Finca de l’Arion and Peñiscola

The reason that we came to Ulldecona was to see the olive tree grove in Arion, somewhere outside the city. We have a real thing for trees, so when we saw this labeled in our travel guide, we knew we had to go there.

Finding the grove took some effort, since we didn’t know exactly where to look. After googling around, getting lost, and asking three different people for directions, we finally ended up in what sort of looked like it might be the right place. Keep in mind, we were looking for a specific olive grove among many square miles of olive groves, so our confidence that we were on the track wasn’t exactly sky high.

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As we drove through the fields, I kept having the feeling that we were on someone’s private land. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between public dirt roads and private ones; usually the public ones don’t actually lead through the groves, but we met several cars coming the other way who were also just passing through. Still, we felt we were getting deeper and deeper into a place where we had the vague feeling that we shouldn’t be (not to mention the roads were getting narrower and we started to worry that we wouldn’t be able to turn around). We decided to just park in what we hoped was not someone’s backyard and continue on foot.

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After walking for a few minutes, we saw this sign and knew we were there.

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According to the Ulldecona tourism website, the groves surrounding the city are all ancient and home to almost 2,000 olive trees that are between one and two thousand years old. La Finca de l’Arion is a sort of natural open-air museum, where there happen to be about 200 of these relics growing all in the same small area.

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The most famous tree here, called La Farga de l’Arion, has a perimeter of eight meters and has been declared a national monument, as it might very well be the oldest tree in continental Europe.

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And there were plenty of other impressive ones:

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We were so happy that we came. It’s quite mind-blowing to touch an object that is two thousand years old. I can barely grasp what two thousand years means without having to use some kind of conceptualization technique (of the sort “if the history of the earth were represented as a 24 hour clock, humans would arise at less than two seconds before midnight”). It’s insane to imagine that this thing, that I can physically touch, was also physically here when Augustus Caesar was emperor of Rome. It’s almost like literally reaching back in time. It gets crazier and crazier the longer you think about it.

We got back to the bus and drove on to Peñiscola. Yes, the word ‘penis’ is in the name of the city it’s hilarious, we get it. Unsurprisingly, this city is one of the most-visited in Spain.

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^^Nothing at all creepy about this.

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And then on to Castellon de Plana.

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^^In my travel guide, it says that this bull statue was built as a symbol of the city, and was taken very seriously by citizens. But the artist, no doubt out of concern for propriety, omitted the testicles in his finished sculpture, thereby wounding the masculinity of every single male in the city. Outraged, they banded together and demanded that this be corrected, and they got their way. The balls hang proudly to this day.

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^^I’m not sure what is up with these trees socks. But I think I like them.

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^^ Not sure what’s happening here either, but I definitely like it.

To end the day, we sat in a McDonald’s to use their wifi in Massalfassar, and then slept in the parking lot of a big shopping center directly on the beach outside Alboraya. Weirdest parking lot ever… the ocean is literally right here, and there’s little beach that you can walk on, which of course no one is doing, because it is part of a giant commercial parking lot.

Sleep.

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