Leaving Barcelona, we headed south with no particular destination in mind. After driving for a few hours, we decided to stop in the seaside town of Port Sagunto. Arriving around 6 PM, the streets were nearly deserted and most of the businesses were shuttered. After checking into our hotel and taking a short break, we headed down to the beach. A long pier runs out from the beach area, with public beach area on one side and a huge port on the other side. People were everywhere and all the beachfront shops were open. It turns out we had arrived in town during the siesta period, which in a non-tourist area like this, is still taken very seriously. Businesses close somewhere between 2-3 and reopen between 6-7. We were aware of this tradition but had seen it on a smaller scale in the other places we have visited.
Another surprise here. When we went out to dinner the menu was not in Spanish, and there was no English translation. (Our hotel clerk had spoken some English.) We hadn't realized the diversity of Spanish dialects used in the country. In Barcelona, the primary language is Catalan, with Spanish as the second language. Hotel clerks and restaurant staff usually knew some basic English, and menus were generally available in English, and often with pictures. Here the menus were in a Valencian, a variety of Catalan, some words were similar to Spanish but most were not. New adventures in eating! Actually, we had wonderful meals, I had grilled fish and Alan enjoyed pork chops, but he was making animal sounds to clarify what type of meat he was ordering! That was a new one for us, and I 'm sure for our waiter as well.
On our way into the Valencia area, we passed mile after mile of orange trees, but we also noticed a large castle on a hill on the outskirts of Sagunto. Visiting the Tourist Information the following day, with an English speaking hostess, we got directions and headed through the old town up the hill. Sagunto has seen a tumultuous history since it was first settled sometime during the Bronze age. On the hill, with a length of almost a kilometer, stands the perimeter of an Islamic fortress. Remnants of Roman, Iberian and medieval structures, represented the different cultures that have settled here over the past two thousand years.
Next to the castle is the renovated Roman theater, built in the 1st century. Theater productions are still presented here, and we were in time to catch a rehearsal. Fun to watch, even though we couldn't understand what they were saying. Now it was time to get on the road and head further south to our stop for the night, the beach side town, Mazarron. Heading the next day into Granada.