Spain has, for a long time, had my heart. I’ve spent almost every summer since I was a kid in the small fishing village of Cabo de Palos, Murcia, and I love everything about Spain as a country. I love eating dinner at 11pm before going to midnight gigs at a little chiringuito (beach bar) and dancing the night away with hippies, surfers, and twenty-somethings in the moonlight. I love having barbecued sardines and patatas bravas on the beach and drinking tinto de verano as the sun sets.
This time, however, I knew that my trip was going to be different. Two years ago, when I was in Thailand, my parents bought a modest, two-bedroom house in a small town named Oliva, in the province of Valencia, and this April, I went to visit it for the first time.
Although the flight from Manchester to Valencia is only a couple of hours, the whole journey takes all day, as getting to Oliva from Valencia airport is pretty tricky. First, there’s a 30 minute metro to the centre of Valencia, then a 60 minute train ride to Gandia, followed by a 15 minute taxi (or 30 minute bus) to Oliva. Because of all this, it was 11pm when we finally got to relax with some wine and olives, and my Mum and I somehow ended up chatting until 5am which wasn’t one of our better ideas.
Our first day was a lazy one. My Mum and Dad showed me around the old town, taking me to some pretty churches and walking down the paseo, or main walking street. We stopped in a cute little bar for our first glasses of tinto de verano (or beer in my Dad’s case), and then went home to enjoy the last few hours of sun with our books before heading out to a place called El Polut for stacks of pork ribs and crusty bread with alioli, followed by a bar called Honey Dukes for huge glasses of wine and interesting conversation with the Romanian barmaid, who was fascinated by my upcoming Euro trip.
Over the next 10 days, we pottered around the town, taking it easy and enjoying the slow pace of life in small town Spain. Most people in Oliva are retired as all the young Spaniards move to the city to study or find work (not including a very monotonous chap who latched onto me one night and just couldn’t take a hint). This meant that I was surrounded by middle-aged people, which I didn’t mind (it was great to meet my parents’ friends), but I do have a thing for Spanish men and so some eye candy would have been nice, even in the form of a passing waiter!
However, sexy waiters aside, I made the most of my time in Oliva. I walked up to the ruined castle, Castillo de Santa Ana, and admired the gorgeous views from the top of the hill, I drank coffees in various little bars around the old town and read novels on the roof terrace. I went on long walks through the orange groves with my parents, stopping to feed ducklings, pick fruit and even pet a donkey! I bought litres of tinto de verano and bags of chorizo, cheese, tortilla, alioli and mini tostadas and had day drinks and a picnic on top of the hill with my mum, talking about life and enjoying the sun. I went to the Friday market and rummaged around the second-hand clothes on offer, and feasted on grilled fish, mussels and ribs while sipping Prosecco on our terrace. I even took a day trip to Valencia to visit the nearby hot springs and waterfalls! Nights were spent nursing cold beers and fruity wines and drinking the free tequila shots that the manager of the local Italian insisted we have.
All too soon, my 11 days in Oliva came to an end and it was time to make the journey back to Manchester, leaving my parents to soak up the sun for another week before they too would return home. Oliva didn’t steal my heart in the way that Cabo de Palos did – and I doubt anything ever will – but it was lovely to spend some time living slowly and enjoy the Spanish sun.
Until next time Oliva.
Have you ever been to Oliva? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!