Friday, 25 August 2017

Discovering Castellón De La Plana and Benicàssim In Spain

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to the Castellón province of Spain by the Castellón tourist board. This area of Spain, north of Valencia is often referred to as Castellón Costa Azahar. With a temperate climate all year round it's a fantastic area to visit if you like fine sandy beaches, natural parks, historic old towns, gastronomic food and mountainous castles. 

I spent three days here with a fabulous group of bloggers and influencers from Bristol and we had so much fun I wanted to share our exploits with my readers.


Our first day was spent in the seaside resort of Peñíscola, where we discovered amazing seafood restaurants and an imposing castle on the hill, a filming location for Game Of Thrones. We then moved to the mountain town of Morella, known for its gourmet truffles, amazing views and fabulous history. 

This post is about our last day when we visited Castellón De La Plana and Benicàssim, another seaside resort with 6 kilometers of beautiful clean sand, which is known for the FIB music festival.

After checking out of our hotel in Morella we boarded our mini bus to the town of Castellón De La Plana. This town is the capital of the region and is worth a visit for the great shopping and fabulous architecture. The city was founded in the 13th century but there were settlers there for hundreds of years before that. 


The area is rich with wonderful architecture, just look at the tower on the left above. This is called El Fadri or Fadri Tower. It's a stand alone bell tower of the Gothic Castellón De La Plana cathedral. Bult in the 14th century it is an octagonal building built in the Valencian Gothic style. The top photo is of Casino Antiguo, an eighteenth-century palace currently used for events. With its highly decorated windows, Casino Antiguo is a must-see for architecture lovers. 

We were in Castellón De La Plana to get ingredients for a paella which we would be making later, so our guide took us to Mercado Central or central market. When we were there we checked out the stalls selling meat for the paella, all with very fresh produce. 



The fruit and vegetables in the Mercado Central were exceptional too. All bursting with juiciness and vibrancy. We tried some cherries and they were some of the nicest I have ever had, not too tart just sweet and delicious. 



There were also stalls selling delicacies perfect for gifts and souvenirs including local olive oils, marmalade made with Valencia oranges and traditional sweets and biscuits.

Our next stop was Mas Dels Doblons.



This traditional farm and farmhouse has been made into a museum of Spanish living and culture. While we were here we saw how oranges were traditionally picked, sorted and pressed. Did you know that Valencia is one of the top exporters of oranges in the world? We also discovered how olive oil used to be made, in a massive stone press. 


The main reason we came was to see how paella was made authentically. Paella is believed to have originated from Valencia and was a laborers meal. The original recipe was made with what was on the land - rabbit, chicken, rice, green and white beans and snails as well as saffron.  What, no seafood you may ask? Yes, seafood is a modern but tasty addition to a paella. Many of these farms were inland too with no access to the sea so that explains the lack of seafood in a traditional paella.



The recipe made at Mas Del Doblons was made in the traditional style but did not have snails in (thankfully!). Even though I'm quite adventurous I am not sure if I would have eaten it with snails. Of course, we had to give the paella a stir to claim we had made it, complete with over sized hats!



I asked our guide about the process of making paella in Spain and had the sense that it was the domain of men, similar to the way they take over the barbecue in the UK. Paella is a social occasion when chatting with friends and with a glass of wine or beer in hand.  Made slowly and stirred gently, it's a dish to have on a Sunday with family and friends.

The paella we had at Mas Dels Dobons was really incredibly filling and tasty. We were so full as we were treated to lots of delicious nibbles before our meal. 




As well as cured meats and cheeses we also tried Spanish tortilla and other tapas. Not much room for dessert even, but I managed the chocolate fondant pudding - well I had too didn't I?

A trip to Mas Dels Doblon is highly recommended if you are interested in the Spanish history of food and local culture. It is open by appointment for visits to the museum and for food experiences such as paella making. If you need an English speaking guide Reser Tours a company based close by can help.

So after dinner, we boarded our bus to our next stop Benicàssim. 



Our hotel was the Hotel Intur Orange, a large modern hotel with landscaped gardens and a great pool area. 

The modern style in this super clean hotel was excellent and this hotel would be a great choice if you are staying in Benicàssim for the FIB Festival, as it's a short ten-minute walk. The FIB Festival is a music festival held every year in July. 



I find breakfast before a day out exploring to be the best way to start the day. The hotel had an extensive breakfast buffet too which was very welcoming in the morning.  I enjoyed the wide choice of hot and cold items, including pastries, cereals, fresh fruit, sausages and omelettes, and I got very excited when I spied the cake for breakfast! 



That afternoon we strolled the Ruta De La Villas. This area of Benicàssim has beautiful Belle Epoque villas along the seafront promenade. Many illustrious people lived here included the writer Ernest Hemingway. 




As we continued our stroll it started to get twilight but still, Voramar beach was buzzing with life, with families and couples enjoying the clean sand and each others company. 













Our meal that night was at Club Palasiet, a newly-opened restaurant, overlooking Voramar Beach.



The food we had was very inventive and included octopus that melted in the mouth, tender local lamb and white bean stew and a dessert with green tea ice cream. With set menus from 25 euros and a wide range of A La Carte dishes, it's a fabulous place to go for food with a view.



I had a great time in the Castellón region of Spain. It's an area of beautiful beaches, wonderful history, and amazing food. With a flight time of under two hours from Bristol airport to Castellón (Valencia) with Ryanair, you can be on the beach in no time enjoying the Spanish sun.


Thanks to Heather from Heather On Her Travels, Emma from Ladies What Travel, Jenni from Travel To Recovery and Jane from Practically Perfect Mums for their company, humour, and lust for life.



pin for later

I was hosted by the Castellon tourist board, all activities, hotels, flights, and food were on a complimentary basis. Many thanks to them.

