We drove down to Alcossebre this morning, so that I could show Clare the town, and visit the Al Camino drop-in centre. Unfortunately the church was closed, so I can only show her the photographs I took of the interior, as she'll be returning home before my next visit to take a Sunday service. We chatted with visitors, ate cake and drank tea, and then went for a walk along the promenade. I was amazed how crowded the beach was, compared to a month ago - but then this is the peak holiday season time, after all.
It struck me for the first time that while lots of people go into the water, and play about it in, few people do much in the way of serious swimming. The few who do, go a good way off shore. All along this coast, even when there isn't much wind, strong waves come ashore. Rarely do they seem adequate for surfing. Beach levels in the shallows can drop unevenly, whether there are pebbles or sand underfoot, so maintaining a good swimming stroke against the waves is demanding. So, people just stand in the water and enjoy being buffeted about. I guess it also explains why so many residences have swimming pools.
On our drive home we called into the town of Alcala al Xivert, which sits beside the N340 about 10km inland. The place seemed quite deserted. There is a huge mediaeval church with a very grand bell tower, and it is so hemmed by four storey houses on all sides, that getting a close-up photograph to do it justice was well nigh impossible.
From an historical information panel on Alcossebre sea front, we learned that Alcala al Xivert had been the main local centre of economic and political significance in the middle ages. It sits in a wide valley which still contains the main arteries of communication north to south. Between Alcossebre and Peñíscola there is no road. Mountains run down into the sea, and nowadays this area is a Parque Natural.
Down the centuries it appears Alcossebre's population ebbed and flowed. It didn't develop as a fishing port, or as a place of trading by sea, although it was used as a place of refuge by fisherman, as it was easy and safe to come ashore along its beach and find shelter. I couldn't see any sign of an ancient river out-flow, that could have been used in the past for transport to and from the interior. This lack would inhibit its potential for economic development, and population stability over centuries. Now we live in an era of high mobility, and a leisure economy developed around large numbers of people coming and going. Alcossebre bustles with holiday makers, seasonal workers and its all year round community of retired residents. With its mediaeval glory days long past, Alcala al Xivert seems now to be no more than a sleepy little town you slip past on the highway in just a few minutes.