Our ship was the first of the Holland America Line fleet to stop at Castellón de la Plana, Spain. Castellón is the capital city of the province of Castellón, in the east of the Iberian Peninsula by the Mediterranean Sea. Very few cruise ships stop here as the port is primarily used by container ships and is protected by a large breakwater with a narrow opening. The MS Prinsendam is a small cruise ship so the captain was able to navigate the passage to the port. The city was very happy to have us arrive and treated all the passengers to orange juice, a small bottle of red or white wine, and complimentary maps and tourist information. There were four blue-carpeted tents, a 24-person band playing and a large welcoming committee. Local politicians, travel agents and tour guides were given tours of the ship while the passengers were off exploring.Once again, as is our wont, we left the city and climbed into the mountain region to see the fortified medieval town of Morella; which means, from Roman times, “a mountain in the center of a valley”. During our two-hour drive we stopped at the quaint little town of Sant Mateu (St. Matthew)
. We entered through an old Roman wall and up the street to the town square.
Sant Mateu has a population of about 1,500 and there were very few people around. At a cafe on the square we were give pastries and coffee.After our snacks we visited the church which has really cool ancient hammered doors.
Most of the buildings and artwork of the town were destroyed by the retreating French army during the Napoleanic Wars. These ceiling beams are charred from a fire years ago.These huge figures are ‘people’ puppets that are worn during feast day parades through the town. After we toured the church we walked down the street to an old Roman bath before exiting the town through another gate.
The drive continued into the countryside and up a narrow switchback road (we seem to have fondness for these types of tours) to Morella. To be continued….