28 August, Spain – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’

Left our slightly bizarre hotel this morning (was clearly at one time a delightful holiday resort until someone dumped a motorway right next to it) and made our way to Valencia. I was quite shocked as we crossed the main road bridge into the city. What was at one time a wide river is now a dried up channel with trees and bushes growing in it. Our fixer Mike Steel (what a great name) said it dried up a few years ago and is never coming back. I didn’t realise what a crisis the water situation in Spain is. Apparently across the whole of Southern Spain their water supplies are disappearing and people are having to move closer to towns where they have access to water piped from expensive desalination plants.

The purpose of our visit was to meet Alejandro. He and his father have amassed a collection of over a million toy soldiers which people can now come and see in his Toy Soldier Museum. 7 large rooms house his collection in numerous glass cases, some lined up individually and some arranged on meticulously detailed miniature battlefields capturing famous moments in military history such as the Battle of Waterloo. In homage to this cabinet I was dressed for the entire visit as Napoleon Bonaparte. None of the visitors to the museum raised an eyebrow so I guess I fitted right in.

After a quick lunch hiding in the shade from the extreme Spanish heat we made a diversion to a guitar factory so that our cameraman could pick up a top quality Flamenco guitar. The owner of the factory arranged them all out in his showroom and Geraint test played them with schoolboy like enthusiasm before picking out one he liked. We then got a quick tour of the workshop and I left with a real appreciation of the incredible craft that goes into making these instruments.

A few hours on the round led us up the mountains into the town of Blanca in Murcia, which despite being a fairly unremarkable small town still has a certain charm, being nestled between a river and a rugged mountainside. We’re having a bit of trouble getting food at a reasonable hour here in Spain and this was no exception. The only eateries in the town open at 9pm and don’t seem to close until the early hours of the morning. It’s just like the traditional Spain you read about – whole families eating in the street, with their friends popping by to engage in lots of loud conversation as babies cry and children politely eat their food. It’s quite a culture shock from the British TV dinner.

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