Barcelona by way of Peñíscola

We check out of the Silken Puerta Valencia after a hearty buffet breakfast and board the bus for our trip to Peñíscola. (Game of Thrones fans will recognize Peñíscola as the city of Mereen from Season 5.)

Again we're traveling through some pretty rugged terrain.

We finally arrive at Peñíscola, a municipality in the Province of Castellón, Valencian Community, Spain. The town is located on the Costa del Azahar, north of the Serra d'Irta along the Mediterranean coast.

Peniscola, often called the "Gibraltar of Valencia", and locally as "The City in the Sea", is a fortified seaport, with a lighthouse, built on a rocky headland about 220 feet (67 m) high, and joined to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land (Peníscola is a local evolution of Latin peninsula).

The history of the place goes back to the Iberians. Later the town became Phoenician, named Tyreche, then Greek, under the name Chersonesos (meaning "peninsula"). It was next captured by the Carthaginians under Hamilcar Barca; legend has it that this is the place where he made his son Hannibal swear an oath that he would never be a friend of Rome.

In 1233, Peñíscola, which had been under the control of the Arab;s since 718, was handed over to King James I via a pact.
In 1294, during James II of Aragon's reign the area was turned over the Order of The Temple. The Knights Templar built their last great fortress between 1294 and 1307. 

In the fourteenth century it was garrisoned by the Knights of Montesa, and in 1420 it reverted to the Crown of Aragon. 

From 1415 to 1423 it was the home of the schismatic Avignon pope Benedict XIII (Pedro de Luna), whose name is commemorated in the Castell del Papa Luna, the name of the medieval castle, and Bufador del Papa Luna, a curious cavern with a landward entrance through which the seawater escapes in clouds of spray.

The castle where Benedict lived from 1417 until his death in 1423 was restored, improved and new walls were added in 1960 when Anthony Mann's film El Cid was partially filmed there. The town and castle of Peníscola played the role of Valencia. The castle is now a popular tourist attraction and the beaches and surrounding area are a popular family holiday resort.

We are given most of the morning and early afternoon to explore on our own. Jay and I take to the beach first.

We turn around about 1/3 of the way and head up the hill to the castle and Artillery Parc

We enjoy a nice but huried lunch with Sandy and Rodrigo then it's back on the bus. The paella was yummy but took over 30 minutes to cook. The sangria was delicious and kept me cool.

Time to say goodbye to Peñíscola and head to Barcelona.

We arrive in Barcelona around 5 p.m. beating most of the traffic. 
WOW Barcelona!

We have the whole day Thursday in Barcelona so stay tuned for that adventure!

We sadly say goodbye to our driver Salvatore. He was great and we'll miss him and his excellent driving skills.

We check into Catalonia Eixample 1864, easily the best hotel we've stayed at all tour. Alex takes us on quick walking tour to get acquainted with the area then we're off on our own for dinner.

More photos from our adventure:

Nancy Nutile-McMenemy is an Upper Valley freelance photographer and writer who loves to attend concerts and local events in and around Weathersfield and the Upper Valley.

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