Would you visit this area of Spain? What do you think of the activities we did?
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40 comments

  1. You took some lovely photos of the food and the places. It sounds like you had a great trip with some great people! Going to go check out the other blogs now!

    Hope you had a lovely time. x

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  2. Wow what an absolutely amazing looking place to get to explore, the food looks delicious and your hotel seems lovely.

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  3. That is the most wonderful thing about living in Europe,you can be almost anywhere in 5 hours or less via air travel. This looks like a perfect place to escape for a vacation!

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  4. That's interesting that paella wasn't traditionally made with seafood. This must have been a real foodie treat and with a great group of bloggers, some of whom I've had the pleasure to meet

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  5. It was a fun trip wasn't it, I enjoyed the evening stroll along the beach promenade to see all the old villas.

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  6. Wow what an amazing place to visit! The food looks AMAZING!!! I would love visit here, gorgeous photos!

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  7. You had me at architecture and Game of Thrones. The Kingdom of Dorn is being filmed in Seville, Spain. I loved this post and how much fun was it to do this with a few bloggers/influencers!

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  8. Spain is lovely I've been there loads of times. I bet you loved the seafood it's so fresh isn't it x

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  9. Looks like you had a good tome. I haven't been to this part of Spain

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  10. Looks like you had an amazing time! I've not been to that part of Spain before but it looks beautiful x

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  11. What a wonderful trip to go on! I had no idea some of GoT was filmed there, I thought it was all done in Croatia

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  12. Wow! Just look at the size of this paella! I bet it was delicious!

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  13. That sounds a fun and exciting adventure. I totally like those photos. The paella looks so tasty and delicious!

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  14. The architecture, the food, the weather... it all looks amazing! I love how everything feels around dusk in warm countries :)

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  15. dinner by the beach, how beautiful! I love Spanish markets. the produce is exceptional

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  16. Look at that Paella! I've just got back from Mallorca and miss the food so much. Love the look of this place.

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  17. I'm just going to be that person and say I'M SO JEALOUS! It looks like you visited some of the most beautiful places and had some of the best foods and experiences on your trip! I can imagine how relaxing and interesting it must have been for you. I'm so glad you guys had a brilliant time!

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  18. What a wonderful opportunity. I love attending in person influencer events. it's a perk of being a blogger.

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  19. Its funny that this is North of Valencia as I am actually going there in October and how lovely that you were invited on the trip! I love that it is only a 2 hour flight and the paella is huge but looks delicious!

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  20. Oh my God those tasty things!!! I've always dreamed of visiting Spain and I hope one day I will. Thank you for sharing your journey and that gorgeous place, I will keep it in mind!

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  21. There is no other place like Spain. I am glad I come across this post and discovered Castellon de la Plana with you.

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  22. I visited Valencia but I now wish I had travelled north a bit and seen the surrounding area too as it looks fantastic in your post. More travelling is definitely needed!!!!

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  23. Beautiful architecture! And the food! They just made my mouth water :)

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  24. What an fantastic trip and a lovely part of Spain! I would need to try out that Paella! And Club Palasiet at Voramar Beach! They both look amazing!

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  25. Had never heard of this place before! Is it like a hidden gem? The food and local markets looks so lovely :)

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  26. This looks like such a delicious trip to Spain!
    I understand there is a heated discussion, actually, about whether Paella is really from Valencia and what should be in it (though everyone seems to agree it was a peasants meal with any ingredient available). Either way, nothing beats a great Paella made from scratch :-)

    Happy continued travels!
    C

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  27. Amazing photos - I love the look of the hotel and the scenery is gorgeous!

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  28. That has to be the largest paella pan I have ever seen (and I love seeing you guys in the big hats getting ready to stir). I'd love to see Fadri Tower, and I'm dreaming of walking the sands of Benicassim right now. Looks like you had a great trip!

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  29. What a great introduction to a place I'd never heard of. The El Fadri does indeed look beautiful, so does the entire Castellón De La Plana Cathedral from what I can see, and Paella is sooo delicious. How fun to have that experience. Glad you made room for the dessert.

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  30. Wow! Lovely photos, looks like you had a fantastic time.

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  31. I do like fine sandy beaches, natural parks, historic old towns, gastronomic food and mountainous castles! So the Castellón province sounds great! I love the architecture around Castellón De La Plana – I love gothic buildings. And your trip to trip to Mas Dels Doblon looks like a great way to experience the local culture. It sounds like there’s an incredible food scene – will have to organize a trip to the Castellón region of Spain – thanks for sharing details of your trip!

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  32. I love the culinary heritage of Spain! One of my favorites. The experience of making a paella must have been amazing, to add buying the ingredients at the local market to make it. Sign me up!

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  33. Spain is beautiful. I can't wait to go back and explore more. The food looks so good. Wish I had some of that right now.

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  34. What a gorgeous place. My husband would love that it was a filming place for game of thrones, he loves it. The food looks amazing!

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  35. What amazing food, and gorgeous locations and accommodation! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  36. it looked amazing,all that food has made me hungry,fabulous post,ive never been there but i think i will now

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  37. sunshine, good food and a wander round an old town, ideal holiday for me

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  38. What gorgeous scenery and gorgeous food!

    Hazel Rea - @beachrambler

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  39. Sandy Faye Outler Mathis17 September 2017 at 04:56

    Beautiful scenery and delicious food! I would love to visit Spain and make great memories!

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  40. I've never considered visiting this area of Spain but it looks as if you had a more authentic spanish experience than offered in parts of the country more familiar to those of us in UK.

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