Home Thoughts From A Broad: Beautiful Peñiscola

Continuing on her quest to suck the juice out of her Spanish life, this week Kealani Nanz headed north to beautiful Peñiscola…

The next Saturday we woke up again to catch another large bus to drive us another hour and a half. This time headed north, beyond Castellón and towards Peñiscola. It’s a coastal town with a medieval castle built along the seaside. As we approached the town, I was again amazed at how easily our driver manoeuvred around the thin roads and sharp turns of the town. The roads along the beach were full of shops selling keepsakes, loose summer clothing and heladerías. I also spotted inviting restaurants that I longed to explore. Not to mention the castle on the hilltop towering over our tour group.

This castle perched along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea sits atop a hill. As we walked through the spiralling pathways up to the castle, we passed the little shops and restaurants scattered in any open space. They offered tapas, seafood paella, helados, trinkets, clothing jewellery and more, filling the winding streets and alleys.

Setting for films and TV shows

As we entered the castle, we received pamphlets about the history of the city and the castle. It was under the control of the Moorish Arabian empire from the year 718-1233 before King James I took over. The castle was home to the legendary templar knights. They inspired many film and television stories and scenes. Think Game of Thrones, El Cid and The Holy Grail epic.

The castle also hosted Pope Benedict XIII or Papa Luna, who lived and died in the castle during times of religious tension. I was able to walk through the amazingly preserved castle. I could touch the bricks that knights did all those centuries ago. And I looked out of the same window towards the sea that great leaders looked out upon. I had ended up in a courtyard once walked through by kings, knights, princesses, popes. Not to mention all the people that history may or may not have remembered.

Trinkets and memories

As we walked back down the tumbling hill, I purchased a seashell jewellery box from a smiling old man and his grandkids in his little shop packed with trinkets. When I was little, my sisters and I would always burst with excitement when our aunt would come home from her journeys. She used to bring us back knick-knacks from around the world. It paints a full-circle moment now. I already have a small chest of trinkets that will make the journey back to the United States with me.

For lunch my friends and I ate at a cavern-like tapas restaurant overlooking the beach. After, we walked through some of the packed souvenir shops and laid on the beach. I imagined explorers, adventurous, royalty and noblemen walking along the beach. Or docking their great ships as I watched the bright blue waves crash along the shore. I wonder if in a couple more hundred years someone new will be laying on the beach, wondering about me?

On the bus ride home, my friend and I giggled as the women in front of us drunkenly passed shots of an artisanal liquor they purchased on the island with others. I listened to my small playlist of downloaded music and took a long nap on the drive home. For dinner, our host mom made my roommates and I a most unexpected meal of pizza and homemade French fries. I am sure every American loves French fries out of a drive through but only a few times have we had homemade ones.

How lucky am I, an American girl, to visit an almost 1000-year-old castle and eat homemade pizza and French fries in Spain?

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