one it was and there wasn't much to see close up because the lowest windows and doorway were a good ten feet above ground level. Good defensive strategy, but irritating to tourists!

I liked how busy the Via Verde was even on a weekday afternoon. I know it looks like we had it to ourselves in these photos, but in reality there were plenty of other cyclists, walkers and joggers making use of the car-free space. And a big thanks to Dave for being our official photographer! I had failed to charge my phone so couldn't use its camera. D'oh!

And now I'm so far ahead you can hardly see me! 


  1. These pics are beautiful! and those villas so gorgeous. Heaven or Hell districts??? That cracks me up!!! I would be in the Hell district for sure. Hey that is a great theme for a dark urban fantasy. I'll write it down. :)

    1. I think you are on to something there! Especially if you set it in the 1920s with Charleston dances and flapper dresses!