This group of ex-pat British women, ardent followers of the BBC series, “Two Fat Ladies,” started a slimming club here sometime ago. However they should have realised they were doomed to defeat when they chose a restaurant as a venue for their weekly meetings. So, while we were celebrating Sheila’s birthday in one half of the restaurant they were celebrating their abysmal failure as weight-watchers in the other half. They were a happy bunch, wearing their failure with cheerful resignation as they tucked into pork chops and chips, so we asked them for suggestions about local places of interest.
“You’ve gotta go to Guadalest,” said one, and they all eagerly agreed, enthusing about a mystical medieval castle high in the mountains - a place so remote that we would need 4 wheel drive and nerves of steel to negotiate the alpine track.
“Thanks,” we said, and bid farewell just as their ice-cream cakes with chocolate sauce arrived.
Following a few days deliberations, we packed our high-altitude survival kits, plucked up our courage, and set off for the Spanish equivalent of Everest. However, we soon discovered that the ladies’ navigational warnings were as wayward as their waistlines and our little Ford glided easily up the snaking mountain road to Guadelest, together with coach loads of happy holidaymakers and half a dozen cyclists.
Here’s the castle …
But, as to their enthusiastic descriptions of the place, they were absolutely right. From a distance it appears no more than a crumbling ruin, but once we had threaded our way through the trinket stalls, climbed the steep stone steps and entered through a roughly hewn rock tunnel, we found ourselves in the streets of a perfect little medieval town …
… complete with a prison …
… and bell tower.
Our initial opinion of this part of Spain has been clouded by a week’s rain and rampant development along the Costa del Concrete, but today, when we headed to the mountains, we found wondrous sights. Verdant valleys lush with oranges, lemons, pomegranates and palms; terraced groves of olive and almond trees climbing the foothills; and, to cap it off, mountain peaks surmounted by ancient castles. Here’s another at Castellano ..
But, topping it all off, was the castle that the ten fat ladies spoke of - the castle at Guadalest.